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, 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) [] *
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) []

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.


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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