When is citizen journalism a bad thing? A question which I never thought I would have to ask. I champion the power of the personal blog and the way that the internet has enabled “real people” to get their views over to many. In respect of Open Source Software, the advantages of it over closed source and being able to highlight the alternatives to Microsoft products, the personal blog’s worth has massive value.
There are times though when personal bloggers can be harmful. One example would be a blogger paid with gifts to promote a certain viewpoint (and something the FTC is tackling) and another would be why I am writing this article. So why can citizen journalism be a bad thing? When, in the case of Ms Gregg, accusations are allowed to be spread around the net to the point of discrediting her.
I wrote an article presenting those allegations and Ms Gregg has responded to me with her answers. It is only fair that I now document her voice and her answers.
Indiana Gregg is an artist who came to notice of tech users and geeks because of the file sharing debate. She was one of the artists who asked the Pirate Bay to remove links to torrents infringing certain copyright material. A reasonable request? I would hope everyone thinks so, regardless of peoples views on the copyright laws and putting them to one side, at a base level sharing of material is wrong if it goes against the wishes of the owner/creator.
I have often argued the need to have a proprietary model in respect of the entertainment industry, I don’t believe a FOSS ethos would work purely because of the amounts of revenue needed to make a return and make the fostering of new talent/work worthwhile.
Anyway, I digress. After sending emails to TPB, what happened next was, a rather nasty series of allegations and aspersions on Indiana Gregg that have been allowed to fester on the Net for too long. When I challenged Indiana Gregg over these, I was under the impression that if they had been untrue Ms Gregg would have more robustly countered them. That was wrong and I failed to appreciate just how far those libelous comments had spread about her. It would not be reasonable to expect anyone (even me who is often accused of having too much time on his hands) to counter them all.
I have uniquely (for a personal blogger) had an opportunity to have direct communication with Ms Gregg who has more than answered the allegations by others and provided evidence in relation to those allegations. I was in two minds if I should print the evidence that was sent since to me it was very personal to Ms Gregg and I resent that the libel of others has meant Ms Gregg feels the need to provide this material just to clear her name. This is not a court of law, I am not a judge and all I can do is print my experience and chats with Ms Gregg which are wholly different to some of the remarks posted about her around the net.
Before we move onto the allegations specifically and address them, I would ask any readers who are new here to browse through my site. I spend a lot of time exposing underhanded practices on the net, I openly confirm that I have never nor will accept gifts, enticements, perks, payments or anything else, in fact the opposite, if I receive the offer of a gift I will publish that offer and politely refuse. I hold my posting integrity as the most important thing I have, which is why this article needs to be written. I chose to write this and in fact I don’t think Ms Gregg was too keen on the idea.
When I saw the allegations and rebutles by Ms Gregg I must admit I had doubts, in my opinion they did not go far enough and left questions unanswered, I was probably looking at it from my point of view where I would have printed denials/evidence and robustly defended myself if I had been in her shoes. After receiving her answers I now present them to you and I consider that not only is the matter fully answered, but that Indiana Gregg has my full support not only as a commenter on the file sharing issue but also as an artist.
After putting the allegations of others Ms Gregg said this:
..hopefully this answers some of your questions and may shed some light on your perception of who I am and how I’ve approached things both now and in the past. I don’t make it a habit to write to bloggers. This is the first time I think I’ve ever sent an email to a blogger and it’s only because you’ve asked me to respond and because now a few people have written me messages about it
After chatting with Ms Gregg at length, she provided passport photo’s which showed that she was out of the country when it was alleged that either her or her husband edited Wikipedia. I have decided not to post these as I feel a little resentful that the comments of others have made Ms Gregg feel the need to have to send this material to me (a total stranger to her) On the subject of editing Wikipedia she had this to say:
Anyway, I do know where I was during the summer of 2008 and now you know as well. Attached are photographs of my passport entry stamps into France (nice cote d’azur) and entry back into the UK on June 24, 2008 and August 16th 2008 respectively. After August 16th, I was in London for a while, but, I don’t have stamps in my passport for those flights because they were domestic flights. The only other proof I have is bank and credit card statements which show that we were staying in Cannes. I wouldn’t want to divulge my credit card statements online and to be honest, when I had read this yesterday, I didn’t think it was an issue of any importance.
and the material she sent to me proves this categorically. I was somewhat humbled that Ms Gregg would chose me to send this material to , she didn’t need to and she certainly didn’t need to spend so much time talking with me. I would have been prepared to write the same article without evidence (afterall who am I to make judgement and the aim of Openbytes has always presented opinion and let others make up their own mind)
In respect of the original TPB request, Ms Gregg had this to say to provide background to the issue:
The downloads that are mentioned happened in April 2007 (a year before the TPB emails and my blog was published) Within the first few weeks of the release of the album, over a quarter of a million downloads were documented. At the time, I printed out the stats from what seemed like hundreds of sites including a label in China who were actually selling physical copies of the album from a few different urls with full track information and relatively hi-res artwork. Russian sites, various torrent trackers including TPB and quite a few that don’t seem to be active anymore. I gave the information to Gavin Docherty. a journalist from a national newspaper here in the UK. I think we also gave print-outs to the BBC at the time. Piracy didn’t seem to be on the mainstream press’s radar at that point in 2007 but, I made it a point to let them know what was going on anyway.
CONCLUSIONS + THE OPENBYTES SOLUTION!
I think Indiana Gregg and Ian Morrow (her husband) have been victims of a rather nasty campaign. If we look at it in its most simplest form it all started simply because a BT tracker was asked to remove material which infringed copyright. As I said before, whether you agree with the copyright laws or not, you have to agree that sharing material that goes against the wishes of the owner/creator is wrong on a moral level at the very least?
I believe Ms Gregg is only guilty of being too nice, I would have dealt with the issue far more harshly if it had been me and even after she sent me all the material she did, she shows concern for me and my blog by raising her worries about starting a flame war.
Beware, whatever you post, it could produce a ‘flame war’.
Does this sound to you like someone who is trying to “cover their tracks”? (like its being alleged elsewhere) Does this sound to you like a person who wants to kill free speech? Or does this in fact sound like a person who is concerned about another blogger at the expense of herself? Just like we’ve seen when some of the MS faithful use underhanded tactics a decent person (like Ms Gregg) is at a disadvantage when attacked by those who have no morals, no sense of decency or fair play.
Ms Gregg’s latest blog post (and comments) can be found here. At the end of this article are links to projects/work of Ms Gregg and I would encourage you to visit them.
I’ll let you decide, but I for one am entirely convinced that Ms Greggs work has worth and has been unfairly undervalued over the years. I would ask one thing of anyone reading this; if you see a post/blog/comment mentioning Ms Gregg and the past allegations, please link this one. It is important that Ms Gregg gets as much opportunity to put her views across. In the last article I asked the question “is Ms Gregg really suitable to be a crusader for a sensible file-sharing debate?” – To which the answer is YES.
So how do I think the piracy problem should be solved?
I think firstly that legislation as it stands is wholly unsuitable to tackle the massive issue of piracy. I think any government legislation which implements deep packet inspection technology would fall under eyes of Article 8 of the Human Rights Act and in my opinion would be a dangerous route to go down (if only in terms of public perception), as I’ve said before there are policies in place for directed covert surveillance which I think not only is there a need for but as seen in the press used responsibly and effectively. We do not live in some sci-fi big brother state (as some would like to imply) and there comes a point where you have to trust in the actions of authorities to keep us safe and deter/detect crime.
That being said its very different for the entertainment industry. I think that just like the pub landlord and him/her being responsible for selling alcohol, their customers (and subsequently loosing their license should the laws not be obeyed), ISP’s should be held responsible for the content passing through their servers. Whilst a government run deep packet inspection MAY fall foul of Article 8 in this respect, I think that one written into the T&C of your ISP would remove any such issues and would give the responsibility of dealing with copyright infringers to the ISP. This would have the knock-on effect of any civil case being easier to be heard and the teenager in the bedroom not being taken to court. There are always going to be difficulties to challenge defences for the file sharers and IMO it is much easier to show in a court that an ISP has allowed copyright data through its server. The ISP’s seem to want your custom by offering faster connections, they don’t seem as keen (IMO) to steer you away from file-sharing. I expect at the moment, the ISP’s will look at file sharing as a problem between the copyright holder and the sharer.
Give the responsibility to the ISP, I think this will make them approach it differently. This would be part one of my solution. – Of course this still leaves the binary newsgroups, however if we are looking for putting the onus on the ISP, then this could be extended to the NG providers aswell.
Part two would be for ISP’s to actively ban known private and public tracker sites. Whilst there will be those that will have the knowledge to circumvent this, one of the appeals of the BT protocol to the average user is in my opinion that it is so simple to use. I think a block such as this would wipe out a massive amount of file-sharing overnight. (I think this could be considered as a “reasonable step” to prevent piracy on behalf of the ISP. This could be used in a civil case to prove/disprove the ISP’s actions to prevent its customers filesharing.)
Part three (after piracy is shown to be reduced) would be to re-look at the business model of selling media. If file sharing was dramatically reduced then I would expect this to be passed on to the end user in terms of better value for money. I think Itunes has proved there is a viable market with online paid downloads, if the industry did not have a piracy problem I wonder what sort of prices would be charged for a download? Presumably it could be much less.
Whilst it will be said (in the case of NG’s) that servers located in another country don’t fall under the remit of any ISP directed legislation in the UK, I think at the present time to the average user, the NG’s are not seen as a viable alternative, if only because it is not as simple as BT. Sure it may not wipe out piracy overnight but it will certainly make a massive dent in it.
LINKS / POINTS OF INTEREST
Goblin – firstname.lastname@example.org