Irony

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on January 8, 2011

Stewart Baker anticipates Julian Assange’s impending double standard:

Julian Assange is writing a book — and expecting to make somewhere between $1 and $2 million from it.  But his royalties will depend on something he claims to abhor – using government authority to control the distribution of information.

Because if a believer in the free distribution of information were to copy Assange’s book and post it on a U.S. website, Assange or his publisher could insist that the website owner take the infringing copy down immediately under threat of action in US courts.  Failure to take down the book would subject the website to massive damages under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. (This post assumes that Assange won’t do what I did with Skating on Stilts — make the book freely downloadable under Creative Commons license — but I’m betting that he and his publishers are too greedy to do that.  Oh, sorry, I mean he needs to “recover his legal fees.”)

Now you’ll have to admit that there’s some irony in this.  Assange’s Wikileaks got the equivalent of a takedown notice from  the US government, and he gave them the finger.  In fact that conflict is what makes his book worth the royalties that he’s going to get.  But now he and his publisher are going to rely on United States law to do for them exactly what he refused to do for the United States.  Except this time the takedown notice will protect not lives, but Assange’s income and his publisher’s profits.

I would love to see some kind of campaign begin demanding that Assange not invoke the DMCA, and insisting that he should live up to the very standards of extreme openness that he demands of the American diplomatic corps. As Baker properly points out, Assange had no problem whatsoever putting lives at risk with his leaks. One ought to expect that he should have even less of a problem putting his book royalties at risk, but one can easily imagine Assange deciding that when it comes to the state of his bank account, openness has its limits.

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