Eagles singer Don Henley: EFF, Google "aid and abet" criminals
According to a USA Today op-ed from Eagles drummer and singer Don Henley, blocking foreign "rogue" websites, banning them from search engines, and cutting off their advertising and credit cards is "common sense." His arguments are neither new nor interesting, but what caught my eye was Henley's truly aggressive language toward those who lack his "common sense."
Henley supports the controversial PROTECT IP Act currently suffering a legislative hold in the Senate thanks to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). Those who have issues with the bill include the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Google—and Henley suggests that both are borderline complicit in criminal activity because of their resistance.
Critics of this pending legislation need to be honest about the company they keep and why they essentially aid and abet these criminal endeavors. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a civil liberties group, claims such a bill would "break the Internet," while Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt says it sets "a disastrous precedent" for freedom of speech. No one has the freedom to commit or abet crimes on the Internet. Stopping crime on the Internet is not, as EFF says, "censorship." There is no First Amendment right to infringe intellectual property rights.
That's a strong charge, though Google's recent agreement to pay $500 million to the US government for accepting money from foreign pharmacy websites certainly bolsters critics like Henley. I asked both Google and the EFF what they thought of this "aiding and abetting" language; Google did not respond by publication time.
The EFF sent me a copy of its own letter to USA Today, which has yet to run. It reads, in part:
EFF opposes this legislation not because we support intellectual property infringement (we don’t) but because the bill proposes troubling ways to try to address it. The legislation would establish vague and overbroad definitions, increase the risk of costly litigation (the bill’s right of action would not, as Mr. Henley suggests, be limited to law enforcement but encompass private actors and civil claims as well), and impose compliance burdens on search engines, payment processors, online advertisers, and potentially any service that provides links to third-party websites.
As a result, it poses a threat to online innovation, free speech, and creative efforts that our intellectual property system is supposed to promote... Apparently Mr. Henley does not object to compromising the Internet in the name of intellectual property rights enforcement. We do, and we think your readers should, too.
The response showed amazing restraint when it came to incorporating Eagles song titles; EFF board member Brad Templeton, who penned his own response to Henley, went in the other direction:
Take it Easy, Don. There’s a New Kid in Town, and it’s called the Internet. Get Over It. I Can’t Tell you Why, but in The Long Run, there isn’t going to be a Heartache Tonight. One of these Nights I hope you’ll you understand that for search engines to Take it To the Limit, they can’t be forced to police every search result.
Internet companies only grow when living Life in the Fast Lane, able to operate, innovate and design products without needing to check for permission from the music industry. If every time you wrote a song you had to worry about what every user who plays it and every store that sells it might do with it, you would lose your Peaceful, Easy Feeling quickly. Big companies might run filters, but if the small ones had needed to they would be Already Gone.
Henley closes without apparent irony, warning Congress not to be "taken in by special interest agendas disguised as First Amendment claims, or they themselves will be as culpable of abetting theft as the rogue sites and companies that support them."
So, Members of Congress, remember: doing the entertainment industry's bidding is common sense. Listening to the "special interests" who worry about freedom of speech and breaking the Internet? Well, that makes you just as much a criminal as they are.