There are two stories that are big in the news right now, the Hollywood writers strike and identity theft. They aren't related, but I see them as almost the same issue.

Hollywood writers are striking to force the producers of scripted shows to share online revenues with them. As long as you agree that the writers are due residuals for their work, it makes sense for them to demand their fair share. The producers say that there isn't any money online and therefore are standing their ground. (Side note: If there isn't any money online, why are the producers not willing to give a percentage of nothing?)

Copyrights are a big deal, that's the base of Hollywood's riches. Hollywood has fought hard to preserve these riches by convincing Congress to pass questionable legislation to protect these rights. Recently a professor at the University of Utah calculated that over a normal day he commits $12.45 million in liability - and he doesn't even use P2P software. The point of the study is that copyright laws are so ridiculous that ordinary, everyday activities that everyone feels are fine are illegal, so the laws should be changed. Simply making a copyrighted work available for infringing is illegal. My point is that congress has agreed with the content owners enough to enact these highly punitive laws that nearly everyone agrees are insane and no one respects.

Over the last few years there have been numerous cases of personal information being lost or stolen from governmental or private sources. Hard drives and laptops are lost and websites cracked. There are also the simple cases of dumpsters with unshredded confidential information. People are having their identities stolen every day which costs them time and money.

The parallel between copyright and what I'm calling identityright is this: we need laws to punish those who lose confidential information to the same extent we punish copyright infractions. Just like a person is criminally liable for simply making works available for theft, companies (and the government) need to be criminally liable for making identity information available, even if no harm has befallen the individual. If the CEO of a company was personally liable for any lost information, you can bet identity theft would decrease almost overnight. Just like the Hollywood writers feel any use of their creative work deserves compensation, I feel that any misuse of my identity gives me cause for redress.

Is this idea any more ridiculous than the current copyright laws?

One thought on “Identityright

  1. Interesting points and a point well taken about identity theft. A couple of comments:
    The writers are also striking for an equitable share of DVD sales of the shows they wrote. The contact they have now gives them almost no share of the huge profits Hollywood makes on sales of shows after they have aired. This is a contractual issue.

    The issue of contracts is where the difference lies in copyright law and identity theft. Copywrite law seems to act like a defacto contract between the creator of words or art and anyone else who comes along and wants to use those words and makes money from someone else’s creative work.

    Identify theft is no breeching a contract. Which is what makes it that much worse. Most time ID theft is just that — straight up theft of something which does not belong to you. We have no contacts with the government, businesses (most times) and banks that sell or misuse our personal information for profit. The penalty of this type of theft, in my opinion, should be even more severe.

    So I agree that the penalties for losing, misplacing or outright stealing identities should be made much harsher.

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