As I described in a previous column, the copyright monopoly cannot be enforced without mass surveillance. There is no way to tell a private conversation in a digital environment from a monopolized audio file being transferred, not without actually looking at what’s being transferred. At that point, the secrecy of correspondence has been broken and mass surveillance introduced.
The copyright industry has been continuously and relentlessly pushing for more mass surveillance, including surveillance of citizens who aren’t under any suspicion (“mass surveillance”) for this reason. They defended the now-illegal Data Retention Directive, which logs everybody’s communications and location all the time (specifically including yours), as well as similar initiatives.
Most notably, the copyright industry is known for using child porn as an argument for introducing mass surveillance, so that the mass surveillance can be expanded in the next step to targeting people who share knowledge and culture in violation of that industry’s distribution monopolies. This is a case study in taking corporate cynicism to the next level.
This mass surveillance is also what feeds the NSA, the GCHQ, and its other European counterparts (like the Swedish FRA). It is continuously argued, along the precise same lines, that so-called “metadata” – whom you’re calling, from where, for how long – is not sensitive and therefore not protected by privacy safeguards. This was the argument that the European Court of Justice struck down with the force of a sledgehammer, followed by about two metric tons of bricks: it’s more than a little private if you’re talking to a sex service for 19 minutes at 2am, or if you’re making a call to the suicide hotline from the top of a bridge. This is the kind of data that the spy services wanted to have logged, eagerly cheered on by the copyright industry.
This has a direct connection to free speech as such.
In Germany, the effect of this logging and violation of people’s privacy has been studied extensively. According to a study conducted by polling institute Forsa before the data retention was in place, over half of German citizens would refrain from placing communications that could be used against them in the future – drug helplines, psychologists, even marriage counseling. A significant portion of Germans had already refrained from taking such contacts for that reason.
There is a direct and serious connection between a necessary reduction of the copyright monopoly and the safeguarding of free speech as such.
In the next term of the European Parliament, the copyright monopoly is up for revision. Everything about the monopoly – including things Hollywood and the copyright industry take for granted today – is up in the air, and the corporate powers and legislators alike are finally feeling the pressure of an informed net generation, with the monumental rejection of ACTA and SOPA in 2012.
Vote in the European Parliament elections in the week to come. Vote for somebody who understands the net properly and thoroughly. Those people are needed in the European Parliament for all the reasons I wrote in a recent column.
It’s about your right to free speech, and to not be considered a criminal worthy of surveillance – merely for talking to other people, or for that matter, for the good deed of sharing culture and knowledge.