I believe in protecting intellectual property -- mine and other people's. I want to be paid for my work as a writer, and I'm willing to pay for what I use, whether it's a track from a CD, a book, or a software application. And I have no patience for the ethic that says if it's digital it should be free. However, the long-running effort by the music industry, the Business Software Alliance, and others to crack down on piracy and copyright violations is spawning a monster.
The most egregious example, of course, was the thuggish farce conducted by the Russian government under the guise of protecting Microsoft's copyrights. Authorities ransacked the offices of political opponents with no regard for what was actually on their hard drives or whether they had pirated copies of Microsoft software.
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There are a host of other, less dramatic examples that underline the danger the copyright monster poses to everyone who uses the Internet. Most worrisome is an ill-conceived bill making its way through the U.S. Senate that would give the Justice Department the ability to block access to sites that are dedicated (whatever that means) to infringing copyright. It's called the Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act (COICA).
This is terrible and unnecessary bill, considering there are plenty of antipiracy laws already on the books. The fact that it's bipartisan illustrates the hold the entertainment industry and its big campaign contributions has on Congress. Not the least of its problems is the potential to disrupt the DNS registry, a bit of collateral damage that would punish all of us for the transgressions of a few.
Meanwhile, Cox Communications and several other Internet service providers are misrepresenting the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, better known as the DMCA, and using that mistaken interpretation of the law to disconnect users who allegedly are downloading and sharing copyrighted material.