Corporate big brother

What should a corporation do if somebody sets up a site where everybody comes to post links to content, some of which is illegally in breach of copyright?

Thank him. Find ways to steer the traffic to his site. It will dramatically reduce the research and investigation needed to find and shut down the questionable links.

I would point out that many networks will post at least some of their programs online, presumably with the express purpose that they be watched.

It is not realistic for someone operating a site to not just click on every link but also research whether or not the material is a licenced version.

I’m not going to completely pre-judge the issue in that I can imagine a site being set up in a way that would promote or take extra steps to facilitate criminal activity and that might trigger some kind of conspiracy charge.

By extra steps I mean, any site where a link can be posted can be used for a criminal purpose and that mere fact should not open anybody with such a site to unlimited absolute liability.

Absolute liability is really a spectre here. “Absolute liability” means that there is no defence, even that you were not negligent or reckless and had no wrongful intent.

How does Amazon know that none of the third party books being sold on their site aren’t unauthorized reprints?

It can’t possibly know that, and given the sheer volume of material, it would seem highly unlikely that none of that is going on.

How about Ebay?

Should Amazon and Ebay be required to inspect everything that goes through their sites?

The case of Richard O’Dwyer should be concern not just for individuals but also for existing corporations.

There is also an old and occasionally questionable principle that if you see an offense occuring you are not required to intervene.

The direction things are taking is such that if you have an internet site you are instantly deputized and have a duty to police it. You become an agent of the state. You are either a cop or a criminal, with no middle ground.

Along the same lines we should be very concerned about the shutdown of FOREIGN online gambling sites by the US, which seized their domains.

That was a brazen attempt to protect vested US interests under the rationale that gambling is laudable in Vegas and Atlantic City and on Indian reservations and with state lotteries but is criminal anywhere else.

That willingness to break net neutrality to make competing with US economic interests an international crime suggests to me that we need to start developing alternative “internets” over which the US has no say or control.

I hope that there will be corporate concern at the direction that policing of the internet is taking, in these and other cases. Amazon and Ebay in particular ought to be concerned, as they operate on the general premise that most people and businesses are acting in good faith. Their business models would not work if they had to be the thought police as well.


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