In a March 10 speech at Moscow State University, Joe Biden warned Russia's leadership not to "compromise on the basic elements of democracy." Investors, he said, would avoid "a country where a company can be seized or an owner imprisoned on a personal whim."
This follows by slightly over a year Secretary of State Clinton's speech announcing "Internet Freedom" as a central aim of American foreign policy. She warned that "a new information curtain" is "descending across much of the world," and appealed to the imagery of samizdat pamphleteers as a model for fighting it. Could a new name be joining the pantheon of heroes of "information freedom": Stallman, Torvalds, Sunde, Assange ... and Clinton?
With all that great preaching on due process of law, openness, and digital freedom, what could be the downside? The practice, maybe. From the likes of Biden and Clinton, such rhetoric brings to mind a lecture on animal rights from the Walrus and the Carpenter.
Even as Biden made his way to Russia to instruct the Russians on the virtues of human freedom, a group of Congressmen (including, of course, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT) sent Biden a letter warning him that Russia had gone soft on "intellectual property" (sic) enforcement, and urging him to pressure the Russian government to intensify "anti-piracy" (sic) efforts.
They needn't have worried. Biden, formerly the Senator from MBNA, is now Vice President from the MPAA. Reminding Biden to push IP enforcement is like pressing Ed Begley Jr. to talk up electric cars. Mr. Biden, who so eloquently warned of the dangers of arbitrary imprisonment and seizure of property without due process of law, personally oversaw a FBI's "anti-piracy" task force -- operating out of Disney headquarters -- which seized the domain names of a number of torrent download sites without (ahem) due process of law. Mr. Biden's principal, the estimable Nobel Peace Prize winner Barrack Obama, has personally approved subjecting Bradley Manning (imprisoned for allegedly leaking the diplomatic cables recently posted on Wikileaks) to prolonged torture by solitary confinement and forced nudity. And even as we speak, the Obama administration is scheming in cahoots with the British to trump up criminal charges and muster the minimal legal pretext required to extradite Julian Assange to the U.S. for the same Gitmoesque treatment.
Meanwhile, the Department of Fatherland (er, Homeland) Security has set an ominous precedent by arresting Brian McCarthy and seizing his ChannelSurfing.net website (needless to say without waiting for a criminal conviction) for the "crime" of posting hyperlinks to other websites where you can watch streaming network TV content. That's right: It's now a crime to link to websites where copyrighted material is available. Of course I use the word "crime" in the sense prevailing in Oceania, where there were no laws -- or you only knew you'd broken one when you found yourself doing ten in a forced labor camp.
You can be sure, by the way, that Putin doesn't need any encouragement when it comes to "anti-piracy" efforts. They're one of his favorite covers for the kind of police state thuggery that Mr. Biden allegedly finds so objectionable. An unusually high proportion of the websites shut down for "piracy" in Russia are owned by political enemies of the regime. Imagine that! Not that Biden & Co. condone that sort of thing. "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest ..."
To be sure, it's nothing new for the Copyright Nazis of the proprietary content industries to egg on totalitarianism when they see it as benefiting their economic interests. Jet-setting global do-gooder Bono once appealed, as an example of how to fight Copycrime, to communist China's approach to stamping out unwanted speech: "... [W]e know from America's noble effort to stop child pornography, not to mention China's ignoble effort to suppress online dissent, that it's perfectly possible to track content."
So the new Evil Empire is headquartered in Washington. The coalition of industries whose business model depends on "intellectual property" rents -- Pharma, entertainment, software, etc. -- are our version of the Communist Party. In countries within the Empire's orbit, national parliaments rubber-stamp copyright treaties -- secret covenants secretly arrived at, dictated behind closed doors by industry representatives -- without prior public debate. Big Content's legislative agenda is railroaded through the legislatures of allegedly "sovereign" and "democratic" countries with the contempt of a Caligula appointing his horse to the Senate.
Hillary Clinton is correct: An Information Curtain has descended across the world. It separates the captive nations, the tributaries to the Copyright Nazis, from the parts of the world where information is still free. It is made not of razor wire, but of DRM.
Mr. Obama, tear down this wall.
C4SS Research Associate Kevin Carson is a contemporary mutualist author and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: An Individualist Anarchist Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online.