Thursday, January 29, 2009

Why debate on copyright issues frustrates

Over at attorney Ray Beckerman's Recording Industry vs. The People blog -- which I have previously praised -- I raised in the comments to this post what I thought was an interesting legal question: under federal law, is illegally obtained evidence admissible in a civil case (i.e., is there a civil equivalent to criminal law's exclusionary rule)? UPDATE: the answer appears to be yes, illegally obtained evidence generally is admissible in a civil case (or, rather, it is not made inadmissible by having been obtained illegally).

I did not get an answer to what I still think is a pretty interesting question. I did, however, get called "the record companies' point man," a "running dog," a "pal[]" of the recording industry, "a point man for the content cartel," a seeker of "legal business of [my] own from that cartel, trying to show that [I] know better than their attorneys what is best for them," a supporter of a "factually bankrupt campaign of extortion by sham litigation," a "sophist[]" with "the crassest of commercial motives," a "pretend[er of] disinterest," and, best of all, a "ruin[er of] real peoples' lives." And we're only 8 comments in.

Off to confession...


  1. Please do not conflate "sham litigation" with "Sam the Sham litigation," which was brought by the Pharaohs.

  2. I don't approve of the way you sampled these comments without crediting the composers.

  3. Please, Ben. Do not conflate a single person with everyone who might debate you on copyright. I could just as easily make the same ridiculous claim based on debates I've had with folks like Patrick Ross or Tom Sydnor who are just as extreme on the "copyright maximalist" side. But I assume that they don't represent all such views, but are individuals. Ray is an individual. Debating with *him* may be frustrating to you, but to say that this means any debate on copyright frustrates is ridiculous.

  4. I certainly don't conflate Beckerman (or any other individual) with an entire movement. There are plenty of people in the copyleft/free culture movement whom I respect even when we disagree. But there is also an unfortunate tendency among many in that movement to demonize copyright owners in really rancid terms. You are obviously on the opposite side of many debates from Ross and Sydnor, but I've never seen them engage in personal insults and name-calling.

  5. It's a shame that the debate results in base name calling. That's never acceptable, but in this instance, I suppose it's unavoidable. Those non-academics who are particularly interested in the record companies' civil lawsuits over P2P sharing do not simply disagree with the record companies over their interpretation of copyright law, but disagree with what they see as the record companies' reckless disregard for individuals through their copyright "witch hunt" and "strongarm" tactics. Defending their legal and/or tactical positions opens you up for such personal attacks, justified or not. Just like lawyers who work for banks to evict struggling homeowners from their houses, or who work for insurance companies to deny claims are attacked, even though they're just protecting their clients' interests and following the law. I think it's a job hazard.

    But I'm enjoying your blog!
    Kyle Kaiser

  6. If you haven't seen them insult anyone, it's only because you haven't had to deal with them much when you disagree with them.

    I sat on a lovely panel with Mr. Ross where I spent my 5 min laying out a clear economic explanation for why you could make more money by ignoring copyright -- never once mentioning Mr. Ross or his positions at all.

    Then it was his turn, and he proceeded to tell the assembled audience that I was not worth paying attention to in the slightest because all I did was ad hominem attacks, and that I was untrustworthy because I focused on who had funded his organization (when I had never actually questioned who funded him at all).

    There are folks on both sides who go on the attack. You may not notice it as much on your side, because you're on that side, but from my perspective, I've mostly seen such ad hominem attacks from the other direction.


Comments here are moderated. I appreciate substantive comments, whether or not they agree with what I've written. Stay on topic, and be civil. Comments that contain name-calling, personal attacks, or the like will be rejected. If you want to rant about how evil the RIAA and MPAA are, and how entertainment companies' employees and attorneys are bad people, there are plenty of other places for you to go.