ACTA is apparently going into force this month, implementing still secret rules that will make everyone with an internet connection an international criminal in order to protect people with obsolete business models. Since the cost and value of publication, editorial review, and syndication have dropped to near zero thanks to the invention of broad direct distribution, the “recording” industry is obsolete. Why do we need an industry to make records when nobody buys records any more? The industry has changed business plans to extortion.
But the recording industry has historically made a lot of money and people with money hate giving it up and won’t do so without a fight. If the population won’t buy the recording industry’s products any more, choosing instead to shoulder the incremental cost of self-publication in a collaborative model, then the recording industry, naturally, turns to increasingly draconian efforts to preserve their revenue stream. It is far more cost-effective to co-opt the government and exploit public-funded investigatory and prosecutorial resources than to, say, pay private security to break into people’s houses and businesses: as a bonus working though the courts they can seize children’s college funds: keeping kids out of school means they won’t grow up to found competing industries. If there’s nobody left capable of innovating, there’s no point in the government enforcing that obsolete constitutional thing about “promoting the progress of science and the useful arts.”
Peer-to-peer communications and especially self-publication technologies have always been a threat to the copyright industry. The DMCA was a huge victory for a dead industry and helped preserve it well beyond any economic utility at a tremendous cost to innovation and progress. But the copyright industry may still win a losing battle by shifting the cost of prosecuting civil infringement to the public and other industries by creating a new class of crime: not optimizing copyright industry profits.
That’s the way this American experiment is supposed to work. If we’re going to export our sweaty paranoia about piracy and our over-reliance on entertainment as the key to our country’s solvency, we ought to at least counterbalance it with a respect for the underpinnings of our democracy