Someone sent me a link to a site that uncovers pirates by identifying information about pirates that they have posted on forums: IP addresses, home addresses, what they do for a living, and so forth.
I understand that piracy is a problem, but this site is not a solution.
First, this site has no safeguards in place to determine the truth of any charges. IP addresses can be masked or changed. Identifying information can be made up–or borrowed from someone else. Someone could be identified by name on that site when they haven’t done anything wrong, except to have a high school friend who thinks they are a nerd, who appropriated their name–and this could prevent that innocent person from getting a job, or from getting into college.
People pirate my books–but I don’t approve of defamation as a way to stop it.
Second, the behavior on the site borders on cyberstalking, and in some instances, crosses over the line. This is illegal in many states. The defense the author of the site provides is that first, the person she is cyberstalking has violated the law. This is not a defense. If someone assaults you in real life, you don’t get to cyberstalk them in return–you have to go to the police and file a report. If someone steals your computer in real life, you don’t get to shoot their dog. You go to the police and file a report.
Criminals have rights, too. They don’t lose the protection of the law simply because they have engaged in one criminal act. This is triply true when the person has never been convicted of a crime.
Second, she points out that the information is public–that is, she got it off public websites. This may be true, but you can stalk someone simply by standing on public sidewalks, too. The question is not “did you steal into their house and get something private” but “is this a form of harassment?”
This is vigilantism, plain and simple. And that’s illegal.
Third, the person running the site claims that she is not an author. If this claim is true, and to be frank, I doubt it, that means that she’s taking self-help measures in a case when it’s not even herself she’s helping.
I’m sorry, but copyright law gives a remedy to infringement to me, to the attorney general, and to those people who I have authorized to act on my behalf. My publisher and I have the authority to decide how we are going to deal with piracy of my work. That remedy, exclusive to me, is as much a part of the copyright statute as the right of distribution.
I haven’t authorized her–and I would never do so, particularly since her “method” of outing pirates is to include links to works they have pirated, even when the original link has expired, which seems to me to be a particularly odd way to contribute to the demise of piracy. For her to arrogate to herself the right to act in these cases without permission from the author is itself a form of theft.
I don’t particularly approve of piracy (although you’ll notice that I flinch less than many at the prospect). But I do believe in the rule of law. I believe in using the remedies given to you, and not enlarging upon them. And I believe that people who do things that are wrong are entitled to the protections that government affords us all.
This site is not a proper way to counteract copyright infringement.