Drugs and Copyright

Unfortunately, it is NOT true in general that if millions of people want something and do something, it will ultimately be made legal. Laws are not written directly by the people; they are conceived, debated and approved by the government, which, after elected, is more or less free to do whatever it wishes. Most important positions in the government are not even chosen by vote. Besides, even when they choose to listen or are forced to listen, they listen to those who scream louder, make more noise or have more money, which don’t necessarily represent the majority of people, just the richer and/or more fanatic/determined.

Those who would argue that most people are not able to decide between right and wrong and have no competence to write laws are probably right, but they are missing two very important points. The first is that the option is having some entity hover over society deciding what’s right or wrong for us, either by force (which definitely does not guarantee wisdom) or by choice (by the people we just concluded were unable to judge such matters?). The second, and possibly even more important point, is that people may not be “officially” entitled to make some decisions in a bureaucratic virtual society, and may indeed not be competent to do it, but they are in fact objectively in charge of their own lives (and partly of those around them). Laws don’t prevent me from driving without a permit; it’s within my personal capabilities to do it. In fact, most laws can be broken very very easily. And the point is that it should be so; only in a totalitarian government should you be prevented from exercising your own judgment by default.

Look at the situation of drugs, for example. A large portion (if not most) of the population uses or has used some kind of drug. If we count alcohol and cigarrettes as “legal drugs” (which we probably should), it becomes even more obvious that from a human point of view, drugs are not considered intrinsically immoral or unnaceptable. It’s the abuse of drugs which is harmful and socially disapproved.

However, the government just decided that to “protect” those who don’t have the self-control or the intelligence to use drugs in a non-self-destructive way, they must make it a crime for someone to produce, sell, possess or consume substances from a certain list, under any circumstances and in any quantities. That is just plain stupid and oppressive. It’s also inconsistent, since they chose to arbitrarily keep some drugs “legal”.

Even if drugs were generally disapproved or believed to be unnaceptable by almost all people, that would still not be a valid reason to make them illegal; I should be able to do whatever I want as long as I don’t hurt other people. Most people don’t like really hard heavy metal; prolonged exposure at very high volumes could damage one’s hearing; should it be illegal? Should the police come into my house and arrest me for listening to it alone? Come on.

The point I’m trying to make it that this “copyright infringement” thing is looking more and more like the ridiculous and absurd “war on drugs” which plagues our society. More and more resources, laws and police action are being directed at restricting this activity, while a LARGE fraction of society keeps doing it and most people don’t even believe that it is immoral or that it should be outlawed. If they legislate against basic human urges like sharing information, they will only manage to create underground distribution systems, which actually hurts everyone. But no, they don’t care, they just want to have a monopoly on information distribution and charge so much that the average person won’t even be able to listen to the music he/she likes. If this is where we’re going, maybe we should just forget about copyrights and develop some new system to pay the content creators.

Besides, this is getting completely out of control – to prevent “copyright infringement”, they are attacking and trying to destroy the best new technology for distribution and indexing of information that appeared since the beginning of the internet, which is P2P and hashing, a technology which has multiple uses and is beneficial for everyone. How can we, as individuals, fight back? I guess we can’t – it’s just like the stupid war on drugs.

I’m not saying that drugs are awesome and we should be drugged all the time, I’m saying that they shouldn’t be ILLEGAL. Just the same, I’m not saying that the problem of paying the people who create cultural content doesn’t exist – what I’m saying is that making information sharing so completely illegal is clearly an increasingly totalitarian, oppressive and ultimately unenforceable solution. But the government and the media companies don’t care. Unless there is some kind of collective reaction by society, or a clash of interests between some very powerful groups, this non-solution may be stubbornly pursued for decades to come, probably with increasing (and very very costly and damaging) vigor.

Absurdos dos copyrights

Ao contrário do que imaginam alguns ingênuos, copyrights nada têm a ver com direito de propriedade. Pelo contrário, essa tem sido uma das principais ferramentas utilizadas pelo Estado para restringir o direito de propriedade.

Por exemplo, se compro um CD, adquiro o direito de propriedade sobre ele. Mas a existência de copyright sobre as músicas daquele CD restringe o meu direito, impedindo, por exemplo, que eu salve uma delas e a envie a outra pessoa, via internet.

Isso significa que esse “segundo direito de propriedade” sobre coisas intangíveis (como músicas) viola o direito de propriedade propriamente dito, sobre as coisas que alguém legalmente adquira (pela homesteading rule).

O exemplo do CD é apenas o mais corriqueiro, de uma série de abusos cometidos em nome da proteção aos copyrights.

A BBC relata um caso tipicamente absurdo de violação aos direitos de propriedade. Uma loja de CDs na Europa que foi forçada pela indústria musical a parar de vender CDs comprados fora da Europa (acarretando um aumento geral nos preços dos CDs), sob a alegação de que a importação de CDs viola os copyrights das gravadoras européias. O último parágrafo da reportagem parece tirado diretamente de um site de piadas que resolvesse ironizar os exageros dos copyrights inventando uma história absurda, a revelar que, nessa matéria, tudo aquilo que se imagina como reductio ad absurdum dos argumentos em favor de tal “proteção” acaba por acontecer na realidade:

“The BPI is also investigating online retailer Amazon to see whether it is importing CDs from outside Europe. ‘If we find a net retailer is importing music from outside Europe, then they are infringing copyright law,’ a spokesman said.”

Isso não é tudo. Há um extenso artigo na revista do NY Times sobre as restrições ao uso de informações, cobranças malucas de direitos autorais e coisas do gênero:

“Siva Vaidhyanathan, a media scholar at New York University, calls anecdotes like this ‘copyright horror stories,’ and there have been a growing number of them over the past few years. Once a dry and seemingly mechanical area of the American legal system, intellectual property law can now be found at the center of major disputes in the arts, sciences and — as in the Diebold case — politics. Recent cases have involved everything from attempts to force the Girl Scouts to pay royalties for singing songs around campfires to the infringement suit brought by the estate of Margaret Mitchell against the publishers of Alice Randall’s book ‘The Wind Done Gone’ (which tells the story of Mitchell’s ‘Gone With the Wind’ from a slave’s perspective) to corporations like Celera Genomics filing for patents for human genes. The most publicized development came in September, when the Recording Industry Association of America began suing music downloaders for copyright infringement, reaching out-of-court settlements for thousands of dollars with defendants as young as 12. And in November, a group of independent film producers went to court to fight a ban, imposed this year by the Motion Picture Association of America, on sending DVD’s to those who vote for annual film awards.”

A matéria também trata do movimento de reação a esses abusos. Apesar do nome infeliz (Copy Left), alguns desses críticos têm coisas interessantes a dizer, que os distanciam dos idiotas que, nos jornais brasileiros, ficam a pregar contra os copyrights em nome da socialização dos meios de produção – e que, por conseqüência, só fazem os defensores dos copyrights parecerem mais sensatos do que são.