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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, 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]

Comments     Threshold

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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.

RE: Maintaining the status quo
By JasonMick on 1/18/2012 11:43:45 AM , Rating: 3
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.

"Vista runs on Atom ... It's just no one uses it". -- Intel CEO Paul Otellini

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