Chris Castle has a long rant about Comcast’s blocking the Bit Torrent protocol, or to be more precise he has a long rant about the many who are criticizing Comcast; it seems he is a little upset that many have objections to Comcast’s actions, and that a consensus exists that committing fraud in the name of some secret agenda might actually be *wrong.* Corporate misbehavior is doing much to further the cause of net neutrality; one prominent commentator has changed his mind and come out in favor of some form of net neutrality, as pointed out over at Freedom to Tinker.
Chris never mentions that Comcast lied to its own customers in its FAQS and thereby committed fraud. They also interfered with their subscriber’s freedom of association. Those are minor sins, or perhaps even virtues, in Chris’s book. First, he starts out with some generalizations, and is so mad he gets his words all mixed up, which was my clue that this was really some kind of hate speech, not rational argument:
My general thesis there is that at a high level of abstraction (a) there are two essentially classes of traffic on the Internet, one legal and one illegal, and (b) if an ISP is not going to have the spine to shut off illegal file bartering on its network, the least they could do is make it very, very unpleasant for the illegal file bartering and substantially illegal social networking systems to operate.
Here we have an insatiable demand for simplicity: there can apparently be only two categories of anything, and the idea of a nuance like ‘legal file sharing’ or ‘immoral disruption of networking protocols’ can’t even begin to enter into the debate.
The use of an adverb as a adjective is unique, though: “there are two essentially classes” beats even some of W’s hilarious mis-speaks.
Then, there is the sweeping accusation that social networking systems are “substantially illegal” which he never explains. But he doesn’t have to: this is anti-net neutrality hate speech, and he gets his thoughts as right as his grammar, and his logic as twisted as his emotions.
But this speech has plenty of antecedents, particularly over at IP Central, which seems to be about the only place that actually likes Chris Castle’s writing. He goes on:
I think before you address any of the more nuanced issues in the “net brutality” debate, you have to deal with the legal vs. illegal issue, and I just can’t wait to hear how Google’s shills spin that one.
He really likes assigning pejorative terms to those he doesn’t agree with, but how catchy is ‘net brutality?’ Oh, and Google doesn’t need shills except when it does really stupid, amoral things like helping China filter the internet.
This is particularly true since “…more Americans are using file-sharing software than voted for President Bush…” as we often are reminded by the EFFluviati, so the problem is extraordinarily acute.
Well, as Greg Palast has investigated and documented in his wonderful book ‘Armed Madhouse’ we really don’t know how many Americans voted for President Bush, so this statement can’t be verified. But I don’t understand why we should be alarmed by the fact that file sharing software is being used by many. File sharing software has many legitimate, legal uses, Chris. Ever try to get a SuSE DVD during the beta or release candidate stage? Bit torrent is the only way. (This article is being written on a machine running SuSE 10.3 RC1, downloaded using bit torrent.)
It is also important to enlist the Invisible Hand wherever it can do the most good by making file-sharing extraordinarily unpleasant while at the same time clearly labeling the parasitic behavior as grotesquely antisocial (meaning it’s the kind of thing one can be expelled, fired or prosecuted for doing) and bringing as much stick to bear as one can afford—and offering a pleasant, socially acceptable and legal alternative (such as iTunes) or the program of the Principled Group (in contrast to the Unprincipled Group).
Here he goes again calling file sharing ‘parasitic’ and ‘grotesquely anti-social’–while not distinguishing between legal and illegal file sharing, which is strange, because just above he wanted to divide things into just two classes. How about distinguishing between legal and illegal file sharing, Chris?
Since Chris likes to refer to Adam Smith (although I doubt very much he has actually read any of his works,) here is an Adam Smith quote that everyone should be familiar with.
Of course–this means that anyone seeking to impose this burden would run afoul of the “net neturality” movement because in order to make this distinction, an ISP would have to make some choices about what to do about the illegal traffic and distinguish the illegal from the legal traffic. How would one make that distinction? The same way you can distinguish a dog from a duck. Life is full of uncertainty, and the Internet was not supposed to be a full-employment program for lawyers, including the Mystic Knights of the EFFluviati. Besides, I’m sure that pro-theivery ISPs will spring up all over the world, starting at the Harvard Law School and what Professor Lester Lawrence Lessig III calls the “super cool frecultur country of Sweden.”
Yes, Chris a network like the internet, having freedom and decentralization built in to its very architecture, is not conducive to becoming an arm of the law enforcement agency. You seem to want it to do much more than this though–you want prior restraint by private entities, who would presumably be unaccountable to any government agency. Sounds like a recipe for Corporate Fascism to me. I suppose that you would like the telephone company to listen to all calls, because from time to time they might uncover evidence of a crime or two?
But he did get one thing right: Life is full of uncertainty, especially if you are an entertainment lawyer living of of the fat of the work of artists. Obviously he is angry that he is losing that opportunity, and he may have to go out and get a real job sometime soon. Well, Chris one word for you: Radiohead. Bands are going to go straight to the customers, and the marketing and legal departments and all those hangers ons will have to go out and get real jobs. Do you think anyone is sorry that you have to adapt?
The centralized corporate power structures like the big four (EMI, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, universal Music Group and Warner Music Group) will evaporate. These companies will still exist, but as their copyrights lose value, they will become much less powerful and the actual ARTISTS WHO MAKE THE MUSIC will be empowered. This will be popular with everyone except: stock holders of the above-mentioned corporations and a very few of their highly compensated employees.
You may ask ‘What do I have against the big four Music groups?’ That’s a very fair question, because I do have an ax to grind with them. Of course the fact that I will get better and more varied music by a wider variety of artists at a lower price is all good, and would be enough to take the positions I have.
But there is another problem I have with the big four record companies: they keep trying to take away my freedoms. You see, I am attached to my First Amendment rights, rights which they are attacking by lobbying for laws like the DMCA. Unfortunately, my law makers caved into to that pressure, and they only weapon I have left to help preserve my freedom is economic–choke off the air supply to these freedom-destroying entities so they don’t threaten my freedom any more.
(HINT TO THE BIG FOUR: If you guys backed away from the DMCA and other freedom-destroying policies, people might start buying CD’s again.)
Ah, but distinquishing the legal from the illegal would violate the “tradition” of “net neutrality,” you see. Bunk. There was also a “tradition” among hotel guests in the Old West who were confronted with a fellow guest who was snoring in the next room–opening fire through the wall until the snoring stopped. When civilization came, they learned to complain to the concierge.
It sure helps to have an ISP lead the way, which it appears is exactly what Comcast is doing. We noted in an earlier post that Comcast has started cutting off service to bandwidth hogs (generally in line with the policies in effect at Stanford Law School, although it’s not a precise measurement as Comcast is not obligated to, and hasn’t, posted exactly what you have to do in order to be expelled from the service—no doubt showing an abundance of caution for the hacker non-ethic and their handmaidens, the Mystic Knights of the EFFluviati).
Now we find an oped—sorry, a story—on the Associated Press that alleges that Comcast is going much farther. It is stopping the “unstoppable” Bit Torrent and Gnutella. The EFFluviati are all aflutter re same, and a Comcast user is quoted as sniffing out Comcast’s atrocious behavior (I wonder if this is the same guy?).
To wit from the AP oped—sorry, news story:
“Comcast’s interference affects all types of content, meaning that, for instance, an independent movie producer who wanted to distribute his work using BitTorrent and his Comcast connection could find that difficult or impossible — as would someone pirating music.”
Yes, the AP reported facts that Comcast was uncomfortable with. That doesn’t make the story an OP-ED, Chris, it just means Comcast has a truth problem.
And of course just like Fred von Lohman of the EFF (as well as other Lessig fellow travelers) found it untroubling that Grokster and Morpheus were used for 97% infringing purposes, the “correct” result would be that the rights of an “independent movie producer” who wanted to distribute his work on Bit Torrent (presumably under some version of the flawed “Creative Commons” license) trumps the massive infringing activity that goes on every minute over file-bartering services to the PROFIT of ISPs TRUMPS the rights of the entire creative community.
Yes, Chris that is exactly right–you get it! Freedoms like the First Amendment real are more important than someone’s wet dream of a business plan. Perhaps you should recall the price that many have paid defending our freedoms, and then you might value them more highly.
The metrics of theft can be derived from very AP story that is so indignant about Comcast shouldering its responsibilities a member of the commercial world trying to live under the law (not to mention an ISP)—a story that reaffirms what was clearly spelled out in “Why You Hate Net Neutrality”:
“Internet service providers have long complained about the vast amounts of traffic generated by a small number of subscribers who are avid users of file-sharing programs. Peer-to-peer applications account for between 50 percent and 90 percent of overall Internet traffic, according to a survey this year by ipoque GmbH, a German vendor of traffic-management equipment.
“We have a responsibility to manage our network to ensure all our customers have the best broadband experience possible,” Douglas said. “This means we use the latest technologies to manage our network to provide a quality experience for all Comcast subscribers.”
And the EFFluviati chime in right on cue, inaptly comparing Comcast to ISPs in China run by the Chinese government and serviced by EFF’s alleged benefactor, Google:
“The results of our tests have agreed with AP’s [boy, that was quick]. Comcast is forging TCP RST packets which cause connections to drop (a technique also used by Internet censorship systems in China). These packets cause software at both ends to believe, mistakenly, that the software on the other side doesn’t want to continue communicating.”
And continue communicating to encourage the bartering of illegal files such as 97% of the users of Morpheus, the losing party in the Grokster case defended so brilliantly by that lion of innovation, Fred von Lohman of the EFF.
In a typical extension of its “Big Lie” techniques, the EFF offers up the following spray of EFFluvia:
Comcast keeps telling its users that the problems they’re seeing are not its fault. [True: If the users weren’t already engaged in highly illegal activities, they wouldn’t be having this problem. Comcast has a right to keep its systems free from criminal behavior. Just because Google doesn’t want to do the right thing, doesn’t mean Comcast has to follow the same compassless moral relativism. So if Comcast implements a system to make theft unfcomfortable, the intervening free will is not a choice of Comcast, is it?]
It’s time for Comcast to come clean about what it’s doing and take its users’ reports seriously. [You mean take the EFF seriously, right. Why on earth would anyone do that? Why help hackers, who John Perry Barlow refers to as the EFF’s “electronic Hezbollah”? Comcast doesn’t owe criminals any assistance. And besides, how do we know that Comcast isn’t cooperating with the Department of Homeland Security to build a case against these infowarriors and their apologists?]
There you go, taking the moral high ground-let’s compare the EFF to the Hezbollah! But this next remark is too precious:
I don’t often quote myself, but his is worth remembering:
“So if you are an artist or someone who benefits from the creative community, understand that when the Lessig cabal [including the Consumer Electronics Association’s Digital Freedom Campaign as well as Lessig, Google and the EFF] try to get you to support “net neutrality” there’s nothing neutral about it all, and it is all of a piece in their campaign to crush our rights and our business. As [Lester Lawrence Lessig III, a/k/a] the Nutty Professor put it succinctly in one of his anti-copyright diatribes: “We’re bigger than them [so if you contribute to EFF we will win].” Meaning they’re bigger than us, so they should get to have their way. He said it, I didn’t.”
Senator Diane Feinstein summed it up very well at the 2004 post-Grokster hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee after she roasted the Honorable Debra Wong Yang U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California and Chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on Cyber/Intellectual Property Subcommittee–who had done absolutely nothing to protect the entertainment industry online:
“I have watched for over a half decade since Jack Valenti [then president of the Motion Picture Association of America] urged us to do something. We asked him to negotiate and there were two attempts to strike a balance between protecting copyrights and fair use copying….Now we have a unanimous Supreme Court decision and peer-to-peer nets are increasing. That is a signal. Enact strong law to protect the copyright industry. If negotiations can’t produce results, it is up to Congress to act.”
Unfortunately, Senator Feinstein doesn’t seem to be able to get the attention of a sufficient number of her colleagues to make something positive happen in the Congress. But at least an ISP has the courage to take on the anti-copyright crowd in a way that makes a difference.
Bravo, Comcast. Keep up the great work, and Senator Feinstein please take note. It’s morning in the information war.