Thursday, 22 November 2012

Leadership Required For IPR Reform: Who's On Our Side?

Republican Party butthurt is funny if you're on the right mood but train wrecks start to look the same after a while. For a moment, though, it looked as if the sun of sanity had peeped through the clouds of the GOP echo chamber of "Facts? We don't need no steenking facts!" but alas, it was not to be. This is the state of play.

It's important to pay attention to who is running the show so we can work out how to address the policies they are likely to put forward. American policies tend to get copied, particularly where IPR (intellectual property rights, i.e. the monopolies on copyright, etc. that cause massive problems for the public because they're restrictive and set up to benefit the holders, not necessarily the creators) is concerned. The current President, Barack Obama, is Democrat but his party is outnumbered by Republicans. However, Democrats hold the Senate.

As I have already noted, the influx of religious authoritarians, neocons, and libertarians has pulled the Republican party far to the right, dragging the Democrats with them. This is causing problems for us on every level, including the world economy, the growth of state surveillance, the increase in IPR power-tripping, and the pandering to the big IPR holders in treaties, etc. Let's take a closer look at these.

The economy

...while the US has grown by 2.3 per cent over the last year, the UK economy has failed to grow at all. As the Office for National Statistics reported yesterday: "GDP in volume terms was estimated to have been flat in Q3 2012, when compared with Q3 2011". Second, while the US economy is now 2.3 per cent above its pre-recession peak, the UK remains 3.1 per cent below. - The New Stateman

Short version: it sucks, but the US economy is in recovery while the UK's is flat. The reason? Obama's stimulus kept the car manufacturing industry and its associated upstream and downstream industries afloat while our government decided to take on the Austrian school of voodoo economics — with predictable results. We're heading for a triple-dip recession unless the government decides to reverse its policies and go back the Keynesianism that we know work in practicse. Libertarian economic doctrine is destroying our economy while in America, Keynesian economic policies are repairing the damage done by G. W. Bush during his tenure. This is important because much of the propaganda used by the IPR maximalists hinges on the idea of economic recovery depending on IPR revenues. No, it doesn't. It depends on spending.

Simply put, spending money in the service industry maintains and creates demand, and therefore more jobs in the upstream industries. Spending money in the manufacturing industry maintains and creates more upstream and downstream jobs, but it's all for naught if there aren't any buyers for the products. The best way to put money in the hands of punters is to either drop the taxes they pay, subsidize their living costs, or pay higher wages. As a worker in the service industry I need customers who have the spending power to pay me at a decent rate or the Christmas list will be thinned out because I won't be able to afford to buy presents for everyone. And if I'm to have customers, they need to be able to spend money on a decent website, not on the one that time forgot.

State surveillance

The controversial Snooper's Charter is coming undone in Parliament, as is right and proper. The Home Secretary's maths doesn't add up and we've managed to survive the onslaughts of the Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse so far so we don't need it. It's a power grab being faciliated by the security industry and although Britain needs a stimulus this is the wrong kind. Construction would be a better bet.

President Obama has done nothing to reverse the NDAA or the PATRIOT Act, the drone strikes continue, and the surveillance continues. The TSA continues. Sort it out, Mr. President.

Meanwhile, SOPA-sponsor Patrick Leahy had an internet bomb go off in his face when CNet's Declan McCullough reported that the Senator was planning to bring in a privacy-busting amendment to an earlier privacy law. Barely a few hours after that went out and the Internet Freedom Movement launched a campaign, he walked it back and claimed he'd made no such suggestion. Given that we've only got McCullough's word for it we might not believe him but history suggests McCullough called it right. In any case the man paid a visit to the Internet Freedom Movement's thread on the subject and I've asked him to keep an eye on it and let us know if Leahy tries to sneak anything like that through again. Not on my watch! Thanks to all who took part and ripped their Senators a new one.


The EU Commission's Neelie Kroes is on our side and the Pirate MEPs have persuaded the Greens to get on side. However, we're up against the conservative caucus, which wants to maintain and expand the ridiculously overbearing IPR regime we have now. Meanwhile, the Republicans had an outbreak of common sense, but it turned out to be one of those 24 hour things; the sensible policy paper was withdrawn the next day. Oh, and the IPR industry apparently owns Brazil. Their much-vaunted Internet Bill of Rights, the Marco Civil, has been canceled due to pressure from the telco and copyright industry lobbies.

The good news is that a bunch of SOPA-sponsors have been booted out during the recent elections, which hopefully leaves us with representatives open to discussing IPR reform. This needs to happen as a matter of urgency.

Meanwhile the US DOJ-Kim Dotcom trainwreck continues as the overbearing Americans keep on trying to find ways to advance their unwinnable case and New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key tries to convince everyone he's on the level. Dotcom is still saying that he never did nuffin' while trying (and failing) to get Mega back up and give New Zealand free broadband courtesy of the people accusing him of copyright via a lawsuit settlement.

The Republican party

As the opposition party of the United States, it's important to keep an eye on these guys. Lamar Smith of Texas was responsible for SOPA along with his Democrat friend Patrick Leahy. They're not that keen on human rights and are responsible for the NDAA and PATRIOT Act. They're angry that they lost the election and seem to think it's a marketing issue rather than an unacceptable policies issue. They also think they represent America. They don't, just a small and shrinking minority who used to dominate political discourse. Now they're the embarrassing uncle you don't want to invite to the wedding because you know he'll show you up. Their backers, including the Chamber of Commerce, are licking their wounds as they count the loss of millions of dollars in campaign money wasted on losers.

What now?

Well both of the main US parties are prone to crony capitalism and we're going to have our hands full if we don't want to end up in perpetual servitude to our corporate overlords. The Republicans are going to have to get a grip if they're going to move forward. If they ditch the loons and stop being such cowards we might be able to get somewhere. We need a counterpoint to the crony capitalists and the only politicians that seem to be willing to stand up to them can't get elected to positions of authority. There's still TPP (Thailand just joined) to deal with and I hope to be able to get more people on board to fight that. We've got till October next year to either derail it or make it less destructive.

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