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The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Thursday, February 09, 2012

The proper penalty for piracy.

As most people know, online piracy is hurting the world’s creative industries. Illegal downloading of music, films and even books, is cutting into the earnings of creative people and companies around the world. Indeed, it is fair to say that online piracy is imperilling the very business models that allow these creative industries to exist. Musicians are earning ever less from their recordings; film box office takings are in decline and authors are finding that their books may end up being downloaded for free, more often than they are bought. The day is not far off, it seems, when creative people will not be able to make a living directly from their creative works, because of huge piracy. What will happen then? Well, it is simple. They will be forced to turn to other jobs. They will have to make a living NOT creating their works. When that happens, the world’s supply of books, films and music will dry up. So, what is at stake here, is the very future of human culture. If being creative doesn’t pay anymore and if people steal works for free, wholesale, quite simply the day will come when there will be no more works of any real quality, being published or distributed. Human culture will be dead.

Recently, the founders and operators of Megaupload, (Kim Dotcom and his co-conspirators), a website enabling online piracy, were arrested and are being charged in connection with their wholesale theft of copyrighted works. What, I wonder, is an appropriate punishment for such people? As I write, I am unaware of the penalty, but it seems to me that only one degree of penalty is appropriate. Online pirates should be sentenced to mandatory life in prison, as a minimum sentence. By mandatory life, I mean that they will never be released from prison until they have died. In my view, this is an appropriate punishment because their actions are killing world culture – they are acting so as to deprive all of humanity, of the benefits of creative work, by making such work thankless and completely unrewarding. So, I would urge prosecutors and the judges of the Megaupload conspirators to seek the maximal sentences. Indeed, perhaps they should be sentenced to time in jail, consecutively, for EACH ILLEGAL DOWNLOAD. That would guarantee complete life sentences. Furthermore, their ENTIRE assets should be confiscated and redistributed to those they have pirated. These sentences of life in prison, and complete confiscation of all assets should be applied to everyone who worked with the pirates in connection with the theft of copyright works. This is to discourage anyone from working for such employers or becoming involved in any way. Every single person involved should spend the rest of their lives, in jail.

The degree to which the arrest of the Megaupload conspirators will deter other pirates, will be determined by the severity of their sentences. Those sentences must be as severe as possible, in every way it is possible for them to be severe. Leniency, in the face of online pirates, will only hasten the end of human culture and its distribution. The most effective answer to online piracy will be the global hunting down and prosecution of everyone who has ever been involved in a piratical endeavour, followed by their complete impoverishment and a life sentence to boot. Were this done, online piracy would quickly come to an end, as such “entrepreneurs” factored the probability of a life in prison, into their assessments of the viability of such a business model.

I hope, for the sake of us all, that the Megaupload conspirators receive hefty sentences, preferably life. Then again, the pursuit of pirates should not stop with one company. All companies which enable such endeavours should face the same fate as the Megaupload conspiracy.

I realize that many people disagree with my view. I have seen much online comment in support of Kim Dotcom – indeed some even seem to think he is some kind of hero. I guess that these are the people who regularly download pirated goods off the Internet. They see Kim Dotcom as their enabler and thus worthy of support. They fail to see that their own actions are suffocating the very producers of the works they admire enough to steal. There is great irony here. Those who are motivated enough by their liking for cultural goods, to actually steal them, are creating a world in which, one day, there will be no new cultural goods left to steal. They are destroying the very thing they hope to steal.

We are left with a very simple choice. We can, as a global people, allow pirates to continue their “work” unhindered. Doing so will mean the eventual end of all cultural publication and distribution. Or we can punish the pirates so severely that, overnight, this particular “business model” vanishes, out of sheer fear of the consequences.

Jail the online pirates for life – and save world culture. It is that simple.

Posted by Valentine Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:58 PM 

3 Comments:

OpenID safireau said...

I disagree. Let me explain why.

Now, I am no huge proponent of reckless illegal downloading.

It bothers me deeply that there are hard-working artists and creators that can be in the outrageous situation of being world-famous but destitute due to the fact that there is so much illegal downloading that they are unable to make a decent living.

However, copyright enforcement is NOT the answer.

I live in the U.S., an overly legalistic and sue-happy country.

Perhaps I wouldn't have such a problem with copyright if it were truly used in the manner it is claimed to be used for, that is, to protect the creator from people stealing and profiting off of their ideas without giving them any credit.

However, from what I have seen, copyright arguments are generally excuses made by various corporations to sue and glean as much money as possible from generally rather naive parties. These corporations were lucky enough to have in their past, one or two original minds who were able to create some new innovative product, but now the corporations have nothing new to offer the world. Instead they take their one product and surround it with abstruse legalistic terminology. Any violation of their long litany of rules, however benign, is now grounds for a lawsuit. Additionally, they make small, useless 'improvements' to these products, claim it is a NEW updated! version and jack up the price to obscene amounts.

In the case of computers and technology, for example, teenage males are constantly being sued and bankrupted for the 'crime' of being naturally curious and attempting to figure out how a system works. Why, from what I read, your son might even be eligible for a lawsuit or two from certain companies/software developers' perspective! But that's just simply ridiculous.

An additional irony is that many individuals/companies who are the most aggressive in terms of this have a much worse history of hacking when they were younger themselves. (Bill Gates hacked into his school's computer and Zuckerberg into his university's) So in a way, copyright is actually killing innovation by criminalizing the curious and technically gifted.

In terms of a solution, I feel it is more a sociological/cultural thing to make people appreciate creators rather than to sue them. I feel the act of sueing generally leaves the other party bitter, even less likely to change, and if they are an institution, they are probably going to make even more rules to protect themselves in the future.

Now in the case of downloading, as I stated earlier, I have mixed feelings. I don't know the specifics of the Megaupload case, but it seems to me to be just a hosting site, in which case, how is it any different than Youtube? It just provides a platform, it is OTHER people who upload the illegal content. Shouldn't it be those individual people that should be targeted rather than the entire website? If Megaupload can be closed, shouldn't Youtube as well by that logic? But I don't believe your solution would work practically anyways as we already have a prison capacity problem with just the rapists and murderers. If we were to jail all the individuals that have illegally downloaded something, the majority of the world's population would be sitting in prison.

Another thing is, I personally wouldn't mind giving away some of my creative output for free if I knew society could benefit from it, so long as I was adequately credited for it. So I don't know that this would kill ALL creative output, though I realize that it would be a difficult situation for those who do this for a living. The nice thing about the internet is that if one wishes, for a set fee (ISP and electricity), one can have access to free information and educate themselves. This is amazing for a poor gifted child who might not have the means to some of the resources others have, or perhaps are much more gifted than their parents. So free information is a good thing in many ways.

6:17 AM  
OpenID safireau said...

After all, isn't that the concept of a public library? People can donate their old books (upload information). Patrons can borrow and read books, videos, and CDs in full (download) without giving a dime to either the library or the author (though donations are always welcome).

You should check out the free software foundation (started by Richard Stallman, an INTJ) whose purpose is to provide free software much of which is better than the software you have to pay for. In this case, 'free' refers to the user's freedom rather than to the fact that you don't have to pay for it, though that's true as well. This is directly in response to some of the problems with corporations that I mentioned at the beginning. (In Math and Computer Science, there is a lot of giving away ideas for free with the understanding that you will improve upon it and sort of, pass this on.)

The website: http://www.fsf.org/

A list of software whose creators have intentionally provided for free: http://www.fsf.org/working-together/gang/

Richard Stallman and his philosophy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KR0rrXMJreM
I know you won't agree with everything he has to say, but I still think you should hear him out.


(All this being said I actually have a rather negative view of Kim Dotcom as a person and I did find it interesting reading your thoughts on this matter)

Alright, that's all. If you've read through the whole thing, thanks!

6:17 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Safireau...if all creative works were available "for free" through piracy, there would soon be very few new creative works. Culture would die. Is that what we want? A harsh stance on the matter is the only one with a hope of working.

3:16 PM  

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