Censorship, East and West

Last week this scary article was posted on Slashdot:

Edis Krad writes, “An elderly Japanese bar manager and performer has been arrested for playing copyrighted songs on his harmonica. From the article: ‘Investigators accuse Toyoda of illegally performing 33 songs such as the Beatles’ songs “Here, There and Everywhere” and “Yesterday,” whose copyrights are managed by the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers. He allegedly performed the songs on the harmonica with a female pianist at the bar he operated between August and September this year.’ This is for all those kids who are learning chords on their guitars — be ready to pay fees for practicing ‘Smoke On The Water.’ This story seems to be legit, though it reads like an Onion piece. It’s only being reported in the Mainichi Daily News via MSN.

Very scary – the idea that someone can be sent to prison for playing the harmonica is beyond absurd. And then there’s this Slashdot story from Friday:

jamie writes, “On ‘Larry King Live’ Wednesday night, Bill Maher said many of ‘the people who really run the underpinnings of the Republican Party are gay… Ken Mehlman, OK, there’s one I think people have talked about. I don’t think he’s denied it.’ When CNN re-aired the interview, the mention of Mehlman was edited out with no indication anything was missing. When a minute-long video of the original vs. censored clips was posted on YouTube, a DMCA takedown removed it (the original poster plans to resubmit a shorter clip he hopes will qualify as fair use — good luck, since the DMCA doesn’t recognize fair use). Relatedly, the Washington Post today was caught silently editing its published stories to make them less informative. Unnamed GOP officials are also saying that Mehlman will step down from his post when his term ends in January.”

These are supposed to be news institutions, for crying out loud. The Washington Post in particular should be ashamed. This is the paper that took down Nixon, and now, according to Glenn Greenwald’s site (linked in quote above), is censoring the fact that Bush admitted to lying right before last week’s election. Greenwald sums it up precisely:

Why did The Washington Post delete the passage in its own article detailing how the President misled reporters when he answered their questions about Rumsfeld? Presidents simply do not have the right to lie to Americans about important matters of public concern, particularly before a major election. If we don’t embrace and enforce that standard, what standard exists? And if newspapers like the Post are too afraid to detail dishonest statements that come from our highest political officials — to the point where they publish such revelations only to then surreptitiously delete them — what possible purpose do journalists serve?

This is a very scary trend: in the East, overzealous copyright enforcers throwing old men in jail for playing the harmonica, and in the West, timid journalists too cowed to report what the president actually said in public (after all, who needs censorship when you have self-censorship)?


p.s. In a story related to the Japan one, there’s this (also Slashdot):

jginspace writes “A 17-year-old from Singapore is is facing three years’ jailtime for accessing his neighbor’s wireless network. His neighbor complained and now the unfortunate Tan Jia Luo is facing charges under the computer misuse act and is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday.”

Three years for slowing down someone’s internet connection? Of course it’s stealing, and wrong, but we’re talking about a kid, and at most a few hundred dollars worth of damage (probably much, much less). Japan and Singapore just went a few notches down on my list of places to visit (of course, Singapore is notorious for its draconian punishments)…


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