Well, here we go. Remember how, a few months back, we noted how odd it was that the Justice Department (which, of course, employs many former RIAA/MPAA/BSA lawyers) was designating a special task force to fight copyright infringement? After all, copyright infringement is mostly a civil issue, between two private parties. For years, however, the entertainment industry has been working hard to convince the government to act as its own private police force, and following a totally one-sided “summit” with Joe Biden (who recently claimed that infringement is no different than doing a smash and grab at Tiffany’s), suddenly the feds had a special IP task force… at the same time that it was downgrading the priority of crimes that cause actual harm, such as identity fraud.
Now, it looks like law enforcement isn’t even trying to hide the fact that they’re taking orders from Hollywood. Dark Helmet points us to the news that Homeland Security proudly announced raids on nine different movie sites, which they accuse of infringing on copyrights. But what’s most interesting is where the announcements about these raids happened: at Disney. And who else was there on stage? Execs from other studios. Yup, Homeland Security isn’t even trying to make the slightest effort to hide the fact that it now works for corporate interests. It will announce legal activity from the companies, which stand to benefit the most from such activity.
Imagine if the FTC announced plans to charge Google with antitrust from Microsoft’s offices? With execs from Yahoo and Apple on stage. Wouldn’t people cry foul?
Not only that, but the guy in charge of the raids blatantly admits that it’s now a homeland security priority to protect movie studio interests:
The head of ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], John Morton, says that the number of illegal movie sites is dramatically rising both in the U.S. and abroad, and organized crime is behind some of them. ICE is putting movie piracy front and center in this new initiative, by making its first actions to protect the movie studios’ intellectual property.
What does customs have to do with a domestic dispute over civil copyright infringement? And why are Homeland Security officials so closely involved with a few Hollywood Studios that they’re not just protecting their business models, but also announcing these efforts from the studios’ own offices?
I don’t know anything about these sites that were shut down. I’ve never heard of any of them, but they’re nine out of hundreds, if not thousands. It won’t do anything to actually help Disney or these other studios. Users will quickly shift elsewhere. The content will still get released just as quickly.
The claims that these sites were run by “organized crime” could very well be true, but I’d like to see some actual evidence on that. It’s a common refrain from the industry, but no actual proof has been presented. At best they’ve shown that some DVD counterfeiting operations have some mob ties, but that’s not the same thing. Note that in the announcement no actual evidence of organized crime links were provided.
In a separate article, US Attorney Preet Bharara is quoted as saying that the government took these actions because “copyright infringement translates into lost jobs.” Never mind the fact that the GAO just pointed out that such claims are highly questionable (especially the ones from the MPAA — who won’t provide their methodology), this raises a really serious question about government interference into private markets. The government’s role is not to protect industries from losing jobs. It never has been. Otherwise it would have “raided” car companies for making horse buggies obsolete. Using that as justification has no legal basis whatsoever, and is really a very disturbing claim.
The whole thing appears to be a gross misuse of government resources to protect a few movie studios, which are unwilling to adapt to a changing market place. People should be outraged over such a misuse of government powers, but because these are “pirate” sites, everyone will look the other way.