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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, 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.
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

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

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.]

Comments     Threshold

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

RE: End it
By Solandri on 1/16/2012 2:32:11 PM , Rating: 2
You could also try to figure out a way to make the tax-phobic American populace support publicly funded politics.

That's pretty much the conclusion I've reached. No campaign donations or contributions allowed at all. Instead you donate to a federal election pool (or more likely some of your taxes go to the pool), which distributes money to candidates based on things like number of signatures collected, and voter support in primaries.
It's (usually) great for the economy to be run by the free market and dominated by corporations and the wealthy, but it's blatantly obvious how bad it is for democracy.

It goes a bit deeper than that. A good economy is also good for democracy, but when the economy becomes too good the people become complacent and democracy starts to break down. That's the reason voter participation in newly-freed countries like Iraq and Libya is usually in the 80%-90% range, while established democracies languish around 50%.

Statistically, the lower percentage wouldn't affect election outcomes if it were random. But it's not random. I'm pretty convinced that the "swings in voter sentiment" between 2006, 2008, and 2010 weren't really changes in what individual voters thought. It was more a reflection of which voters were more likely to go out and vote that particular year. In 2008, the economic downturn caused those on the left blaming the finance and real estate industries to turn out en masse to vote. In 2010, anger over things like health care reform caused libertarians and those on the right to turn out en masse to vote. So any time participation approaches 50%, you're in a position where a well-motivated group can heavily influence the election outcome.

The natural protection against this is to keep voter participation up near 80%. But I'm not sure how to do that. Paradoxically, the people may need to be in a constant state of suffering and discontent for democracy to function effectively. Complacency is the true enemy of democracy.

The reason we put up with it, though, is that most Americans don't want to directly pay for it with their taxes, so we're left to rely on those that do want to, and more often than not those entities do so with the expectation of return on their "donation".

That's why I suggested eliminating corporate taxes while simultaneously banning corporations from participating in politics in any way. If you can't vote, you shouldn't be meddling in politics. And whether taxes are paid by corporations or individuals is immaterial. In the end it's all paid for by individuals - corporate taxes just get passed on to them as higher prices in the products they buy.

RE: End it
By Mint on 1/18/2012 9:49:28 PM , Rating: 2
I was basically talking about a difference in the mechanics of the economy vs. politics. With the economy, the influence of large corporations is a natural byproduct of them being the cheapest way to produce many products/services. There is debate between liberals and conservatives over whether we should try to tweak whom exactly the economy produces for and how it does it, but even the most die-hard liberal accepts that you cannot possibly have a functioning economy where everyone has equal purchasing power. You necessarily need some people with orders of magnitude more economic power than others to maximize an economy's ability to serve society.

The central tenet of democracy, however, is giving every individual an equal voice. That is in direct conflict of free market mechanics, where an entity's inclination to influence politics (whether through advertising or direct/indirect bribery) through "donations" is related to the expected ROI. The whole point of political donations is to try and upset that tenet by buying votes.

RE: End it
By Mint on 1/18/2012 10:41:02 PM , Rating: 2
Regarding corporate taxes vs. income taxes, you're right about the equivalence when you just look at the sum/average, but it does cause shifts at a finer level. If you made a revenue neutral shift of corporate taxes to income taxes, then you'd be rewarding companies that have lower than average percent of revenues going towards labor cost, and punishing those that are spending less on labor. That's basically a disincentive to create jobs.

People who want to reduce corporate taxes fail to realize that they are a punishment for companies that don't reinvest profits. Suppose you run a profitable company, and you think that hiring $500k/yr of workers for 10 years will grow your company's value by $4M (assume 0% interest/inflation for simplicity - obviously I could make my case for any rate). If your company pays 40% income tax, that worker will reduce its taxes by $200k/yr, so this hiring will get you $1M in the end. If your company pays 0% income tax, then the hiring will lose $1M, as it's better off just saving that $500k/yr. Corporate taxes encourage business growth, at least when you ignore irrational decisions based on spiting the gov't.

The whole "Joe the plumber" line of reasoning is BS. Corporate tax cuts don't create jobs, because wages reduce a company's taxable income; rather, product demand creates jobs.

"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard

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