We Need Tougher Mind Control Laws to Stop Piracy

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If you think about Mickey Mouse, are you infringing Disney's copyright?  What if you willfully memorize a copyrighted poem?  Think hard; the answer could be worth $150,000 in court.
According to the law, copyright protects “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now or later developed, from which they [the works] can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”  (Emphasis mine.)
Note the word “tangible.”  You might assume this would exclude your thoughts from copyright protection—after all, you can't touch a thought.  But thanks to new advances in neuroscience, the intangible is now becoming tangible.  And it's all thanks to “the aid of a machine or device.”
In 2011, researchers used a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) machine to extract visual images directly from the brain.  Test subjects were shown a Hollywood movie trailer, and their brain activity was monitored.  By analyzing the subjects' brain activity, the researchers were able to reconstruct the original movie trailer from thought alone.  
I can just imagine the conversation that went on in the lab:

Researcher 1: Well, here we have this awesome new technology.  How should we test it out?
Researcher 2: Let's make copies of copyrighted Hollywood movie trailers.
Researcher 1: Oh boy, no more DRM!
Researcher 2: I'll skip past these FBI warning messages so we can get started.  

It gets better.  Their reconstruction process entailed searching for clips on YouTube that best fit whatever the subject was thinking about, then mashing the clips together to create an icky, blurry, yet still recognizable version of the original Hollywood trailer.  So the researchers not only reproduced copyrighted movie trailers, they also created an unauthorized mashup comprised of copyrighted YouTube clips.  I just hope for their sake that they didn't circumvent any Digital Rights Management protections that might have been protecting those trailers; the Motion Picture Association of America disapproves of that.  
But it gets even better.  More recently, a group of neuroscientists created the rodent equivalent of a Borg hive mind.  With the help of cutting edge brain-to-brain interfaces, two rats separated by thousands of miles were able to share thoughts with each other over the internet to solve a common task.  And by “share” I mean that one rat stole stole copyrighted thoughts from the other rat without permission.  How long will it be before rats connected in peer-to-peer networks are sending pirated seasons of “Game of Thrones” to each other?
And that's not all.  Researchers have been able to pinpoint individual neurons devoted to storing memories.  For instance, there is a specific neuron in your brain that is lighting up right now as you think about the copyrighted character Mickey Mouse.  Ask yourself: did you get permission from Disney to reproduce Mickey's iconic image in your neuron?  Or are you pirating images of him with your innate human copying capabilities?  Whatever you do, don't imagine a picture of Mickey Mouse wearing a pirate hat, or else you've created an unauthorized derivative work and can someday be held liable for copyright infringement when it becomes possible to record your infringing memory “with the aid of a machine or device.”  
While you're at it, control your dreams too.  The same fMRI machine used to copy Hollywood movie trailers can also be used to replay your midnight ruminations.  In one particular dream, a test subject was found to be visualizing some kind of printed document, doubtless a noninfringing original work or a public domain document from Project Gutenberg.  It is of course illegal to reproduce copyrighted documents, videos, sound recordings, etc. regardless of the medium through which such reproduction is achieved (for instance an fMRI machine).  In the future, those who choose to record their dreams will need to be careful to respect the rights of creators by not dreaming about copyrighted TV shows, movies, songs, characters or books.  Although some limited usage of copyrighted material may be permissible for personal use or for purposes such as commentary, parody or news reporting, the law is clear that in most cases it is illegal to copy or distribute copyrighted material with your mind.
Now let's fast forward twenty years, to a point in time when you can back up your memories on the cloud and upload your dreams to Youtube.  You can also download thoughtfiles from the internet directly into your brain and share your thoughts with the Facebook hive.  One can readily envision how this situation could present a challenge to creators concerned about controlling their work online.  I believe that it is more imperative than ever that we move to combat the looming threat of thought-based piracy.  
In the upcoming rewrite of the copyright law, legislators should explore extending the DMCA into the realm of the mind.  For example, creators can work together with search engines and ISPs to voluntarily monitor users' neurons for infringement.  If a pirate imagines copyrighted content or tries to share restricted thoughts with other users, a takedown notice can be sent and the infringing idea quickly blocked.  There also needs to be funding set aside for programs that educate casual downloaders about the law; for example, some users may not realize that it is illegal to download memories, thoughts or dreams about movies, music, art, and literature from thought-sharing sites.  
Lastly, the new law should introduce stiffer penalties for DRM circumvention and thought-sharing.  Sites that deliberately enable copyright violations should be blocked from users' minds; we also need more stringent punishments for those who would abuse the human brain's natural creativity in order to create unauthorized derivative art on sites like YouTube, DeviantArt, Etsy, etc.  Piracy is responsible for billions of dollars in lost sales, and better education and vigorous enforcement are necessary to meet the challenges of the cyborg age.  By maximizing the powers of rightsholders and minimizing the rights of everyone else, we can achieve a fair and balanced copyright law fit for the 21st century.  
The American economy relies on strong protections for copyright.  The next great copyright act must provide real protections for creators, demonstrate respect for property rights, and punish thought-theft so that we can encourage the creation of new works and enable our creative industries to remain competitive in a global marketplace.  The value we place on controlling thoughts today will send a powerful message about the role of the human imagination in the society of tomorrow.  Let's join together to preserve copyright for another 200 years!  
This essay is licensed under Creative Commons Zero ( which is about the same as no copyright. :) Share away!
© 2013 - 2024 Talllama
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Jtaylor83's avatar
Everyone would stop purchasing things and go live in a cave. Technology will simply die.  you are nothing but a corporate IP troll. You want humanity to be corporate puppets preventing them to learn and evolve by forcing them to pay royalty to use or memorize copyrighted material for educational purposes.

Nobody isn't going to accept and take a DRM thought control implant. Down with copyright. Down with DRM. >:(