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In the name of the Holy Copyright!

Or: When copyright protection goes too far

For the entire history of mankind money has always been the most valuable thing for the vast majority of people. People have gone to outrageous extremes for the simple reason of getting money.

Nowadays, however, in the world of really huge megacorporations money is a much more abstract concept. For them money has basically stopped being a material object and become a more abstract number indicating the wealth of the company. These megacorporations talk about millions like they were just some intangible form of energy transferrable from one place to another with the press of a button. Which, in fact, is actually the case.

Money has lost its value as an individual coin or bill, and it's just an immaterial element like water. At megacorporation level you have millions of it as a concept, not as real tangible coins or bills.

In recent decades other immaterial things have increased their value, sometimes even surpassing the value of real money. One of these things is a patent (a whole gruesome story in itself). Another is copyright.

The significance of copyright has grown way over proportions in the last few decades. Nowadays copyright is one of the most sacred things in international and national commerce and is perhaps the one single things that is most furiously fought for. You can steal some money from a company, you can infringe a small patent of a company, but nothing compares to breaking the Holy Copyright owned by the company.

Copyright is treated by many as a holy thing. Breaking it is akin to sacrilege, and everyone is by default guilty until proven innocent.

Just a small example: An ISP receives an email from an anonymous hotmail account claiming that one user of that ISP is infringing copyright in his homepage by distributing copyrighted material in it. The ISP, without even checking the veracity of the claim, closes the account. The claim was, however, completely false and just an attempt at bullying the owner of that website. The bullying was a complete success, thanks to the Holy Copyright. And this has indeed happened in real life.

Users of that ISP may have pornographic, antisemitic, racist and neonazi material on their webpages without any action being taken, but even the accusation of copyright infringement is enough for a sanction to be imposed.

Rich megacorporations are continually lobbying governments to pass more and more laws protecting the corporation's own interests at the cost of the rights of fair use and even privacy of individuals. They are also spending more and more money and resources in inventing the most extreme (and often ridiculous) ways of protecting their Holy Copyright. Money means nothing to them, Holy Copyright is everything.

Megacorporations are starting to think that they can do anything they want in the name of the Holy Copyright. The Sony BMG rootkit controversy is an excellent example of this: Some people at Sony must have been very aware that installing rootkits in people's computers without telling them anything and without them even agreeing to the usage license and without providing any means for uninstallation is illegal in many countries. However, the Holy Copyright goes well over any country's laws (at least in their eyes) and everything is allowed.

The funny thing is that only the honest paying customers, those who honestly give Sony (and other companies) the money they ask, will be affected by these measures. Pirates won't be affected in any way. In fact, since piracy seems to become safer than buying things honestly, it may even be that some honest people will change their minds and switch to pirated music: At least downloading mp3's won't install a rootkit in your computer.

The Finnish government has also had to submit to the Holy Copyright and the lobbying of megacorporations by passing laws increasing the rights of the corporations over the rights of the individuals, in some cases to ridiculous extents (even over the constitutional freedom of speech right). The funny thing is that many companies and artists seem to honestly think that the new laws will reduce the amount of piracy in Finland. It's incredible how naive they are.

Of course this is nothing new. For very long time in Finland everyone who buys a blank casette tape or a CD-R (or any of the other similar media) is considered a criminal and given a fine. IOW in these forms of blank media there's an additional fee which in theory goes to artists (but in practice most of it goes to the Finnish version of RIAA).

In other words, you pay money to the "Finnish RIAA" (Teosto) every time you buy a blank media for the simple reason that you might use it to copy music. It doesn't matter if you indeed do copy music, you pay in any case. That is, you are considered a criminal by default and fined a fee because of it. What is worse, serious thought has been put into extending this payment to all computer-owners. That is, just by owning a computer you are considered a criminal and fined. All this In the Name of the Holy Copyright.

That is just a very small portion of what the Finnish RIAA can do and has done. There's much more, but I'll not lengthen this article more by ranting about that.

If you, my reader, are an American and think that the RIAA is the Big Evil, you are not alone. The Power of the Holy Copyright has corrupted other countries too.

The big irony in all this is that basically only honest paying customers suffer from this. Experienced and professional pirates are not affected at all.

Sometimes it feels that these megacorporations don't know what's best for them. For example, recently there was a video of christmas lights lighting according to music. The music was made by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and it was technically illegal to distribute. If the RIAA would have had their way, that video would have never been distributed.

Before the video was published that song by that band was in place 400-something in a top-selling list of the US. A week after that video was published in the internet, that song was in place 100-something. I believe in money this makes probably at least hundreds of thousands of dollars of raw profit. If RIAA would have got their way, the Trans-Siberian orchestra would have not got this money.

Another example of companies not understanding their own good: Over 20 years ago many companies tried to lobby the government to ban VHS players (because they could be used to record and copy movies and music videos). They didn't succeed. In about a decade selling/renting movies in VHS form became one of their biggest sources of income.

Let's see when companies will start lobbying the US government and other governments to make Linux illegal because it does not implement DRM protection techniques (and, being open source, even if it did it would be rather easy to circumvent).

Often copyright laws are abused and simply used as a weapon to fight against people or organizations, not really because of copyright infringements and subsequent loss of profit, but simply because copyright laws are so powerful and so handy to use as a weapon. The church of scientology is rather infamous in this regard: For over a decade it has tried to fight scientology-critical websites and usenet groups using copyright laws as its weapon. Not because they would care about copyright, but just as a way to try to shut down the critics.

When a dangerous cult uses copyright laws to defend itself from critics, that strongly raises the question of whether these laws are way too powerful for what they are intended. If a law can be used for a completely different purpose than it was intended for, and it is a powerful weapon in doing so, one would think that the law would need to be revised to avoid such abuse.

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