Timothy Geigner at TechDirt spotted a guest post by filmmaker David Newhoff on the blog The Copyright Alliance that displays before your very eyes the disconnect between file sharing advocates and opponents.
Amazingly, Newhoff treads into the waters of a civil rights issue (gay marriage) and somehow wants to make comparisons with piracy, an issue of economics and artistic expression.
The craftiest of gay-marriage opponents will argue that legalizing these unions infringes on their rights to be Christian in America, which is tantamount to undermining religious freedom. Yes, anyone with two working brain cells can recognize that this isn’t sound reasoning so much as thinly veiled bigotry. Same-sex marriage can only be a threat to religious freedom if we agree that the zealot’s belief that homosexuality is a sin should implicitly influence our legal definition of marriage. There is no way to cut through this logical Gordian Knot without concluding that all marriage would have to be religious (and ultimately Christian) in order to be legal in the U.S. And that would violate the definition I believe most of us apply to religious freedom.
Similarly, the copyright-threatens-speech proposal uses the illusion of reverse discrimination to suggest that when the producer exercises his copyright, this somehow infringes on the consumer’s desire to reuse or “share” the work as he sees fit, which amounts to a “chilling effect” on speech. Like the same-sex marriage thing, this argument glosses over personal bias to foster a logical leap to a shaky conclusion. Copyright only threatens speech if we agree that the consumer’s right to reuse is more important than the producer’s right to treat his work as property.
Geigner adeptly skewers Newhoff’s perceptions of what the pursuit of happiness in The Declaration of Independence means for copyright holders.
However, as someone openly gay and in favor of file sharing I find Newhoff’s comparisons deeply offensive. The anti-piracy forces of the RIAA, MPAA and others have consistently lied about how much money they lose due to piracy. This perceived loss is due to business decisions the recording and movie industries should have made a long time ago when it became clear that an entire generation of entertainment fans would be downloading files, instead of buying CDs and DVDs, as the main mode of acquiring new music and movies. Studies have shown, however, that those industries are still making profits and, indeed, benefit from piracy. If the mega industries are making profits but cutting productions (where I assume, Mr. Newhoff, you’ll be making most of your money), that’s a business/labor issue, not a rights issue.
Newhoff will have to explain to me how his freedom of speech and pursuit of happiness arguments allowing him to make money from his film productions bear any relevance to being allowed to simply live freely. After the hate talk of Jeff Sangl’s church, Ron Baity and Charles Worley, who’s ready to pull the switch on gays and lesbians, Newhoff’s claims look particularly lame.
Do you seriously think that if I click “share file” that I’m exactly the same as those who would send gays to the Nazi gas chambers, force gay men to be chemically castrated or simply pummel gays to death?
I don’t know where your personal history has taken you, David Newhoff. But mine includes chapters such as death threats made before the very first march for gay rights in Rochester, NY back in 1987. As part of a group helping organize that march, I had to deal with rocks, eggs and other debris thrown at us. People shouted out names. A pick-up truck containing guys wielding baseball bats parked across the street from our starting point. One of those guys wore a shirt with the phrase “I Hate Fags” printed on it. The coup de grace of disgrace was a man who brought his two knee-high children over to scream “Biblical” accusations at us. The children were wide-eyed and terrified. I’ll never forget that traumatic incident of child abuse.
File sharing has no comparison whatsoever to any of this. To even suggest that it does is insulting to anyone who genuinely cares about human freedom.