Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Florida: Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Bills Alert

The two bills are SB 604 and HB 271. Actually they're the same bill, in House and Senate versions. It's styled "The True Origin of Digital Goods Act."

They law would prohibit those who "electronically disseminate" "commercial recordings or audiovisual works" from doing so anonymously.

The first clue that any bill is terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad is when its sponsors lie about what it's for. The sponsors of "The True Origin of Digital Goods Act" falsely label it a "consumer protection" bill. But its purpose is not to "protect consumers." Nor is its purpose to "protect producers."

Its purpose is to make it easier for those who claim "rights" in "intellectual property" to track and sue or prosecute people who use that "intellectual property" without permission.

That is, if you record a cover of "Fly Me to the Moon" without ASCAP's permission (author Bart Howard willed the "intellectual property rights" in his songs to the ASCAP Foundation) and pop it up on YouTube, the purpose of this bill is to assist ASCAP in chasing you down and shaking you down (even if you're not actually selling it, YouTube is ad-monetized and therefore commercial; the bill is clear that "[a] recording or audiovisual work may be commercial regardless of whether a person who electronically disseminates it seeks commercial advantage or private financial gain from the dissemination").

Now, I've been pretty clear about my opinion of "intellectual property" -- that it's an evil state fiction created for the purpose of establishing monopolies on information for the benefit of state-privileged rentiers -- but agree or disagree with that opinion, the point here is that that's what the law is about. It's not about "protecting consumers." So strike one against the bill is that it's being falsely advertised as to intent.

Strike two against the bill is that it effectively outlaws nearly all anonymous and pseudonymous speech in audio/video formats. Yes, I know that your anonymous anti-IRS rant in a Guy Fawkes mask isn't being sold by you, but see above. Where do people post their audio/video stuff? On commercial services. Just because you're not the one making the money, that doesn't mean it's not "commercial" by dint of its mode of publication/conveyance. And the effect of this bill is that if your rant pisses off the wrong bureaucrats, they know who and where you are if they want to mess with you (or if you just ignore it, they have a ready-made "crime" to  use as an excuse for finding out who you are and where you are).

Anonymous speech is a big deal. Everyone knows who Thomas Paine is now, but when he published Common Sense, it was anonymously.

Ditto the original publication of James Weldon Johnson's Diary of an Ex-Colored Man in 1912.

And in our own century, any number of anonymous/pseudonymous -- or "ghost-written" -- libertarian and anarchist works.

Lots and lots of political speech is moving from text to audio/video. And most publication venues for audio/video are "commercial."

And not just political speech. There was a bit of a dust-up awhile back when Facebook tried to crack down on drag queens for running accounts under their stage names. What about them? Or trans people who might be interested in "vlogging" their transitions but not really up for revealing their legal names and addresses to every potential stalker/thug out there? Or poets who prefer to give themselves pseudonyms with no capital letters and make videos of themselves in berets chattering away to finger-snaps at their local slams? Or anyone who wants to say anything without having to give a name and address?

Pre-preemptively requiring presentation of identifying information as a condition of being allowed to speak, just so Disney can more easily crack down on people who bootleg Frozen, is like preemptively requiring everyone to leave their front doors open so the local police can walk in to check for dead bodies any time they feel like it.

If you live in Florida, please contact the politicians who claim to "represent" you (find state senators here and state representatives here) with a strong "not only no but f**k no" message concerning SB 604 and HB 271.

Hat tip -- Electronic Frontier Foundation (yes, I'm pissed at them for supporting the FCC's evil Internet power grab, but they brought this to my attention, so credit where credit is due).

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