Thursday, May 14, 2009

Felten's 3 strikes for print

It's not often Ed Felten is driven to satire - he's usually a model of calm rationality even in the face of some absurd policymaking - but his response to the French parliament passing 3 strikes legislation is a classic illustration that even the most rational thinkers can be driven to exasperation when it comes to IP law making:
" Yesterday the French parliament adopted a proposal to create a "three-strikes" system that would kick people off the Internet if they are accused of copyright infringement three times.

This is such a good idea that it should be applied to other media as well. Here is my modest proposal to extend three-strikes to the medium of print, that is, to words on paper.

My proposed system is simplicity itself. The government sets up a registry of accused infringers. Anybody can send a complaint to the registry, asserting that someone is infringing their copyright in the print medium. If the government registry receives three complaints about a person, that person is banned for a year from using print.

As in the Internet case, the ban applies to both reading and writing, and to all uses of print, including informal ones. In short, a banned person may not write or read anything for a year.

A few naysayers may argue that print bans might be hard to enforce, and that banning communication based on mere accusations of wrongdoing raises some minor issues of due process and free speech. But if those issues don't trouble us in the Internet setting, why should they trouble us here?

Yes, if banned from using print, some students will be unable to do their school work, some adults will face minor inconvenience in their daily lives, and a few troublemakers will not be allowed to participate in -- or even listen to -- political debate. Maybe they'll think more carefully the next time, before allowing themselves to be accused of copyright infringement."

Jonathan Swift would have been amused.

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