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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 DrizztVD on 1/18/2012 12:59:05 PM , Rating: 2
So where does this bring us? We know that paying for content is ultimately worth it, since it gives us even more good stuff in the long term. Jason's proved that for us. We know that companies have an obligation to give fair access to paying customers (DRM issues, notwithstanding the fact that "bad" DRM isn't boycotted - it's mass-pirated). But ultimately it's the consumer's responsiblity to be fair in their use of media - that means it's your responsibility. We're left with the question: how do we ensure that the majority of consumers abide by these principles?

Answer: You sufficiently impede access to the material that hasn't been paid for to prevent "accidental" theft. You put policy in place that ensures matching repercussions for those who want to cheat the system ( i.e those who don't take responsibility for what they do). Lastly you encourage the fair use that you want by stating what your expectations are of consumers.

Now for digital media the first is impossible if you can't go after the content hosters (i.e SOPA in its idealistic use of only going after the bad guys). The second point has the problem that because everyone's doing it, it's kinda unfair to be caught for infringment when the rest of the population gets to jump free. That leaves us with the last point: the expectation.

The Expectation
If the main government decision makers side against SOPA, they run the risk of advertising to the people that since they're against stop-piracy acts, they're for piracy. If you catch my drift. Now even if this where not the case, I believe it's the goverment's responsibility to take a clear stand on the matter in some way or the other. That's why SOPA won't be the last you hear of this either way.

The only resolution to the matter as I see it is for content providers to step up and supply a workable, implementable solution to the problem. The government cannot remain the status quo on this matter, it's already past that point. I for one don't believe that the current system is the best: no system that doesn't enforce responsibility ever is, you know that.


RE: Maintaining the status quo
By geddarkstorm on 1/18/2012 2:18:54 PM , Rating: 2
You're still building on the logical fallacy that people are going to pirate preferentially. Maybe people DON'T pirate on mass, maybe people prefer to purchase goods with money. Maybe that would explain the huge box office incomes and absurd profits the record labels make which fund their lawsuit campaigns?

What if there ISN'T a piracy problem? What if it's so small and marginal that it's being inflated simply to drive legislation like this to allow companies to fleece even more money from the common, innocent consumer?

What about the rights of the average person?

You know, SOPA and PIPA are just not needed, are they? If so, prove where there's a problem that needs fixing, using numbers and facts not hyperbole. All we see are companies making steady profits increasing even in a bad economy, not decreasing.

Yes, some MEDIUMS of consumption like CDs have gone down, because they are being REPLACED by other purchase mediums like digital downloads. And yet, piracy hasn't gone rampant on the digital system and stopped profits, has it?

There is piracy, but there is also shoplifting--no amount of laws stop shoplifting or burglary or murder, do they? Do you think legislation like SOPA/PIPA will stop hackers and pirates? Nope. It can only hurt the average person going about their average lives, trampling on our rights and free speech, and giving corporations absurd amounts of power over us; when it should be the other way around.


RE: Maintaining the status quo
By DrizztVD on 1/18/2012 4:37:50 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
You're still building on the logical fallacy that people are going to pirate preferentially. Maybe people DON'T pirate on mass, maybe people prefer to purchase goods with money. Maybe that would explain the huge box office incomes and absurd profits the record labels make which fund their lawsuit campaigns? What if there ISN'T a piracy problem? What if it's so small and marginal that it's being inflated simply to drive legislation like this to allow companies to fleece even more money from the common, innocent consumer?


These arguments are becoming less thorough and more myth. You can find the estimated figures on piracy by looking at totalled torrents of media, and in the case of games - especially PC, the discrepancy between the harware-base and the amount of software buyers. For a good look at this go to http://www.ssrc.org/features/view/media-piracy-in-... . Do note that disputing the existance of large scale piracy is a bit of a joke. Especially in emerging economies.

You will find one of the points of the above report is antipiracy education. The very least that needs to be done is to make it abundantly clear that the government does not endorse piracy, as an official standpoint. I haven't received any counterpoint to my statements as to enforcing responsible consumption of media. And in my opinion, though many my not agree, the best way to do that is with reasonably enforcable legislation (note that I'm not supporting SOPA specifically).

Lastly, I fail to see why evidence of some prosperity in the market is evidence of a perfect market. I mean, a dictator might live in a mansion and drive a luxury car, so I guess thats evidence that his policies are working... Am I correct? No, of course not. That's silly. You need to look at Exclusion to get the whole picture- how many get locked out? Thats the real question. And if the true innovators cannot generate enough revenue on their own to break free of the conglomerates... Well, doesn't that mean that there's something wrong with the system's ability to produce income? A good example is World Of Goo, indie developer, no DRM. Estimated piracy rate of the software by the developer was said to be 95%. Some believe that to be a conservative estimate.

Truth be told, piracy has been on the increase since the start of the internet. Higher percentages of media are being pirated than ever before, because access to material has increased tremendously- more server storage space and faster internet connections make that happen. As long as the culture of piracy continues to thrive, the need for government intervention will remain. The irony is that correct and proper intervention will eventually lead to a much better internet economy, not worse. Why fight it?


RE: Maintaining the status quo
By Invane on 1/19/2012 2:02:23 AM , Rating: 2
You've cherry picked the worst possible example for piracy. PC video games. I believe of all the markets that complain piracy is costing them money, this is potentially the one where it's more than likely true and an entirely reasonable complaint. This is due to the high cost of games compared to other consumable media, such as music and movies.

That aside, I believe corporations trying to push more and more restrictive usage policies onto consumers is a very large reason for piracy.

It would seem to me that backing up a movie you bought is reasonable. You have purchased the media, you have purchased the license. Big media says, 'No, you cannot back up your purchases. That is stealing.' They expect you to buy them again if anything should happen to them.

I believe that it's entirely reasonable that if I have purchased a CD with music, I should be able to listen to that music any way that I like. Big media says, 'No, you cannot move your cd to your mp3 player. That's stealing from us.'

I believe that if I buy content, I should not have to ask Big Media if I can play that content. Big Media says, 'No, you must contact our servers and we have to ok you viewing/playing/listening to your content. Servers down? Sucks for you. No internet connection? No content for you. Service went under? Just buy our content again.'

Big Media has waged a systematic war of restricting user's rights in order to try to push more content. And all the while they do this, they cry big tears complaining how everyone is stealing their stuff, and how they'd be making some crazy damage estimate of money more if everyone just respected their IP. They take our tax breaks and spend our tax money to make 'Copyright Tzars'. They purchase politicians to push draconian legislation to get more and more and more.

Big Media does all of this, all the while squeezing every last cent possible from the artists it claims to be protecting. Big Media produces nothing of value to our economy...it takes it from the real value makers, the artists.

I pirate nothing, I can afford to buy what I want. I do believe piracy is wrong. I have boycotted both movies and music. Video games are my vice though, and I like to support those. I am amazed at the way Big Media treats its consumers, then expects respect in return.

There's reasonable. Then there's Big Media. Reasonable left the building long ago. When Big Media learns to respect its customers and provide reasonable products and services I believe you will see piracy drop off drastically. Until then, they will continue to attempt to legislate and EUL and restrict their way to more profits at our expense.


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