James Clark's Mission Statement
Monday, April 21, 2008
Some of you know me, some of you don't. Some of you like me, some of you won't. But ultimately, most of us can agree that piracy isn't a very positive thing for our community.
What I know for sure is that I'm not the kind of person to ignore a problem in the hopes that it will sort itself out. As a business owner and as an artist, I have a vested interest in finding solutions. And to be quite honest with you, there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution to piracy.
If we are going to successfully mitigate the negative consequences associated with the theft of both intellectual property (in all its forms, copy protected or not), we have to work together as a community to find those solutions. Open discussions and honest dialog go a long way, but ultimately, it is action of some sort that produces results.
Each site (and each site owner) must be handled individually. The owner of the site alluded to is an intelligent, technologically savvy, headstrong young man with a bright future if he can learn to use the skills he's garnered in more positive ways. Having researched him, his family, and having spoken with both him and his mother about this, I can see that he comes from a good family and that he is a good person, but he's clearly misguided and deluded about the consequences of his actions.
He was so smart in fact, that he deliberately resolved his domain name to and paid for hosting from a DNS that takes a hard line stance against anti-piracy efforts and actually harbors -- get this -- sites operated by a plethora of terrorist organizations including Al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad, many of which are recognized by most liberal democracies as groups dedicated to extreme acts of physical violence against anyone they fundamentally disagree with. While his link to them would be tenuous at best, he is but one of many people who in a small way financially facilitate these other groups to continue to use the web for their benefit. I doubt he understands the latter.
Now, that is but an illustration of fact, not an opportunity or invitation by members here to debate terrorism or similar "causes" around the world, as that would be both fruitless and off topic. I'm not approaching this from the position of a hack who gets his information from the media. Having served in the military and as an investigator, I'm but using the skills I've garnered from nearly 20 years of service to properly investigate these sites and I document what I find appropriately. That is, I'm not offering antidotal evidence here laced with speculation and conjecture; I approach this as if I were the investigator responsible for building a case, and in many respects, I am doing just that should I have to provide it to the FBI or offer it in evidence at a civil case.
Ultimately, my intention was and continues to be to find a way to stem the hemorrhage we are all experiencing through a mix of strategies from direct legal action to partnering with those responsible. To suggest that we can't do anything would be myopic at best; there are countless real-world examples of the few working to accomplish positive things, and succeeding against all odds. I for one am for that kind of thinking and applaud anyone who is willing to do more than serve as an arm-chair general.
Speaking of which, Karl von Clausewitz called in his classic tome Vom Kriege called war, politics through another means. His writings are as apropos for dealing with Iraq (or in his day events like the Jena campaign) as they are dealing with individuals who pirate our wares and disseminate them online or off. This includes organizations like IBM and SAM who take a hard line stance publically against, say, The Masked Magician, but do little to prevent members from copying DVDs for one another at meetings. But that is for another thread I hope.
Figuratively speaking, we are engaged in a conflict where one side is seeking to protect its interests (IP) from being appropriated by another side (pirates) who feel entitled, for whatever reason, to our hard work. Ultimately, the things we do mirror many of the strategic decisions leaders of various groups have taken against each other for centuries.
If indeed politics is the art of the possible, I think that should be our first effort. To negotiate. To look for solutions. To dialogue. To understand, educate, and share with an eye to, for the sake of another term, win the "hearts and minds" of those who perpetrate these crimes. While at the same time finding ways to passively negate piracy though technology and creative packaging, et cetra (ala Mr. Goat and Frank).
However, where I differ from some of the people who've posted here is that I am willing to engage the other side directly where necessary; court cases (the armed conflict of this situation if you will) should in my estimation, be the last course of action. That said, things can escalate very quickly based on the decisions and actions (or inaction) taken by the other side, and I'll not hesitate to take that route. Of course it helps that I'm a crack shot, even if I do say so myself (thanks for your tax dollars in that respect).
Like in a real war, if the other side postures or blatantly becomes aggressive, there comes a point where you have to pull the trigger -- figuratively speaking in this case.
Ultimately, I'll do whatever I can legally to mitigate the damages our art sustains. But I don't feel it is absolutely warranted or necessarily the best solution to go the latter route. Some may think this is a waste of time. Well, I respectfully disagree. I have both the means and ability, so I for one will continue to do rather than talk. That means using every possible option at my disposal. And I am fortunate enough to have many, whereas many of the site owners are not. That is, as the young man posted in his forums, where I will continue to have the upper hand. And so far, it is working.
After turning my interest on another site, I was able to negotiate a win/win solution where some 18,000 members will be cut off from a forum that collectively (which is far more egregious than say a torrent site where individuals must search for what they want rather than having it served up to them) has worked together to pirate thousands of titles from Richard's books (yes, they scan them from front to back and post them as PDFs) to DVDs produced with gimmicks, wherein the latter was diagrammed and details for manufacturing have been provided. The site owner and I actually get along well, and in this case, he's not a college student who already knows everything, but rather a grown man who has similar interests to my own. We were able to agree on many things, and that resulted in us looking for a solution together, which I'm happy to report is moving forward. Two down.
The next site I am after belongs to another young man in college who I've been looking into for about two months. The beauty in this case is that I hadn't yet garnered his details as I was able to with the first site mentioned above. The good news is, that despite his disdain for me, the young man I mentioned provided me with all the details he had on the third site. That's right, like a crack dealer who's been caught and then chastised by the manufacturer for getting caught, he's rolled and gave up other bad guys. And good for him for doing so.
Whatever his motivation, I'm glad he's done it. It makes my job much easier and allows for me to focus my resources and efforts. I'd like to think he's had a change of heart and that this experience has given him time to reflect and grow. Who knows. One can hope.