The leadership of the hateful Westboro Baptist Church, home of Fred Phelps, has just been found liable to the tune of $11 million for picketing the March 2006 funeral of a fallen Marine. The complaint named the church, Phelps, and his two daughters as defendants. The declared assets of the defendants combined are something less than $1 million, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's rather more than that. Either way, $11 million is probably some multiple of their total assets, meaning that should the verdict be upheld, the church and all three named defendants will probably have to file for bankruptcy. In the case of the church, this almost certainly means the liquidation of their property.
Frankly, I can't be bothered to agree or disagree with their message. Picketing the funeral of a soldier is irredeemably bad form. I don't care what they say they believe: these people are not part of the church, and we should rejoice at their downfall. With any luck, this will put a grinding halt to any further shenanigans.
Despite the confusing misnomer, copyright is not actually about protecting the rights of authors or publishers. It's a restraint of trade, pure and simple. Consider the differences between other recognized rights and copyright.
In all of the rights protected in the Bill of Rights and later amendments, the nature of the provision is a restriction of the government's ability to interfere with individual or group conduct (with the exception of the unfortunate and repealed 19th Amendment). They take the form of "The government shall not do x, y, and z." They are, in essence, a statement of the rules by which individuals and groups interact with the government.
But copyright provisions are entirely different. They are impositions on the public at large, restricting our ability to do things we would otherwise be able to do. Instead of regulating the relationship between an individual/group and the government, they regulate the relationship between an individual/group and third parties.
This makes more of a difference than it looks like. First, it separates them entirely from, for example, the First Amendment, which creates very broad restrictions on the government's ability to inhibit speech, but absolutely no restrictions on non-state actors to do the same. If a private individual restricts your freedom of expression... that's too bad, because the restriction amounts to protected expression most of the time, and the government won't choose between your rights and theirs.
Second, the "right" protected by copyright isn't something naturally available to humans per se. Expression, congregation, distribution of ideas, possession of means for self-defense, all of these are things that people can do on their own. Copyright was not even a legal concept until the 16th century, and the term didn't see common usage until the 17th. I'd say that's a bit late in the game to go making up new fundamental human activities.
Copyright is a bargain between the government and publishers. The deal is that the government will give the publisher a fixed amount of time to attempt to recoup their investment before turning that material over to the public domain, where it would naturally lie without governmental interference.
So there's this list of the top-25 news stories complied by Project Censored purporting to be the biggest stories that never received the attention of the media. The more you read it, the more breathless and conspiracy mongering it gets, especially towards the bottom of the list.
Many of these stories have actually received media attention. The #1 story on the list is the revocation of habeas corpus in the Military Commissions Act. Umm... The #2 story on amendments to Posse Comitatus? Here. #3 on AFRICOM? Yep. I could keep going, but I have better things to do.
Any activity which discourages the dissemination of information is not automatically censorship. There are plenty of good reasons for not publishing something that have nothing to do with censorship. I'm doing research into historical censorship, and I'm finding that outside 20th-century totalitarian regimes, censorship really isn't as big of a deal as people think. There's "censorship" and then there's censorship. Deciding not to print something because it would either piss people off or not attract sufficient attention to be profitable isn't censorship, it's journalistic and editorial discretion. Being prevented from printing something because it violates governmental will is censorship. The mere fact that such a list can be compiled indicates that what's going on here isn't censorship: if it was, the list couldn't have been published.
Let's be honest. Project Censorship isn't about compiling stories that have been censored, it's about compiling stories that lefties think are important and damaging to Republicans. And it's so much more exciting if you can convince yourself that they really are out to get you.
The jury in Capitol Records v. Thomas has returned a guilty verdict. This is a sad day for culture lovers everywhere, as it will probably encourage the copyright cartel to pursue their self-destructive and impossible litigation campaign against other unfortunate citizens. One can only hope that Thomas chooses to appeal, but given the verdict, she's unlikely to have the requisite funds.
Repeal the DMCA now! The Licensing Act was a bad idea in 1662, and it's a worse idea in 1998.