Dec. 6, 2067
JAKARTA–Local officials today confirmed that celebrity guru Anna Kournikova died on Wednesday from injuries sustained when a satellite designed to protect intellectual property rights attempted to ‘delete’ her. “Ms. Kournikova was apparently struck by a powerful, focused beam of microwaves, and died almost instantly,” noted Detective J. Sini of the Jakarta Police. “Our current understanding is that this beam issued from one of the MEMEye satellites and that it was an unfortunate accident. We offer our sympathy to her families and followers.”
The MEMEye system, activated only last year by international media industry group MPRIAA, is a network of Low Earth Orbit satellites designed to “police traffic in non-digital goods which infringe the memerights of our member artists, producers, and rights owners.” The individual satellites, in conjunction with MPRIAA computers, monitor all public activity within their field of view, searching for ‘knock-off’ products. When the system locates a potentially infringing object, it attempts to query a special chip embedded in protected products. If it receives an inadequate response, the satellite uses a “surgically focused beam” to “delete” the infringing object.
MPRIAA spokesman Ray Insult explains: “Knock-off and pirated products cost designers and artists billions in lost revenues each year. MEMEye protects artists from having their work stolen. Sure, I could still buy a knock-off Mickey, but, as soon as I take it out in public, thhhhht, it’s gone. That re-balances the market, giving legitimately licensed products a clear value edge over knock-offs.”
Kournikova, a member of MPRIAA, had registered to use the system to protect rights in her likeness, including its use in action figures, stuffed dolls, and animatronic facsimiles. “We’ve had quite a problem with people selling dolls and figurines that look like Anna without paying the licensing fee,” notes Kournikova’s agent Mercedes Tick. “[MPRIAA] assured us MEMEye was safe.”
“In the case of the protection of likeness rights, we take special measures to ensure the safety of our members, but we rely on their cooperation,” explains MPRIAA Head of Engineering Eric Themo. “Each member with likeness protection is injected with a subcutaneous chip that informs MEMEye that they are not an infringing likeness. The chip, in effect, gives them a license to use their own likeness, but, when we configure the chip, we depend on the member to give us information about what sort of license they need. I suspect that Ms. Kournikova’s license was not configured to permit her use of her likeness in the Asia/Pacific Zone. It would have been a simple matter for us to reconfigure her license for that Zone, if she’d only told us of her travel plans.”
Critics of MPRIAA and MEMEye have been quick to point to Kournikova’s death as a symptom of the excessive protections rights-holders enjoy under current laws. “Memeright law is so restrictive now that it permits rights-holders, with the help of a private industry group, to punish themselves for violating their own rights,” opines Open Meme Initiative founder Phil Pour. “If that doesn’t tell you how much lockjaw the law has imposed on the public domain, I don’t know what would.”
“We are aware of the criticisms,” responds MPRIAA’s Insult, “and in designing MEMEye we made a conscious choice to continue to permit use of infringing goods in exclusively private spaces. If a kid draws a picture of Mickey at home, and the folks put it up on the fridge, MEMEye won’t do anything about that. It doesn’t look into your home. It doesn’t look through the roofs of buildings. By limiting MEMEye in this way, we protect the legitimate private-use rights of meme users everywhere.”