Will President Trump Be Tough on Online Piracy?

Opinion

The people of the United States elected Donald Trump as their next president this week. The election outcome came as a total surprise to many, who are now wondering what's in store for the next four years. According to some, The Pirate Bay and other pirate sites are in for a rough ride, but is that really the case?

trump2At TorrentFreak we have no interest in reporting on politics, except when it’s relevant to copyright issues.

After the surprising victory of Donald Trump earlier this week, several people asked what this would mean for the country’s stance on piracy and copyright enforcement in general.

While we would love to dissect the issue in detail, there are no concrete policy proposals yet. Neither Trump nor Clinton have gone into detail over the past few months.

So what do we know?

It’s not a secret that Donald Trump made some rather dubious remarks during his election campaign. For example, he suggested that it might be worth considering whether to “close up” the Internet over terrorist threats.

Extreme or not, we believe that extrapolating these kinds of one-liners into copyright policy proposals goes a bit far, to say the least.

A concrete promise Trump has made on copyright issues came a few hours after his election victory. The president-elect vowed to end foreign trade abuses with help from the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), which keeps a close eye on pirate sites.

“I will direct the Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative to identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly impact American workers and direct them to use every tool under American and international law to end those abuses immediately,” Trump said.

This is tough language. Still, the promise is hardly any different from the general policy that’s been in place over the past several years. After all, identifying and addressing foreign trade abuses is one of the key goals of the USTR.

Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that Trump is not on his own. He needs Congress to steer the country in a new direction, and it may not always be easy to reach consensus.

Trump may very well have a pro-copyright agenda. But would that really change anything? Let’s review some of the copyright-related developments that took place under President Obama’s reign.

– The Department of Homeland Security seized dozens of domain names of alleged copyright infringing websites, leading to various constitutional complaints.

– The Government had to give back some of the seized domains and accidentally took down 84,000 websites.

– President Obama’s IP-Czar laid the groundwork for the controversial SOPA and PIPA bills, which were close to becoming law.

– The Obama administration urged the Supreme Court to keep high staturory damages for copyright infringement intact to deter pirates.

– The U.S. Government tried to have UK student Richard O’Dwyer extradited for operating a linking site.

– The Department of Justice started major criminal prosecutions against the operators of Megaupload and KickassTorrents.

– Several U.S. site owners and other pirates were sent to jail, serving multiple years for copyright infringements.

And the list goes on and on.

Of course things can easily get more extreme, but thus far there haven’t been any concrete signs of that happening.

Ironically, one of Trump’s main promises is to end the TPP trade agreement, which digital rights activists widely condemned for its draconian copyright plans. So that’s definitely not a pro-copyright move.

This article is not an attempt to defend or critisize Trump. However, we do try to break away from all the one-sided and sensationalist analyses by trying to put things in perspective.

Perhaps it’s a good idea to take a step back and just wait and see. There will be plenty of policy proposals during the coming years, just as we’ve seen under Obama. If the Trump administration goes after The Pirate Bay, that would not be a change of course…

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