War is Peace - Freedom is Slavery - Ignorance is Strength

Thursday, May 26, 2005

No News is Good News

Feds Shut Web Site in Piracy Crackdown

I guess that blows my weekend.

Seriously, this shit gets a bit annoying. The idea that people can be arrested and sent to prison for doing something that harms no one is really depressing.

With drugs it is somewhat understandable. People are getting hurt everyday, and sometimes even killed because of their involvement with illegal drugs, so if you can make the logical leap of assigning the blame for that to a particular individual, there is at least a sense of justice being served by punishing them for their actions.

The misuse of "intellectual property" on the other hand, harms no one at all.

Despite the fact that lobbyists and politicians love to refer to it as "theft," the violation of copyrights is clearly not.

Theft is an action by which one person gains property, while another person loses it.

In the case of "intellectual property" misuse, one person gains, and nobody loses. Unless you count potential profit as a real asset, which last I checked, nobody in their right mind does. (if you have any doubts about the distinction, ask an accountant, or try taking out a second mortgage on your get rich quick scheme.)

In a larger sense, I disagree with the enforcement of copyrights and patents in general, but for god's sake, at least let's recognize that violating them isn't stealing, and since it doesn't harm anyone, it can't be considered a criminal act.


For clarification, I would like to add that I don't necessarily oppose the right of copyright holders to claim damages in civil court. The distinction is that civil law is much less absolutest and less focused on "right" and "wrong," while being more focused on resolving conflict, and awarding the plaintiff damages that they can prove they incurred.

Additionally, civil law is focused not on punishment, but on restitution, and thus, if the accused is unable to pay the judged award, they do not suffer any additional sanctions. This, in my opinion, is fair and just, because it sets individual citizens on a level playing field with corporate entities who are immune, by definition, from criminal sanctions.

On the other hand, allowing criminal sanctions against citizens for "crimes" against corporate entities is inherently unjust, because it punishes the one party with measures that the other party is immune from, no matter how perverse their actions.

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