Prophetic Intelligence Briefings
By Dave Sydnor
On January 19, 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice shut down the “cyberlocker” website Megaupload.com for violation of piracy and copyright laws. The indictment alleged that Megaupload was a “mega conspiracy” and a global criminal organization “whose members engaged in criminal copyright infringement and money laundering on a massive scale.” Four key employees were arrested in New Zealand. Twenty search warrants were executed in the U.S. and eight other countries. Eighteen domain names were confiscated along with some $50 million in assets, including several hundred servers located in Virginia and Washington, D.C. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has called it one of the “largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States.”
In the global war of bits and bytes, score one for the good guys. Or are they the bad guys? It’s not always clear. What one person calls cyber-crime, another calls cultural freedom or freedom of speech. Not surprisingly, much of it revolves around money. NATO believes cybercrime siphons as much as one trillion dollars per year from the legitimate world economy.
One of the major battlegrounds involves the entertainment industry and the pirating of copyrighted materials, primarily movies and music. One estimate suggests that piracy now results in total lost output among all U.S. industries of 20.5 billion dollars annually for motion pictures and 12.5 billion for music. In July of 2001 the music download website Napster was shut down after another legal battle. Napster was soon followed by other websites, many of whom were also forced to shut down or change their format for similar copyright violations.
It may be good news to the entertainment industry who has long sought legislation to facilitate prosecution of piracy websites operating overseas by the U.S. courts. However, proposed bills in the U.S. Congress such as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) have met considerable opposition from U.S. critics concerned about draconian laws that go way beyond addressing piracy and do not protect basic civil liberties such as freedom of speech. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an online freedom advocacy group, said in a statement that the Megaupload indictments set “a terrifying precedent.” “If the United States can seize a Dutch citizen in New Zealand over a copyright claim, what is next?” the group asked. On January 18, 2012 some 10,000 websites protested by blacking out for 24 hours in opposition to the bills.
Governments often use legitimate legal challenges as an excuse to expand power in ways that are not legitimate and which impinge on personal liberties and rights. Inevitably this greatly expands the definition of criminal behavior. We live in a time when governments are increasing legislation at an alarming pace that tightens control over their population. Restricting free expression of those who support unpopular religious beliefs on the Internet is a very real possibility eventually.
“We have no time to lose. The end is near… Everything will be placed to obstruct the way of the Lord’s messengers, so that they will not be able to do that which it is possible for them to do now.” Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6, page 22