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Do as we say, not as we do...

The U.S. House is currently debating the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261), better known as SOPA.  As mentioned in our previous analysis, SOPA has the potential to create devastating harm to internet businesses, as it allows sites to be taken down if any user posts links to infringing content.  

For example, if a site's user policy explicitly forbid posting links to copyrighted material and one rogue user posted such content, the entire business could be effectively killed for however many weeks or days it took to remove the offending links and pass a complaint through the gears of bureaucracy.  The solution appears to be sort of like chopping your leg off to fight an ingrown toenail.

I. All Onboard the Congressional Pirates Train

Now a particularly ironic fact has come to light -- it appears that IP addresses belonging to the offices of members of Congress have been downloading content illegally via BitTorrent.

TorrentFreak used Hurricane Electric's handy list of assigned IP blocks (found here) to track down which IP addresses belong to the offices of members of Congress.  And lo and behold, when those addresses were compared to results on YouHaveDownloaded, a torrent tracking site, they yielded over 800 hits.

Now to put this in context YouHaveDownloaded tracks only a tiny portion of torrent traffic, so it appears that Congress -- even as they look to punish lesser mortals for file sharing -- are themselves gleefully committing a "smash and grab" as Vice President Joe Biden (D) once put it.

Much of the pirated materials appeared to be adult self-help or education books such as "Crucial Conversations- Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High" and "How to Answer Hard Interview Questions And Everything Else You Need to Know to Get the Job You Want".
Pirates life
Argh, Congress knows how to pirate, apparently! [Image Source: Reuters]

A fair amount of useful software -- like Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows 7 Ultimate Edition -- was also pirated.

But other pirated works appeared to be purely stolen for pleasure.  For example one individual within the halls of Congress downloaded a season of Sons of Anarchy, a TV show on News Corp.'s (NWS) FX channel.  Another download appeared to be more "adult" in nature -- "Gangland Cream Pie 21" (we're guessing that's not an educational baking special).

Cream Pie
Some Members of Congress or staffers appear to like the cream pie.  No, not this kind of cream pie. [Image Source: Food Network]

II. Editorial/Analysis: Should we be Surprised that Politicians are Hypocrites?

Is it surprising that the office of Congress are pirating even as they plot to chop the legs off of online business, further crippling the struggling U.S. economy, and raise taxes to further punitive punishments for filesharing that are already grossly disproportionate with offline offenses? Is it surprising that federal politicians or bureaucrats are pirating even as they plan to imprison Americans for streaming sports events, injecting even more Americans into the crowded penal system at a time when America imprisons more of its citizens than any nation in the world?

If Americans wants unbiased political representation -- human beings who truly wish the best for their well being -- why would they allow special interests to pay federal politicians' way into office?  Clearly you're the boss of who pays you, and when it comes to politicians, their boss isn't the American people.

Shepard Fairey says obey
Why question are glorious industry installed leaders? [Image Source: Shepard Fairey]

TorrentFreak should be congratulated though, for their excellent armchair gumshoe work.  They've previously exposed busted torrent traffic coming from IPs at the Department of Homeland Security and the RIAAat Hollywood studios; and at the French President's Palace.  (Has nobody ever heard of Tor?)

Is intellectual property protection important?  Of course.  These government pirates are just as much in the wrong as the members of the public, as they're ultimately stealing work, denying hard working software engineers, actors, musicians, etc. funds.

But at the end of the day that SOPA and its propents aren't engaging in some lofty moral stand, they're just looking to smack down the little guy with punitive punishments, even as the nation's economy lurches and as they or their aids merrily pirate away.

Source: TorrentFreak

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RE: How you say it...
By frozentundra123456 on 12/29/2011 7:14:05 PM , Rating: 3
no, the first person is the one who makes it possible for the others to download it without paying for it. The distributor is deprived of revenue at every step.

To spell it out: "A" obtains a digital item and posts it on a torrent. "B" obtains the item from the torrent. "B"
did not pay the distributor for the item he obtained. Therefore "B" deprived the distributor of the money he would have recieved if "B" had purchsed the item.

RE: How you say it...
By Fritzr on 12/29/2011 9:40:06 PM , Rating: 3
A is the pirate
PIRACY, torts. By piracy is understood the plagiarisms of a book, engraving or other work, for which a copyright has been taken out. 2. When a piracy has been made of such a work, an injunction will be granted. 5 Ves. 709; 4 Ves. 681; 12 Ves. 270. Vide copyright. PIRATE. A sea robber, who, to enrich himself by subtlety or open force, setteth upon merchants and others trading by sea, despoiling them of their loading, and sometimes bereaving them of life and, sinking their ships; Ridley's View of the Civ. and Ecc. Law, part 2, c. 1, s. 8; or more generally one guilty of the crime of piracy. Merl. Repert. h. t. See, for the etymology of this word, Bac. Ab. Piracy

A makes the copy and offers it as a torrent. B plagiarises the torrent and keeps the resulting copy.

Both are pirates by definition

RE: How you say it...
By foolsgambit11 on 12/31/2011 7:14:27 PM , Rating: 2
Under that definition neither A or B is a pirate - plagiarism requires the plagiarizer to attempt to pass the work off as their own. Since both A and B acknowledge that the work was created by Warner Bros. (or whoever), they wouldn't meet that definition -- unless plagiarism had a different definition a hundred and fifty years ago.

I'm not denying that piracy is the term commonly used for all copyright infringement, nor am I advocating for the OP's position that the receiver of copyrighted work isn't pirating. Just pointing out that your legal definition doesn't match the modern usage. I'm assuming that printing unauthorized copies of a work fell under a different law.

RE: How you say it...
By Fritzr on 1/3/2012 6:47:47 PM , Rating: 2
Check a legal dictionary. You will find that plagiarise is the legal term for copy. That is the action of duplicating something.

The various laws, regulations and rules against using another's work without attribution will have additional restrictions, extensions and definitions for the rule explaining why certain forms of plagiarism are not covered and other things that are not covered by the legal definition are included in the "anti-/pro- plagiarism" law/regulation/rule/standard.

Making an unauthorized copy by any means is piracy by definition. Certain forms of piracy are legal by statute or court decision. Mostly these are the Fair Use exceptions.

P2P file sharing does NOT delete the original when a copy is made. Until that original is transferred to the new owner or deleted, then, unless the owner of the original had permission to allow copying, the downloader was committing an act of piracy.

Legally the uploader is considered a pirate for putting the original on the scanner, turning it on and then inviting the world to come, punch the Start button, and take home their own personal copy.

P2P file sharing is not necessarily piracy. The act of copying copyrighted material without permission by any means (cassette duplicator, VHS duplicator, Xerox copier, Limewire, Napster, microTorrent, BitTorrent, Kodak Instamatic) is piracy. The tools used have legitimate legal uses. These legal uses however do not modify the definition of piracy.

If you really want P2P in general to avoid following Napster into the dustbin of history, you should be defending the legal usage of the method. This tactic is why VHS is still legal after the dust has settled. VCRs are capable of and are used for video piracy. The campaign to promote the right to use one in a legal manner won the piracy battles in the 1970s ...

The Digital Compact Cassette which allowed CD quality recordings and lossless copying briefly scared the recording industry in the mid 90s. Lawsuits were started to ban this technology on piracy grounds, but credit is given to lack of sales for the failure of this format.

CDs were another round. CD-R disks were fought by the recording industry. It was the computer industry and computer users demanding backup media that saved the CD-R from following the digital cassette. The recording indutstry did get some small concessions, such as the royalties collected by several governments for the material the media could be used to store--if the buyer chose to use it that way rather than for personal records, backups and other usages that no royalty payments would be owed to the music industry for...still they are collected because you MIGHT copy that floppy.

Don't defend piracy. Do that and the louder you shout, the stronger your opponent's arguments become. Do defend the right to store files in a distributed manner that guards against loss in the same manner that RAID does. Stress the benefit to legal users and the damage to legal users if the method is banned.

RE: How you say it...
By Taft12 on 12/30/2011 9:35:29 AM , Rating: 2
The distributor is deprived of revenue at every step.

Of course they are not and you know this is true.

It's been well-documented that almost no illegal copies would be paid for by the downloaders if free versions were not available.

There is no revenue deprivation (media conglomerates sure like quoting losses as if they are though!)

RE: How you say it...
By Motoman on 12/30/2011 12:19:56 PM , Rating: 2
As always this argument is a catastrophic failure.

Essentially NONE of the copies of anything that are pirated would have been paid for if not available in an illicit form.

There is close to $0 actual impact on content producers from this "piracy."

Take Photoshop for example. How many college kids that have downloaded a pirated copy of PS would have shelled out the money to buy it otherwise? Essentially none. They'd do without, or use something else that was free or cheap to begin with.

Any and all claims of $X "lost" to piracy are categorically utter BS.

RE: How you say it...
By Reclaimer77 on 12/30/2011 1:14:28 PM , Rating: 2
It might sound trite or like a bad excuse, but you're pretty much dead on.

I probably have about a thousand pirated DVD's. According to the studios and their lawyers, I owe them for damages from those "stolen" DVD's. But I can tell you there is no way in HELL I would have purchased a thousand DVD's if they weren't otherwise available for download. No way.

"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton

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