Is Online Piracy Really Stealing?

Hell yes, it’s stealing.  Seriously. 

Welcome to Legal Musings…where I try to find a blog niche and talk about the law.  Yes, I’m a lawyer.  Yes, I hope to include a lot of legal analysis dealing with being an author.  But I might digress into other legal areas…because there’s some weird stuff going on in the law.

So, what is Senate Bill 3804, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act…and where is it today?  Well, it’s a Bill that was introduced into the Senate by Sen. Leahy from Vermont that allows the government to go after pirates.  By pirates, I don’t mean Captain Hook.  I mean the blood sucking, evil, narcissistic people thumbing their noses at karma and stealing books on the internet.  Dante has a brand new, special level of hell for those folks.

But, I digress.  About the current status of the law…The Bill spent some time in committee, and needs to be re-introduced. 

On February 16, 2011, the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings and Scott Turow, one of my favorite authors and the president of the Author’s Guild, gave testimony. 

First, Senator Leahy testified, “I am confident that we will pass legislation to target rogue websites this year. I want to hear from all sides as we move forward, but I refuse to accept that addressing the problem is too difficult because people who want to steal will always find a way. That is like saying that we should not prosecute drug crimes or child pornography because bad people will find a way to do bad things anyway. I am a former prosecutor, and that line of argument is unacceptable.”  See Judiciary transcript for full text.

Scott Turow testified and gave some amazing examples of online piracy.  “One is tempted to call it a vast underground economy, but there’s nothing underground about it: it operates in plain sight…Money clearly suffuses the system, paying for countless servers, vast amounts of online bandwidth, and specialized services that speed and cloak the transmission of stolen creative work.” 

Turow then gave specific examples of the most prolific of pirates, stating that it was time to make piracy not so secret, calling for online providers to register an agent for service of process (just like any business in the US has to do).  He had several recommendations…read the full text here.

Is anyone besides the pirates against the Bill?  YES.  There are groups up in arms about the former text of the Bill, claiming it would allow the U.S. Government to shut down every site from YouTube to Yahoo. So the text may have been over-broad.  I think that’s why it went back to committee and they’re holding hearings now.  To clarify the text.

Finally, Nora Roberts, the Queen of Romance, submitted a letter to the Judiciary Committee in support of the Act.  She asked, “If piracy continues to devastate a writer’s income, to erode the ability of the publishers to make the profit necessary to bring those books to the public, where will the next generation of storytellers come from?”  The woman can write!  The full text of her letter is up on the RWA website. 

So…the current status of the law is that they’re working on the law.  I’ll try to keep you updated.

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10 thoughts on “Is Online Piracy Really Stealing?”

  1. This is one fight we need to keep fighting…I hate the fact that there are bills that go after pirates of video, music and other stuff but when it comes to books we don’t seem to matter….If the gov pushed more and was equal when it came to piracy we authors would not spend more time fighting it and less time writing…It is such a time killer…

  2. Cid says:

    Great post Rebecca! I was just reading an author on Facebook who was speculating at her lost income thanks to piracy. It is a big deal and it needs to be stopped.

  3. monicastoner says:

    This is great information. I hope people realize the importance of vigilance in all issues of piracy and copyright infringement. THANK YOU

  4. Lisa Kessler says:

    Great post!

    I loved Nora’s letter… She nailed it!

    I’m glad we’re finally going to be able to punish people who shoplift off the internet…


  5. Sharla Rae says:

    Love your legal Tues. I found this blog very helpful and hope you’ll continue to post them on FF&P so that I can tweet them. Sharla Rae

  6. danicaavet says:

    Loved the post, Rebecca!

  7. AMEN!!! You’re damn right it’s stealing. Great post.

  8. It is sad but there are many in our country who feel they have a god given right to steal what belongs to someone else. Unless our govt has the guts to stand up for what is right, they are no better then the pirates.

  9. Brooklyn Ann says:

    Great post! Down with piracy!

  10. Rita Merlow says:

    Thanks for the reminder.
    We need to hear about it now and then.
    Great post!