PIRATE Act: Reaping The Whirlwind

Senators Hatch and Leahy have introduced a bill called the "Protecting Intellectual Rights Against Theft and Expropriation Act," or PIRATE Act.

Senators Hatch and Leahy have introduced a bill called the "Protecting Intellectual Rights Against Theft and Expropriation Act," or PIRATE Act.

The stated purpose of the bill is to permit the Department of Justice to bring civil actions against filesharers, because, as the senators noted, "(It) is critical that we bring the moral force of the government to bear against those who knowingly violate the federal copyrights enshrined in our Constitution."

"Unscrupulous corporations could distribute to children and students a 'piracy machine' designed to tempt them to engage in copyright piracy or pornography distribution," the duo's joint statement continued.

Naturally, such a bald statement of moral truth has raised a cry among the denizens of the peer to peer community. Our civil liberties are under attack! Constitutional government itself is endangered! And the senators would have the DOJ investigate children doing the bidding of the copyright community, they say.


First, infringement on P2P systems is so massive that it has risen to the level of moral pollution of our society. It is unreasonable to expect that private industry should shoulder the entire burden of fighting this multi-headed hydra.

Moreover--and I doubt that there's any hard data about this--but I would imagine that parents have taken a harder look at what little Johnny is up to in his room as the result of the RIAA's lawsuits. Once news of this bill percolates through the media, parents will definitely take a look. While the children of America may have good reason to start deleting files from their computers before their parents get to them, they have nothing to fear from DOJ.

Others do.

Senators Hatch and Leahy are expert politicians, and they must know that the bill is controversial. Senator Hatch in particular has shown himself to be a thoughtful student of intellectual property issues, and has spent long hours studying the P2P mess. The Senators have the respect of other members for their knowledge of the subject. There will be some hand wringing from some members for sure, but that's democracy in action. I really don't know how a serious person can vote against the core idea of the PIRATE Act.

The Senators make another important point in their statement: "...large user-bases and the threat of more piracy would become levers to force American artists to enter licensing agreements in which they pay the architects of piracy to distribute and protect their works on the Internet."

Setting aside the fact that the "architects of piracy" have demonstrated no interest in "protecting" anything, that's blackmail and cannot stand. One would have to have a childlike view of the world to think that the U.S. government would stand by and let blackmail control one of the nation's most visible industries.

There's a market-clearing level of piracy that is inevitable, like street prostitution. It's just going to happen. What's going on now, however, cannot and will not be tolerated. Period.

If millions of people were breaking into record stores and copying recordings (i.e., if the analog of what is happening on the Internet were happening in the physical world), there would be no doubt in anyone's mind that anarchy had arrived and the police should be called. The fact that the equivalent happens in the slithery, silent, digital darkness of the Internet is the only reason that it has taken this long to get government into meaningful action.

This is not a game. Thousands are losing their jobs. This bill should come as no surprise to anyone. The P2Ps have sown the wind and they shall reap the whirlwind, and the bud shall yield no meal.

It took long enough.


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