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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 Fritzr on 12/30/2011 12:49:03 AM , Rating: 4
If you copy a few pages of a book, a clip form a film, a small excerpt or thumbnail print of a photo or artwork those can be but are not necessarily covered by the Fair Use provisions of the law

Copying the entire work without permission is explicitly defined as a crime in copyright law except for the very limited exceptions spelled out in the law

File sharing is not one of the legal exemptions.

If you buy the book and lend you copy to 20 friends you are exercising the rights granted to you when you purchased the book.

If you buy the book and scan it for your own use, then you are exercising one of the Fair Use exemptions

If you buy the book and scan it followed by giving the scanned files to 20 friends then you are legally a pirate and can be charged with distributing pirated materials.

If you buy the book and scan it, followed by selling the scanned files then you are legally a pirate. In addition you can also be charged with distribution of pirated material and sale of pirated material

If you scan a copy of a book that is public domain OR get the copyright owner's permission to share a scan of a copyrighted book THAT is legal file sharing. In court, illegal file sharing is PIRACY as defined by US State and Federal law.

At the time copyright laws were first passed it was recognized that if someone else copied a work without the creator's permission then the creator couldn't ask for a gift, payment, thank you or other compensation. (Note I said nothing about selling, gifting, blind dropping or other form of distribution or compensation to the pirate. Rather the lucky person receiving the copy is not compensating the copyright owner in whatever manner that owner prefers. Again note that compensation and payment are two different things ... look up the Careware Software Distribution model some time :) )

You are being somewhat obtuse
So to spell it out
File sharing is NOT legal AND it is NOT illegal
Sharing materials you have permission to share is legal File Sharing
Sharing materials you do NOT have permission to share is Piracy.

It is not the media, format or intent. It is the act of copying with or without permission that defines the difference between (with permission) sharing copies or (without permission) piracy.

To use the format of your final statements
That last one needs expansion
Copying a legally owned original for personal use == FAIR USE EXEMPTION
Distributing a Fair Use copy of a legally owned original == PIRACY (by legal definition, except when it is being given with the original and all copies (including the original) will continue to have a single shared owner)
Copying an ILLEGAL original == PIRACY

Now if you can point me to a documented court decision that says copying and distributing copyrighted material without permission is legal, please do so before continuing to spread FUD.

Nowhere does the legal definition of piracy say anything about LEGAL copying and sharing whether by Xerox, Limewire or any other means of making and moving copies. Actually copyright law is very clear as is the definition of pirate. If you have permission to share the files you are legal ... if you do not have permission to share the files you are a pirate ... you can also be a pirate without using File Sharing. (All that is required is copying in a manner not permitted by copyright law ... do that and you are a pirate)

The attacks on File Sharing (legal) are an attempt to try and eliminate one distribution medium.

Folks like you who insist that Pirates who use File Sharing are really good guys and shouldn't be mistaken for those evil sailors who run around say "Aaaarh me Hearties" are not doing the defense any good. In fact you are offering aid and comfort to the enemy.

RE: How you say it...
By EricMartello on 12/30/2011 6:25:32 AM , Rating: 2
Nah bro, I am not being obtuse...and FYI pulling an Obama and repeating yourself over and over again won't make it true.

You fail to understand that the law is written in a way that it can be interpreted, and that usually means the one who can hire better lawyers gets their way.

You have not been able to properly contest anything I've said, yet you make long-winded posts in an effort to...what...obfuscate your ignorance on the topic?

File sharing is not piracy.
File sharing is not illegal.

Cry all you want but it won't change those two facts. I think the people have spoken on this matter, and last time I checked, it is the people who call the shots NOT the government.

Likening file sharing to piracy is no different than likening a public library to being an institution built on plagiarism.

You've also ignored what I stated current laws being flawed due to them being passed out of corporate interests and not the interests of the people in general - hence they are irrelevant as they are born out of corruption.

We do not need copyright reform so much as we need fair use reform.

RE: How you say it...
By frozentundra123456 on 12/30/2011 10:00:39 AM , Rating: 2
Fritzer stated it well. You can "share" something, but you cannot make a copy and give it to someone else. Just like the book example. If you loan someone your book to read, that is not piracy. If you copy the book and give them that copy that is piracy.

"File sharing" as many who defend it here euphemistically call it is not really sharing. It is downloading a copy of a digital item illegally, and re-uploading it for someone else to copy. Whether one thinks that is fair or not is not really the point. It is against the law as the current laws exist.

RE: How you say it...
By Reclaimer77 on 12/30/2011 1:39:10 PM , Rating: 2
Fritzer stated it well. You can "share" something, but you cannot make a copy and give it to someone else.

Fritz is like a punch drunk prize fighter who doesn't realize the fight is already over. Eric wins by TKO, soundly. His logic is undenyable. I find Fritz's use of "well there's a law, so there, nanna nanna I'm right." to be a pathetic cop out he falls back on when he can't debate Eric's intellect.

People have been making copies and sharing things LONG before the Internet. You're essentially calling billions of people criminals for breaking laws trillions of times. When a so called "law" is seeing such widespread cultural rejection, in a country that's supposed to be made up "for the people by the people" , it's time to rethink such laws.

Eric is dead on. People like Fritz and you just accept that file sharing is "illegal" because that's what you've been told. When you actually get into the specifics and look at it logically, as Eric has, you'll see that's on very shaky ground.

RE: How you say it...
By frozentundra123456 on 12/30/2011 2:33:43 PM , Rating: 1
I will stick to my point. Just because people have been doing things for years does not mean it is not against the law. To me pirating a game or movie off the internet is basically the same as walking into a store and stealing the DVD. And the fact that you might not have bought the item is irrelevant. Would you walk up to a cashier in Best Buy and tell him "I am going to take a copy of this game without paying for it, but it is not stealing because I would not have bought it anyway, so the company did not lose any money."? Of course not.

RE: How you say it...
By Reclaimer77 on 12/30/2011 7:24:22 PM , Rating: 2
To me pirating a game or movie off the internet is basically the same as walking into a store and stealing the DVD.

You're just another misled person. If this was the case, offenders would be charged with theft. There's NEVER been a single case of file sharing being tried as theft. It's IP infringement and NOTHING like shoplifting, which is genuine theft.

Would you walk up to a cashier in Best Buy and tell him "I am going to take a copy of this game without paying for it, but it is not stealing because I would not have bought it anyway, so the company did not lose any money."? Of course not.

That's idiotic on a variety of levels. I suggest you research the difference between theft and IP infringement and get back to me. Best Buy bought a physical copy of that game from their supplier to resell at a profit. If I steal a copy, they have lost money on several levels. They also have to re-purchase a game to replace the one stolen.

Tell me it's the same thing when someone downloads a game. I would really love to hear you explain that one.

RE: How you say it...
By frozentundra123456 on 12/31/2011 12:16:44 AM , Rating: 3
Obviously it is not the same thing. I was just trying to use an extreme example. However, the end result is the same. You obtained a copy of something of value that you did not pay for. Just because nothing of physical value changes hands when you download a game, that does not mean the game has no value. The value is the time and effort put into desiginging, and programming the game. Is the DVD itself of a game that costs 60.00 worth 60.00? Of course not. The actual DVD may cost only a few cents or a dollar or two. The cost of the physical copy is mainly the cost of desigining and producing the game, not the physical cost of the media.

And you are contradicting yourself when you say stealing from a physical store deprives several people of money while "file sharing" does not. If you download a game from a pirate site instead of Steam, are you not depriving Steam of the revenue they would have received if you had downloaded it from them? And I know what your rationalization will be: I would not have bought the game anyway. But to me that is just an excuse. You are ultimately depriving the publisher and distributor of revenue and being unfair to people who paid for the game. If you follow your reasoning to the logical extreme, there would have to be only one copy of a game ever sold. Just post it on a "file sharing" site and no one else will have to pay for it. Are you saying the publishers would still not have lost money? Or are legitimate customers supposed to subsidize your "file sharing"?

RE: How you say it...
By Reclaimer77 on 12/31/2011 7:31:37 PM , Rating: 2
First of all the entertainment industry all told, is probably the largest and most profitable industry this country has. So let's dismiss the notion that it's being impacted by file sharing. It's clearly not.

Secondly bad poorly contexed examples do no credit to your argument, or the ultimate truth of the matter. The issue here is do we actually own what we purchase? According to you and the RIAA and others, no. We're simply "licensing the use of their IP." Do you know how far down the rabbit hole that goes? Book publishers are starting to view the sale of used books as wrong. I guess it's only a matter of time before that's considered "illegal" too. You'll probably support that as well.

Eric nailed it. You cannot label a download a "lost sale", only the loss of a potential customer. Which is intangible, impossibly to accurately document, and an all around logically bankrupt argument.

Again people like you need to stop using the "thief" argument. It's wrong and it's slander. The content creators themselves don't even prosecute file sharing as theft, because in their eyes you don't own what you purchase to do with as you will. You're simply paying for a license to view their Intellectual Property, under their terms. How can you support such a monstrous proposition? I wish they WOULD try to legally equate file sharing with shoplifting, in that case any lawyer worth his salt would tear that case into oblivion to never been seen again.

RE: How you say it...
By Fritzr on 1/3/2012 7:40:26 PM , Rating: 2
Did piracy ever visibly affect your sales? Of course. Whenever it is possible to get free copies of software, people do. I found very little regard for the rights of software companies or programmers among the computer using public. I knew people who were leaders in their community, deans in the church and the like, and who were among the most honest upright citizens you could find anywhere. Yet they had no compunctions about making illegal copies of software. It is extremely rare to find someone who won't copy software if they can. Remember when shareware was really that? You could keep and use the program and were asked to pay for it if you like it, all on the honor system? I have spoken with a number of shareware authors who tried this and never got a dime from the thousands of downloads of their program. In fact, I tried this with Problematic. Thousands of downloads, not a dime of revenue. People won't pay if they don't have to. Almost no exceptions. Some Commodore journalist once told me that French Silk (the assembler) had a huge cult following on the East Coast. I was very surprised to hear that because by that time I had sold very few. Did you make transitions into computer markets other than the 8-bit Commodore line? ( Apple? Amiga? ) No. As I said above, I got tired of the rat race and all the rats I had to deal with and just jumped ship in 1986.

Not only are downloads (and other methods of copying) lost sales, they can also be lost artists who will will stop providing the pirates with new material.

Your ability to copy a work does not grant you ownership. Unless the owner grants you permission, you don't have permission to own a copy.

In the case of the disk at Best Buy. Go to the store display with your pocket CD ripper (yes they do exist) and play the CD through one time. Now put the disk back on the shelf undamaged. You have stolen nothing and since you didn't want the disk anyway you would not have purchased it even without being able to use your handy in store ripper... right?

Sorry, but I don't think the judge will accept your fine argument in favor of what has been illegal in the US for more than 200 years.

RE: How you say it...
By foolsgambit11 on 12/31/2011 7:43:06 PM , Rating: 2
Ignore the argument of being deprived of money - these people won't ever buy it.

If you take an unauthorized copy of a work of art, you are depriving the copyright owner of their rights, though. They have the legal right to control the distribution of their intellectual property. Lost money or not, you are at least infringing on their rights. Now, you may not like that they have the right to control the distribution of the movie they paid $10 million to make, but you'll have to either live with it or live with the possible consequences of breaking the law (unlikely though prosecution may be).

RE: How you say it...
By Reclaimer77 on 1/1/2012 1:24:22 AM , Rating: 1
How is it that their "rights" supersede those of the consumer who legally purchased something with their own money? If they want utter control of the "intellectual property" than they shouldn't be selling physical copies of things.

If Toyota said that it was against their intellectual property to let a friend drive your car, because by allowing someone to use your car you were depriving them of a sale, would you think that was a reasonable term of agreement on purchase? You bought a physical object with your own money, they have NO say in how you use it.

The entertainment moguls and content owners have poisoned your mind and a great number of other peoples. This "intellectual property" is a bunch of horseshit that is steamrolling the rights of the people.

RE: How you say it...
By Fritzr on 1/3/2012 7:48:10 PM , Rating: 2
It's called the law of the land.

For a fuller explanation of why your purchase of a DVD at Best Buy or a CD at Safeway or a cassette from an itinerant musician does not grant your the right to freely distribute copies of your recording see these links.
(Particularly the links under the heading Law and Policy)

Of course if you are not a law abiding citizen who wishes to enjoy the comfort of having neighbors and enemies constrained by the laws of the land, feel free to ignore this source :P

RE: How you say it...
By foolsgambit11 on 12/31/2011 7:36:54 PM , Rating: 2
Come on people! Stop talking past each other!

'File sharing' - as commonly understood (meaning making and distributing a copy of a copyrighted work without permission) is currently illegal, and has been for some time. Eric believes it shouldn't be illegal, based on the fact that people have been ignoring the law for years and the fact that the people he associates with find the law onerous and unreasonable. Eric's beliefs don't change Fritz's facts, nor do Fritz's facts change Eric's beliefs.

Eric's argument, however, is fairly short on logic - it's more pathetic, in the sense of pathos versus logos.

You're essentially calling billions of people criminals for breaking laws trillions of times.
So would you advocate the removal of all traffic laws because people routinely speed, or don't come to a full stop at stop signs? An ineffective law may be better than no law - you must show that, in addition to being ignored by a large class of people, the law is actually detrimental in some way. Please do so.

RE: How you say it...
By Reclaimer77 on 1/1/2012 1:32:36 AM , Rating: 2
'File sharing' - as commonly understood (meaning making and distributing a copy of a copyrighted work without permission) is currently illegal

Why do we need "permission" to use something we freaking BOUGHT with our money? If file sharers made a profit, I would agree with you. But we don't need permission to share things we legally purchased. Do you also think used books are illegal? Why not? After all by reselling your books you are depriving the publisher of sales because people would otherwise have to buy a new copy of the book. Correct? By your logic this is WORST than file sharing because the reseller of the book is actually making a profit off someone else's IP. Tell me I'm wrong here. What's the difference?

So would you advocate the removal of all traffic laws because people routinely speed, or don't come to a full stop at stop signs?

Oh yay, another terrible file sharing analogy. How in the hell is adjusting IP law to reflect technological and societal changes akin to removing ALL traffic laws? Get out of here with that crap. Next you'll be throwing a murder analogy or rape one at me.

You're essentially calling billions of people criminals for doing something that, if the entertainment industry didn't spend billions in lobbying bribes, wouldn't even be viewed as petty theft.

RE: How you say it...
By frozentundra123456 on 1/1/2012 11:51:47 AM , Rating: 2
I give up on trying to convince "file sharers" that they are depriving publishers of sales, even though if you carry the argument to the extreme that only one person bought the item and everyone else "shared" it, the entertainment industry would obviously grid to a halt. Some people only see what they want to see, not matter what arguments are made to the contrary.

I will address the argument that you can do whatever you want because you have purchased the item. There is such a thing as the EULA, which prevents duplication and distribution of the item. You may feel that this is unreasonable, but it is tacitly agreed to when you purchase the item. Just because you buy something, it does not give you unlimited rights to do whatever you want with it. If you purchase a copyrighted item, you are bound by the EULA and existing copyright laws whether you think they are fair or not.

RE: How you say it...
By Reclaimer77 on 1/1/2012 12:42:55 PM , Rating: 2
I give up on trying to convince "file sharers" that they are depriving publishers of sales, even though if you carry the argument to the extreme that only one person bought the item and everyone else "shared" it, the entertainment industry would obviously grid to a halt.

Making extreme stupid arguments that could NEVER happen might be a reason you're failing to "convince" others. Also pushing the weak position that "something is a law, so it's carved in stone for all time and you're a meanie bad person if you don't agree" doesn't work on people over 12 years old. Just a tip.

There is such a thing as the EULA

EULA's have a history of not holding up well in courts. They are NOT legally binding in all cases, fyi. Simply put, an EULA is not a legal authority. I've seen EULA's that claim if you buy the product you cannot sue the company. That's patently bullcrap and unconstitutional, and doesn't stand in court. By law you cannot make someone agree to give away a Constitutional right simply by buying something.

The terms "Licensing agreement" are in the EULA. However, again, I soundly reject the notion that we're paying money simply for the "licensed right" to enjoy something. You're trying to convince me that when I purchase something, I don't have ownership of it. How you and millions of others have traded in your integrity and morals for a corporate boondoggle of legalese and profiteering is beyond me. When those "laws" you so revere are literally bought and paid for and practically written by the same people who have the most to gain, I call that corruption.

RE: How you say it...
By frozentundra123456 on 1/2/2012 12:32:46 AM , Rating: 2
So if I buy something legally and feel it is wrong to pirate something, I have lost my integrity? Wow, how do you refute logic like that.

RE: How you say it...
By Reclaimer77 on 1/2/12, Rating: 0
RE: How you say it...
By Fritzr on 1/3/2012 7:59:20 PM , Rating: 2

Feel free to return when you have something that can be used to show that copyright ownership is illegal.

Until the copyright laws are struck down, illegal filesharing will remain illegal.

The courts have spoken repeatedly over several centuries. Some of the Fair Use exemptions are the result of court orders.

At the end of the day, the only right that is granted by outright purchase of a copyrighted work is personal use. No distribution rights (which are required for file sharing) are granted by sale of a single copy for personal use. Other licenses can be negotiated. Libraries for example use a modified license. Book publishers have a license permitting them to print, distribute and sell.

If you really want to share files. Contact the copyright owner and get permission or contact your Congress Critters and change the law. Until then you can go on hoping that you won't be spending the thousands of dollars you have saved to pay the lawyer to try and convince the judge that you shouldn't be penalized for something as ordinary as breaking the law...after all everyone does it, so it is legal by consensus--right?

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

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