Eric Holder Claims Terrorists Are Involved In 'IP Theft'

from the oh come on dept

You may have heard about a fair bit about Attorney General Eric Holder testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning. He was — quite reasonably — raked over the coals by members of both parties for the incredible decision to obtain phone records from AP reporters, under very questionable circumstances.

There was one other odd tidbit that might be worth discussing around here as well. Suddenly, in the middle of all the questions about the Associated Press, Rep. Mel Watt — who, during the SOPA markup famously declared that he didn’t understand the technology, or why tech people were concerned, but also that he didn’t care and wanted to pass SOPA without bothering to understand — started asking questions about copyright and “enforcement.” Yes, Mel Watt is the ranking member on the IP subcommittee (scary enough in its own right), but it seemed completely off topic.

Most of the coverage on Watt’s questioning has focused on the fact that he did most of his questioning with his two-year-old grandson on his lap, who interrupts the questioning at one point. But the questions were ridiculous, as were the answers, and deserve some scrutiny. First, despite it being soundly rejected when SOPA went down in flames, Watt asks Holder if Congress should make online streaming of infringing material a felony, rather than the misdemeanor that it currently is. There are all sorts of problems with this idea, as we’ve discussed in the past, but Holder embraced the idea wholeheartedly, saying that the Justice Department would love to have “another tool,” ignoring just how widely the DOJ has abused existing tools to shut down legitimate companies and websites.

And then Watt directly asks about a connection to terrorism:


Watt: Are there increasing indications of links between this problem and terrorism? Have you found any of those links and would you describe them for the committee?

Holder: Yes, that’s a very good question. It’s something that’s very worrisome. As we saw organized crime get into a variety of other businesses in order to support their efforts, we’re now seeing terrorist groups getting into the theft of intellectual property. Again, to generate money to support what they’re trying to do for their terrorist means. So we have to broaden our enforcement efforts, broaden the investigative efforts that we take, to examine what are the precise reasons why people are engaging in this kind of intellectual property thievery. And to consider whether or not there’s a terrorist connection to it. This is a relatively new phenomenon, but one we have to be aware of.

Watt then asks about things that Congress can do to help, and Holder says he’s “particularly concerned” about this problem, and he asks for “enhanced penalties” for “intellectual property theft.”


That all sounds very interesting. And it might be, if there were any truth to it at all. Unfortunately, there’s not. We’ve yet to see a single piece of evidence supporting the idea that terrorists are involved in infringement. The claim has been around for years, and we’ve asked for evidence for years, and none has ever been provided. Because it doesn’t exist. Researcher Joe Karaganis looked into the issue a few years ago and found that there were some very vague reports of organized crime being involved in counterfeit CDs/DVDs in the 80s and 90s. But that was small and short-lived — in large part because online infringement basically made that business obsolete:


Arguing that piracy is integral to such networks [organized crime and terrorism] means ignoring the dramatic changes in the technology and organizational structure of the pirate market over the past decade. By necessity, evidentiary standards become very loose. Decades-old stories are recycled as proof of contemporary terrorist connections, anecdotes stand in as evidence of wider systemic linkages, and the threshold for what counts as organized crime is set very low. The RAND study, which reprises and builds on earlier IFPI and Interpol reporting, is constructed almost entirely around such practices. Prominent stories about IRA involvement in movie piracy and Hezbollah involvement in DVD and software piracy date, respectively, to the 1980s and 1990s. Street vendor networks in Mexico City–a subject we treat at length in the Mexico chapter–are mischaracterized as criminal gangs connected with the drug trade. Piracy in Russia is attributed to criminal mafias rather than to the chronically porous boundary between licit and illicit enterprise. The Pakistani criminal gang D-Company, far from “forging a clear pirate monopoly” in Bollywood, in RAND’s words, plays a small and diminishing part in Indian DVD piracy–its smuggling networks dwarfed by local production.

The US record isn’t more convincing in this regard. Jeffrey McIllwain examined the Department of Justice’s IP-related prosecutions between 2000 and 2004 and found that only 49 out of the 105 cases alleged that the defendant operated within larger, organized networks. Nearly all of these were “warez” distribution groups for pirated software–hacker communities that are explicitly and often fiercely non-commercial in orientation. McIllwain found “no overt references to professional organized crime groups” in any of the DOJ’s criminal charges (McIllwain 2005:27). If organized crime is a serious problem in these contexts, it should not be difficult to produce a stronger evidentiary record.

In other words, Rep. Mel Watt, a well known supporter of Hollywood’s position on copyright, tossed a bogus softball FUD talking point to Eric Holder in the middle of an important hearing about a very different subject, and Holder proceeded to make claims to Congress that have been made for decades without a single bit of evidence to support it.

Holder has plenty of other serious issues to deal with these days, but it makes me incredibly uncomfortable to see our Attorney General appear to be spreading known scare stories that have been proven bogus from decades ago as if they’re new, despite a single bit of evidence concerning any modern connection to terrorism.

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Comments on “Eric Holder Claims Terrorists Are Involved In 'IP Theft'”

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117 Comments
average_joesays:

That all sounds very interesting. And it might be, if there were any truth to it at all. Unfortunately, there’s not. We’ve yet to see a single piece of evidence supporting the idea that terrorists are involved in infringement.

Maybe the Attorney General is privy to evidence that you are not? I mean, he is the Attorney General after all, and you’re just a tech blogger. I dunno, Mike. You haven’t shown that there is no such evidence.

Re: Re: Re:

Speaking from the point of view of justice (something you may or may not be failure with), it’s not AC’s job to prove that you’re innocent. It’s not my job, nor is it your job. We, all of us, are not responsible to prove that you’re innocent.

You want to know who is responsible to prove anything? The Attorney General. It’s his responsibility to prove that you did do something. And it’s his responsibility to prove that terrorists are somehow using something that everyone knows how to get for free to fund their actions.

This isn’t about terrorism. This, and most things on this blog, is about justice. And justice isn’t just about punishing the guilty, it’s about protecting the innocent. The innocent are far, far more important then the guilty.

stealthmousesays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The problem today is that the cries keep going out about patriotism and terrorism, that we should have our rights infringed using the guise of making us somehow safer, protected by the same fools who have let terrorism occur, and is the largest weapons supplier in the world, to both sides. This then trickles down to a bastardization of our justice system, where you’re innocent until proven guilty, unless of course Eric Holder or Watt think you might have thought about being a terrorist, or looked at one in a news article, or some other completely illogical and non-factual connection. It’s a theatre of the absurd, but it’s actually happening before our eyes.

average_joesays:

Re: Re:

Not at all. Mike has no evidence that it’s not true, and the AG, the one who would have such evidence, says it is true. I know that Mike can’t prove it’s not true. Hence, my point. He shouldn’t be saying it’s not true just because he can’t prove it. Under your logic, I can say all kinds of things aren’t true even though I’m in no position to have any basis for my claims, and that’s perfectly normal. How about some evidence instead of faith? I know. I know. It’s Techdirt.

Re: Re: Re:

If there was evidence terrorists were involved in copyright infringement, the DOJ would have shown evidence criminals were involved in copyright infringement.

Instead, he gives vague blanket statements that it is – despite the fact surveys like the ones outlined above show infringement was a minor, short-lived revenue stream eventually replaced by online piracy.

There’s plenty of evidence it doesn’t happen and the DoJ didn’t present any evidence it did.

Togashisays:

Re: Re: Re:

And under your logic, I can say that my closet is lined with unicorn fur, and you couldn’t say it’s not true because you can’t prove it. I am the one who would have the evidence, not you.

See, a rational person would just not believe that what I say is true until I showed them some compelling evidence. As the person making the positive claim, the burden of proof is on me.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s OUR GOVERNMENT YOU STUPID IDIOT!!! I WANT TRANSPARENCY and it is my right to have it. It is not the governments right to govern us, we voluntarily give it permission to and we want, demand, and are entitled to full transparency.

Also, if the government knows something it shouldn’t know did it violate privacy rights to acquire that info?

This is a democracy, the government should serve the people and for us to determine how to be governed we need and demand transparency. It is our right.

Anonymoussays:

Re:

Even if terrorists do infringe copy’right’ that doesn’t make infringement any worse a ‘crime’. Terrorists breath air, they drink water, they eat food, they do many of the same things that non-terrorists do and yet why doesn’t congress complain about doing something about the water supply?

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re:

and if the argument is that terrorists are financed through selling infringing content and software and whatnot then the best way, like with prohibition, to solve that issue is to legalize infringement. Then no terrorist or illegal operation, like the drug cartels do from drugs, can profit from infringement. Doing more to make infringement more difficult for the average person, if anything, will drive infringement, like with prohibition, into deeper and deeper markets making it easier for terrorists to sell infringing content and to sell it at a higher price. Right now it’s difficult for anyone to make money off of selling infringing content because there everyone can pretty much find a million freely available infringement avenues. So the terrorists will be hard pressed to profit from it. But make infringement more difficult for the average person (ie: by restricting bit-torrent and other infringing avenues that most people use) then it becomes more possible for terrorist organizations to sell infringing material and profit from it. Just like with prohibition and how it funds the drug cartels. If infringement funds terrorist organizations then that’s just more reason to legalize infringement.

Michaelsays:

Re:

average_joe said: “Maybe the Attorney General is privy to evidence that you are not? I mean, he is the Attorney General after all, and you’re just a tech blogger. “

Funny, that was exactly the rationale for invading Iraq. Anyone who bothered doing any research at all could see that Iraq was no threat to the U.S., and no threat to any other country (any more so than the whole rest of the despotic countries in the region). The Republican party line was, “He’s the PRESIDENT — don’t you think he’s privy to information that you’re not?”

The answer was no, just as the answer to average_joe’s ridiculous supposition is no. If there was evidence, there would be a million reasons to release it, and no reasons not to.

Going through life trusting that “daddy government will take care of me” is dangerous. For all of us.

RDsays:

Re:

“Maybe the Attorney General is privy to evidence that you are not? I mean, he is the Attorney General after all, and you’re just a tech blogger. I dunno, Mike. You haven’t shown that there is no such evidence.”

Spoken like a true proto-nazi. Naked appeal-to-authority. You are all ready to just goose-step your way to a fascist police state where the government runs your life and decides when you live or die. You disgust me.

Anonymoussays:

Re:

In this case Mike oversold the story which you are completely correct about. However, the sarcastic ask for proof of a negative is below your generally ok standard of reasoning, though it is pretty well in line with your emosional side.

Unfortunately you come off as far less knowing when arguing based on feelings. For a lawyer in spe, I would look into that, since it can be used against you in court.

Re:

Maybe the Attorney General is privy to evidence that you are not?

Maybe he – or anyone else, ever – should actually show any evidence to back up his claim.

After all, Holder is the one claiming there is a connection to terrorism. The burden of proof is on him to provide evidence for his assertion.

He has provided none. Nobody else has provided any. The reason is that none exists.

And before you ask Mike to show “that there is no such evidence,” you know very well that this is factually impossible. You can’t prove a negative.

Example: there is no evidence whatsoever that Santa Claus does not exist. That does not mean that Santa Claus exists. And it does not mean that, if someone asserts that Santa Claus does in fact exist, we can’t rake him or her over the coals for it.

average_joesays:

Re: Re:

He has provided none. Nobody else has provided any. The reason is that none exists.

And before you ask Mike to show “that there is no such evidence,” you know very well that this is factually impossible. You can’t prove a negative.

Contradict yourself much? You claim that it’s impossible to prove there is no such evidence, but then you state categorically that there is no evidence. LOL! If you admit that you can’t prove there is no evidence, then why are claiming that there is no such evidence? You can’t prove that, as you admit.

Rosays:

US Congress is so ****ed up.

This is how it should have been recorded.

Watt: I am taking massive campaign contributions from the MPAA.

Holder: Great I need more power to arrest people for nothing.

Watt: Lets play ball.

Watt: Im going to serve you up some self serving questions and you knock them out of the part.

Holder: Because Terrorism?

Watt: Because Terroism!

some guysays:

average joe you don’t think he would share that evidence if he had it. Isn’t it the right of the people to see this evidence before all of their tax dollars are wasted chasing internet “terrorists” from sharing content. Maybe, just maybe, it would be beneficial to try and enforce laws that are actually enforceable. Can’t wait for Antigua’s legal piracy site to be launched.

out_of_the_bluesays:

Well, Rapidshare, Depostfiles, and Mega are ORGANIZED,

through on-site advertising and direct fees they get MILLIONS grifting off infringing content, which courts find a reasonable connection, bu you’ll still argue narrow legalisms and hold that they’re not committing CRIMES.

Mike’s purpose here is to again leverage unpopularity of Holder to attack copyright. — And of course it helps that Holder is a slick thug frequently using fear of “terrorism”.

But no matter how many wrongs there are with those who hold or wish to extend copyright, it’s also wrong to attack copyright as such rather than those specific actors. I can’t be with Mike when his agenda overturns obvious common law principles to advantage grifters, and he uses whatever levers he can to accomplish his goal.

Rikuosays:

Re: Well, Rapidshare, Depostfiles, and Mega are ORGANIZED,

Blue, answer this for me?

What does it take to convince you? You’ve been corrected here thousands of times, by many different people, and yet you still puke the same bullshit, like common law. At what point will you read someone’s comment, go “Hmm…ya know what, you’re actually right, you’ve presented convincing evidence, I guess I was wrong”?

Internet Zen Mastersays:

Re: Well, Rapidshare, Depostfiles, and Mega are ORGANIZED,

Of course they’re organized blue. They’re all businesses! It’s very hard (or at least extremely time-consuming) to operate a business without a minimum amount of organizational structure!

That being said, I think that this “IP Theft=Terrorism” bull is just a red herring for Holder to distract from the fact that a) he should have been fired a long time ago, b) he’s completely incompetent, and c) he’s trying to distract everyone from the whole AP records debacle.

And for the nth time, it’s not IP theft. It’s IP infringement! You can’t steal a copyright, you infringe on a copyright. You can’t steal a patent, you infringe on a patent. You can’t steal a trademark, you infringe on a trademark.

However, you can steal trade secrets, but that usually falls under “corporate espionage”. So while trade secrets are considered Intellectual Property, they’re the only one of the four IP categories that is actually considered stealing.

The phrase IP Theft is misleading to the common man, because you turn around and go “copyrights/trademarks/patents are IP”, which leads to people incorrectly believing that illegal downloads are considered stealing, when in fact it’s actually infringement. There is a big difference.

The fact that the people at the DOJ don’t understand this kind of important difference (or they do and keep parroting the “copyright infringement=theft” meme anyway) is rather disturbing.

Now the question is: will Rep. Watts try to get a bill through Congress effectively saying something “IP Theft is helpin teh terrorusts (including copyright in that definition since he supports Hollywood’s interests), so we need to make it a a felony, and if you don’t support this bill then you’re with the terrorists!”?

As the Zen Master says, “We’ll see.”

Violatedsays:

Reality

Politicians are common liars where I am sure they would also claim to 4-year old terrorists in kindergarden had this made some point to support their cause.

There is no organized criminal gangs in the file sharing community where there is no profit to be made. If anything free media has gone a long way to wipe out counterfeiting when people wont buy second rate crap if they can get it themselves.

I have been a part of file sharing in past years and these are simply home users enjoying media. One day they get asked to help out with some distribution job. Should they be successful then sure they can be sucked up deeper into the community. Then if you look at the core then simply no one can be there who does not work hard for little more than free credits and respect.

I did think the MAFIAA realises this fact when no one beyond AFACT goes and calls infringers as “terrorists”. Unfortunately they are more likely to get infringement listed under the counterfeiting label.

Anyway guess who has a political agenda and will make up rubbish to drive that home.

Anonymoussays:

When Obama selected Biden as VP, one look at who was backing Biden’s nomination got me worried. He was in tight with the studios.

All in all, given how transparent this administration has been, shouldn’t we have seen shit like this coming? Not saying the other guy would have been better but Obama’s administration has been no real benefit to the public in any real way.

Anonymoussays:

The statist mind: how does it work?

So downloading a movie is a terrorist activity but seizing legally purchased guns and giving them to the drug lords you claim to fight isn’t? US Department of Justice is an oxymoron, especially with globalist traitors (another oxymoron, as “traitor” implies they were even on our side to begin with) like Holder in power.

Anonymoussays:

where do you dig these fucking idiots up from? how the hell can you be hoodwinked so completely that you give people like him such a high profile and highly responsible job? he’s as bad as the DoJ guy, McBride and coming out with absolute bullshit to try to justify the ridiculous things he is doing and promoting. if i were the President, i would be embarrassed to be associated with these people!

Ericsays:

Terrorist can monetize better than the content producer?

So if I understand this correctly:

1) Infringement is all over the place, thus making it difficult to monetize content, which leads to the need for these laws
2) Terrorist are able to fund themselves via monetizing this infringing
3) Which leads to the final logic that terrorist are able to monetize content that is available everywhere better than the producers of the content???

out_the_blow_and _into_average_joes_bungholesays:

Kill 'em all and let allah sort 'em out

It’s clear that our esteemed Attorney General is on the right track. He just doesn’t go far enough. Public execution of copyright infringers is the only way we can ever start to get a handle on this problem. Our very way of life is at stake.

This would also stem the need for a eugenics pogrom as the world population could be cut by more than half in a short amount of time. The gubmint could hire team Prenda to take the wheel in discovering all these miscreants through their stellar discovery techniques we could be sure we had the right terrorists.

Problems solved on many levels. Thank you, I’ll be here all week.

iambinarymindsays:

"Our" Attorney Genital?

As I prefer consensual relationships and voluntary exchange (as opposed to the State’s monopoly on force/aggression/violence), I emplore you to not use the all encompassing “our” when referring to the people that claim ownership over others (see organized theft/”taxation”) and call themselves “government”…in this case, the Attorney Genital.

Complex social issues cannot be solved through State force/violence (or threat thereof), it only makes the issues worse in the long run.

average_joesays:

Re:

Mike Masnick just hates it when copyright law is enforced.

And he thinks piracy is not OK because (and only because) the victims don’t like it. Reminds me of the argument that rape victims should just like it. I mean, they’re getting laid, so it’s OK, right? Funny how he’s not man enough to actually discuss his beliefs on the merits. And by funny, I mean sad.

Re: Re:

And he thinks piracy is not OK because (and only because) the victims don’t like it. Reminds me of the argument that rape victims should just like it.

The fact that you just equated rape – a crime of violence, involving physical violation – with copyright infringement – which involves no violence, no physical violation, and affects the “victims” so little that they can’t even tell when it happens – shows that you have no moral center whatsoever.

But, leaving that aside, and saying for the sake of argument that they are even vaguely equivalent, what your saying still doesn’t make any sense.

Because if copyright infringement were rape, Mike would be saying, “rape is not OK, because it happens against the victim’s will.”

This is not very controversial, and it is not even remotely like the argument that rape victims “should just like it.”

So, not only are you an immoral scumbag, you’re a lying immoral scumbag.

average_joesays:

Re: Re: Re:

Because if copyright infringement were rape, Mike would be saying, “rape is not OK, because it happens against the victim’s will.”

This is not very controversial, and it is not even remotely like the argument that rape victims “should just like it.”

Wow. So it’s reasonable to think that the only reason rape is not OK is because it goes against the victim’s will? That strikes me as very controversial. What about the fact that it causes harm to the victim? What about the interests of society?

So, not only are you an immoral scumbag, you’re a lying immoral scumbag.

Getting personal much? It’s one thing to disagree with me, but you needn’t call me names like this.

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Wow. So it’s reasonable to think that the only reason rape is not OK is because it goes against the victim’s will? That strikes me as very controversial. What about the fact that it causes harm to the victim? What about the interests of society?

We’re off topic here, but I’ll bite.

If an act “causes harm to the victim,” but is genuinely consensual, then it’s not unreasonable to think it’s OK. Or, at the very least, not outright immoral. Obviously, I don’t know (or care about) Mike’s stance on this issue, but as far as I’m concerned, consensual acts between adults are nobody’s business but theirs.

As far as the “interests to society” – again, if the acts are consensual, then what business is it of society’s? How are the “interests to society” harmed by consensual acts between adults?

In fact, those who tout the “interests to society” line tend to be those whose not-so-subtle goal is to outlaw pornography. People like the religious right, or mid-80’s anti-porn feminists. I’m a fan of neither group, to put it mildly.

But, getting back on track, this doesn’t apply to copyright infringement. You have said that it is wrong even if it does not do any harm to the copyright holder, and even if society’s interests are harmed in enforcing those rights. You are concerned solely with persecuting infringers, regardless of whether that helps society or not, regardless of whether that helps creative artists or not. So, obviously, you don’t care about those things.

In fact, between you and Mike, it is Mike who is much more concerned about “harm to the victim” – since he, and not you, is the one who examines practical means to minimize the harm from infringement (or even to turn it into an benefit). It is he, and not you, who is concerned with “the interests of society” – since he has made it abundantly clear that copyright laws are supposed to serve the public first and foremost. (Something you continuously deny.)

Face it, Mike is far more moral than you are when it comes to copyright. I believe you already know this. It’s why you lash out at him so much.

It’s one thing to disagree with me, but you needn’t call me names like this.

Those are the exact names that you call Mike all the time. I think you’ve even called me that once or twice, long ago.

I guess I should try to avoid sinking to your level. It requires an immense amount of restraint, and sometimes I slip up.

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

I should have also pointed this out.

What about the fact that it causes harm to the victim? What about the interests of society?

What about non-consensual acts that do not cause physical harm to the victim? Are they somehow not rape?

And, what about when society decides that the rape doesn’t harm their interests? Does this make it better?

The act doesn’t need to physically harm the victim to be rape. It does not need social disapproval to be rape.

So, yes, the main evil is that it is done against the victim’s will.

I’m saying this less to rebuke your statements, and more because these things simply need to be said. I didn’t say them, and that was wrong of me.

Shaun Wilsonsays:

Doesn't lying to congress = prison time?

I believe people who have been convicted of lying to congress in the past have been sent to prison on occasion. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see a response to a change.org petition requesting Holder be prosecuted?

Of course such a petition would most likely be ignored like all the other ones that said more than “We love Obama!” but it might help to get some media attention to those lies at least.

That Anonymous Cowardsays:

Eric Holder needs to be removed from his position.
He is uninformed and has consistently mislead Congress about things happening on his watch.
His actions have a body count, and nothing has happened.
Some IRS workers get overly zealous and we need 4 hearings, many firing and demands of jailtime from our leaders… but the man in charge of Justice in this country perverts the course of it and they say nothing. They try to shift the blame onto the President because they need to win political hearts and minds… how about we stop the whole left right bullshit and fix the country instead of scoring soundbites.

Anonymoussays:

You don’t understand what “terrorist” means. Terrorist means someone they don’t like. Whenever you hear about “terrorism”, remember the federal government is behind most terrorist plots.

If “terrorists” are involved in IP theft, then that means “people we don’t like and will frame or kill given the opportunity” are involved in IP theft.

Bitratsays:

IP Terrorism

Ha ha ha ha! Guess next time I download a movie, I should expect a visit by Homeland Security, BATF, FBI, etc ad nauseum.
Get a grip Eric! All those poor kids torrenting movies, then selling copies on the streets of every major third world city of the world are NOT members of any terrorist group!
Oh well, guess one should expect this….the “authorities” are so busy chasing phantoms that the biggest criminals (Wall Street bankers, multinational corporation tax evaders, etc) are just laughing while they count their ill-begotten billions…..business as usual.

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