If a house robber came into a cafe waving a slip of paper, shouting that he had the addresses of people who were away on vacation or weren't home during the weekends, urging his friends to take advantage of this windfall, would the police and the court find that he had engaged in protected free speech? If a car robber came in waving the addresses of chop shops, would he be able to hide behind the First Amendment?
What if he offered the slips of paper to all comers for 10 cents? Or took an advertisement from the local pizza place and ran off xerox copies to distribute to everybody in the cafe all day?
Would he be considered a "publisher" and now immune to prosecution? If he contributed to other people stealing from the houses or buying the hot car parts, and made money from the ad and selling the slip of paper, that would be providing material support to a crime. It's easy to see in this case -- morally and legally -- that a robber can't shield himself behind the "free speech" defense when his intentions and results are obviously criminal.
Even if he jots down among the addresses of the people to be robbed the address of a public library where he hopes to take out a detective novel.
It's so easy to see the absurdity of the copyleftist argumentation when you transpose it back to real life, but they believe that on the Internet, with its pixie-dust sprinkled pixels, that all normal organic law is suspended and anything goes, especially if it it's in Google's business interests.
So it's no surprise that Jimmy Wales, head of Wikipedia, is calling for a stop to the extradition of Richard O'Dwyer, a 24-year-old British student who set up a web site called TVShack that linked to unlawful TV streams that people could pirate instead of paying for the service.
Wikipedia is Google's handmaiden -- if it weren't for Wikipedia results showing up in search first on most searches, we might find it harder to believe in the fiction of Google search as a free utility, and understand it better as Big Ad. In the beginning, Google said it would not allow paid results to show up first in the queue, as that would be the sort of "evil" which they say they would not do (as we know from Doug Edwards memoirs). Is that really still true?
Today, when I type in "tablets," to be sure, I still get the result for Apple first, but a news story on Google's new Nexus 7 tablet is number four, and over on the right, the top return in the ads column is for Nexus 7, and Kindle Fire from Amazon is number 3.
Really, guys? Is it any accident that result number four is "Nexus 7 Aims it Sites at Kindle Fire" -- a CNET story so typical of the captured tech press? Why does anyone think these people can be trusted anymore? If you're advertising Samsung Galaxy, should you even bother to buy an ad?
Wales doesn't just call for securing Google's business model with copyleftism out of co-dependency on Google for his business (which is contributions made by individuals and companies). He truly believes in copyleftism for its own sake, and realizes he would have to do a lot more vetting than he currently does of his own links if there were a law criminalizing the mass linkage to pirate sites for profit.
By always and everywhere cunningly and deliberately merging trivial individual linkage to such sites -- say, a mention on an individual blogger's site or a teenager's Facebook page -- with the mass linkage for profit, Wales and others who fought against SOPA ensured that the anti-piracy legislation would be sunk before it ever came to a vote.
If we had a law, however, it would define the crime better (and it did define better) -- persistent, mass linkage to pirate sites for profit is -- and could even specify maximum penalties.
Instead, because we don't have a law, we get cases like O'Dwyer's which seem to be "excessively punitive".
O'Dwyer faces extradition to the US and up to 10 years of prison precisely because US trade officials and copyright holders are goddamn sick of all the kids in the council flats being subsidized by the British government to drain the US economy. So they are message-sending -- and rightfully message-sending.
If you don't want cruel message-sending like this, Jimmy, then you should be for the rule of law -- which would in fact mean having to pass something like SOPA, which you don't like. Copyleftists never met a law prosecuting piracy that they did like.
Not surprisingly, Google engineer-evangelist Brian Fitzpatrick is also stumping to sign this petition on his public G+ feed. Brian has threatened to block me if I ever post any criticism of his advocacy of such destructive policies on his public feed. I've pointed out that if he needs to talk to his little friends at work, he should just post to his circles of co-workers or fellow geeks and not to the public. Brian is like a lot of Google engineers, however, which is that he wants G+ to be part of an overall social engineering project where public critics will be hectored and we will all learn to mind our "thought leaders" and refrain from criticism that is "negative".
Wales claims on his petition that he is for protecting copyright. Where? How? Wales has opposed every law attempting to claim it. He (like certain copyright lawyers) is content to let it be resolved one case at a time, draining copyright holders of time and money to waste on lawsuits.
Arguments saying that Richard O'Dwyers links "were in Google or Bing, so those CEOs should be brought to trial" are silly, because what O'Dwyer did was put these links all in a concentrated place so that the piracy could be accelerated and amplified. Why does he get to do that?!
This notion that links should be protected speech, ironically has been indirectly challenged by none other than Timothy Wu, who would probably make an exception for links to piracy sites since I think he would hew to the copyleftist/Google line (he's the architect of the notion of "net neutrality").
But in his op-ed piece for the Times in fact Wu questions whether search results of any kind are protected "free speech":
The line can be easily drawn: as a general rule, nonhuman or automated choices should not be granted the full protection of the First Amendment, and often should not be considered “speech” at all. (Where a human does make a specific choice about specific content, the question is different.)
Defenders of Google’s position have argued that since humans programmed the computers that are “speaking,” the computers have speech rights as if by digital inheritance. But the fact that a programmer has the First Amendment right to program pretty much anything he likes doesn’t mean his creation is thereby endowed with his constitutional rights. Doctor Frankenstein’s monster could walk and talk, but that didn’t qualify him to vote in the doctor’s place.
In that regard, it would be interesting to see if Richard O'Dwyer hand-placed all his links, or whether he had crawlers searching or RSS feeds or some other automatic process that roamed the web finding the pirate TV sites. The system seems to work as follows: individuals submit links where they know there is free (i.e. pirated) TV, he checks them and posts them. Surely the checking process is automated?
Regardless, O'Dwyer should be prosecuted because he has materially aided crime. Indeed, the courts need to send a loud and clear message that this tap-dancing around the truth of the situation that copyleftists do is completely illegitimate. Linking to piracy sites is done to help people get to them and download the illegal material, not to merely "reflect on" or "comment on" the sites. The intention of having the publisher's haven is to ensure that there is robust and free speech in a democracy, particularly political speech, particularly speech critical of public officials (Times v. Sullivan). The intent is not to aid crime.
Ads sold against the large traffic and views that such offerings inevitably attract are therefore ill-gotten gains. Just as with this very similar case, which copyleftists hyped as a human rights crime, too.
The idea that Richard O'Dwyer shouldn't be extradited because pirate linkage isn't a crime in the UK strikes me as specious -- there are laws officials are trying to pass now that *would* make it a crime, and it *is* a crime. The US has *got* to stop this British socialist defiance of our content industry, as this English-language ally is obviously a big audience for piracy in a climate of technocommunism where the government subsidizes hackers on welfare and has only recently, under pressure of major events in the US, begun arresting some of them.
I say "socialist," because the Cameron Liberal Democrats/Conservative government which defeated British Labour in the elections in fact has signed the extradition order. Good!
I believe the US should pursue the extradition and the UK should cooperate if it doesn't want relations with the US to deteriorate. O'Dywer should be prosecuted in the US for this crime, and the sentence should reflect the extent of the damages and his status as a first-time offender -- that means it would unlikely to be 10 years. Perhaps Richard O'Dwyer should be sentenced to a year in jail or six months of community service teaching underprivileged inner-city kids to program computers, rather than to play online games and fill out surveys for their counselsors to make money -- which is what occurs in the at-risk teen programs now in New York City. It's a win-win for everybody if he is punished in this fashion -- and kept under supervision, of course. If he gets a heavier sentence, I won't cry: I want online crime to be prosecuted not because I represent record companies (I don't) but because I want to see the rule of law established over cyberspace, like any other human artifact. It's not special.
If Jimmy Wales, Brian Fitzpatrick and all the other "thought leaders" don't want cases with extradition and heavy sentences, then they need to drop their resistance to anti-piracy legislation. Once the right laws are passed, the law will be more of a deterrent than individual cases designed to send messages. And the first to be deterred will be Google, which already automatically removes infringing content from Youtube, its property.
Google has the technology and the ability to block pirate site links in search so that aggregate sites like this wouldn't even show up in search. It can do so without "breaking the Internet" as some geeks wildly claim. It already does so for malware sites. If nothing else, it can send pop-up notices that such sites are unlawful as it now does for unsecure sites. It needs merely political will and the acceptance that it has to be a little less greedy in grabbing ad revenue from pirate operations to achieve this.