The LA Times (reg. req.) reports that California state legislators are hauling water for Hollywood once again (Setting a Trap for Net Pirates). The basic idea of the bill is to extend a "true name and address" statute to cover virtually all exchanges of copyrighted audiovisual information. That is, if you send someone a copy of a recording or audiovisual work electronically without also providing your true name and address, you could be fined $2,500 and spend a year in the clink.
Read Assembly Bill 2735 (the Assembly Version): An act to amend Section 653v of, and to add Section 653aa to the Penal Code, relating to Internet piracy.
What is the point of this bill? According to a sponsor:
[State Sen.] Murray [D - Culver City] says the point isn't to take names; his idea is to give state prosecutors, who have no jurisdiction over copyright infringement, a charge they can bring against online pirates.
Hmmmm ... the concept of federal preemption of copyright law comes to mind. One might argue that many states have "true name and address" statutes, but they generally apply only to sales of physical goods. Like copyright law, this proposed law applies to any transfer (outside your home and family), not only sales. If this isn't preempted I'm not sure what would be.
And what is this? Hollywood can't afford to sue people? We citizens of California have to expend precious tax dollars and limited law enforcement resources on copyright enforcement because Hollywood is too darn cheap? With massive statutory copyright damages available as a remedy, there is no excuse for Hollywood not to prosecute copyright infringers directly. Heck, it could even be a profit center.
An Attack on Privacy and Anonymity
Read the EFF press release: California Bill Backed by Hollywood Attacks Internet Privacy. The EFF notes the pernicious effects on children's privacy: "These California anti-anonymity bills would force everyone - including children - to put their real names and addresses on all the files they trade, regardless of whether the files actually infringe copyrights."
There are many more problems with this bill as well. EFF notes that there are no exceptions for fair use. For example, if one emails a friend a copy of a political campaign commericial that includes copyrighted music, I'm a Dole Man comes to mind, you can be fined and sent to jail. Heck, posting and commenting on Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction could get you sent to jail.
This is certainly an attack on the anonymity protections of the First Amendment. Unlike commercial "true name and address" statutes, this bill reaches beyond a state's interest in preventing fraud to cover all types of anonymous speech, including speech that is clearly protected by the First Amendment. State Sen. Murray says, "There's one way to maintain your privacy in my bill. That is not to engage in illegal activity." But that is the problem. The bill strips anonymity even when people are engaging in constitutionally protected activities. On this basis alone, I believe it is clearly unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
An Attack on the Creative Commons
Even worse, there is no exception for permission of the copyright holder. So, if I record a song and post it under a Creative Commons license that permits redistribution but reserves commercial use rights, you can go to jail for redistributing it. I mean, really, what more can be said about such an overbroad bill?
We need to have a "true names" bill for politicians. By all rights, State Sen. Kevin Murray should start calling himself State Sen. Hollywood Sycophant.
You can find your California State representatives here: Find Your California State Legislative Representatives. Let them know what you think of these bills.