Is This Watchdog Guarding the Bad Guys?

We’re not sure if the website’s founders had a double meaning in mind when they named it “Chilling Effects“, but it sure sounds that way.

Ostensibly, Chilling Effects was created to provide evenhanded information to both content providers and content consumers about intellectual property rights. But to this observer it displays a definite libertarian, Information Wants To Be Free bias. It is filled with legal and paralegal references to assist those poor unfortunate filesharers and fences who receive takedown notices from authors and publishers whose copyrights have been infringed. Chilling Effects suggests the copyright owners are the abusers and the pirates are the victims. Not much is said about the chilling effects of theft on the creators and legitimate owners of those works.

The organization providing this guide to the perplexed is a pretty prestigious roster of eggheads. It is described as “A joint project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, University of San Francisco, University of Maine, George Washington School of Law, and Santa Clara University School of Law clinics.”  We’re sure they’re well meaning and have done their homework in the letter of the law, but the spirit seems to have eluded them, and we have to wonder if they’re familiar with the definition of a liberal as someone who’s never had his pocket picked.

So, what guidance do these sages offer? “Do you know your online rights?” the home page asks. “Have you received a letter asking you to remove information from a Web site or to stop engaging in an activity? Are you concerned about liability for information that someone else posted to your online forum? If so, this site is for you.”

“Anecdotal evidence,” the site declares, “suggests that some individuals and corporations are using intellectual property and other laws to silence other online users. Chilling Effects encourages respect for intellectual property law, while frowning on its misuse to ‘chill’ legitimate activity.”

Chilling Effects is “gathering a searchable database of Cease and Desist notices sent to Internet users like you. We invite you to input Cease and Desist letters that you’ve received into our database, to document the chill. We will respond by linking the legalese in the letters to FAQs that explain the allegations in plain English.”

Spend some time on the Chilling Effects website and tell us if it sounds to you as if this outfit is providing aid and comfort to the bad guys. Or are we just being oversensitive because we’re tired of getting our pockets picked?

For a complete archive of postings about piracy-related topics visit Pirate Central on the E-Reads website.

Richard Curtis

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7 Responses to Is This Watchdog Guarding the Bad Guys?

  1. Allen Varney says:

    “Eggheads,” huh? That makes sense; there’s no better way to discredit a position than to associate it with — you know — education, and (ick!) educated people. Thanks for furthering that good work.

    What, do dese eggheads tink dey’re better dan us? Da noive.

  2. will says:

    You are just being oversensitive.

    The overreaching effects of the poorly developed DMCA which restricts previously respected usage rights in other media forms necessitates push-back from the community for legitimate uses of digital media.

  3. jap says:

    In fact content industry is nowadays a menace to democracy. You are trying to destroy free speech, presumption of innocence, and due process.

    EFF is not precisely a pirate cove.

  4. Jeff says:

    It’s sites like this that reinforce the notion that copyrights are somehow “flexible.”

  5. Patrick says:

    Exactly, Allen. It’s easy to bash people who have an issue with copyrights when you can dismiss them, as Stephen King did: most e-book pirates “live in basements floored with carpeting remnants, living on Funions and discount beer.”

    But when *learned* people (who pay attention to the slippery slope of takedown notices often deployed – as jap said – with no due process) start to speak up, then the reverse is the problem – they are just too smart for anyone’s good, apparently. How dare they come blinking into the daylight from their warrens deep in academia to tell rights holders that they shouldn’t get to run roughshod over legitimate uses of intellectual property? I guess those geeky losers on both ends of the spectrum need to just shut up and let the sheeple in the middle be led around by the noble and perfect guardians of copyright.

  6. This site can go either way.

    Sure, there are takedowns that are meant to shut someone up, but then there are sites which are pirate dumps of copyrighted material. I don’t see any obvious attempt to clarify the difference here.

    Anyone who says that a site offering free Nora Roberts and Stephen King novels involves free speech or personal rights really needs a refresher in what free speech and personal rights are.

  7. Rowena Cherry says:

    Will, you miss the point about what happens when someone decides to “lend” an e-book to someone else.

    It doesn’t get “lent”. A copy that did not exist, that was not paid for, is created. Possibly thousands of copies are created and distributed, which negatively affects the value of the copies that are legitimately for sale through authorized sources.

    That’s not one of the “previously respected usage rights in other media forms”.

    It has never been lawful to take an entire paperback to a photocopier and make your own copy of the entire book.

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