The date was May 27, 2007, and the man was Johan Schlüter, head of the Danish Anti-Piracy Group (Antipiratgruppen). He was speaking in front of an audience from which the press had been banned; it was assumed to be copyright industry insiders only. It wasn’t. Christian Engström, who’s now a Member of the European Parliament, Oscar Swartz, and I were also there.
“My friends,” Schlüter said. “We must filter the Internet to win over online file sharing. But politicians don’t understand that file sharing is bad, and this is a problem for us. Therefore, we must associate file sharing with child pornography. Because that’s something the politicians understand, and something they want to filter off the Internet.”
“We are developing a child pornography filter in cooperation with the IFPI and the MPA so we can show politicians that filtering works,” he said. “Child pornography is an issue they understand.” Schlüter grinned broadly.
I couldn’t believe my ears as I heard this the first time. But the strategy has been set into motion worldwide.
Schlüter’s plan worked like clockwork. Denmark was the first country to censor AllOfMP3.com, the (fully legal) Russian music store, and is now censoring The Pirate Bay off the internet. The copyright industry is succeeding in creating a fragmented Internet.
This is why you see the copyright lobby bring up child pornography again and again and again. They are using it as a battering ram for censoring any culture outside of their own distribution channels. You can Google the term together with any copyright lobby organization and see them continuously coming back to it.
In Sweden, the copyright industry lobbyist Per Strömbäck has publicly admitted it being one of his best arguments. Try Googling for the Swedish word for child pornography on the lobby site and see if you get any hits in any articles (over 40).
The reasoning is simple and straightforward. Once you have established that someone who is in a position to censor other people’s communication has a responsibility to do so, the floodgates open and those middlemen can be politically charged with filtering anything that somebody objects to being distributed.
It is not hard to see why the copyright lobby is pursuing this avenue so ferociously.
It doesn’t really matter that filters at the DNS level are ridiculously easy to circumvent. The idea is to create a political environment where censorship of undesirable information is seen as something natural and positive. Once that principle has been established, the next step is to force a switch to more efficient censorship filters at the IP or even the content level.
News reached us this week that Internet Service Providers in the United States have now entered an agreement with the copyright lobby to police the net. This arrangement, it turns out, also stems from the copyright industry’s love of child pornography.
“We pointed out to [the governor] that there are overlaps between the child porn problem and piracy,” Mr. Sherman [The RIAA president] said, “because all kinds of files, legal and otherwise, are traded on peer-to-peer networks.”
Sound familiar? It should. It’s a page right out of the 2007 scene where the Danish Mr. Schlüter talked about the copyright lobby’s policymaking strategy of associating non-monopolistic distribution of culture with the rape of small defenseless children.
This association strategy has now worked in the United States, too.
Just when you think the copyright lobby can’t sink any lower, they surprise you again. And it gets worse. Much worse.
In Europe, the copyright lobby is now pushing Commissioner Malmström to create a similar censorship regime, despite clear setbacks from the European Court of Justice defending human rights and freedom to communicate.
But taking one step back, would censorship of child pornography be acceptable in the first place? Is the copyright industry perhaps justified in this particular pursuit, beyond their real goal of blocking non-monopolistic distribution?
There are two layers of answers to that. The first is the principal one, whether pre-trial censorship is ever correct. History tells us that it plainly isn’t, not under any circumstance.
But more emotionally, we turn to a German group named Mogis. It is a support group for adult people who were abused as children, and is the only one of its kind. They are very outspoken and adamant on the issue of censoring child pornography.
Censorship hides the problem and causes more children to be abused, they say. Don’t close your eyes, but see reality and act on it. As hard as it is to force oneself to be confronted emotionally with this statement, it is rationally understandable that a problem can’t be addressed by hiding it. One of their slogans is “Crimes should be punished and not hidden”.
This puts the copyright industry’s efforts in perspective. In this context they don’t care in the slightest about children, only about their control over distribution channels. If you ever thought you knew cynical, this takes it to a whole new level.
The conclusion is as unpleasant as it is inevitable. The copyright industry lobby is actively trying to hide egregious crimes against children, obviously not because they care about the children, but because the resulting censorship mechanism can be a benefit to their business if they manage to broaden the censorship in the next stage. All this in defense of their lucrative monopoly that starves the public of culture.
It’s hard to comprehend that there are people who are so shameless that they would actually do this. But there are. Every time you think the copyright lobby has sunk as morally low as is humanly possible, they prove you wrong.
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Rick Falkvinge is a regular columnist on TorrentFreak, sharing his thoughts every other week. He is the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party, a whisky aficionado, and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. His blog at http://falkvinge.net focuses on information policy.