How did that all ever happen? The ultimate irony
It is, of course, bizarre to witness how a presumably anti-government (“libertarian” in US parlance) and anti-corporatist website would make use of a government law passed by the big business monopolies (the DMCA) to ask a corporation (in this case, Google) to enforce their interpretation of the “fair use” clause on a small one-man blog. Truly, “bizarro world” as Justin Raimondo likes to say, and it happened to me this week.
How did I ever get into this crazy situation?
In the beginning
When I began my blog I decided to completely ignore copyright issues. I figured that the big corporate guys (CS Monitor, AP, etc.) would not give a damn about a small-time personal blog, and that the smaller people would appreciate having their stuff picked up elsewhere. I did identify the author of the articles posted here by name and I embedded a link to the original articles in the author’s name, thus anyone clicking on the name would find the source and could follow-up the “trail”. I really did not do that for any legal consideration, but only to give credit where it was due. Besides, since I did not always agree with the articles I posted here (I often posted interesting, or provocative stuff, I did not agree with), it only made sense to make sure that nobody mistook somebody else’s opinion for mine.
I often emailed the original site with a link their articles re-posted on my blog just to let them know that I appreciated their stuff. In the six month since I began my blog, I never had a bad response, only thanks. And then, for the first time, I got this email from a guy I had never heard of telling me that I could only post 3 paragraphs and a link to the original Raimondo article about the PKK. It was signed “Eric Garris, Webmaster, Antiwar.com”.
I figured – “big deal, some webgeek is being anal about copyrights, surely the thinking guys at antiwar know nothing about this nonsense”. I was wrong. Turns out that what I assumed was a HTML-breathing intern was no less than the “Antiwar.com founder and managing director“, a man with an interesting pedigree which included a stint as a New Left activist and in the Peace and Freedom Party, before becoming a libertarian. Little did I know that I was having my first interaction with a “Neoliberal” who had once written these irenic words:
In the Internet we see our greatest hope for freedom and for the continual progress of humanity. In the Internet we see the anachronistic and obsolete institutions of society being pushed aside for a new dawn of better things. In the Internet we see the key to diminishing the power and status of the state and liberating ourselves from its oppression and deception.
(Eric Garris, The Internet vs. The State)
Still, I wrote back to him pointing him to the fair use notice I had put on my blog (bottom left) and telling him that I would henceforth add “for antiwar.com” right next to Raimondo’s name each time.
I was so sure that this would take care of that that I even posed another Raimondo piece (with the “enhanced” name credit) and I was prepared to go to bed happy that this silly nonsense was taken care of. Boy was I wrong!
I got back an angry email saying: “Your intention is clearly not “fair use,” it is attempted theft, without acknowledgement. Today, I filed the proper forms notifying Blogspot over copyright infringement, and I will follow up with one each time you do this“. Theft?! Had the guy missed the “by Justin Raimondo” at the top? Surely that loony would not actually try to sue me over this nonsense?
I sent the guy a reply telling him that 1) I did not make any money from my blog 2) that I could not claim any fame either (the blog being obvioulsy anonymous) 3) that there was a public good imperative which fully justified “fair use” (as is done by commondreams.org or informationclearinghouse, from which I had originally taken my “fair use” notice) and that 4) my intention was not “theft”, but to “stand up to the those who want to take away our freedoms and wage endless imperial wars”. I added,
“You can, of course, choose not to believe me and keep on believing that I am trying to “steal” something from you. I will say this – this is not my world, not how I function, not what I believe in, not how I live“
And then I went to bed naively hoping that my (presumed) fellow peacenick would come back to his senses. I was wrong again.
Barbarians at the gate
The next morning Blogspot informed me that a DMCA compaint had been filed against my blog. That was bad, but worse (for me) was the way Blogspot deal with such complaints. Basically, to cover themselves from legal action, Blogspot assumes that the complaint is valid and removes the “offending” post unless the accused blogger files a counter-claim. Since filing such a counter-claim requires the accused blogger to make a statement under penalty of perjury and since it would be folly to make any such statements without hiring a lawyer Blogspot’s policy was essentially “guilty until proven otherwise”.
Garris had written to me “the “fair use” opinion is a legal one that a court MAY apply, but it is not the default“. Now, with the full support of the fascist DMCA act and Blogspot’s “better safe than sorry” behind Garris, I either had the option to hire a lawyer to try to prove that the common practice of the Internet (again, commondreams or informationclearinghouse are good examples) and plain common sense suggest that antiwar.com was in no way damaged by my posting, or to have Blogspot or remove the articles in question myself.
Since I do not want to do any SOB the favor of doing his dirty work for him, and even though I had resolved by then to stop the blog anyway, I decided to let Garris do the removal “himself” (via Blogspot, of course).
In Dollars with Trust
Still, the situation had an unreal feel to it. Here was a prominent ex-Leftie acting like some MPAA executive while the rest of the “libertarian” crowd at antiwar.com watched in silence. Not only that, but it turns out that Blogspot’s “better safe than sorry” policy also included a “shoot them all” clause for repeat offenders which meant that enough complaints would result in my blog being killed once and for all. By then, knowing the psychological makeup of the type, I had no illusions whatsoever that Garris was willing to file complaints all day long if needed to protect Antiwar’s rights.
The thing is, the folks at Antiwar are not, unlike yours truly, volunteers. They are paid a salary for their work, and some, including Raimondo, get a full-time salary to write for them (I learned that from Garris’ emails who were all centered on the money issue). That, of course, put the entire issue in a totally different context: while I was a naive volunteer peacenik, the folks are Antiwar “professional revolutionaries” (to use Lenin’s expression) who made a living writing about peace and freedom. Nothing wrong with that, for sure, but not something I had encountered in past.
Antiwar had used hard-raised dollars to pay Raimondo for his work and I was “making use” of it (doesn’t matter for which purpose or cause) without paying a dime. Worse, some other websites might think that Raimondo was working for me. As the song Money says “I’m all right jack keep your hands off of my stack“. Now the “theft” accusation made some sense, at least in the context of professional freedom fighting.
A clash of civilizations? The guerrilla way
Ever since I “dropped out” from the imperial service after realizing the Big Lie that it was I had dealt only with idealists. European Linux hackers, pot-smoking squatters, anarchists (the real thing, not the “capitalist” substitute found, where else, in the USA), peaceniks, communists, anti-imperialist activists – in other words people who always donated their sweat, and sometimes their blood, without ever asking for anything for themselves. True believers, idealists, naive do-gooders – call them what you want, but these people only wanted one thing: to get the message out, to speak out about injustice, violence, abuses, exploitation and the propaganda which always protects evil.
One of my friends wrote to me in response to the Antiwar complaint:
Regarding money vs. principles . . . I’m an anti-capitalist. I also know that there are a lot of people who do without everything. Some because this is the situation the status quo has forced on them and others (like the guerrillas) because it’s a choice that is made to achieve something better. I follow the path of the guerrillas.
Since I had given up a very lucrative career, with plenty of recognition and power attached to it, in order not to lie, not to bow my head to Mammon and his minions in this world, I have always had a natural empathy for guerrillas, even when my own political blindness still made me think of them as my enemies. I suppose that even when I thought of them as adversaries I, in a way, felt like I was very much like them and that their idealism and example was at least partially responsible for my eventual refusal to serve my (now former) masters anymore.
Can their be a dialog between the guerrilla and the businessman? Sure – but only with an AK doing the talking, I suppose. I had no AK in this case, and Garris had the “corporate contractors” on his side. And we all know that might makes right, don’t we?
First lesson: never assume you are dealing with a sane, honorable, principled or otherwise decent person. Second lesson: in any concept which includes the word “capitalist” (such as anarcho-capitalism) this word totally outweighs any other word attached to it. Third: never underestimate the vindictiveness of a person who feels that his money is somehow being stolen from him. Fourth: you can only see who your true friends are when they are willing to stand up for you.
In regards to this last one, the past couple of days have been an eye opener for me. While bitterly disappointed in some, I have been deeply touched by the kind words of others. To the former I will say that I hope they can live with themselves. To the latter I will say this:
I still do not know what I will do with this blog, but I am leaning towards restarting it in some other form. One thing is for sure, I will not post any articles taken from American websites, no matter how noble and dedicated their names might sound. I am leaning towards a mix of external articles from the Middle-East (or any other region of the world were US imperialism goes on its usual rampage) and original contents: my own interviews and analyses. I will post no more articles from sources based in the USA. There is simply no way I want to go through another “Antiwar.com episode” again – let them Yankees keep their copyrighted materials and let me keep my peace.
While I initially leaned against it, your emails have convinced me to remove the “offending” articles myself. I can thereby preserve the title and the comments. Besides, the blank space and notice below will, in a way, be more informative than the original article anyway.
I will end this long explanation which I felt I owed you all with a request: please email me your “want” and “do not want” ideas for the future of this blog. Let there come some good from all this and help me make this a better blog. I promise to answer each and every email sent to me.
Kind regards, best wishes and my most sincere thanks to all of you,
PS: FYI – also check out “Ignorance, Exceptionalism, Hyprocrisy” by Mizgin in which she outlines her take on this uninspiring story.
PPS: You want to find out for yourself whether Justin Raimondo or Mizgin is right about Washington’s position towards the PKK? Check out this BBC report.