As a pro-marijuana activist, it's a joy to watch the Berlin Weed Wall come tumbling down. I even found some pleasure this week in Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement for reduced sentencing for non-violent drug offenders .
It's not everyday some liberty is yielded back to the people, however small. Yet my joy is tempered by cynicism.
The private prison-industrial complex could not have been happy with Holder's recent announcement, but there's a strange silence. There's not a single bought-and-paid-for politician coming to the defense of longer prison terms for non-violent drug offenders. So what gives?
Surely there must be intense lobbying efforts underway to stop this. I mean, any industry evil enough to bribe judges to throw innocent children in cages would clearly scratch and claw for every dollar of potential profit, right?
But what if they can replace drug offenders with other warm bodies -- like copyright offenders (file sharers)? The NSA likely has a whole list of offenders ready to go. They're an easy target as they don't typically travel in armed cartels. Who cares that they, too, are non-violent offenders? Make file sharing a felony, says the Obama Administration.
The Washington Post reports :
You probably remember the online outrage over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) copyright enforcement proposal. Last week, the Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force released a report on digital copyright policy that endorsed one piece of the controversial proposal: making the streaming of copyrighted works a felony.
As it stands now, streaming a copyrighted work over the Internet is considered a violation of the public performance right. The violation is only punishable as a misdemeanor, rather than the felony charges that accompany the reproduction and distribution of copyrighted material.
SOPA attempted to change that in Section 201, aptly titled “Streaming of copyrighted works in violation of criminal law.” Some have suggested that the SOPA version and an earlier stand-alone piece of legislation from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) would have criminalized covers of songs shared on Youtube.A slightly more colorful explanation of this development is in the video below:
Hollywood's lobby is almost certainly joined by the prison lobby in pushing this new SOPA provision. Heck, the entire Department of Homeland Security, with an infrastructure that constantly needs justification for its existence, would benefit from locating and taking down a new class of felons.
No doubt the entire terror-surveillance apparatus would be used for this endeavor, too. The Bush Administration already laid the groundwork of equating copyright pirates with terrorists.
CNET reported in 2005, "An invocation of terrorism, the trump card of modern American politics, could ease the passage of the next major expansion of copyright powers" following Congressional testimony where an investigator testified that "Some associates of terrorist groups may be involved in IPR (intellectual property) crime."
The same pressure to use anti-terror mechanisms to track down a pimply teenager with a killer movie library on a hard drive also began in Europe around the same time.
The Guardian reported in 2005 that "The music and film industries are demanding that the European parliament extends the scope of proposed anti-terror laws to help them prosecute illegal downloaders."
So this plan to take on online piracy as a form of terrorism has been in the works through two administrations. Obama has been seeking to take this battle to the next level during his time in office with his support for SOPA, PIPA, CISPA, ACTA, and various executive orders.
And since the government has been caught using warrantless spying, supposedly reserved for stopping imminent terror attacks, for IRS and DEA investigations, we can only assume it will also be used to prosecute all felonies -- online crimes in particular.
We've seen the DHS seize websites for merely posting links to copyright material. And we see them prosecuting hacktivists like Barrett Brown for 100 years for posting a link.
They're setting up the laws to treat all citizens like terrorists to catch with dragnet surveillance by criminalizing more non-violent behavior. It's a recipe for a steady stream of new business for law enforcement and private prison complex.
Although it's genuinely a good thing that the DOJ is easing up on drug sentences, as usual they give a little crumbs out of one hand while stealing the whole loaf with the other.
See more by Eric Blair here.