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of Samizdat

From a paper by Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation.

The U.S. today is the world leader in trying to stamp out the unauthorized redistribustion of published works. But the U.S. is not the first country to put a focus on this, the Soviet Union did so. If you look at the various methods they used to stamp out Samizdat, and they never completely succeeded, but they certainly made it harder to get, and look at the methods they used:

  1. First of all, guards watching each copier to check what you were going to copy, to make sure you weren't going to do unauthorized copying.

  2. Second, harsh punishments, sending you to Siberia for years if you were caught doing unauthorized copying.

  3. Third, asking for informers. Asking people to rat on their neighbors and co-workers to the information police.

  4. Fourth, collective responsibility, putting certain people in the positions of being watchers and punishing them if anyone they were responsible for was caught doing unauthorized copying.

  5. Fifth, a massive propaganda campaign.
All of these things are going on in the U.S. today. In fact the Digital Millenium Copyright Act was responsible for a couple of parts of that.

  • That's what makes it a crime to bypass the robot guards that they use to check what you're going to copy on your own computer.

  • That's what makes Internet Service Providers legally responsible for whatever you post. So that they're scared whenever a customer get accused. Usually the customer gets unplugged before getting any day in court.

  • And there was a seperate law passed in 1996 that made it a crime, and even in many cases a felony, to make copies of something just to hand them out to your friends to be nice. Before that it wasn't a crime in the U.S. If you took something published and you made copies of it and you non-commercially handed out those copies not asking for anything in return, that wasn't a crime. Then in 1996 it was made a crime and in some cases a felony so you could be put in prison for years.

  • As for the massive propaganda campaign, that's what the word "pirate" is used for. They're trying to say that sharing published information with your neighbor is the moral equivalent of attacking a ship!