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Megaupload shut down: SOPA unnecessary

I am sure that most TRF readers have heard of MegaUpload.COM. It was one of the servers where some people uploaded the ClimateGate files, among other things that were vastly more important for the accounts of the people behind the server.



Megaupload.com was the 72nd most visited site on the Internet. It was headed by Kim Dotcom; at least that's how most people called Kim Schmitz (originally from Germany), probably because he resembles a dotcom bubble.

American authorities decided to arrest Mr Dotcom a few weeks ago and the dream came true in New Zealand today. I must proudly add that the most important collaborator of Mr Dotcom is Július "Juice" Benčko [Yoo-lee-yoos "Juice" Bench-kaw], a webdesigner born in [Czecho]Slovakia in 1977. This author of the Megaupload.com graphics issues managed to earn about $1 million in the last year. Not bad. More precisely, it is very bad.




When I read the Wikipedia page, it erased all my doubts that Dotcom is a villain. These people have undoubtedly lived as parasites. Dotcom has done many financial things in the past that are either illegal or at least flagrantly immoral. Benčko may receive up to 55 years in the prison.

The copyrights holding companies are saying that they have lost more than $0.5 billion in revenues because of Megaupload.com. I suppose that this figure is obtained by adding the prices of all the copies of the movies etc. that were distributed via Megaupload.com. Well, I find such calculations tendentious or misleading because if the people who have used Megaupload.com couldn't have used it, most of them would never buy the movies or music or whatever the people were getting there. So I am convinced that the profit of the companies owning the copyrights would be much smaller than those $0.5 billion. In other words, a transaction has two sides and any calculation that assumes the price to be determined by one side only is skewed.

In the past, we could hear some poor U.S. students who were suddenly caught and demanded to pay tens of millions of dollars etc. I feel almost sure that many other people are doing similar things and those unlucky folks were chosen as scapegoats – although what some of those folks have done seemed extraordinary to me, too.

In my opinion, when the owners of the copyrights compute the losses, a fairer formula should be
\[ {\rm Loss}_{\rm eff} = \sum_{i}^{\rm products} \frac{{\rm Price}_i\times N_{{\rm copies\,would\,be\,bought},i} }{\rm Probability(caught)_i} \] The summation goes over different kinds of products. For each product, the price, as required by the seller, is multiplied by the estimated number of copies that would be bought if they were not offered by the copyright violators. However, each term should also be amplified by the inverse probability that a similar culprit gets caught.

Quite generally, I think that the fairer formula above would be yielding smaller amounts than what the copyright owners claim but they could still be big in many cases. You probably understand the reasoning behind my "fairer" formula; its aim is to balance the flow of money at least at a macroscopic level. (The accounting based on debits and credits is also known as "he should give, he has given" in Czechia, but this type of accounting was replaced by "they've stolen from us, we have stolen" [ukradli nám, ukradli jsme] during socialism.) Much more generally, I think that people should adopt a fairer formula. Copyright infringement shouldn't be something that allows the copyright holder to effectively kill the copyright violator. When someone steals a chocolate in the supermarket, it doesn't give the supermarket manager the right to kill the thief, either.

Things should be fair and balanced. This is not just an aesthetic requirement. I believe that an excessive copyright law – in either direction – creates an instability because too many people may want to abolish it completely, sometimes for their legitimate or justifiable feeling that the law is too cruel and the copyright holders have too much power and too convenient a life.

However, I want to tell those foes of any copyright laws that artists are legitimate workers, too. There are other occupations that their business needs as well. They are creating some values and they have to get their money for the work (unless we want to live in the society which only produces worthless arts – coming from the people who aren't good at anything so they wouldn't earn any money in their free time, anyway). If someone creates values that are considered high by the viewers or listeners, he should naturally get more money for that. But the production of intellectual assets is a work like another one, it may be hard work, and some people may be extremely good at it.

If someone says that artists etc. have no right to demand any money for their creative works or protect the mechanisms that are needed for them to get some money, he is effectively saying that he demands everyone to respect the idea that the market value of intellectual assets and creative works is zero. But that's not what the market says. The market says that it's not zero. People are ready to pay for certain things which proves that the value isn't zero. There's a supply of money to be paid on the demand side. Once you admit it isn't zero, then I think you should also agree that the money that the consumers are willing to pay end up in the pockets of the genuine owners of this immaterial but nonzero type of wealth.

And in my opinion, it is obvious that the artists and the people who directly cooperate with him or her, and not people like Kim Dotcom, deserve to be given the money that the people are willing to pay for the movies and other things that were being and that are still being stolen by various websites. Kim Dotcom and Július Benčko only created a simple website that only became important by the content and most of the content has been posted against the will of the primary originators of the content, e.g. the artists. It makes a difference. The copying of the files at/from Megaupload.com isn't really what we want to pay millions of dollars for, do we?

Mark Zuckerberg also created just a rather simple website (relatively to the price over $50 billion) whose value depends on the content that people contribute – but in this case, one could say that the people contribute the content voluntarily (well, in most cases). I think that these differences are self-evident to most readers; I still need to emphasize them because they're being deliberately overlooked by those who believe that the artists or inventors or authors have no right to assume that they're the owners of a monopoly to deal with their inventions or other creative works. Those folks use the loaded word "monopoly" to explain why they hate any copyright law. But any full-fledged ownership is a monopoly; it doesn't mean that we should share everything.

If I return to the title, this successful raid of the FBI against Megaupload.com shows that no special new legislation is needed. Because the FBI attacked a server whose violations of the copyright law seem obvious to most people, it's likely that the courts will confirm that it was legitimate. Most of the voters won't harass the current U.S. administration for this event, either. Some of them surely will (Alexa says that 1% of the Internet users visited Megaupload.com often). But if the FBI did a similar assault on a relatively innocent server, people would protest, courts could declare the raid illegal, and voters could even punish the government doing such things.

These are the checks and balances that do exist now and that should exist in the future. With a SOPA-like law that gives the copyright owners a total power that may precede any decision by the court and that may even circumvent it, the checks and balances would be destroyed.



Mullahs fight against Barbie

Today, the mullahs closed all shops that were selling Barbies. That proves that the mullahs are nothing else than feminists on steroids. Britain's media supervisory body, Ofcom, retaliated against the harassment of Barbie by Iran by terminating the license for the Iranian Press TV in the U.K. which was run by hardcore British Marxists and environmentalists.



Some decades ago, feminists only managed to ban one type of a Barbie, one that admitted that the math class is tough. However, young U.S. girls today already tend to understand that Barbie has always been right. She mentions a new research showing the non-psychological origin of the girls-boys math IQ gap which was even reported on the Huffington Post. Geary and Stoet invalidate claims that there existed "evidence" that the gap was due to the girls' low self-esteem. All the papers that have promoted the low self-esteem theory had general flaws; for example, none of them has ever applied the same tests to a male sample group. See University of Missouri press release.

Too bad that such obvious research couldn't have been routinely published when Larry Summers was in hot water.

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reader simple citoyen said...

The potential risk with actual (and future) copyright laws and their unfair use, is their intrusion in politics for example. How can you criticize a political figure if you cannot relay the video of his speach because it really is TV owned (even though you are not only paying for it through general taxes, but also a special TV tax, and commercials etc...)?
The actual notion of copyright is being extended to a point that makes no sense at all.