We Must Start Punishing Copyright Monopoly Abuse To At Least Symmetry

Opinion

A problem with the copyright industry is that they are frequently sending out fraudulent copyright monopoly takedown notices to silence criticism, competition, or just political speech. This needs to be as criminal as violating the copyright monopoly from the other end.

copyright-brandedOne recurring problem with the copyright industry is that it gets away scot-free with every glaring and egregious abuse of copyright monopoly law to silence other people, despite breaking the social contract.

We have seen examples of the copyright monopoly law being abused into outright censorship again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and… well, you get the picture. The glaring, egregious cases happen on a daily basis. The ones we never hear about probably happen in the tens or hundreds per second.

The premise is simple: since the copyright industry and other bullies risk absolutely nothing by sending out a copyright monopoly claim, they will keep doing so to silence protected speech, crush competition, and stifle legitimate criticism. This isn’t just fraud, it is a real problem for society and it is an audacious breaking of the social contract. In a word, it is – or should be – criminal.

Further, another serious consequence of this non-stop hammering against competition, criticism, satire, and fair use is that it moves the gray area for what is acceptable and what isn’t. If the copyright industry can relentlessly launch unfounded lawsuits against people who can’t defend themselves, despite the copyright industry knowingly being in the wrong, then the result over a number of years is a shift of the expected norm. This is a deliberate strategy from the copyright industry to skew the social norms away from a free market and idea of free speech, and toward a total control of people’s communications, leading to yet more harshening of the harmful copyright monopoly.

If we are to have this kind of distribution monopoly, the very least we can demand is that punishments for abuses of the monopoly come symmetrically: that the punishments are equal for violating the monopoly as a non-monopoly-holder or as a monopoly-holder.

In cleartext, this means that the same punishments and damages would be handed out for falsely using the copyright monopoly to silence criticism, free speech, or competition, as are handed out today for violating the distribution and duplication monopoly. And making the punishments symmetrical like that is absolutely, 100% reasonable.

Remember how the RIAA and MPAA expect everybody else to know when they are violating the copyright monopoly, but at the same time, violate that monopoly themselves regularly on what can’t be described as any more than an “oops” basis? Remember how copyright monopoly cases are so complex they can end up in the Supreme Court, yet the copyright industry demands that each and every Average Joe should know instinctively what is legal and what is not?

It’s all bullshit, of course. What the copyright industry is trying to push is a general blanket ban for anybody but themselves to copy freely. As for themselves, the copyright industry has ripped off artists since the 1950s.

It’s more than time that the harsh punishments for violating this monopoly go fully symmetrical. If you send out a copyright takedown notice or otherwise assert monopoly rights, automated or not, you must be held responsible for it – and possibly go to jail for a few years and pay up to $150,000 in statutory damages, per infraction, if the takedown notice is false or erroneous. That’s what the copyright industry holds as “reasonable” in one direction, and therefore, it must be reasonable in the other direction, too.

Obviously, the copyright industry would go ballistic over this – that there would be an idea of power symmetry in the copyright monopoly. That’s because the copyright industry has never been held to one shred of accountability. Such a day is several decades overdue.

About The Author

Rick Falkvinge is a regular columnist on TorrentFreak, sharing his thoughts every other week. He is the founder of the Swedish and first Pirate Party, a whisky aficionado, and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. His blog at falkvinge.net focuses on information policy.

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