Moral high clown

Originally posted 2007-02-14 12:31:04. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Instapundit.com asks,

IS YOUTUBE LOSING ITS SHEEN? “Some observers hoped when the subpoenas came to light that Google’s history of resisting US government subpoenas would lead to non-cooperation in this case. The moral high ground is clearly far smaller in this case, though.” Yes, this isn’t about national security, it’s about power for the entertainment industry. No moral high ground in resisting that.

Hm, what’s with the snark, exactly? What happened here? The link above is to Tech Crunch, which explains:

Three weeks after receiving a subpoena from the U.S. District Court in Northern California, YouTube has reportedly identified a user accused by 20th Century Fox Television of uploading episodes of the show 24 a week prior to their running on television. That user, named ECOTtotal, is also alleged to have uploaded 12 episodes of The Simpsons, some quite old. Apparently Google and YouTube were willing and able to identify the owner of the username ECOTtotal, acording to a report on InternetNews.com.Some observers hoped when the subpoenas came to light that Google’s history of resisting US government subpoenas would lead to non-cooperation in this case. The moral high ground is clearly far smaller in this case, though. YouTube has handed over user names before upon request prior to its acquisition.

I don’t think I understand Glenn’s “moral high ground” point at all. This is stealing. It doesn’t matter how old episodes of The Simpsons are: They don’t belong to ECOTtotal, they don’t belong to YouTube or Google, not even to Krusty the Clown. They belong to 20th Century Fox, because they paid real money to Matt Groening and the other creative people who created The Simpsons for them.

This isn’t a civil liberties issue or a privacy issue. It’s a civil litigation issue. There’s no legitimate countercultural or civil-disobedience issue here, no shady defamation claim meant to flush out the names of disloyal employees, no Big Brother, no controversial foreign policy or Homeland Security play. This is stealing, and if Instapundit has a moral objection to this aspect of the copyright laws — i.e., the aspect that allows copyright owners to use traditional discovery methods in civil litigation to enforce their rights — I’m interested in a link to that law review article.

I suppose it’s possible Glenn’s point is that of course we see what a good corporate citizen Google is when it comes to plain-vanilla legal obligations of disclosure, but not when it comes to broad-gauge subpoenas in situations like this:

Google is vowing to resist efforts by the US Justice Department to obtain information about the searches run by millions of its users, even though investigators are seeking aggregate data about Internet use, not individual users’ records. The Justice Department wants the information as part of its effort to defend the Child Online Protection Act, a 1998 federal law that seeks to ban Internet sites from displaying content that the government deems ”harmful to minors.” The Supreme Court has ruled that the law can’t be enforced unless the government shows less intrusive measures such as Internet filtering are inadequate. The government hopes to use search results from Google and other companies to show that Internet pornography is so pervasive that only a federal law can protect children from it.

Is that such an obviously bad thing for Google to do? No one is a more against Internet porn, much less child porn, than LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION — I am sure I am several clicks to the right of Glenn on that. But (1) prosecutors and Department of Justice types and, in fact, all litigators have an annoying habit of asking for a lot more than they’re entitled to when they want discovery; (2) Google has a legitimate billion-dollar business model that the aggregate search results could very conceivably compromise, especially without a protective order; and (3) Google is a business, not a utility or a public trust in any sense, and it is not clear at all to me why the data it generates on the backs of its investors’ money should be provided to any government free of charge for its own purposes. Glenn — you’re the libertarian here, right? High moral ground “indeed”!

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Author:Ron Coleman

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2 Responses to “Moral high clown”

  1. February 14, 2007 at 2:53 pm #

    FYI, it’s actually Groening, not Groener.

  2. February 14, 2007 at 3:21 pm #

    David, it’s all worth it to me just to know that you’re reading LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION.

    Iceberg, Groenberg. Whatever.

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