Don Henley, known for his soulful crooning with “The Eagles,” is auditioning for a new gig: PROTECT IP supporter. So far, he’s nailed it.
In an editorial published by USA Today titled “Internet theft is a job-killer, too,” the singer/songwriter argued that the controversial bill is indeed a powerful weapon against piracy and that authorities should be allowed to wield it. “Theft of American products and ideas is no longer the hobby of teenagers with laptops; it’s big business,” wrote Henley.
Citing statistics that should be familiar to anyone who has followed MPAA and U.S. government reports on piracy, the musician laid out numbers to support his critique of web-based companies dragging their feet to address the issue themselves.
“Criminal foreign websites trafficking in American arts and entertainment products cost the U.S. economy $58 billion annually, including more than 373,000 lost American jobs, $16 billion in lost earnings, plus $2.6 billion in lost federal, state and local government tax revenue,” Henley said.
PROTECT IP, he reasoned, is not as “radical” as some have stated and is actually just a “common-sense extension” of how law enforcement currently combats other crimes. Henley struck out against some who have criticized the bill, lambasting Google and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in particular for “aiding and abetting” content theft. The latter has argued that PROTECT IP (.pdf) could be abused. Henley doesn’t buy it.
“Stopping crime on the Internet is not, as EFF says, ‘censorship,'” he wrote. “There is no First Amendment right to infringe intellectual property rights.”
Abigail Phillips, Senior Staff Attorney for the EFF, took issue with Henley’s assertions.
“I think his discussion is a little misleading,” Phillips told MyCE in a phone interview. “He talks about giving more tools to law enforcement, but the bill is not limited to law enforcement. Our real concern is the potential for collateral damage. There are valid reasons to be concerned about the legislation.”
Phillips believes PROTECT IP could “harm innovation, enable litigation by private copyright owners, harm free speech and damage the integrity and security of the Internet.” She added that the way the bill proposes to block requests is not too different from how hacking works and that it could be “difficult to discern” between legitimate and illegitimate sites.
Henley accused Google of being uninterested in filtering illicit content since it would hurt the company’s revenue stream. “It seems that their real agenda is to avoid the loss of advertising, ‘pay per click’ and other revenue if these sites were shut down,” he wrote. “The technology is there, but the will of some companies is not.”
In May, Erik Schmidt, Google Executive Chairman, spoke out against DNS-related solutions to the piracy problem and said that an attempt to “whack DNS” would be similar to how China censors its web.
Henley has drawn his line in the sand, and certainly won’t take it easy in the years to come. Last week, he spoke out about artists’ rights and announced an interest in acquiring the rights to his music.