The sustainability of crooks

Enrique Dans. Professor. IE Business School

7 January 2010

The Sinde law is not only anti-democratic because it aims to close down websites without a court order, but also because it was passed without regard for any of the usual legal procedures.

What is a crook? Let’s take a look at Webster’s Dictionary: 4. n. A person who engages in fraudulent or criminal practices. This definition also happens to perfectly fit a politician involved in passing a bill on “the sustainable economy” , who lets a corporate lobby get its dirty hands on the draft to add an item that furthers their interests, after its approval by the cabinet.

This politician is clearly a crook, just like the representative of the lobby that snubs the entire standard procedure of the democratic process in order to attempt something as megalomaniacal as “writing the laws according to his whim”.

The “Sustainable Economy” bill passed by the Cabinet includes a controversial item that endorses the possibility of shutting down any website based on the decision of a “specialized body” without judicial authorization. In the original text this possibility, which is in itself extremely dangerous and should at the very least be open to extensive public debate, affected four premises regarding public order: protection of public health, respect for the dignity of the human person, non-discrimination, and protection of youth and childhood.

But…surprise, surprise! Suddenly and out of the blue there appears by pure magic a fifth point: “the protection of intellectual property rights”. On account of what does this point appear? Who put it there after the bill was passed by the cabinet? All evidence points to a top executive of a so-called “Coalition of Creators” which, like the old vertical trade union, claims to defend the “creators” while joining forces with those who pay them ridiculous percentages of the sales of their own creations, music recordings and the like. The evening the bill went through, this same executive actually boasted before a large group of people about how the Coalition of Creators had managed to modify the bill. Amazing. He actually boasted about how he had distorted democracy, how he had the taken in the cabinet, and for orchestrating the greatest attack against the fundamental rights of the Spanish democracy since the Law of Corcuera. Well no, Mr representative-of-the-Coalition (for want of a better word): that is no reason to boast. That is called being a crook.

The text endorses the possibility for a commission with ties to the Ministry of Culture and comprised of “independent experts” to decide exactly which websites should be visible and which shouldn’t be. A mechanism taken from the heyday of censorship: it not only affects links (whose legitimacy, by the way, has been ratified numerous times by judges throughout Spain), but any website, regardless of its content. A simple report to the authorities could suffice for your site to disappear from the web. That’s the kind of Internet the government hopes for: a web in which it can control the spread of opinions in the same way it does in conventional media, wielding weapons such as institutional advertising and access to press conferences. Basically it is about getting rid of anyone who annoys them, shut up anyone who says what they don’t want to hear. Whoever thinks that this is about our ability to download music or movies from the internet is mistaken: This is about the most basic liberties of the citizen. It’s an attack on democracy.

What does shutting down websites have to do with a sustainable economy? Creating legal confusion makes the economy less sustainable, not more. It has nothing to do with it and I insist that if anyone claims otherwise it is because they are a crook. It’s those same crooks that have been insulting internet users for years by trying to redefine the word “piracy” or claiming that the music industry is no longer profitable, while all research shows that musicians are making more money than ever. Downloads are not bad, nor are we pirates, nor will music come to an end in five years. And for those that make believe otherwise, we have one word needs no further definition: crook.

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