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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 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?

"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton

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