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Misplaced Priorities

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security seized several dozen domain names, shutting down web sites they said facilitated copyright infringement. They did this through their Immigration and Customs Enforcement division, without bothering to notify the owners -- they just up and took the sites, replacing the prior content with a notice saying, in effect, "we're from the government, and we own your ass."

This raises some very, very troubling questions. The first is, why the hell is "copyright infringement" or "counterfeiting goods" a matter of Homeland Security and/or Immigration and Customs? The second is, why was it so goddamned important that these domains were taken without notice ("hey, guys, you're helping break the law -- cut it out!")? The third is, why the hell is "copyright infringement" or "counterfeiting goods" a matter of Homeland Security and/or Immigration and Customs?

You might notice that the first and third points bear a certain similarity. That is because it is that important a question.

This is the part where the professional left will bring up that the Department of Homeland Security was created under President Bush, as was the rebranding of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service into Immigration and Customs Enforcement, so this kind of overreach has to be his fault.

This requires a leap of logic -- to overlook that DHS and ICE have been under the command of Barack Obama for almost two years now. Further, he hand-picked both Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and ICE Director John T. Morton. This action is solely in their laps.

But there's one more question that I have about this matter. If internet issues are a concern to DHS and ICE, then why the hell aren't they going after WikiLeaks, whose latest planned release of classified documents actually will directly threaten the United States' security and interests? They are actually waging a war of espionage against the United States, seriously impairing our international relations and our efforts to fight terrorism, and the best the Obama administration does is whine about it? If we have this army of cybercops who are out there fighting music pirates, that says to me that they have more than enough free time to go after WikiLeaks and the cyber-jihadis that web sites like The Jawa Report are fighting?

I was never overly comfortable with the consolidation of national security within the DHS, because while I saw the dangers, I also saw the potential dangers of all that power concentrated in one area. I could foresee a future administration misusing that power under one roof, and now I see that if anything, I underestimated it. One cabinet secretary -- Janet Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona who couldn't even manage her own state's border security -- is personally responsible for both the above AND the Transportation Security Administration, which has now imposed the "let us either see you naked or feel you up" rule for air travelers and wants to expand that to other forms of public transportation.

This is intolerable. This is unacceptable. We need to put an end to this, and now. Get the DHS and its subsidiaries to actually focus on matters of actual homeland security, and stop using the "national security" umbrella to harass and molest other Americans.

And if they don't... well, I can see 2012 from my house. And it's getting closer every day.


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Comments (35)

You forget who illegal down... (Below threshold)
retired military:

You forget who illegal downloading hurts the most.

a. Hollywood left
b. Recording industry (vast majority of which is on the left).

The dems have to help out their constituents.

Dont get me wrong. WHoever runs the sites need to go to jail if they were guilty of copyright infringement. Using homeland security to do it is a bit of a stretch IMO.

GREAT point, rm. If it's so... (Below threshold)

GREAT point, rm. If it's so heinous for Arizona cops to enforce immigration laws, why is it just fine for immigration officials to go after people pirating movies and music?


I dunno...my library has pl... (Below threshold)

I dunno...my library has plenty of videos and music in their inventory. I could borrow those, copy them to my computer do exactly the same thing.

Plus, at least one of the sites, and maybe more, is a search engine only. Wouldn't that mean something like google and yahoo would have to be shut down as well, in order to avoid 'profiling' and 'prejudice'?

One other thing, y'know, Hollywood, when I rent or buy a movie, I want to watch that movie. Not 10-20 minutes of frakkin' ads of every vanity project, moronic blockbuster gone by and soundtrack to the movie I am not getting to watch. Oh and thank you so much for not allowing me to skip them either, you stupid fellaters of your neighbor's goat, it makes the movie experience so much more immersing when I am ready to just say "f*ck it!" before the first frame of the movie shows.

Plenty of people tried to w... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Plenty of people tried to warn you, Mr Tea.

I remember comments of my own, both here and at Oliver's place, saying, in effect: "You guys may be comfortable with the government having all this power under the Bush administration, but how will you feel about it under Hillary (or Obama, or Kerry)?"

Now the chickens have come home to roost, as it were. You guys were all for expanded government surveillance power, etc, when it was "your side" running the government. Now that it's the "other guys" not so much. This is the problem with short-sighted kneejerk defense of any and all actions by a GOP administration. It's called "blind partisanship" and it has consequences.

BTW, I'm no expert, but DHS may be involved in copyright cases because the Chinese are the worst offenders in that area, and their gaining an unfair advantage hurts our economy and therefore our capability.

Bruce,It is a huge... (Below threshold)


It is a huge stretch to argue that enhanced powers of intelligence gathering to fight a war is legitimizing the seizure of websites that allow people to watch movies and listen to music illegally.

Furthermore, I didn't see a single jihadist website on the list of shutdowns, and there are hundreds of them out there.

So, this is nothing more than a ham-handed attempt to mollify a key constituency of the far left and keep the money coming for the 2012 election cycle.

Likewise, Bruce, a lot of u... (Below threshold)

Likewise, Bruce, a lot of us warned YOU that Obama would be a disaster as president -- an utterly untried naif and the product of the horrifically corrupt Chicago Democratic machine -- and you ignored us.

You wanna gloat, or you wanna do something about it?

Also, funny, but I don't recall your warnings that DHS would end up shutting down music and movie sharing sites in the name of "national security" once we got rid of the eeeeevil BusHitler administration and submitted to our progressive betters. But then, I'm occasionally absent-minded and don't read everything.


What a surprise that people... (Below threshold)
jim m:

What a surprise that people who offend the big dollar supporters of obama are now being labeled as enemies of the state.

No, my warnings were less s... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

No, my warnings were less specific - namely, that powers claimed under the theory of "the unitary executive" might be used under a future administration in ways conservatives didn't like.

Hey, I'm not defending the Obama administration on this; I'm simply pointing out that the chickens have come home to roost, as I said. You guys were fine with unitary executive power as long as it was Cheney wielding it. If it was still a GOP administration in power, and it had done the same thing, I'll wager you'd be defending this action.

So, Bruce, thanks for confi... (Below threshold)

So, Bruce, thanks for confirming you're more concerned that you prove you were right than actually addressing the concerns. That your ego takes precedence over the problems.

Thanks, but I think we can get by without your help.


"You guys were fine with un... (Below threshold)

"You guys were fine with unitary executive power as long as it was Cheney wielding it...."

Not me, I've criticized the concentration and expansion of government power for years.

"WHoever runs the sites need to go to jail if they were guilty of copyright infringement..."

Really?? And here I thought copyright infringement was a civil matter. But WTH do I know, I had no idea it was a national security issue, either.

"If it was still a GOP admi... (Below threshold)
jim m:

"If it was still a GOP administration in power, and it had done the same thing, I'll wager you'd be defending this action."

Not likely. If there is one thing that you should have heard from the right in the last 2 years is a call for reduced government intrusion into our lives and increased personal liberty. Just like many on the right protest against the TSA from the very beginning as a waste of time and money that did nothing but infringe upon our rights without providing anything meaningful in terms of safety.

And as far as your claim to be "not defending the obama administration" it seems like the same old crap from you: distract and change the subject. That's what you do when you cannot defend Barry's policies. You turn it around and blame the right.

If you want to be seen as not defending the obama administration you might start with an actual unqualified criticism of it. I won't be holding my breath.

Well, much like you and "wh... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Well, much like you and "what the left believes," Jim, I don't know enough about this action to offer criticism. But, again like you, that doesn't stop me from pontificating about the motives and reasoning of those who are. Fair enough?

And, Mr Tea, thanks for your admission that I was right back in 2004. It takes a big man, etc., etc., etc.

As for "doing something about it," that was my point way back then: that once the government has a power, wresting it away is extremely difficult. But you didn't listen.

Oh, and Jim, I have indeed ... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Oh, and Jim, I have indeed heard plenty of concern for liberty in the past two years from the right.

The previous eight? Not so much.

Bruce, might be we were bot... (Below threshold)

Bruce, might be we were both right.

Bruce: "If you give the government these powers, they will be misused by a future administration!"

Me: "Elect Obama, and we're all screwed."

We elected Obama, and now he's misusing those powers.

Congrats on your broken-clock moment, Bruce. Would've been nice if you'd included your prediction to include "when the Democrats take power."


I did, Mr Tea. See comment ... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

I did, Mr Tea. See comment # 4, second paragraph.

Y'all seem to take any criticism of your articles or comments as coming from a leftist libtard. The fact is, I and other contrary voices on your blog are here to keep you honest and keep you sharp.

You're welcome.

I'm no blind Obamabot, I've got plenty of criticisms for this administration. No sense in writing them here, though. Obama gets enough grief here.

Sorry, Bruce, I missed read... (Below threshold)

Sorry, Bruce, I missed reading that on your own blog. Or your list of where you drop your pearls of wisdom.

Tell me, have you achieved your happy ending yet, or do you need to do some more ego stroking to properly get your rocks off?


OK, OK, point taken, Mr Tea... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

OK, OK, point taken, Mr Tea.

Hey, just googling "DHS siezes domain names" turns up a wide variety of views about this story. Most are a little less partisan and paranoid than yours.

BH seems to say the same th... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

BH seems to say the same things, over and over, on every post; no matter what the subject.

Distract, then 'Buuuuush'.


Copyright infringement shou... (Below threshold)

Copyright infringement should be a civil matter, just like patent infringement. At the same time that copyright terms have been extending, they have also been busy turning it into a major crime.

If it simply HAS to be considered criminal activity, I would like to see the terms restricted to 28 years maximum, only able to be held by human beings (not businesses), require the product be marketed for at least 180 consecutive days out of every 2 year period, and be non-transferable. This would add to our culture by allowing all of this to return to public domain (a concept that has been killed over the past few decades), as well as encourage innovation (by not letting big business hold copyrights forever while doing nothing with them besides copyright trolling).

Stop bickering amongst your... (Below threshold)

Stop bickering amongst yourselves about who to pin this on. This game has been going on for decades and it crosses both major party's lines with allies to be found everywhere. Very few take a stand AGAINST extension of copyright terms. Very few take a stand AGAINST making copyright infringement a crime. Very few take a stand AGAINST big business farming out their copyright enforcement to the TAXPAYER. This has expanded under every President since Ford, as I recall.

At least we don't have a "tax" on CDRs and iPods in the US designed to funnel money to the RIAA. I believe they have the CDR "tax" in Canada and their equivalent of the RIAA is asking for the same sort of "tax" on iPods. This doesn't send any significant extra money to the "starving artists" and treats all of the customers as pirates right from the start.

The evidence is readily abundant that this has less to do with Obama and everything to do with a trend that no administration or session of Congress has really tried to stop over the past few decades. Don't be distracted by partisanship that only serves to muddy the water and complicate the real issue.

Bruce,If you don't... (Below threshold)
jim m:


If you don't like my take on what the left believes then simply start acting in a way that reveals something other than what I have said.

Show yourself to be something different and I will think otherwise.

Jim, you asked me, on anoth... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Jim, you asked me, on another thread, whether I "spoke for the left."

Leaving aside the fact that, on that thread, I specifically said I do NOT speak for the left, YOU, sir, of course, indubitably, and obviously, do not either. That is the point I keep making in regard to your idiotic insistence that you know what "the left believes." Sorry if it's boring to others.

Your POV regarding the left appears to be made up out of Limbaugh's lies, WND conspiracy theories, and your own baldfaced falsehoods, i.e. "I work with lots of lefties who think Stalin was great." Asserting that "the left" is allied with Muslim fanatics to destroy America is just one of the over-the-top ravings that compose your oh-so-insightful psychoanalyses of the mind of "the left." Quackery and hackery, I say.

I couldn't care less, Jim, whether you think I am one of your caricatures. When I respond to one of your claims to clairvoyance about the mind of the left, it is to point out TO OTHERS that you don't know what you're talking about.

I must apologise to Mr Tea for going so far off topic.

By the way, this guy Brian makes some excellent points. As the father of a daughter who is studying Film, though, I wonder how she'll make a living if the theft of intellectual property is considered no big deal.

If they reformed copyrights... (Below threshold)

If they reformed copyrights to 28 year terms, she would have a 28 year exclusive for her film? Is that so bad?

And what is wrong with it being treated as a civil matter? It wasn't that long ago when copyright infringement was treated the same as patent infringement still is. If you are being infringed, you sue them for damages and compensation. The reasons they want it to be criminal is because they are having a hard time proving the damages they would prefer to (which leads to criminal fines being far above anything they could reasonably prove) and don't like the idea of having to pay for their own copyright infringement investigations.

Should taxpayers be footing that bill? Copyright infringement isn't theft, it is simply unauthorized copying/distribution. It isn't really the same thing, which is why the crime is not the same. "Theft of intellectual property" is really only if I take your daughter's movie and put my name on it (claim it as my own), or steal her ideas ahead of time and make my own film based on them. If I copy the film, I am not stealing anything. I am just making one more of the same exact thing.

I'm just asking questions h... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

I'm just asking questions here, Brian, not making any assertions, but how is theft of intellectual property not theft?

If I download or buy a bootleg copy of a movie, how is that not theft any more than if I go into a Blockbuster and shoplift a copy? In either case, the creators of that movie are not compensated for their work, right?

I definitely don't have any problem with your "28 Years" proposal. That seems reasonable to me. I guess I wasn't clear that I wasn't arguing with anything you said, more like the idea that Hollywood liberals don't deserve protection, or however people who illegally obtain copyrighted materials rationalize it to themselves.

I would like to understand ... (Below threshold)
Rick Caird:

I would like to understand Bruce Henry's complaint about a unitary executive. It seems to be some nasty buzzword coming from the left, but all it means is we have a single executive in charge of the executive branch and that happens to be the President. That is exactly what the founding fathers both contemplated and designed.

Not only can I not see any value in multiple executives, I can only see problems with competition for authority between the executives. I do not want an elected attorney general or secretary of defense or whatever method Bruce Henry wants for choosing some set of additional executives.

I really get the impression most of the left has no idea what a unitary executive actually is and why they think it is bad. Nor do they ever seem to offer an alternative to the very most horrible unitary executive.

Theft is defined as:<... (Below threshold)

Theft is defined as:

the act of stealing; the wrongful taking and carrying away of the personal goods or property of another; larceny.

Copying is not the same. In your example, Bruce, I do not think downloading a movie is theft. It is merely making another copy of the movie. If it is unauthorized by the copyright holder, then it is a copyright infringement. That means there may be damages to the copyright holder (as long as the actual movie is available - there are no damages to be assessed for movies that aren't even being distributed).

Whether or not you are compensated for your work does not determine whether an action is theft or not. If I buy a DVD and then re-sell it, the original creator is not getting paid again for it. The original artists aren't getting paid again when I sell an old CD. Yet, we do not consider those to be theft, do we? If I buy a CD and then just give it to you, we don't call it theft, right? Yet, those artists are never getting paid by you.

Obviously, I see these issues as far more complicated than most people do. Calling it "theft of intellectual property" is an over-simplification. I think the truth is that it isn't theft, it is just unauthorized copying/distribution. Nobody gets threatened with jail time or huge fines when they copy some patents that belonged to others. They get sued in a civil proceeding and a judge decides on the merits of the case.

Bootleg copies may be substantially different, given that most are presented as the real deal. That constitutes fraud, rather than just unauthorized distribution. Now, if the seller makes no attempt to persuade you that they are the real thing and labels them as bootlegs, then it is probably just unauthorized. In that situation, I am pretty sure it should not constitute criminal activity.

I might even go so far as to say that, if you are trying to sell something that people prefer to share, rather than buy additional copies of, then perhaps you are charging too much for it. You may even want to consider a different line of business. The RIAA/MPAA are about the only two industries where the government has routinely changed the laws to preserve their business model. They will let other industries just die out when they aren't able to adjust to the changing times, but there appears to be no limit on the taxpayer money they will spend to save the MPAA/RIAA from the changing technological times.

Mr Caird, perhaps the term ... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Mr Caird, perhaps the term "unitary executive" was not strictly what I meant. My point was the unprecedented post-9/11 grab of power by the executive branch, which some labeled the "theory of the unitary executive," had long term consequences. And it was not opposed, indeed it was encouraged in the name of National Security, by the very same Jay Tea and others who are wringing their hands about it now. Despite the fact that there were many warnings (by liberals and others) that such expanded power would be misused by future administrations!

Well, I don't necessarily agree that this issue is an example of that misuse of power, but if it is, Cheerleaders for Cheney have themselves partly to blame.

Bruce, I've been blogging s... (Below threshold)

Bruce, I've been blogging since spring of '04, and I don't recall writing what you're attributing to me. Then again, I've logged about 4500 articles in that time, so I might have forgotten. (I do that sometimes.) Can you cite an example or two of my boosting the "unitary executive" thingie? I only finally looked up the term maybe a year ago, and don't recall even implicitly writing about it.


I disagree, I think, Brian.... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

I disagree, I think, Brian. If you buy one copy of a movie, then make bootleg copies and sell them, you are depriving the creators of that movie the revenue that rightly belongs to them. If people want to see that movie, they should pay the people who invested hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars making the movie, not a guy who bought one copy for $49.95 and sold 2000 copies of it for 10 bucks each.

Again, I see it as no different than shoplifting. As for giving it away, that's just silly. The creators got their cut when you bought it. If you buy one DVD and resell it, no, the artist isn't getting paid again, but he charged enough in his asking price to cover that contingency. But if you sell bootleg copies, thousands of people who want HIS product are not buying from him, they're buying from you, and YOU had nothing to do with writing, filming, or directing that DVD. You stole it, or rather, you are stealing revenue that belongs to the artist.

So, depriving revenue equal... (Below threshold)

So, depriving revenue equals theft? Pardon me for not following that logic. Depriving revenue are damages you should sue for in civil court.

So, if I buy a DVD and make copies of it, that I then give away, I am stealing money from the artist? I can see how that has the potential to deprive them from revenue, but I have a harder time seeing how that is actually stealing money from them.

Mea culpa, Mr Tea. I can't ... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Mea culpa, Mr Tea. I can't cite any articles where you defended the unitary executive. I'm pretty sure you were in favor, though, of "warrantless wiretapping," data-mining, "enhanced interrogation techniques," and preemptive war, all things that might fall under that heading. In other words, unprecedented power assumed by the executive branch. Or am I wrong?

And again, these are all things that I and others were warning might be less than welcome by your side if practiced by a future Democratic administration.

First Rule Of Holes, Bruce.... (Below threshold)

First Rule Of Holes, Bruce. Look it up.

I have always put common sense above blind loyalty to ideology. The data mining, warrantless wiretaps, and enhanced interrogation techniques were acceptable to me as exceptions, with caveats: the wiretaps were on calls made from abroad and known terrorists or contacts; the enhanced interrogations were very, very limited; and the data mining was very targeted.

This is the precise opposite of that; blind allegiance to principle without taking into account common sense. There is ABSOLUTELY NO COMMON SENSE JUSTIFICATION for lumping in copyright and trademark infringement into national security. None.

I'm hardly an ideologue. I understand that in your mind, I am, because it makes it easier for you to broad-brush me, but I don't particularly feel obligated to fulfill your stereotypes just to make it easier for you to avoid thinking.

But I see you're back to waxing your dolphin, avoiding discussing the issues at hand and trying to spin the topic to what you want it to be. For god's sake, get a room.

And some Kleenex.


When you realize that the v... (Below threshold)

When you realize that the vast majority of arrests, and convictions, brought under the various PATRIOT ACT provisions were for acts totally unrelated to terrorism, you can easily understand why this is going on. They simply cannot, and have not since early on, been able to resist the temptation to use all of these new powers to further all of their other goals.

@Bruce Henry, I am... (Below threshold)
Rick Caird:

@Bruce Henry,

I am still going to disagree. Perhaps if you specified what "unprecedented grab of power" you mean, we can go from there.

It seems to me that all these Czars and recess appointments of people who have never been sent up for confirmation is unprecedented. But, we can make comparisons once we understand what you mean.

Brian, I understand your po... (Below threshold)
Rick Caird:

Brian, I understand your point about the expansion of the Patriot Act. It was an excellent opportunity for people to get through legislation they would never be able to get through in normal times. Still, that is neither unprecedented nor all that unusual. I still object to RICO statutes being used for anything other than organized crime. That was what RFK promised when it was passed.






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