Won't someone think of the children?

Update: I had to edit a small amount because I was misquoting egregiously. I referenced parts of the floor speech in support of the bill as excerpts of the bill itself. It has been corrected.

I think I need to stop reading the draft of Hatch’s act formerly known as INDUCE. It’s driving me nuts.

One point the drafters of the bill hit over and over is that peer to peer companies are exploiting the innocence of children and inducing immoral behavior. And isn’t that such a horrible thing? It must be stopped!

I’m not saying I applaud leading kids astray, but let’s take a step back and get some perspective as to artists, as well as other mediums, influencing children. From the floor speech in support of the bill:

bq. “Artists realize that adults who corrupt or exploit the innocence of children are the worst type of villains.”

Pot, kettle, black. Does this include all recording artists? I’m sure you can think of some lyrics that came from a villainous artist. If you can’t, let me help you. A word of warning, don’t read this page if you can’t handle extremely graphic sexual lyrics. So, check out some sonyporn.

Now, I know what some of you might be saying, “Just because the recording companies get away with it, doesn’t mean others should as well”, and you’re right. But the point is, the shills are using distracting tactics on behalf of these same record companies to protect their business and profits. If you want to protect profits, do it honestly and don’t obfuiscate it. Don’t rest it on the notion of protecting children from corruption. Last I checked, that was more a parent’s job than that of Congress anyway.

Again, from the speech:

“Users of these programs routinely violate criminal laws relating to copyright infringement and pornography distribution.”
“Most filesharing networks are awash in pornography, much of it mislabeled, obscene, illegal child pornography, or harmful to minors.”

Wow. IM, email clients, web browsers, isn’t routine infringement taking place with these pieces of software as well? Let’s just ban it all! Where should the line stop? If the P2P network provider is enticing your to commit a crime, is their service provider? Is your service provider? Is your telephone or cable company? Are their DNS providers? Are the root servers? After all, all the above mentioned profit, albeit to a lesser degree, from such copy infringement.

I’m not saying porno for minors (let alone anybody, but let’s stick to the topic) is a good thing. But guess what people. This is the internet. This is still a new thing. And it’s a very different thing in that it’s so widely distributed, unlike anything you’ve come across before. You can try and regulate it till you’re blue in the face but, it’s like trying to kill heard of elephants with a bb gun. What makes it so great is the very same thing that makes some corners of it so dark.

And does anybody really believe that these guys are going after P2P networks because they’re worried about the porn trade on them? More disingenuous statements.

The underlying position that Hatch and others rely on to distinguish between the good and bad here, is that the current use of P2P networks involves a very high percentage of infringing use (Hatch quotes the Patent Act wording of “substantial noninfringing use” to distinguish them from Betamax). The problem is, that is the current use. Should we kill it now, who’s to say the great future uses we’ll be denying? Let’s look back, as always, to the VCR. In his 1982 ”http://cryptome.org/hrcw-hear.htm">testimony, Valenti had the following to say:

“Now, these machines are advertised for one purpose in life. Their only single mission, their primary mission is to copy coyrighted material that belongs to other people. I don’t have to go into it. The ads are here. Here is Sony that tells you that you can record one channel while watching another. You can program to record a variety of shows on four different channels for up to 14 days in advance if you like.

Now, Mr. Chairman, how many people would want to buy these machines if you said you couldn’t use any copyrighted material on it. The machine would be useless and this is what the Ninth Circuit said. They advertise their machine blatantly and deliberately saying the way to enjoy this machine is to copy somebody else’s copyrighted programs."

Again, I say to the industries, wake up and smell last week’s coffee. Does the movie industry lose billions of dollars on video piracy? Yes. But how many billions more does it earn off the existance of the VCR, and later, DVD player?

Here’s what I suggest. Just stop for a moment and think how many new, non-infringing applications the VCR and it’s prodigy like the camcorder have taken part in since it’s childhood. Picture your favorite home movie of a wedding, or family Christmas reunion, or party. Now, picture that 1982 had been different.

—Jun 24, 2004