Two notable items hit the news last week. The first was an excellent and thoroughly researched law review article by Brandy Robinson which appeared in the latest issue of the Rutgers Law Record. 1 (Click on the endnote to go directly to the article). The article relates in great detail how terrorist groups, and those who support them, use copyright piracy as an easy way of funding their activities. The second item was Google suddenly making public what they had refused to do before, namely, to state how many videos were removed from YouTube for content violations.
Brandy Robinson’s article makes very plain that terrorist organizations use copyright infringement as a method of easily and quickly generating funds, and have been doing so for quite some time.
“[T]errorist groups, especially those in developing nations, thrive on IP piracy allowing for the successful funding of terrorist opportunities. (Footnote omitted.) Terrorist groups gravitate towards IP piracy for funding because detection of IP piracy is easily evaded and developing nations do not thoroughly understand it. (Footnote omitted.)” 2
Amongst her points:
- International authorities found that Al Qaeda training materials suggested using counterfeit goods and materials to fund its cell activities. 3
- British detectives claim that Pakistani DVDs account for 40% of anti-piracy confiscations in the UK, and that profits from pirated versions of Love Actually and Master and Commander funnel back to the coffers of Pakistan-based Al Qaeda operatives. 4
- The U.S. Department of Justice found that terrorist groups are using technology to commit various kinds of crimes traditionally associated with organized criminal organizations. This includes fraud, computer-related crimes, racketeering, and the creation of so-called “bootleg,” counterfeit, or illegal copies of movies, music and even software. 5
- In 1994, the terrorist group, Hezbollah, used the illicit counterfeiting industry to fund its bombing of the Jewish Community Center (AMIA) in Buenos Aires. 6
- In the aftermath of the 2008 London bombings, authorities identified Mohammad Sidique Khan, a bootleg CDs and DVDs dealer in South Africa, as one of the coordinators of the bombings. 7
- Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay (a tri-border area) serve as a regional hub for terrorist organizational funding for groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas. This fundraising includes counterfeit American goods, including Microsoft software. 8 Twenty million dollars were donated to Hezbollah on an annual basis from this tri-border area resulting from illegal IP activities. 9
- There was a $2.5 million transfer from a DVD pirate Assad Ahmad Barakat to Hezbollah, who received a “thank you” note from the leader of Hezbollah. 10
Ms. Robinson goes on to state:
“Terrorist groups are looking to illegal funding activities that do not provide the hefty prison sentences, yet yield the greatest profit for funding of terroristic activities…IP piracy is also an area where terrorist groups see a major opportunity and advantage. As stated before, many nations, developed or not, have lax rules and systems in place to counteract, detect or even enforce IP crimes. (Footnote omitted.) As a result, terrorist groups can easily and quickly manufacture a product several times over, then distribute and sell those counterfeit products to a broader base virtually without any detection or enforcement if caught.” 11
“Lack of consumer education and awareness about IP piracy helps facilitate terrorist funding. (Footnote omitted.) For instance, the average consumer buying a counterfeit product does not think twice about the origins of the product, the product’s authenticity or where the funds are going. (Footnote omitted.)… This lack of knowledge is not limited to a particular geographical region. This lack of knowledge spans across the globe, as many consumers do not understand the economics of doing business, especially the economics of IP. (Footnote omitted.) 12
Which is precisely the point, and why the activities of organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation when they openly degrade and demean not only copyrights, but rights of content creators 13 serve to damage respect for the rule of law not only in the U.S. but around the world, which plays directly into the hands of terrorists.
So, the next time you think about using BitTorrent to get an illegal copy of a movie, you might want to think twice about who is behind it, how they are profiting, and where that money is going.
Next up was this rather odd admission by Google, particularly considering the context.
Google has filed a pre-emptive lawsuit against Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to stop his attempt to investigate Google for illegal and in some cases, criminal activity. 14 The Judge has ruled (but the opinion has not been released for publication) that Google was entitled to a preliminary injunction against the Mississippi AG from proceeding. In a statement to the press, Google’s attorney wrote the following:
“We’ll continue working to protect people using our services: In 2014 alone, we removed more than 500 million bad ads and over 180 million YouTube videos for policy violation.” 15
What makes it odd is not only was this assertion fairly irrelevant to the ruling the Judge made, but Google has never before disclosed in its transparency report how many YouTube videos are removed by Google. They only report those URL’s that have been the subject of a DMCA takedown notice for searches performed by Google. Now we have that number, and it’s a fairly staggering number. Over 180 million videos were taken down, in one year alone.
Now, as an attorney, I am used to parsing people’s words, particularly when the other party is also an attorney and is probably choosing his words very carefully. The Google attorney did not say that the 180 million videos were removed due to copyright infringement; they were removed for “policy violations.” There are a number of reasons why your video might be taken down by Google, the first one being that the video contains nudity or pornography. 16
Other reasons include “violent or graphic content,” “hateful content” and copyright violations. 17 However, the Google policy seems not to be very evenly enforced. As this post from The Trichordist points out, the grisly ISIS beheading videos continue to be available on YouTube, 18 even though it clearly violates their own prohibition against not only “hateful content” but “violent or graphic content” as well.
But once again, what is clear, and Google has now admitted, is that they are fully capable of policing the content that appears on YouTube, to the tune of 180 million videos in one year. As other commentators have pointed out, just try to find pornography on YouTube. You’ll search for a long time. Yet, even though copyright violations are clearly against the YouTube policy, Google instead chooses to hide behind the DMCA, scream “free speech” and make you send a DMCA takedown notice.
Once again, and I grow weary of typing this, the proof is right there. Google can police YouTube for copyright violations. It either lacks the will to do so, or finds it more profitable to look the other way.
- IP Piracy & Developing Nations: A Recipe For Terrorism Funding ↩
- Id. at 42 ↩
- Id. at 51 ↩
- Id. at page 50 footnote 75, citing Kavita Philip, What is a technological author? The pirate function and intellectual property, 8, No. 2, The Institute of Postcolonial Studies 199-218 (2005). ↩
- Id. at 50 ↩
- Id. at 53 ↩
- Id. at 49 ↩
- Id. at 62 ↩
- Id. ↩
- Id. at 63 ↩
- Id. at 60-61 ↩
- Id. at 56 ↩
- Copyrights Are Not Property! (And Other Silly Sophistry) ↩
- Google Trumpets Victory Over MPAA in Mississippi ↩
- Id. ↩
- YouTube Community Guidelines ↩
- Id. ↩
- On The Other Hand #4: Unlike YouTube at Least Spotify Doesn’t Broadcast ISIS Terror Videos ↩