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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 12/31/2011 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

"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook

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