(Source: Tropiganda)
To "approve" of piracy is to lawbreak: world's top torrent site is found guilty of speechcrime

The world's top torrent site The Pirate Bay has long struggled with legal issues [1][2][3].  It thought it left those problems behind when it switched from physically hosting torrents to hosting only magnet links to downloadable torrents.  But an ardently pro-big media British justice has turned up the heat on the site, accusing it of thoughtcrime and speechcrime.

I. Judge Rules The Pirate Bay is Guilty of "Thoughtcrime"

The Hon. Mr. Justice Richard David Arnold, 51, a member of the High Court of Justice Chancery Division, and long standing QC ("Queen's Counsel") ruled that the site's decision to "approve" of piracy was in and of itself illegal. 

In a lawsuit brought against very British internet service providers by the nation's top music labels, Justice Arnold rules:

In my judgment, the operators of TPB do authorise its users' infringing acts of copying and communication to the public. They go far beyond merely enabling or assisting. On any view, they "sanction, approve and countenance" the infringements of copyright committed by its users. But in my view they also purport to grant users the right to do the acts complained of. It is no defence that they openly defy the rights of the copyright owners. I would add that I consider the present case to be indistinguishable from 20C Fox v Newzbin in this respect. If anything, it is a stronger case.

In the present case, the matters I have considered in relation to authorisation lead to the conclusion that the operators of TPB induce, incite or persuade its users to commit infringements of copyright, and that they and the users act pursuant to a common design to infringe. It is also relevant in this regard that the operators profit from their activities. Thus they are jointly liable for the infringements committed by users.

For the reasons set out above, I conclude that both users and the operators of TPB infringe the copyrights of the Claimants (and those they represent) in the UK.

In other words, employees of The Pirate Bay wrote something seemingly in favor of piracy -- or critical of "big media" -- which coupled with the facts that they post links directing users to files -- which may or may not be illegally shared -- they're automatically guilty of copyright infringement.

Essentially the ruling finds the website guilty of thoughtcrime (by the fact that the administrators do "approve" of piracy, a belief) and speechcrime (allowing/encouraging users to post written links to infringing content -- induction and incitement).

Justice Arnold, appointed in 2008, has been a key friend of big media, moving aggressively in 2011 to force British ISPs to block Newzbin, a forums site which movie and music studios claimed was promoting piracy.  Like The Pirate Bay, Newzbin didn't contain any actual content, but merely indexed (allowed links) to a variety of content -- some of which indeed may have been infringed.

Judge Arnold
Justice Richard Arnold is a key ally of big media in British court.
[Image Source: 11 South Square]

The British Justice authored a book titled Performers' Rights.

While he has generally sided with big media in piracy cases, Justice Arnold did last year earn the appreciation of at least one major internet player when he ruled in eBay, Inc. (EBAY) of civil liability in a counterfeiting case brought by French cosmetics manufacturer L'Oreal (ETR:OR).

II. British Gov't Vows War on Piracy, But Allows Big Media to Pirate

The Pirate Bay civil ruling clears the way for the music labels in the suit to force Britain's top internet service providers to block The Pirate Bay.  For now, this will likely not effect the site's accessibility in the nation much, given that the site's compaction thanks to ditching torrents and switching to magnet links has allowed for easy mirroring by volunteers worldwide.

Ultimately, though the ruling could serve as a prelude to steep fines or even criminal penalties against citizens who host the site, and in doing so commit the same "thoughtcrime" and "speechcrime" the site was found guilty of.

The Pirate Bay
Britain's top music labels are allowed to pirate independent artists' works for profit, but The Pirate Bay is poised to be banned for simply supporting filesharing.  [Image Source: ByteLove]

Britain is well known for its extreme copyright enforcement.  Britain's RIAA equivalent -- the Performing Right Society (PRS) -- threatened to sue a grocery store employee for singing in public, and only backed down after public outcry.  The British government has attempted to push a $1B USD equivalent of the U.S. controversial SOPA; meanwhile British courts endorsed music labels' cash-or-we'll-sue letter writting campaing, which sought protection fees from 30,000 UK citizens.

British officials have also joined the U.S. in pushing the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a copyright pact, drafted in secret, that enacts new penalties for  filesharing.  The nation's government has also tried several times to enact a policy that would force ISPs to terminate users who pirate after "three strikes".

The Pirate Bay, in response to the loss in the Chancery High Court case, parroted and mocked the English Justice's ruling, writing:

In my judgment, the courts of [United Kingdom of Censorship] do authorise its judges' acts of corruption and being technically uneducated. They go far beyond merely enabling and assisting.

I conclude that both judges' and the politicians of [United Kingdom of Censorship] infringe the rights of the people... in the world.

Ironically, there is some validity to those accusations.

Britain is among the nations whose laws allow big media to "claim" the works of independent artists, pirating them for-profit, without fear of legal recourse. Independent musicians must plead with the member corporations for their cut, a process that can often take years.  The scheme pulls in hundreds of millions globally for big media corporations in the U.S., Britain, Canada, and elsewhere.

Aside from killing public piracy while preserving loopholes for their own seizure of copyrighted content, big media's other major objective is to ban backup copies.  That would allow them to execute their ultimate goal of expanding users "choices", by forcing them to repurchase content they already own.  Top media corporations contend that making backups of CDs or DVDs you legally own is akin to "stealing" a copy via piracy or petty theft.

Sources: High Court of Justice Chancery Division, The Pirate Bay

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer

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