Copyright Industry vs Online Privacy

Copyright and privacy remain at odds. The concept of copyright is not new. It has existed since May 4, 1557, created by Queen Mary I of England. Her political maneuver grew into plagiarism protection by the 1900s.

Until the very late 20th century though, that protection intended large-scale defense against plagiarism. The law was applied to manufacturers and purveyors of illegal copies books, films and records for sale on the black market. Since large-scale copyright violation required a public market to generate profit, no privacy violations occurred.

The Internet and Copyright

The Internet era changed this. Now, application of the law extends to users, such as teens sending copies of a favorite song to their close friends via e-mail. It extends to posting a file to a BitTorrent site for free download. While the market on small-scale sharing does not exist, the penalties for sharing remain the same. A person sending his new favorite song to a handful of friends does not charge for it. But it still constitutes the same violation though as if he sold it on the black market.

Postal Secret and Copyright

This created a major legal conflict. One tenet of privacy common to many countries’ constitutions, the postal secret, no longer protects the people. At one time, you could send a letter without concern that a third party would open it and read it. From the advent of email, it was treated with the same respect, falling under the protection of the postal secret. The current legal practice of searching the private email correspondence of individuals violates the postal secret tenet. But the small-scale copyright violations have taken precedent.

The conundrum is basic: both postal secret/privacy and copyright depend on enforcement.

Monitoring personal info and invading privacy

The publishing, film and music industries worry that without monitoring user accounts, their copyrights will be violated. But the truth is that checking these accounts can lead to erosions in other areas of legal protection, such as online privacy. The big majority of people being monitored didn’t do anything illegal. But for this industry, it’s still a justified action to prevent copyright infringement from the minority who actualy does it.

Torrenting and Copyright

The entertainment industry has worked using a three-prong approach to erode privacy rights:

  • lobbying to strengthen copyright laws and punishments.
  • lobbying for externalized enforcement and transfer of costs to third parties.
  • lobbying to “circumvent due process” and, in some countries, asking for police powers.

One key area that illustrates this is ISP and IP torrenting information. In Germany, the entertainment industry forced ISPs to reveal the identities of IPs that were torrenting. A similar situation occurred in Sweden, where the court allowed the entertainment industry privacy exceptions that it had not even given to the police.

Those protecting copyrights continue to work to make ISPs liable for their users’ messages. They do this via notice-and-takedown orders, notice-and-staydown orders and lawsuits.

Public Opinion

A 2015 Pew Research Center study revealed that 52 percent of Americans are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about government surveillance of citizens’ data and electronic communication. And, after the net neutrality scandal, this number is growing at a fast rate.

While citizens remain vocal about not wanting their data collected or shared, they have not been as equally vocal about protecting the postal secret tenet and communication privacy. Citizens must become knowledgeable on the issues surrounding the convergence of copyright and privacy though since their own basic rights of free speech and unfettered communication depend on it.