SOCA and website takedowns

News that SOCA has reached out of the UK and into the .com domain to take down a music download website has provoked quite a reaction in the twittersphere (at least, that slightly geeky, slightly legal, slightly subversive segment of it that is visible to me…).

Here are some examples of good comment, analysis and reaction from

Glyn Moody at ComputerWorld
Mel, at dajaz1.com (includes a useful screenshot of SOCA’s warning message)
Lilian Edwards on the Pangloss blog.

In general, what I see is that even among those who acknowledge that SOCA may be acting within its remit here, very few say anything good about the way in which SOCA has acted – and I think they have a point.

In my opinion (and it is only that), if SOCA is going to insert its own splash page into a domain that has been taken down, they should stick to an objective statement of the legal justification for the takedown.

SOCA would doubtless argue that it has a duty to deter illegal activity, and that that justifies the splash page – but I do not believe it does SOCA’s credibility as a law enforcement agency any good to make the kind of assertions it makes in its warning. For example, they say:

“As a result of illegal downloads young, emerging artists may have had their careers damaged.”

That is quite possibly true. On the other hand, it is also true that young, emerging artists (and older esablished ones, come to that) have had their careers, health and even lives ruined by the commerical practices of the music industry – including, of course, all those artists whose careers simply never happened because the music industry did not think they would be profitable enough. The strength of the independent music community amply illustrates that the mainstream publishing cartel is neither entirely benevolent, nor (happily) indispensable.

Are SOCA, then, about to insist that when we visit Amazon in search of the latest CD, we must see a warning which reads:

“As a result of venal commercial practices young, emerging artists may have failed to get a career at all, or may have turned to drugs under the pressure of huge recording contracts and subsequently died in obscure penury in a pool of their own vomit”?

No?

Thought not.

I suppose what this boils down to is this: SOCA do not, ultimately, need to state an ethical justification for their action, only a legal one. Their rather clumsy attempt to stick a moral veneer on their law enforcement action in this case is ill-judged and poorly executed.