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Moral Panics and Copyright Wars, Book Review Example

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Book Review

Moral Panics and Copyright Wars by William Patry is an insightful book which clearly depicts the problems that are currently alive between copyright owners and individual groups. Copyright owners use their carefully designed strategies to dismiss any individuals or small groups who could be potentially harmful for their profits. These copyright owners, however, do not realize that the world is operating because people frequently come up with newer things that are beneficial for the public. As a result, such small groups become victims of harassment and are frequently tyrannized. The copyright owners do not, in any way, wish to compromise withthese small groups and use “moral panics” and gross comparisons to justify their harsh tactics against them. Though a successful survey, this book falls short in proposing a complete solution to this problem.

One of the primary and useful points that the author attempted to reveal at the beginning of the book was the corporate takeover of the industry. It is important to note that the author did not shy away from truth and argued, very bluntly, that the companies usually have shortsighted goals that bring “short-term financial results“(p. 4).  This not only hurts the public, but also services as a paradox to their original goals, which is profit.  The monopolization of the industry has now become the new and ultimate goal of those corporations. According to Patry, the “push” and “pull” marketing systems are the two rival machines that are currently operating. The “push” system is the one predominantly used by mega-corporate systems in order to force the public (not offer) their goods. This, as Patry correctly notes, is something very relevant to the Soviet-style, outdated way of satisfying (the question of satisfaction is doubtful in this case) the public. These corporations, like the Soviet Politburo, operate by disregarding the needs and desires of public at large; they decide how many of the particular product should be made, when to make it, and when the consumer will have the opportunity to purchase the product. Unfortunately this confines innovative thinking and limits new experiences for the benefit of the public. And this is where the “Copyright Wars” commence, erupting between the individual “experimenters” and powerful corporations, and certainly where the corporations have predominant control and will prevail. The “pull” marketing system is vastly exercised by individuals who do not push their desires at the public but rather come up with new, innovative and beneficial ideas, which Internet often helps sponsor and aid to accomplish such aims.  Patry quotes Dr. Brown (currently at USC) who states, “To exploit the opportunities that uncertainty presents, ‘pull’ models help people come together and innovate by drawing on a growing array of specialized and distributed resources” (p. 7).  In addition, Patry correctly notes that collaboration is the main weapon of “pull” marketing system. The “push” marketing, on the other hand, comes off as a controlling system that creates artificial borderlines for the public and restricts them of going beyond those lines.  Those, however, who exercise the latter marketing system, do everything possible to harass, tyrannize, and at times terrorize the individuals that make use of the “pull” marketing system.Due to the fact that copyright owners have an enormous amount of influential power in vital spheres, they apply harsh tactics and have no mercy, whatsoever, toward those who might appear as obstacles in the way of their aims.  For instance, the copyright ownership companies use the “graduate response” at times which works alongside the three-strike rule. The first instance in which the copyright owners discover a website that sharesfiles, for example, they send a letter to the domain provider who then consequently sends a letter warning the domain user to terminate all the sharing activities. The second time this instance occurs, another letter is sent and Internet use might be temporarily suspended. The third time this occurs, the domain permanently bans the user from using the Internet. As Patry correctly noted, “the term graduated response should be replaced with the more accurate term ‘digital guillotine,’ reflecting its killing of a critical way in which people connect with the world and in some cases, eliminating their ability to make a living.” (p. 14).  Several European countries, including the European Union, rejected the implementation of these laws on the grounds that they are too extreme. It is also important to note that these companies do not wish to compromise with any individual groups and want strict measures to be taken. This includes the incident with a website called Napster (which allowed for the downloading of free music), as copyright owners desired to as a result pursue a lawsuit. The website was shut down, and eventually the copyright owners wanted to recreatea music-downloading venue similar to Napster (i.e. MusicNet). The website, this time around, only contained songs from its own music labels. Consequently, this alternative failed miserably.  This is relevant to the concept discussed in class regarding the early innovators which states that the market may punish early innovators for teaching technologies to later innovators. In this case, even though the later innovators failed at improving the idea that was literally handed to them, they still took advantage of it and the early innovators; in this case a few individuals got punished for that. Such a “hunting” technique and its implementation is justified by claiming that they suffer declines in revenue – a blatantly false allegation. The problem is that they want to blame these individuals by providing bogus numbers to the public. In my opinion, Patry gives adequate explanation for this notion. In addition, many sympathizers of copyright owners who received some sort of financial contribution frequently claim that these corporations annually lose $250 billion, including 750,000 jobs.  Julian Sanchez of ArsTechnica investigated the matter and found that the purported numbers were falsified.  All in all, the strategy that copyright owners exercise is not advantageous for them, nor is it advantageous for the consumers, and the question of reforming the system needs to be ultimately  revisited but with a more unbiased approach.

In the second portion of the book, the author exclusively concentrates on explaining the importance of metaphors in our everyday life, in particular with copyright laws. Patry interestingly deconstructs the use of metaphor and chronologically explains the various ways in which metaphor is being used. In my opinion this is a vital issue that is being ignored in the contemporary world. The question of metaphors is used in various ways to hurt the opponents. Though there are no laws for that, it is important to note that this is morally wrong. Patry says, “He eats like a pig implies that his eating was like that of a pig in most respects, while He is a pig…says something about his behavior, character, even appearance, without disputing the obvious difference in many other respects between man and pig…. This explains why in the Copyright Wars, copyright owners do not say, ‘X acted like a pirate,’ but instead that ‘X is a pirate.’” (p. 43). Patry attempted to describe the difference between using a simile and metaphor, and that by making use of a simile the connection is not immediately made, as it does not connect with the person,but merely introduces a comparison. The metaphor, however, directly connects the person to the object that the metaphor was used with.  In Copyright Wars using of metaphors has become a useful strategy to demonize the opponent. Almost every time a metaphor is used it takes a negative approach. Since Patry claims that exercise of metaphors is “almost always negative” he does not clarify if the positive use is targeted at corporation’s opponents or not. But regardless, Patry states that it is widely used for “the result of calculated political strategies to psychologically demonize opponents to make them appear to be ‘bad’ people”(p. 75).  In addition, most of the time that the metaphors are being used, they are falsely portrayed and the metaphor is thus incorrectly used. However, they to go around it and instead attempt to make the public or the particular audience fall for this simply by repeating the same claim over and over again, and eventually, the audience falls for such a tactic. “Repetition,” says, Patry, “of the false metaphor gives it [or, the claim] strength it does not deserve” (p. 94).In Copyright Wars the corporate copyright owners usually stretchsuch metaphors to an unlimited extent in order to charge their opponents with something very serious, and nobody then thinks of its truth because at that point it creates doubt within people’s minds. Patry quotes Charles Osgood from The Measurement of Meaning who says, “The effect of repetition is to produce small but cumulative increments in this ‘truth’ inference it is hardly rational but we really don’t think about it” (p. 48).After defining the importance of metaphors in Copyright War, Patry then deconstructs metaphors and explains the ways in which metaphor can be used and what can be added with metaphor to make the claim more direct, and to also have a more lasting effect. In addition, he connects his use of metaphor with certain elements of feelings to further prove his point. For instance, he argues that metaphor is widely used along with emotion. Patry says, “The Copyright Wars are a continual campaign to change the course of copyright, and as in politics, the more emotional the better.” By connecting these two concepts together, corporate copyright owners use it in Copyright Wars to exaggerate the danger against the “enemy.” It constructs the “perception of bodily sensations.” This way emotion can serve as a way to persuade the audience. The audience digests selective processing with the help of emotions, and does not rationally think about it since emotion and rationalization serve as paradoxes.

There are three widely used metaphors in the Copyright Wars that are employed to make a more lucid point. The first is the “parent-child” metaphor, which portrays authors as parents and their work instead as their child. In this case those who get the work without the authors’ permission are labeled as kidnappers and thieves. This is quite a serious, yet unsubstantiated charge that one can make. As the author correctly points out, many famous people, including Shakespeare, have copied others. Therefore, one should not use the metaphor of that caliber to address the problem. After all, copyright is only “an economic right, not a moral right concerned with preserving an ongoing, intimate relationship between the author and the work” (p. 75).  Another metaphor, somewhat similar to the previous one is the “agrarian metaphor,” in which the copyright owners have the right to reap the fruits of their labor. Patry again correctly points out that the statement is extremely vague as it does not clearly state how long the owner should have those rights, how it is going to work, etc. At last, he writes about the most common metaphor which is the labeling of opponents. Usually the names are unreasonably harsh labeling them as thieves, trespassers, pirates, or parasites.  Here, however, Patry justified these terms and claims that this is a necessity.  Here,Patry’s argument is a bit weak since these charges are quite serious. All in all, usages of metaphors in Copyright Wars are quite frequent and almost always take negative affect.

The last idea that is somewhat linked to the second important point Patry made is the usage of moral panics in order to destroy the opponents and erode anything that is not advantageous for their business.  Patry correctly quotes that “moral panics” is “a reaction by a group of people based on the false or exaggerated perception that some cultural behavior or group, frequently a minority group or a subculture, is dangerously deviant and poses a menace to society.” Patry gives numerous examples that have occurred in recent decades from Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie” to McCarthy-era incidents. The primary targets for “moral panics” are the ones who do something out of ordinary and are consequently targeted for constant harassment and discrimination. It is commonly the youth that are commonly seeking new opportunities and creating new innovative things, and thus it is logical to say that they are the target.

Copyright owners commonly use moral panics to scapegoat their opponents and discredit them and later punishing them harshly. In the book, Patry mentions Jack Valenti, the infamous lobbyist who lobbied for Motion Picture Association of America.  Valenti had designed a political strategy which he used in Congress. His opponents were always subject to moral panics which would frequently lead to discrediting. Valenti, however, is not the only one using this strategy and in fact usage of moral panics has become quite normal for copyright owners to achieve their goals.

In sum, the book correctly characterizes the overall problems of our present and warns us of our possible future mistakes but it falls short in completely analyzing one concept. Even though the author admits that there are certain problems in the system in which copyright operates, he does not offer an in-depth analysis for the solution of the problem.  He knows that it is a problem that copyright owners compare their opponents to thieves, robbers, trespassers, et cetera, but he doesn’t really offer a solution to this problem. A reasonable solution to end this scapegoating strategy would be to first implement a minor law for those who do something illegal on the Internet.There are several options of solving this problem. Upon finding out about the problem the defendants should file an injunction (stop doing it) which should warn the accused. This should be done when the case is something minor. But even if the case is too serious to be just over with injunction, there still can be an alternative to this. As discussed in the class, 95% of the time the cases are settled before the trial. It would be wise to implement a law for this particular issue and have the big corporations sit down and have a discussion with the accused and try to settle the case.Most of these instances will have the question of compensation, whether or not the accused should compensate for the damage. If the two parties disagree on the compensation then they should go to court and discuss that with the judge. The latter point is perhaps similar to what was done to Napoleon- the complete blockade of food. This is linked to another problem that was vaguely touched upon in the argument of metaphors; the avoidance of ad hominem attacks. There is no reason to label these individuals something despicable. In class, there was also the question of whether or not these individuals should go to jail and the answer is absolutely not. A fine of $200-400 for minor illegal Internet activity would be a reasonably solution to this problem.

All in all, the book successfully depicted the system with which the current copyright owners operate. It is unfortunate to say that they are currently one of the main obstacles to peoples’ innovative success. Also, copyright owners cleverly use metaphors as means to directly connect their opponents with something negative. Almost all of their metaphors falsely portray their opponents. Lastly, author brings up an interesting point about the usage of moral panics by copyright owners. Moral panics, like the usage of metaphors, are a strategic way to exaggerate.  The author, however, failed to completely propose a working solution to this.

Appendix

Review #1: Nixon’s Court: His Challenge to Judicial Liberalism and Its Political Consequence by Kevin J. McMahon: Review by Eric A. Posner: Causal with the Court:  The New Republic

Review #2: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back

By Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum: Reviewed by David Frum

Eric Posner, in his book review for Nixon’s Court: His Challenge to Judicial Liberalism and Its Political Consequences lucidlycritiques the content of the book and its lack of in-depth evaluation regarding certain important points in certain chapters of the book. Overall, Posner has accomplished his task of pointing out three vital points in the book and also questioning numerous important facts that were left out. In addition, he proposes reasonable arguments for those facts that were left out and offers his personal evaluation about them. Overall, it seems that Posner has successfully reviewed the book and accomplished all the objectives.

In his review, Posner first offers his evaluation about the first point that the author made. He introduces the background of the story and explains the overall atmosphere in late 60s and early 70s. He explains that Nixon had the difficult task of appeasing everyone. Because he was a Republican, he had to side with his fellow conservative but because of the overall moderate social climate in the country he had to sympathize with liberals as well. This is why the appointed judges were radically different from one another. Nixon, therefore, was at that time seen as a “liberal Republican,” which Posner jokingly refers to as “the extinct species.”

Prior to offering the second vital idea that the book offered, Posner points out the missing content (which comes immediately after author’s first argument). Posner notes, that the author of the book, McMahon, does not adequately talk about the question of nominating so many nominees from the Justice Department. Posner proposes that the only logical answer to this would be that even though those nominees were “bozos,” they were “our [Justice Department’s] bozos.” Next, Posner begins to evaluate all the nominees that were chosen by Nixon.

Posner then emphasizes the story within an institutional context. He summarizes the credentials of all the appointed judges and gives a personal opinion about each one of them. He further adds that Rehnquist was the only effective judge which was elevated by President Reagan.

At last, Posner offers an intriguing critique about the relationship between the president and the Senate. Ironically, McMahon does not do this very successfully.

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