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Big media continues to push Congress to repay their millions in bribes with punitive legislation

While U.S. President Barack Obama and his advisors haven't always seen eye to eye with digital freedom advocates, they have joined forces with the advocacies on one critical issue. They are at last speaking out against the proposed Orwellian "Stop Online Piracy Act" (SOPA) (H.R. 3261) and its Senate counterpart the "PROTECT IP Act" (PIPA) (S.968).

I. White House Blasts Big Media's Anti-Internet Bill

The bills have many controversial provisions.  Some of the provisions are controversial due to the outrageous approach they take with online businesses.  For example, in a provision likened to an internet death penalty by DailyTech and other sites -- the bills would look to create a takedown system where any site found to be hosting user generated content pointing to infringing content (say a URL to a torrent) could be immediately taken down.  

This would be a crippling blow to Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN), Google Inc. (GOOG), online news, and any other site that allows user-generated content, as a malicious user (e.g. a prankster or competitor) could intentionally plant an offending URL and then contact the regulators to take down the site for weeks at a time.  The measure would essentially end all American online commerce, online searching, and online news if enforced.

Other measures of the bill are criticized for their heavy-handed approach.  The bill would look to put members of the American proletariat in prison for rebroadcasting (the language is ambiguous about the criminality of watching) via streaming copyrighted content.  An example of this would be if a sporting event was blacked out locally (this often occurs in professional sports like the NFL if tickets go unsold) and a friend from out-of-town broadcasts the game to you by streaming their view of the game (not blacked out, as it's not the local market).  

Even though your friend is giving you access to content you have no easy way of legally accessing, your friend who sent you the stream is now going to prison if they get caught.  America already imprisons more of its proletariat than any other nation -- including North Korea and Iran -- and spends an estimated $80B USD annually to keep up this record imprisonment.  Thus such measures are at least somewhat controversial.
 
Prisoners
The U.S. already spends $80B USD in federal debt to imprison more of its citizens than any other nation in the world.  Now it's looking to add more proles to the galleys.
[Source: David Sanders for The New York Times]

In a post on White House blog White House cyber-security czar Howard Schmidt and two other key officials echoed criticisms of firms like Google and Amazon, in questioning wasn't cyber equivalent of amputating a limb to combat an ingrown nail.

Writes Mr. Schmidt, "Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small."

Obama, tired
President Obama's advisors' decisions to publicly speak out against SOPA/PIPA have raised hopes that the President might veto the bill, preventing catastrophic damage to America's high-tech economy. [Image Source: Associated Press]

Despite nearly unanimous opposition from America's top online innovators -- Google, Amazon, Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO), Facebook, Twitter and eBay Inc. (EBAY) -- Congress people have vowed to ignore their economic leaders and public outcry and forge ahead with the Orwellian measures.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R- Tex.) who co-wrote SOPA, states, "It is not censorship to enforce the law against foreign thieves."

He claims that 19 million jobs and 60 percent of American exports are at stake in the war to protect intellectual property.

II. SOPA Author Caught Infringing, Feels Above the Law he Pushes on the Proles

Rep. Smith's comment seems slightly misleading, given that the bill contains many provisions that are equally punitive to American businesses and individuals as they are to foreign ones.  And there's a strong irony in his hardline towards copyright infringement as the office of Rep. Smith was itself recently caught by the blog Vice stealing content.

Lamar Smith
Rep. Lamar Smith feels he's above the laws he's looking to subject his lowly proles to.
[Image Source: Lamar Smith]

While Rep. Smith's office has tried to keep this offense quiet, by offering a newer, cleaner version of the Representative's webpage, Vice was able to locate older version using web tools like the WayBack Engine.  

Lamar Smith website
Rep. Smith infringes a hard working artist's work to promote his election campaign.
[Image Source: Lamar Smith]

It was found that the office of Rep. Smith had illegally used a photograph from artist DJ Schulte as a background, without proper citation (and hence without permission).

DJ Schulte photo
DJ Schulte is an artist who deserves credit for his work, but the office of SOPA author Rep. Lamar Smith stole the work without attribution. [Image Source: DJ Schulte]

States Mr. Schulte to Vice:

I switched my images from traditional copyright protection to be protected under the Creative Commons license a few years ago, which simply states that they can use my images as long as they attribute the image to me and do not use it for commercial purposes."

I do not see anywhere on the screen capture that you have provided that the image was attributed to the source (me). So my conclusion would be that Lamar Smith's organization did improperly use my image. So according to the SOPA bill, should it pass, maybe I could petition the court to take action against www.texansforlamarsmith.com.

(To be clear Vice and DailyTech can legally repost the image, as we are not reselling it and are properly citing the artist, unlike Rep. Smith.)

The offensive infringement isn't exactly surprising.  Recent surveys of active torrents have revealed the offices of members of Congress downloading infringed content, including pornographic films.

Furthermore, SOPA/PIPA's big media backers aren't exactly foreign to the realm of hypocrisy themselves.  Major record labels yearly claim access to scores of "unclaimed" independent works in the U.S. and abroad, thanks to favorable laws.  Independent artists often find their work stolen by the major labels and are forced to navigate a maze of roadblocks designed to stymie them from recouping the profits the major labels are stealing through wanton infringement.  It is estimated that such theft on behalf of major media labels accounts for tens, if not hundreds of millions in lost revenue annually for independent artists.

III. Big Media Looks to Collect on Their Congressional Bribes 

The U.S. Recording Industry Association of America, a notorious copyright abuser known for suing dead people and other extreme measures, blasted the White House's opposition to the bills, stating, "[It is illegal for websites] to direct law-abiding consumers to unlawful and dangerous sites.  Hyperbole, hysteria and hypotheticals cannot change the fact that stealing is wrong, costing jobs and must be contained."

Similarly the Motion Picture Association of America, another famous enforcement firm, states, "Protecting American jobs is important too, particularly in these difficult economic times for our nation."

These statements are parroted near verbatim by the U.S. Senate Chamber of Commerce, who comments, "Given the broad consensus that this issue needs to be addressed, it is time to come together and adopt strong legislation that ends the ability of foreign criminals to prey on innocent consumers and steal American jobs."

This Congressional echo of America's most notorious and abusive media copyright watchdogs is not terribly surprising.  After all, media lobbyists paid approximately 10 percent of active U.S. Senators' total combined election costs, and donated generously to members of the U.S. House of Representatives, as well.

At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, Consumer Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro, an active technology advisor to federal policy makers, attacked these bribes, stating, "[SOPA is championed by] politicians who are proudly unfamiliar with how the internet works, but who are well familiar with favors from well-heeled copyright extremists."

It remains to be seen, amidst this sweeping bribery of public officials, if the Obama administration would truly be willing to veto a bill like SOPA/PIPA.  The administration faces the challenge of trying to push back against an issue that enjoys broad bipartisan support on account of the sweeping bribery.  But the administration must weigh the value of its big media benefactors against the value of its legacy -- after all, it could go down in history as the administration that killed the internet economy if PIPA/SOPA passes on its watch.

Most policy makers and critics of SOPA/PIPA agree -- infringement is wrong and needs to be stopped.  But as the Obama administration and countless others are stated -- there are less self-destructive, reasonable approaches to fighting piracy.  Such positive solutions stands in sharp contrast to the harsh totalitarian policies pushed by big media onto their paid employees, members of Congress.

IV. Who is Fighting For SOPA/PIPA

The U.S. Senators sponsored the PIPA bill:
Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
John Cornyn (R-Texas)
Chris Coons (D-Dela.).

The following U.S. Representatives sponsored the SOPA bill:
Lamar Smith (R-TX) [house.gov] *
John Conyers (D-MI) [house.gov]
Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) [house.gov]
Howard L. Berman (D-CA) [house.gov]
Tim Griffin (R-AR) [house.gov]
Elton Gallegly (R-CA) [house.gov]
Theodore E. Deutch (D-FL) [house.gov]
Steve Chabot (R-OH) [house.gov]
Dennis Ross (R-FL) [house.gov] *
Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) [house.gov]
Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) [house.gov]
Lee Terry (R-NE) [house.gov]
Adam B. Schiff (D-CA) [house.gov]
Mel Watt (D-NC) [house.gov]
John Carter (R-TX) [house.gov] *
Karen Bass (D-CA) [house.gov]
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) [house.gov]
Peter King (R-NY) [house.gov]
Mark E. Amodei (R-NV) [house.gov]
Tom Marino (R-PA) [house.gov]
Alan Nunnelee (R-MS) [house.gov]
John Barrow (D-GA) [house.gov]
Steve Scalise (R-LA) [house.gov] *
Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) [house.gov]
William L. Owens (D-NY) [house.gov]

If you have thoughts on this issue, please email your local representatives and let them know how you feel, and consider your incumbent Senator/Representative's actions come election time.

Source: We The People [Obama admin.]



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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

End it
By Motoman on 1/16/2012 10:10:11 AM , Rating: 2
Another shining example of why lobbying should be illegal. There is no excuse for allowing any compensation of any kind...monetary, gifts, jobs, etc. - to be given from anybody to an elected official.

There is no way that lobbying serves the interest of the public as a whole...it serves only the interests of the people paying for the lobbying - or else they wouldn't do it.

The solution is simple and obvious: make all lobbying illegal. Then maybe our elected officials would even listen to normal individuals who don't have money to buy lobbyists...since everyone would be on equal footing at that point. We'll get around to outlawing political parties and disbanding the RIAA/MPAA later...




RE: End it
By The Raven on 1/16/2012 11:41:21 AM , Rating: 2
How is it possible to make lobbying illegal?

Effective reform would be to take the power that attracts the lobbyists away from the politicians (especially the federal ones) and problem solved.


RE: End it
By BaDaBooM on 1/16/2012 1:00:43 PM , Rating: 2
Just from a problem solving perspective, I am thinking all the elected officials need a huge raise in salary. Then make it illegal with severe punishment for both the giver and receiver to compensate an elected official or someone running for an election (require public access to all deposits for all elected official financial accounts). Think about it, elected officials today don't work for us. They get their compensation mainly from these types of deals. If it is the public in general that is solely compensatiting them, then they really need to truly worry about benefiting their voters. I would gladly pay more in taxes to support the election process and hopefully ensure higher quality people because in the long run our taxes would go down when all special projects and bribery legislation go away. Also need to take away the ability for them to vote on their own compensation - that would mean it is review time at election time.

Now this is clearly not without its problems. A whole system would have to be set up to support the election process and to determine who should get funds for running (based on top x candidates?). There is a lot of loopholes that would need closed as well, I'm sure. It is also likely this will never happen unless a constitutional ammendment is pushed by the people...

Anyway, it is just an idea I thought I'd throw out there. :)


RE: End it
By The Raven on 1/16/2012 6:33:23 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I am thinking all the elected officials need a huge raise in salary.
Are you serious? You know that is exactly what lobbyists do right? Give them a bunch of money.

No we should just look for people who are not motivated by money/power to represent us.

It is called public service for a reason.

How do we get people who don't want money or power? Don't offer the money and power!


RE: End it
By fcx56 on 1/17/2012 5:51:59 AM , Rating: 2
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Thanks for that one, Raven. The only people that wouldn't be in it for the money would probably be judged as unfit by greater society, considering in America we're trained from youth to want and acquire more and more. They wouldn't be idolised by the greedy public and would be immediately ostracised!


RE: End it
By The Raven on 1/17/2012 11:43:40 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA Thanks for that one, Raven. Ron Paul HAS been judged as unfit by greater society, considering in America we're trained from youth to want and acquire more and more. They wouldn't be idolised by the greedy public and would be immediately ostracised!


Fixed it for you...:-(


RE: End it
By BaDaBooM on 1/18/2012 11:07:29 AM , Rating: 2
Good luck finding qualified, intelligent people to do that for little pay. It really is a crappy job. They are under a microscope much of the time and are constantly criticized (rightly so). However it is also a really important job. You may be able to find some gems here and there that are willing to take that abuse for little pay but I much rather get some of our best people in there.


RE: End it
By Solandri on 1/16/2012 5:15:05 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
How is it possible to make lobbying illegal?

I don't think it needs to be made illegal. Just make it a requirement that every meeting between an elected official and anyone who could potentially lobby for a cause is videotaped and made publicly available.

Lobbying really isn't a problem if it's truly in the public interest. An oil industry lobbyist can make a perfectly valid argument that economic activity is inversely related to the price of energy. So a good way to bring us out of recession is to lower the price of energy through subsidies, incentives, increased exploration. They'd have no problem with that being on the public record.

It's the backroom deals like SOPA that would be ostracized due to the public backlash following broadcast of the video.


RE: End it
By wempa on 1/17/2012 12:12:52 PM , Rating: 2
Right, but money should be no part of the process. The corporations and other stakeholders should be able to make their cases on the issues, but that's it.


RE: End it
By YashBudini on 1/19/2012 3:22:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
How is it possible to make lobbying illegal?


I'd like to start with keeping felons out of public office. Private companies do it all the time, why can't they?


"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov














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