You don't shut down the Post Office if someone sends drugs through the mail - Wozniak on Dotcom
TV3 has published a transcript of John Campbell's interview with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, in which Woz talks about his recent meeting with Kim Dotcom.
The transcript follows (watch the original interview here).
Wozniak's killer quote is:
If someone commits a crime shipping drugs on the sea, you don't drain the sea and say the sea is the problem. If they are mailing drugs through the post office you don't shut the post office down you try to get the people who are doing the wrong steps.
The internet as a whole, or file sharing services like the late Megaupload and Dropbox in particular, are just conduit. Don't blame it, just as you wouldn't blame NZ Transport if someone robbed a bank, then escaped on State Highway 1.
That's a neat argument (and one often trotted out by Dotcom's US lawyer Ira Rothken), but it's not that simple.
Megaupload wasn't a neutral conduit.
The indictment under which Kim Dotcom and his co-accused were arrested (read page 29), includes a quote from a promotion to Megaupload members::
“Today we are introducing our ground breaking Uploader Rewards.Our new reward program pays money and cash prizes to our uploaders. This makes Megaupload the first and only site on the Internet paying you for hosting your files.Let’s team up!”
In addition, the announcement stated: “You must have at least 50000 downloads within 3 months to qualify” and “You must allow us to list your files & descriptions on our Top 100 pages.” The rewards included “$1 USD Cash per 1000 downloads of your uploaded files”, plus an additional bonus between $50 to $5,000 for Top 100 “Megauploaders with the most downloads” during a three-month period, to be paid through PayPal according to the following ranking:
Rank 1: $5,000 USD Bonus
Ranks 2-5: $1,000 USD Bonus
Ranks 6-10: $500 USD Bonus
Ranks 11-50: $100 USD Bonus
Ranks 51-100: $50 USD Bonus
A later rewards scheme offered up to $US10,000 if your file proved popular.
Megaupload was incentivising users to upload content that would prove popular with other members of the file sharing service (and a lot of that was always going to be copyrighted) - the better for Megaupload to generate more ad revenue (via its proprietary ad-serving system), and more people willing to pay a for a $US10-a-month premium Megaupload account (necessary to watch a full-length movie).
Such a scheme is not inherently evil.
Even before his arrest, Kim Dotcom was proposing to cut artists in on the revenue - a concept he is now refining with his Megabox concept. Even Fortune magazine - part of the Time Warner stable that includes a studio and music label that allegedly suffered at the hands of Megaupload, has suggested he may be showing the way to make money in a post-copyright future (the claim is made in the latest print edition of Fortune; I'm struggling to find it on Fortune.com - anyone feel free to point out a link).
But it's nothing like the mail service. The Post Office never paid you to send a letter.
Meanwhile his new anti-Obama kim.com website, the Megaupload founder will further relish Hollywood liberals backing the US president - not doubt to his delight (though he has also sent a letter to the Hollywood reporter encouraging movie makers to embrace new media and new distribution models. It's worth noting at this juncture that Google-owned YouTube is also taking a progressive stance. If, say, someone posts a clip of their wedding party dancing to a Justin Bieber song and it goes viral, YouTube will approach the copyright holder and offer to split ad revenue as an alternative to a take-down. YouTube also offers a modest share of ad revenue to those whose clips attract more than 15,000 views).
His new song will also rile Hollywood, and fans of the current US president (and I'm guessing Kim is advertently or inadvertently offending some of his fan base with this move). Here's the YouTube clip:
Anyhow, here's Woz on Campbell Live last night:
Steve Wozniak: “I had not really known or followed Megaupload in my life before I meet Kim Dotcom at his house, I went to meet him because he was unable to come to see speak there because of a house arrest and I thought that would be a fair kind of exchange, a nice thing to do for him. And I went in just not knowing how he was going to appear, what kind of person he was, was he a criminal.
Copyrights need to be protected. We have gone through music, and we are struggling a bit. The music studios have got used to the new ways. But basically a lot of performers in music who used to get very good royalty cheques for huge hits of the past see their royalty cheques cut into a10th now, but that is the modern age, distribution is just so easy and free.
Well it is going to hit the movie industry, well it started a long time actually, but movies is a bigger deal maybe because there is so much more money in involved in making a lot of movies and now people can download them for free.
I am totally against people trying to get things for free that were created by creative people. I have close connections in the music industry, most of my best friends have some connection to the music industry. I am involved with film, I am involved with television. Basically their material should not be stolen.
The problem is you have to go after the people that are stealing it. If someone commits a crime shipping drugs on the sea, you don't drain the sea and say the sea is the problem. If they are mailing drugs through the post office you don't shut the post office down you try to get the people who are doing the wrong steps.
In this case I think instead of the studios going after Kim Dotcom who was running a service that was very hugely popular in the world and used by a lot of the people to basically steal movies and the like, instead of going after him they should have probably gone and arrested all the Church leaders that never gave people all the right morals.”
John Cambell: “I want to go back to the post office analogy; you don’t shut down a whole post office if someone sends drugs through the mail. It is also illuminating if there are lots of post offices and only one is closed. So, where Megaupload users doing anything that the users of countless other file sharing sites weren’t doing? Were they more predisposed to piracy? And was it, as is being alleged, a site that explicitly encouraged it?”
SW:“That is a good question that gets to the heart of the matter. I think that MegaUpload, well from what I heard it was doing the normal things that other file sharing sites use. I have Dropbox which I have used many a time, I have Apple iDisk that I have used many a time. I don't use it to purloin movies and send movies for free.
If I hear a song or something I might even send it to my son very quickly on the fly so he can get it in time, for free. But what I do I go back and I go buy a copy of the song or copy of the CD. Just to make myself super legal so I can talk about these things and not be on the other side.
If MegaUpload, and I don't know too much about it, was really telling people you know, "here is a way to steal your movies" that is bad and that is wrong, and I would really be against it. But I don't know that it is as much of a crime for a huge raid, shutting down a man's a life, his business, destroying his family, you know hurting his wife and kid and leaving him in limbo, you know sometimes you look for which side is being the most truthful, when I sat down with Kim at his table, he was open, sharing everything, answered every question and I was asking the devil's advocate questions.
I was not coming across like, "yeah yeah yeah like gung ho I am on your side", because I really wanted to know the issues and he was just so open.
And I look at the Government and their phony charges, the fact that they won't let him use his assets to pay his lawyers. They give him a cost of living but not the cost of his legal defence. That is just totally unfair, you want an unfair advantage. You only want an unfair advantage when you know already you are in the right, when you know deep in your heart. You are in the WRONG I mean. That is when you seek the unfair advantage cause you think you need it.
They will probably offer him some plead guilty to a little plea bargain type arrangement in the end and that is just another form of torture, plea bargaining, you can avoid something very horrible going through with us we will actually let you off the hook and let you out now if you just sign this thing saying you are guilty even though you are not.”
JC: That is a uniquely American way of doing business I think. I just want to pick up on a phrase there; ‘phony charges’, ‘The government’s phony charges’ – that’s strong language from a man who could certainly stay well out of this and sit on the sidelines and enjoy all the benefits of being a founder of Apple. Why are you speaking out?
SW: “I am very thankful when well know people speak out on issues, like the early classic rock groups, a lot of them would speak out against the Vietnam war, on issues that matter to a lot to us that are life and death. I personally grew up shy and I do not speak out, I never call the press, I never try make a point about something, but I grew up too honest and I will answer questions when they come my way and I will not lie.
So, it's just that the charges are so weak, I try to come down with... if I could find something really bad or criminal in there boy I would be speaking out that Kim Dotcom should be paying for his crime but I'm just finding like minor things like he parked too long.”
See the full interview on TV3's website here.