National Priorities

If you could get guns for free over a P2P net­work, I would imag­ine we’d be see­ing some dif­fer­ent argu­ments from the gun lobby.

File this one under the same cat­e­go­ry in which we spend mil­lions on the impeach­ment of a pres­i­dent who had an affair, but nada on the guy who sent us to war on (what can at best be described as) faulty intelligence:

On the same day that the Sen­ate looks to be final­iz­ing a law which bars legal reper­cus­sions against gun man­u­fac­tur­ers for crimes com­mit­ted using their prod­ucts, Wired News reports that the very same Sen­ate is now “grilling” P2P providers over their fail­ure to keep pornog­ra­phy out of the hands of chil­dren and Hol­ly­wood films out of the hands of pirates (Aargh, Matey!).

So let me get all this straight, mak­ers of guns (that can kill peo­ple) can­not be held respon­si­ble for what hap­pens with their prod­ucts. How­ev­er, mak­ers of file sharing/transfer soft­ware (that can hurt prof­its, but not peo­ple) can be held respon­si­ble for what peo­ple do with their prod­ucts. Am I miss­ing some­thing? How is this argu­ment remote­ly legal­ly rea­son­able? Even if I con­sid­er the 2nd Amend­ment, which grants the right to bear arms, I can’t fig­ure how the man­u­fac­tur­ers get off the hook for lethal weapons. The 2nd Amend­ment right has lim­its, just like all rights. You no more have the right to own a tank than you have the right to shout “fire” in a crowd­ed the­ater. In this case, the 2nd Amend­ment does­n’t give any direc­tions for the gun man­u­fac­tur­ers to cre­ate what­ev­er weapon they desire for the pub­lic mar­ket. In short, they do not get any more exclu­sions from neg­li­gence and indif­fer­ence laws than any oth­er industry.

One of the argu­ments made against Grokster in the Supreme Court’s deci­sion against them was that they appeared to be active­ly adver­tis­ing their prod­uct as able to infringe on copy­rights (via unpaid-for down­loads of music not freely giv­en away). So, if some­one can find any case of a gun (and/or bul­let) man­u­fac­tur­er adver­tis­ing a prod­uct which kills1, then sure­ly they would be liable, right? Not likely.

So this all comes down to who’s spend­ing the mon­ey. The gun lob­by spends tons to get their stuff in as many hands as pos­si­ble. The enter­tain­ment indus­try spends just as much to pre­vent tech­nol­o­gy from dent­ing their prof­its (at least, as they per­ceive it). If you could get guns for free over a P2P net­work, I would imag­ine we’d be see­ing some dif­fer­ent argu­ments from the gun lobby.

1 Here, I had in mind some­thing like an ad for “armor-pierc­ing rounds,” although I think those are quite ille­gal in of them­selves. That is, until the gun lob­by get’s them okay’d by con­gress. Any­way, that or an ad that actu­al­ly adver­tis­es ease of mur­der. I, how­ev­er, don’t real­ly think the gun mar­keters are real­ly that stu­pid. They at least have that over the P2P soft­ware makers.