Conspiracy to defraud?

I think that copyright matters, and is important. Creators ought to be legally able to give their work away freely, as so many do for the betterment of humankind, and to set certain conditions on how their work is used. And I think creators ought to be able to release their work under traditional copyright and have legal recourse against those who are illegally profiting from it.

There have been a couple of cases here relating to sites which offered links to TV and video content: Anton Vickerman and Sheffield student Richard O’Dwyer.  I have to admit that I find these prosecutions to be disturbing.  Although, I do find solace in this comment:

“This was not a case brought using copyright law. The interest groups involved couldn’t present a case of copyright infringement and instead decided to press for the use of the common law offence of ‘conspiracy to defraud’,” said UK Pirate party leader Loz Kaye. “This is one of the most controversial crimes in English law – it criminalises conduct by two or more people that would not be criminal when performed by an individual.

The offence was notoriously used in the 1970s to prevent people sharing film cassettes as the TV and film industry believed video was a threat to their existence.”

Since I do talk a lot about downloading material, but usually for my own personal use. I also talk about feeling somewhat guilty that I can’t pay more than my fair share for the material I download–although I am more than covered under the UK TV licensing scheme.  I can add in that these people were doing this for profit, and I’m just linking back to official sites where the material can be found.

I will also add that I do not like downloading via Torrent, but would prefer if archived material were better available.  Although, if someone is inclined to go that route, it is far more available than I would like.

Graham Linehan, writer of the sitcoms The IT Crowd, Black Books and Father Ted,  said the prosecution itself – not just the potential extradition – was a cause for alarm.

“It just seems to me that people like Richard are being punished for being able to navigate the modern world,” said Linehan. “The internet has changed everything, they’re doing what comes naturally in these new, uncharted waters and suddenly they’re getting their collars felt by people who still have Hotmail addresses.

And then [there’s] the sheer shocking arbitrary nature of it all … to be told that you could face up to 10 years for sharing links? When I heard that Nora Ephron died, I shared on Twitter a link to the full version of When Harry Met Sally on YouTube. Am I a criminal now? Why? Why not?”

The strange this is that US authorities become concerned about a site linking to content often still within copyright. To sell a counterfeit CD or DVD of a copyrighted work is an offence, as is deliberately uploading such a work to the internet. On the other hand, they are now hitting people who link to copyrighted material. The whole thing makes absolutely no sense on its face.

Additionally, the prosecutions are happening for events happening outside of the US with no direct connection to US territory.

I can add in that Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, launched a change.org petition against the O’Dwyer extradition attempt. Naturally, I signed it. This is too frightening to not sign.

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