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Massive internet strike planned for Wednesday

"It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs."

-- Victor, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Like many a literary or 50s horror flick monster, the controversial piece of legislation known best by its acronym shortening -- "SOPA" -- lurched back to life, a cruel antedeluvian nightmare returned to deaden the short lived joy of its reported passing.

I. Back From Hell

Undeterred by opposition from respected House Oversight Chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and the implied threat of veto from President Barack Obama, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) has revived the Orwellian "Stop Online Piracy Act" (SOPA) (H.R. 3261) and vows to pass a revised version "markup" version, even as its Senate counterpart the "PROTECT IP Act" (PIPA) (S.968) merrily chugs along, assisted by a king's ransom in bribes to U.S. Senators -- lobbyist donations estimated to total of 10 percent of the election costs of all current Senators combined.

Lamar Smith Vader
Watch out for the force choke. [Image Source: WebPro News]

The pork train will chug into Washington D.C., just in time to ruin Superbowl weekend with a storm of controversy.  That week, after the parties return from their spring retreat -- doubtless comparing notes on how many PAC payouts they received from their Motion Picture Association of America and  Recording Industry Association of America -- talk will turn to whether they can use some minor modifications to grease SOPA into the American annals.

It would take a fountain of red ink to markup and remove all of the controversial language from SOPA.  Indeed it would likely be impossible to do so and have much of a bill left.  So likely the SOPA we know and love now will be pretty similar to the bill that is looking increasingly likely to be moving towards a vote.

Currently most of the talk focuses on the provisions regarding DNS blacklisting.  Under this system if a site within a certain domain was found to be hosting pirate materials, the whole domain could be taken down.  This is not the first time such powers have been granted to the U.S. federal government and in the past the feds have shown a fantastic propensity to botch things in the worst way possible taking the act of taking down one bad internet site and propogating it into accidental deletion of tens of thousands of legitimate sites.

Indeed this provision, like many in SOPA, has a knack for potentially creating problems far eclipsing those it's trying to solve; the digital equivalent of spraying machine gun fire on a busy public street corner to try to stop a petty drug dealer.  The killer cure also reminds one nostalgically of the old medical practice of bleeding one with leeches to "cure" all variety of maladies.

SOPA leeches
SOPA -- as healthy as a good old fashioned leeching. [Image Source: Hirudo Medicinalis]

Indeed, like the leeches, the patient -- in this case, the internet -- may accidentally die if SOPA gets to execute its piracy "cure".

II. Never Mind the Pedophiles and Murderers -- Put the Streamers in Prison!

In reality, the DNS blocking is actually one of lesser evils of the act.  Among the more controversial provisions include 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.  Of course this would essentially be a death sentence -- if enforced -- for any site with 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.  In other words, kiss Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN), Google Inc. (GOOG)DailyTech, reddit, and the rest of the free internet goodbye if this provision sticks around.

And then there's the trouble surrounding the Inner Part(ies) fondness for throwing their proletariat in prison.

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. 

SOPA would add to these ranks by making the act of broadcasting copyrighted content via a stream sufficient to put you in the federal prison on the taxpayer dime.  Say next October you're trying to watch that big football game, but not enough tickets were sold in your area, so it's blacked out.  There's no legal way you can easily get it.  So you ask your friend to stream it to you.  Well guess what? Your friend, if they're caught, is now earned a free trip with Bubba in the slammer.

II. SOPA's Authors and Benefactors Know How to Copyright Infringe in Style

Politicians clearly believe (and likely rightfully so) that they will not be subjected to the same punitive justice as the proles.  Otherwise the fact that their offices were busy torrenting porn would just not make sense.  Indeed even House Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith enjoyed some good old fashioned copyright infringment, ripping off a hard working local artist's work without citation or payment for use on his campaign site.

Perhaps Rep. Smith, his employees, and their porn-torrenting copyright-trampling buddies in Congress have been taking notes from the RIAA and MPAA.  These groups represent big labels who, thanks to laws they lobbied for (bought) can essentially steal work from small independent artists, forcing them into a complex maze of repayment requests that are often never granted.  This blatant intellectual property (IP) theft by America's top supposed IP enforcers was confirmed in Canadian court, where the RIAA's members were forced to pay tens of millions of dollars to independent artists for their brazen theft.

The RIAA, though argues that if a citizen even makes a backup copy of their CDs or DVDs, they have just stolen.

But who are we to question our big media overlords?  Let's listen to media mogul Ruperty Murdoch's words of wisdom, which he shared with the world on Twitter -- a somewhat ironic platform given that it's one of the sites his supported SOPA would likely permanently take down:

So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery.

If Mr. Murdoch sounds a bit bitter, who can blame him?  After all, his company News Corp. (NWS) was caught not too long ago stealing text messages from the phones of child murder victims and the families of deceased soldiers.

Indeed it turns out that when it comes to piracy big media loves to be on the giving end.  It just doesn't like to be on the receiving end.  Take Viacom, Inc. (VIA) the cable giant whose lawsuit against Google-owned video sharing site YouTube collapsed when it was revealed that many of the copyrighted clips in question were uploaded secretly by Viacom employees.  Whoops.

Well, unfortunately at this point SOPA is back and it's too late to stop its debate from ruining Superbowl weekend.  You can expect the aged Mr. Murdoch to creep onto the airwaves via his popular American television channel Fox News and spread the good word about how SOPA will save us all from infringement.

III. Burn the Monster

But if you're not convinced, you could always join the mob with pitchforks and torches that's willing to end this unnatural Congressional monstrosity.  Wikipedia, Google, and a whole host of other sites are going on strike for part of Wednesday to show their opposition for SOPA and its Orwellian provisions that could kill the American internet economy.

Shepard Fairey says obey
Why question are glorious industry installed leaders? [Image Source: Shepard Fairey]

You can also pitch in my sharing your thoughts, comments, or random curse words with the fine Congresspeople who well-greased with corporate contributions are preparing to pop SOPA in through the back door:

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]

You might want to get on those email soon, though, because, if SOPA is passed, you might not be able to find this list any more once this page and others are felled with fraudulent SOPA takedowns.
 

Beware:

First they came for the Pirate Bay, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a torrenter.
Then they came for Reditt, and I did not speak out --
Because I used Redditor.
Then they came for the Google, and I did not speak out --
Because I use Bing.
Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me.

Source: Rep. Lamar Smith [via TechDirt]



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RE: Maintaining the status quo
By JasonMick (blog) on 1/18/2012 8:55:57 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
People will buy what they will buy. They won't what they won't. SOPA/PIPA won't change that. Make something worth buying and people will buy it.

Becoming more draconian won't change reality or the real problem which IS the media companies. Business models die all the time, and there is nothing that says that the media conglomerates biz models should continue.

If anything, copyright law has already gone too far in the wrong direction. It is time to put more of the common good into the law and less of the selfish greed.

Exactly... people still consume media they use or care deeply about.

You can't force people to buy your crap.

I think giving people affordable options to "legalize" their collections or buy tracks cheaply is a better solution than DRM.

I give Apple a lot of credit here. But ironically many of the big labels and major artists have fought hard against iTunes' lower pricing. I'm sure they're not thrilled with the iCloud either.

But guess what? People aren't going to buy your crap commercial pop if they have to pay $12 to get one or two well produced hits and then a bunch of garbage filler. That's the big problem with the music industry these days... artists don't have the passion they used to. Look at the kind of albums put out by today's top pop stars like J Lo and Britney Spears and then compare it to kind of albums put out by Marvin Gaye, the Beatles, Zeppelin, et al.

There's a reason why people are buying in to so called "independent" artists like crazy... but for some reason the big labels continue to fixate on making artificial, catchy, but ultimately trite and meaningless pop music and then wonder why the people aren't lining up to throw money at them.

I buy a lot of music from independent labels. Labels like SubPop, Saddle Creek, Mou5trap, Jade Tree complain a lot less about piracy and DRM because they actually are doing well, thanks to making music people actually care about. Doing an interview with an independent label industry advocacy chief a while back he actually argued AGAINST these kinds of punitive laws, saying that more level-headed solutions were in order.

As for the movie industry, that just boils down to pure greed -- they're still making record hauls of money. Just look @ Avatar. People are just watching more movies today than they used to -- some of which happened to be pirated. But it's not like Hollywood is headed to the poor house.

Personally, I don't support or condone piracy. But I think as business people these folks need to stop fixating on throwing people in prison and taking away their money. Because people in prison or fined thousands of dollars aren't going to be buying any music or movies and now everyone else will be pissed off at you as well.

Focus on finding ways to sell people on your content so they want to buy it legally.

As for the government, this kind of blatant bribery is unacceptable, but until there's some sort of mass education and public outcry on this topic to the extent that a large amount of Congresspeople are thrown out of office, nothing will change.


RE: Maintaining the status quo
By tastyratz on 1/18/2012 9:30:32 AM , Rating: 4
So Jason,
If Dailytech is so passionate about sopa, and it appears to be, why is it they did not participate in the black out? I help run a local car club forum and we even blacked that out, surely DT is large enough?
Why not black it out with nothing other than the links provided in this article as well as other information to help motivate people to action?


RE: Maintaining the status quo
By TSS on 1/18/2012 10:06:52 AM , Rating: 3
To be fair, A blackout isn't the only way a website can show it's support, and the internet is still global.

I was annoyed by totalbiscuit's blackout on youtube. It's great that he gets the message out and all.... But i'm not american. I can't do a damn thing about SOPA, the NDAA, PROTECT IP, or the vast corruption amongst US senators. The only thing i can do i've been doing, spreading the word around here (really i've got enough stuff to do on this side of the ocean to be bothered more). But one thing more i couldn't do on that day was get my dosis of entertainment. Nor, ironically, watch his video's on SOPA.

Why should i be punished because the americans can't get their house in order, and are offended if anybody tells them how to run their country?

If ya want my oppinion as to how, EVERYBODY knows congress is bought and paid for. Why is there no revolution?! It can't get more "no taxation without representation" then this. You have no representation! The leader of your country has signed a law that allows everybody, including americans, suspected of terrorism to be held indefinitly without due process. To be frank, i've canceled all future plans to travel to america. I'm just not going to risk it.

IMO Education is all you can do at this point. Blackouts, or restricting acces to that information, is kind of foolish.


RE: Maintaining the status quo
By The Raven on 1/18/2012 4:28:02 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
But i'm not american. I can't do a damn thing about SOPA, the NDAA, PROTECT IP, or the vast corruption amongst US senators.
It is not THE solution, but it would help in its own way...
http://americancensorship.org/modal/state-dept-pet...
(Via OMG Ubuntu's blackout effort...they redirected to http://sopastrike.com/strike )


RE: Maintaining the status quo
By Omega215D on 1/18/2012 6:06:18 PM , Rating: 2
You should see what craigslist did. They blacked it out and after 5 seconds you can click on a link to continue to the site.

Others went to extremes such as displaying the normal page then turning everything into blocks. Some were quite fun in which they blacked out most of the page and your cursor was a flashlight.

I believe that all were tastefully done and should wake some people up but a lot of the big players on the internet didn't really participate (I haven't signed into Facebook in a long time but the start page looks fine) so the reach seems to be somewhat limited.


RE: Maintaining the status quo
By JasonMick (blog) on 1/18/2012 10:42:23 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
So Jason,
If Dailytech is so passionate about sopa, and it appears to be, why is it they did not participate in the black out? I help run a local car club forum and we even blacked that out, surely DT is large enough?
Why not black it out with nothing other than the links provided in this article as well as other information to help motivate people to action?

Fair question. I'm sure my answer won't make everyone happy but here goes.

First , as to DT's views/passion regarding SOPA -- I am a senior editor at DT, but I don't necessarily represent the views of my executive editor Brandon or the ownership of DT. I am opposed to SOPA, if no other reason out of selfishness as the takedown provisions could prevent me from doing what I love -- writing for you guys. It is certainly a direct threat to DT's business. I believe Brandon is as well.

Second , I posted a clear blackout/protest image on the frontpage -- that's about as much as Google is doing on its own homepage.

Third , I have mixed feelings on the idea of a blackout as news site. I know BoingBoing is doing it and some others, but that doesn't mean it makes sense necessarily. What better serves to educate the public -- going dark or putting up insightful information that catches the eye and explains why SOPA is bad? I have four articles up on the front page discussing SOPA... DT's readership is largely smart, educated free thinkers who are willing to read up and analyze issues like this. Maybe blackout makes sense for Wikipedia as that's the only thing that's going to get through to the "People Magazine" crowd, but I don't think many of our readers are like that.

Imagine if George Orwell said, "I'm not going to publish Animal Farm for two decades as a protest against corrupt communism!"

Or if Upton Sinclair said, "I'm not going to publish The Jungle for two decades in protest of abusive corporate working conditions."

A blackout makes sense for general service providers, but not so much for media/writers.

Fourth , the decision is not in my hands. Brandon is the executive editor and he and the owners of the site would make that decision. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts, but don't shoot the messenger (me).

Fifth , consider the economics... Wikipedia's protest, noble as it may be, costs their site nothing as they are funded by donations. DT is funded by advertising, so a blackout would cost the site money, directly.

Lastly , as someone who tries to be a free thinker and look at things from multiple views and actually spend time analyzing political issues that affect our country, I truly appreciate that you're making a stand with your forum, whatever it may be.

I thank you for doing so, and for caring.

Whether you want to black out your site, write a diatribe on how you think SOPA is harmful, or spam your local Rep. who is supporting it, kudos for you. There's lots of different ways to protest. Just look at the American civil rights movement. Some protest segregation by delivering fiery speechs -- others by boycotts -- others still by simply sitting on a bus seat and refusing to move until they were arrested.

There is a need for public opposition to destructive government and corporate policies, but I think history has shown there's a variety of effect means to give that opposition. I support all non-violent protest, the ultimate expression of a democratic, free society.


RE: Maintaining the status quo
By tastyratz on 1/18/2012 12:56:49 PM , Rating: 2
Alternative ideas might be to look at how slickdels.net did their protest, or cheeseburger network (although the cheeseburger site is broken for me for firefox)

You can make a very obvious statement while not restricting. You might not be the executive holder, have a voice and direct connection if they did not read this directly themselves. Many other alternatives could have taken place (and still can) even if you css changed all aticle fonts to strikeout other than sopa ones, or hid all articles un related to sopa etc.

I do agree that news and education is important, and I understand that dailytech has to protect a bottom line here- but I suppose I see no forms of protest and action other than an angry slant on articles. I appreciate the names and links provided here, but shock factor of the public is what also keeps dailytech's doors open should pipa be passed in the next few days. Think of it like protecting your future.

quote:
Second , I posted a clear blackout/protest image on the frontpage -- that's about as much as Google is doing on its own homepage.

Where? I just refreshed and noticed no changes, dt looks liek business as usual to me?


RE: Maintaining the status quo
By tastyratz on 1/18/2012 12:57:48 PM , Rating: 2
oops wish I could edit and fix my typo: slickdeals not slickdels was what I meant as an example.


By JasonMick (blog) on 1/18/2012 1:20:59 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Where? I just refreshed and noticed no changes, dt looks liek business as usual to me?

Brandon took it down off the frontpage because he felt it was "too BBSy", but you can still view it above (the spin on the Martin Niemöller quote... whoops Godwined!).

quote:
I do agree that news and education is important, and I understand that dailytech has to protect a bottom line here- but I suppose I see no forms of protest and action other than an angry slant on articles. I appreciate the names and links provided here, but shock factor of the public is what also keeps dailytech's doors open should pipa be passed in the next few days. Think of it like protecting your future.

Again this is the same tact Google is taking... I mean the picture of "Pork Cemetery" next to SOPA is reasonably explicit and humorous. And in the article there's a F**K SOPA image...
quote:
You can make a very obvious statement while not restricting. You might not be the executive holder, have a voice and direct connection if they did not read this directly themselves. Many other alternatives could have taken place (and still can) even if you css changed all aticle fonts to strikeout other than sopa ones, or hid all articles un related to sopa etc.

Again I appreciate the suggestion, but like I said the decision is not in my hands. Email Brandon with those kinds of major site level suggestions.


RE: Maintaining the status quo
By MGSsancho on 1/19/2012 2:08:45 AM , Rating: 2
Sixth A blackout on a tech news site is rather meaningless. The point of the blackout is to get the word out to people who do not already know about these laws.


RE: Maintaining the status quo
By Mortando on 1/19/2012 6:23:37 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
It is certainly a direct threat to DT's business. I believe Brandon is as well.

Don't let Brandon hear you say that... ;)


RE: Maintaining the status quo
By priusone on 1/19/2012 6:10:51 AM , Rating: 3
What are you talking about? Dailytech did participate in the blackout. I was somewhat disappointed in Dailytech for not standing behind it's beliefs, then it happened... "502 bad gateway". Now I feel bad for jumping to conclusions when Dailytech clearly was acting on it's principals.


RE: Maintaining the status quo
By DrizztVD on 1/18/2012 11:10:57 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not entirely convinced that the content providers should get the blame for their material being pirated. The argument I'm making is not one of supporting SOPA and their backers, but rather for consumers accepting their part in creating the piracy problem.

While I've seen many arguments suggesting piracy is not really THAT bad, I'm convinced that if everyone paid for the material they consumed, the media landscape would be such that piracy would be largely unnecessary. The idea is that you create the market you pay for. The consequence of pirating is that you create companies that apply equal and opposite measures to leach you of their share, since that is the only way that they can/know to survive.

By the very examples Jason gives of him purchasing from independant labels, that is the very basis of the proliferation of original and inspiring content. By him, mind you, paying a fair price for fair goods.

The problem is a lot of kids don't play fair. If access to these big label media is not restricted, you cannot create the sort of competition that will drive them out of business, because the revenue streams don't exist to do that. My whole point is really one of "what you sow you will reap". Fact is piracy doesn't exist because large exploitative companies price-fix their products out of reach, it's the other way around.


By JasonMick (blog) on 1/18/2012 11:43:45 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
I'm not entirely convinced that the content providers should get the blame for their material being pirated. The argument I'm making is not one of supporting SOPA and their backers, but rather for consumers accepting their part in creating the piracy problem.

On the failure of business

Minor piracy --particularly theft of high value items --historically represents illegality, something the government should recognize and control.

Ultimately mass piracy represent a failure of your business model. Mass piracy represents big media being out of touch with modern technology and people's use of it. Significantly less people would pirate if they were provided compelling legal alternatives to piracy -- as iTunes shows.

On the destructive nature of exclusivity agreements...

One thing to note I guess wrt to Apple is that while they in a way have driven reasonable digital consumption model, they've done so by creating a monopoly (which gives them enough power to force their will on big media). Unfortunately of late Apple has been wielding this power to block big media from selling content on other digital outlets. This has been a major obstacle for services like Amazon MP3 from seeing major artist and public adoption. Likewise for why Google Music didn't bother offering a purchase option in its first iteration.

The problem is that services like Apple and Steam take things towards a reasonable solution where everyone wins, but backroom politics and exclusivity agreements prevent the proliferation of these fit solutions in the short term.

My hope is that exclusivity eventually erodes and digital consumption finally becomes the primary driving media force.

My optimism is backed by the lower piracy rates found in smartphone apps. True, DRM is partially responsible. But also it's because individual digital distributors were unable to coerce developers into exclusivity agreements that would have prevented the ubiquitous legal, paid digital distribution we enjoy today.

On the difference between abusive pirates and paying pirates...

To be clear I don't support people solely pirating content and not legally paying for the content they enjoy. That's exploitive.

I agree some people don't play fair, but I think I spent $10K on music, video games, and media on my highest earning year back when I was working full time as an engineer. I admit I've "sampled" some music, particularly during my college years, but I feel I embody the new consumer -- one who is passionate about media and pays for it legally, but also occasionally likes to check out what he's buying first. I remember some albums that I had to listen to several times to get into. A handful of services offer brief preview clips, but few allow you to listen to full length albums several times.

I remember the first time I listened to bands such as Mastodon, Belle and Sebastian, and Vision Quest I really did not enjoy what I heard very much, but in time I came to appreciate these artists' unique visions and buy their work. These are just a couple examples that popped into my mind of thousands of artists.

Now you may think I'm an exception to the rule, but most of the people I know buy at least some content, like I said... they just don't indiscerningly buy crap. Many studies have shown that pirates buy more music legally that non-pirates.

They may download that one catchy Will.I.Am song, but they're not going to buy Will.I.Am whole crappy album. But if they listen to Stars, The Civil Wars, Depeche Mode, or Daft Punk a few times they're going to go out there and buy the whole album, because they realize it has value and they realize economics says you pay for value.

Virtually every young person I know follows this model, though some didn't earn enough money to blow on media as I did.


RE: Maintaining the status quo
By cladari on 1/18/2012 1:08:33 PM , Rating: 3
The music industry became bloated and swam with money when if stopped selling singles and forced you to buy plastic albumns, then replace your entire catalog in 8 track, again in cassette and then again in CD.

When it became possible to buy singles again and the format changes stopped the excess money they were used to also dried up.

I would be willing to bet that research would show the same amount of music is bought today as it ever was.

The only thing that will keep the music industry in the kind of money they became used to is another major physical format change, and I don't see that coming.


"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer














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