If you hate Big Government, fight SOPA.

Nobody who opposes Big Government and favors degregulation should favor the Stop Online Piracy Act, better known as SOPA, or H.R. 3261. It’s a big new can of worms that will cripple use of the Net, slow innovation on it, clog the courts with lawsuits, employ litigators in perpetuity and deliver copyright maximalists in the “content” business a hollow victory for the ages.

A few years back, a former government official confidentially issued a warning to a small group I was part of, which favored some kind of lawmaking around technology. While this isn’t a verbatim quote, it’s pretty close, because it has been burned in my mind ever since: “In the course of my work I have met with nearly every member of Congress. And I can tell you that, with only a handful of exceptions, there are two things none of them understand. One is economics and the other is technology. Now proceed.”

Know-nothing lawmakers are doing exactly that with SOPA. As Joshua Kopstein says, Dear Congress, It’s No Longer OK To Not Know How The Internet Works.

SOPA is a test for principle for members of Congress. If you wish to save the Internet, vote against it. If you wish to fight Big Government, vote against it. If you wish to protect friends in the “content” production and distribution business at extreme cost to every other business in the world, vote for it. If you care more about a few businesses you can name and nothing about all the rest of them — which will be whiplashed by the unintended consequences of a bill that limits what can be done on the Internet while not comprehending the Internet at all, vote for it.

Rivers of ink and oceans of pixels have been spilled by others on this subject, so I’ll confine my case to a single section of the bill:

SEC. 103. MARKET-BASED SYSTEM TO PROTECT U.S. CUS- TOMERS AND PREVENT U.S. FUNDING OF SITES DEDICATED TO THEFT OF U.S. PROPERTY.

(I tried copying and pasting the whole section here, but it’s a @#$%^& .pdf, a proprietary format that has been Web-hostile from the start, but beloved of the “content” folks, as well as Congress and lawyers in general. If somebody can find us a .html or a .txt version, please let me know.)

There is nothing “market-based” about this section of the bill. “Market-based” is a paint job on more regulation, more restriction, more bureaucracy, more federal meddling, more litigation. Weighing in at nearly 17,000 words, is not only clueless about the nature of the Net and the Web, mischaracterizing both from front to back, but features the word “plaintiff” 100 or more times (I lost count). Oh, and lots of new work for this bureaucrat:

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ENFORCEMENT COORDINATOR.—The term ‘‘Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator’’ means the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator appointed under section 301 of the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008 (154 U.S.C. 8111)

Yes, it exists.

We don’t need SOPA. What we do need is for Congress — along with lawmakers and regulators everywhere, right down to public utilities commissions and town councils — to at least begin to understand what the Internet is, and what it does for everybody, before it starts making laws protecting one business at the expense of all the rest.

If you want to see who is behind SOPA, just follow the money.

A couple days ago, David Weinberger told me Jimmy Wales was mulling the wisdom of shutting off Wikipedia for a day.  David blogged about it. So did Cory Doctorow. Later Torrent Freak spilled the beans as well. For some perspective on this, consider these two facts: 1) Jimbo is an economic Libertarian—about as pro-business and pro-“market-based” as you can get; and 2) Wikipedia remains the only search result for anything that consistently rises above the tide of gimmickry that has corrupted the commercial Web and buried more and more “organic” (non-commercial) results under an avalanche of promotional jive.

Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute presents a solid Libertarian case against SOPA on YouTube. If it passes, he says, “the only difference between the U.S. and China is what’s on the blacklist.”

Sure, “piracy” is a problem. So are a zillion other afflictions you can name. New laws — especially ones that are written by regulatory captives and feared by real businesses in the marketplace — are not a solution. They compound the problem they purport to solve and cause untold new problems as unintended but certain consequences. Any conservative worthy of the label should be dead-set against SOPA.

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61 comments

  1. Dave Winer’s avatar

    SOPA might be the fastest way to get the Congress we need.

    Because the disconnect here isn’t with the members of Congress, it’s with the voters who keep sending the same ignorant people to Washington every two years.

    What better way to politicize the electorate, to show us all how important it is to have adequate representation in Washington to make sure stuff like this doesn’t happen.

    The failure is with us. We forgot that we have the power here.

  2. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Dave. Good point. Let’s put those in favor of SOPA on a first-pass blacklist of candidates for re-election this next Fall. And let’s get everybody with sense in their heads, on both the left and the right, behind real reform and not just a who-hates-whom “contest” for the same old sportscasters.

  3. Daniel Brenton’s avatar

    Doc —

    Excellent summary.

    I must note your statement: “If you wish to protect friends in the “content” production and distribution business at extreme cost to every other business in the world, vote for it.” I understand the intent of what you’re saying here, but ultimately these folks are shooting themselves in the foot by taking this stance. Historically, every new method of distribution of film and music has made huge new revenues for the industries, and perversely it appears that with every new technological advance (audio tapes, VCRs, CDs, etc) there was enormous opposition. I would argue it is actually in the best interest of the content producers to vote against this monstrosity and adapt their business models, if they only had the sense to consider the internet for the real opportunity that it is.

    Beyond this, SOPA will only result in more piracy. Didn’t we as a nation learn anything from Prohibition?

    As for your suggestion of a “first pass for blacklist for re-election” … sign me up.

    — Daniel

  4. Richard Bennett’s avatar

    You’re clearly upset because of what you believe SOPA will do. I’ve read the bill in its current form (and its last form) and I’ve read the Senate version, Protect IP. I don’t see how these bills will “cripple use of the Net” or “slow innovation.” What I see is an attempt to cut of the money that flows to foreign sites that traffic in the unauthorized sale of licensed material, including Hollywood movies and pharmaceuticals and a very constrained provision that would prevent the domain names from some of these sites from resolving.

    The detailed arguments I’ve seen against the bills seem to believe there’s something else going on that I don’t see in the text; Stewart Baker and Wendy Seltzer see some implications in the anti-circumvention provision that bother them, but they don’t present a very credible scenario.

    So I’d like to ask if you’re opposed to SOPA because you’re opposed to all forms of “censorship” on the Internet, including the censorship of blatantly criminal activity, or if you’re opposed to some specific provision of these bills (as currently drafted.)

    The issue of dealing with criminal use of the Internet’s infrastructure seems to divide a lot of old Internet hands from its new users, but there is a general consensus that technical intervention is OK in the case of spam mitigation and that sort of thing.

    So what’s your specific beef?

  5. Seth Finkelstein’s avatar

    1) For the Oct 26 version (n.b., not including any amendments!), try this link:

    http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.R.3261:

    2) Note Wales *cannot* just shut-down Wikipedia by himself. Contrary to some media misinformation, it’s not his, he doesn’t own it. Various Wikimedia Foundation higher-ups, including him, are floating that idea. But it’s not at all clear what’ll happen. Or if they actually tried, it might set off the biggest wheel-war/flamestorm ever seen in the Wikipedia community.

  6. Seth Finkelstein’s avatar

    Link didn’t work – it’s below. There really is a colon at the end.

    “http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.R.3261:”

  7. Richard Bennett’s avatar

    This is the most up-to-date version of SOPA: http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/pdf/HR%203261%20Managers%20Amendment.pdf

    The one that Seth offers was gutted and replaced by this one.

  8. Richard Bennett’s avatar

    Tweet from @ajkeen: “best reason to support SOPA wapo.st/t20hph Jimmy Wales will take Wikipedia down if it’s passed.”

    There is that.

  9. Doc Searls’s avatar

    The short answer, Richard, is that I don’t want to see any new laws coming out of Congress,respecting the Internet. I believe the unintended consequences of those laws are bound to exceed their intended ones. Should the law pass, the pile of definitions in the opening paragraphs alone will be as antique decades from now as those in the Communications Act of 1934 are today. (And of ’96, for that matter.)

    The long answer will have to wait until I’m not on fire and/or traveling, which will probably be Monday sometime.

    Meanwhile, let me ask, do you think we need SOPA/ProtectIP? Or any new law here?

    And Seth, you’re right. I should have mentioned that valving Wikipeida is not Jimmy’s decision, just his idea.

  10. Richard Bennett’s avatar

    Doc, I think the Internet engineering community is dreadfully resistant to making any changes at all in the technical underpinnings of the system unless they’re faced with a crisis. You’ve famously said that anyone can improve the Internet, but in practice nobody ever does.

    I’m not as exercised about copyright as many people are on both the pro and the con side, but I am concerned about the extent of criminal behavior on the net, in the form of spam, identity theft, and extortionate DDoS attacks and think the time has come to recognize that it’s not good to maintain an attitude that allows criminals to see the Internet as an enforcement-free zone. Paul Vixie’s “Taking Back the DNS” makes the case for excluding criminals from the infrastructure.

    Copyright theft may not be the poster child for the system that Paul created, but I think it’s a good test case.

    I don’t find the unintended consequences argument persuasive. By that logic, laws passed by Congresses of the past are judged more relevant than those passed by Congresses of the future. Nostalgia is out of date.

    As always, I look forward to your detailed argument.

  11. Seth Finkelstein’s avatar

    Richard – “the extent of criminal behavior on the net” – doesn’t this then go to the fundamental issue of liberty vs police powers? Remember “Clipper,” when strong encryption was to be restricted? It was said criminals shouldn’t be able to frustrate law enforcement wiretaps.

    And Paul Vixie DID get into exactly this control problem, with spam blacklisting

    It’s not that people don’t understand this issue. Zittrain’s _Future Of Internet_ is in part about this issue, and he wrote an earlier paper about spam blacklisting.

    It’s a longstanding argument.

  12. Frank’s avatar

    Make it EASY with a button (link) to a form, digital sign (Federal Courts permit PDF signatures), to oppose with Congress and Senate!!

  13. Richard Bennett’s avatar

    Right, it’s a longstanding argument that’s never been successfully resolved. Where we are right now is somewhere between a consensus that user-controlled web site blacklisting is fine, and anything beyond that is controversial. What’s beyond user-controlled blocking is two things, ISP-controlled blocking and government-mandated blocking.

    Nearly all ISPs perform some sort of anti-spam IP address blocking, and that’s relatively uncontroversial. Some groups, such as the EFF, still complain about it but there’s no hue and cry.

    Government-mandated blocking seems to be the friction point because it’s opposed by Internet traditionalists like Cerf (who complains that it’s “unprecedented”) and by the libertarian goof balls who oppose every new law on principle: If Ayn Rand didn’t give it the OK, it must be bad. But governments around the world require various kinds of Internet-enabled transactions to be blocked, whether it’s the sale of Nazi paraphernalia in Germany or hate speech in Berkeley or child porn in the U. K. or fake pharmaceuticals in the U. S. So it’s not really unprecedented after all.

    I’ve taken to blocking Flash by default on my desktop because Flash video ads are too annoying, but I’m sure there’s some Internet freedom zealot who thinks I’ve crippled my web experience by doing this. I got the clue from the iPad, where the absence of Flash makes visiting some of my favorite web sites more enjoyable on the iPad than on the desktop with Firefox.

    A lot of what SOPA wants to do would be practical under a purely voluntary system. DNS blacklisting is effectively voluntary anyhow, as many have pointed out.

    So here’s a question: Would SOPA haters still oppose it if the DNS blocking provision were changed to an opt-in to a government-maintained blacklist of bogus sites? I think the answer is yes, they would oppose even that because they’re most strenuously opposed to being reminded that they’re citizens of a country when they’re playing Internet (and it’s “unprecedented.”)

  14. Seth Finkelstein’s avatar

    C’mon Richard, if you just want to rant, what’s the point? I have particularly bad memories of stuff like this – “some Internet freedom zealot who thinks I’ve crippled my web experience by doing this” – because similar attacks were part of the smear campaign against me for fighting censorware, lies which *worked*. Over and over, it’s been asked and answered, there’s a big difference between what *you* want, and what an *authority* wants to prohibit you. And making some weird oddball case (“What if I want to get tons of spam because it makes me feel loved?”) doesn’t refute the basic distinction.

    Governments trying to assert control indeed has a long history. So does opposition to it. That doesn’t help.

    Don’t make the common conservative’s mistake of thinking civil-libertarians are stupid and you have a GOTCHA , what-about-this, *huh*huh*huh* argument they’ve never heard before. Most of it is just tedious and repetitive, not challenging.

  15. Christopher’s avatar

    I think one real concern in SOPA is the one-sidedness of the blocking and the tremendous potential for abuse. As we’ve seen recently, with Universal Music Group repeatedly filing false DMCA takedown notices against a video of musical artists supporting Megaupload, rights holders are not above abusing the tools they have to silence points of view with which they disagree. Media companies frequently file DMCA claims against content posting that is clearly fair use. SOPA provides even fewer protections for alleged infingers that DMCA, and far greater punitive measures. Not just removing content, but destroying entire businesses. These companies have not shown themselves to be trustworthy with the power they have; there is every likelihood that granted more power, they would abuse not simply in futile attempts to quell piracy, but in aggressive attempts to shut down legitimate, but disruptive businesses.

  16. Richard Bennett’s avatar

    Evasive reply, Seth. Read this again:

    So here’s a question: Would SOPA haters still oppose it if the DNS blocking provision were changed to an opt-in to a government-maintained blacklist of bogus sites? I think the answer is yes, they would oppose even that because they’re most strenuously opposed to being reminded that they’re citizens of a country when they’re playing Internet (and it’s “unprecedented.”)

    That’s no rant.

  17. Seth Finkelstein’s avatar

    Read this again:

    “Over and over, it’s been asked and answered, there’s a big difference between what *you* want, and what an *authority* wants to prohibit you.”

    When you ask:

    “Would SOPA haters still oppose it if the DNS blocking provision were changed to an opt-in to a government-maintained blacklist of bogus sites?”

    There’s already many private blacklists for bogus sites. OpenDNS has this as part of their product:

    “OpenDNS protects you from becoming infected with malware by blocking known malicious domains from resolving at the DNS layer and stops botnets from communicating to their command and control points. Since this protection is delivered at the DNS layer, OpenDNS is able to proactively stop infections and attacks before a user or device has accessed them.”

    Have you seen the “SOPA haters” opposing OpenDNS? There would never be a “government-maintained blacklist of bogus sites” that the *user* would not want to see, since that’s long been covered by security software. The whole point of SOPA is preventing users from getting to sites that they want to use. An “opt-in” for that is absurd – users don’t want to opt-in to such a prohibition.

    And by the way, civil-libertarians are citizens too (! – there’s an unsettling implication, if you’re implying they aren’t).

  18. Richard Bennett’s avatar

    Nice answer. All the government needs to do is order OpenDNS to merge the pirate sites blacklist with the malicious sites blacklist.

    Excellent.

  19. Brett Glass’s avatar

    Do we want a government that’s too small to fight crime? (I thought it was only Grover Norquist who did.)

  20. KD’s avatar

    Brett: Given that the recent government has demonstrated a troubling inability to distinguish between free speech/fair use and crime, then yes, I want a government too small to fight this kind of crime.

    Let them build a track record of prosecuting actual crime without running roughshod over people exercising basic rights, then we can consider giving them more power. Though even then, I’d be inclined to go very slowly on expanding their powers. (Actually, I expect we’d never get to that point, because I have *no* faith in the government’s ability to avoid trampling free speech/fair use rights as long as the content industry continues buying them off.)

  21. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Richard,

    Re: “Would SOPA haters still oppose it if the DNS blocking provision were changed to an opt-in to a government-maintained blacklist of bogus sites?”

    Seems to me if the DNS blocking provision were opt-in, there would be no grounds for enforcement, and therefore no need for the whole bill. Do I have that wrong?

  22. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Even before SOPA is passed, here is an unintended consequence, from the SOPA opponents’ side: a Firefox add-on to bypass SOPA DNS blocking. Draw your own conclusions.

  23. Brett Glass’s avatar

    I don’t know about you, but I want a government that protects creators and innovators from theft — not one that can be cowed by huge criminal corporations. (And, yes, by that I mean Google, which is the world’s largest and most unrepentant copyright infringer and also the main source of the lobbying money and FUD opposing SOPA. Or any legislation that might actually be the slightest bit effective at protecting intellectual property.)

  24. Richard Burns’s avatar

    The ability for a government agency to remove a site from the internet without due process prior to its removal is just not an acceptable part of the bill.

  25. Richard Bennett’s avatar

    There’s more to the SOPA bill than DNS response filtering, Doc. There are the “follow the money” provisions, some stuff about international trade agreements, and the process of building the blacklist itself. The DNS provisions get the most attention, but it’s a 70 page bill that does a whole lot of stuff.

  26. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Richard, do you think we need the bill? If so, what would you have it say?

  27. Seth Finkelstein’s avatar

    Doc, by the way, note how ineffective it is to make a “cross-ideological” appeal. This is one of the points where “liberals”/”intellectuals” fall into a trap of doing something that sounds good to them, that it should work – and don’t adequately take into account that it doesn’t work. Yes, you might peel off the odd pundit, maybe. But on the whole, it’s a longstanding aspect that overall for the people you’re trying to reach, police and military do not count as Big Government.

  28. Brett Glass’s avatar

    Many of the opponents of SOPA are ignorant of the fact that the due process issues have been addressed in the most recent version of the bill. (Others are circulating the old version, and/or lying about it, because they work for corporations — such as Google — which do not want ANY legislation that could put teeth into IP laws to pass.)

    As for the DNS provisions: they could be much better written; for example, they shouldn’t expect everyone who runs a DNS resolver to know how to implement blacklisting. (It’s sufficient to blacklist at the root servers… which also would solve any security issues.) But they are not ineffective, as is claimed. Otherwise, companies like Nominum would not already be using them to make it more difficult for malware to propagate.

  29. Seth Finkelstein’s avatar

    Brett, regarding “not ineffective”, see my exchange with Richard above, on “there’s a big difference between what *you* want, and what an *authority* wants to prohibit you”. Essentially nobody wants to escape a DNS which blacklists malware, because they don’t want malware. Many people would want to escape a DNS which tries to stop them from getting to sites they very much want. I’m not saying it’s totally futile, but a simple comparison of the two cases is not justified.

    This statement really should be non-partisan. It’s simply a factual structural difference. There’s a sad lesson that it isn’t regarded as obvious, or I fear even heard.

  30. Brett Glass’s avatar

    If you “very much want” to commit a crime, well, that is just too bad.

  31. Seth Finkelstein’s avatar

    See my point about it not being heard? 🙁 I make a technical statement, you do a partisan reply.

    Doc, once again, I submit my point about how this appeal to opponent’s ideology does not work.

  32. Richard Bennett’s avatar

    I think we need this bill for a couple of reasons. The most important is to send the message that it’s not OK to use the Internet’s essential infrastructure for criminal purposes; this argument is well-expressed in Paul Vixie’s “Taking Back the DNS” post that explains the rationale for Response Policy Zones. Crime on the Internet is a much larger issue than IP crimes.

    The second reason is to erect some speed bumps in front of the most egregious IPR scofflaws, the ones who sell counterfeit and ineffective drugs and unlicensed Hollywood products on the Internet. I believe it will be reasonably effective with very little downside for its intended targets, offshore web sites that traffic in goods they’re not entitled to sell by license.

    The bill doesn’t apply to US-based sites it doesn’t apply to the entire .com TLD, and it doesn’t interfere with Secure DNS in any way at all, so I really don’t see what all the fuss is about.

  33. Brett Glass’s avatar

    Seth, my reply was not in any way “partisan.” It correctly characterized what you said.

  34. Seth Finkelstein’s avatar

    Instead of going another round, I’ll re-iterate – Doc, what evidence would be sufficient to show the futility?

  35. Richard Bennett’s avatar

    Seth, you’re excluding the middle when you say: “Essentially nobody wants to escape a DNS which blacklists malware, because they don’t want malware. Many people would want to escape a DNS which tries to stop them from getting to sites they very much want.”

    What about the sites that users are uncertain about that sell prescription drugs and Hollywood movies? Is there a large group of people actively seeking ineffective, bogus drugs and/or wishing to pay the Russian mafia to download unlicensed Hollywood movies? The group of people who are currently being duped into doing these things are the target population. They fall between your two extremes.

  36. Richard Bennett’s avatar

    One more thing, Seth: Why are you so adamant that Doc and others who dislike SOPA should not discuss it with those of us who basically like it? I think we both learn something from these exchanges, so I would think that free speech advocates like you should not be discouraging dialog.

    Is something about this discussion unsettling to you?

  37. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Seth, I think there is a pro-business case for the Net as an essentially free and open place that on the whole is not being made. Admittedly, this post isn’t exactly that case, but it comes from my belief that the case needs to be made.

    I also think discussion is a good thing if more understanding follows, even if nobody moves off their original positions. I look for that when I post here, and I think we have some in this case.

  38. Seth Finkelstein’s avatar

    Richard, I answered your what-about question above, talking about OpenDNS – “There would never be a “government-maintained blacklist of bogus sites” that the *user* would not want to see, since that’s long been covered by security software.” Are you really saying that the free market has failed miserably to protect these people? That strong government action at the Internet operation level is absolutely required? (how liberal of you! :-))

    I’m adamant that cross-ideological pitches are useless, for many reasons. For example, it wastes resources, and there’s negative effects which tend to come out these doomed attempts. Being a free-speech advocate hardly constrains me from calling something a fool’s errand. And actually, there is indeed something specific which is unsettling me, but I don’t want to put it in a public comment. It’s the sort of literal question that I’ve learned comes across as a personal attack.

    Doc, it’s a longstanding estimation of mine that “more understanding follows” almost never happens – i.e. that punditry is not the bottleneck.

  39. Brett Glass’s avatar

    I think it’s pro-business to fight crime. This law has nothing to do with free speech; by definition, the same content is available to the public via legitimate means.

  40. Richard Bennett’s avatar

    I don’t think Doc and I have different ideological positions: we’re both pro-open Internet, pro-innovation, both pro-limited government, and both in favor of some regulation where it’s needed to make the whole ecosystem grow. I’m a libertarian-ish liberal Democrat in the JFK mold after all, neither an Ayn Rand groupie nor a Stalinist..

    We have some factual differences about what SOPA actually does, and we have different predictions about its outcome (probably based in the factual predicates.) We also may have some differences about the degree to which broadband networks are commodity technology, but they’re not relevant to this discussion.

  41. Seth Finkelstein’s avatar

    Are there many people on either side of the SOPA debate who are “pro-closed Internet,” and “anti-innovation”? (there’s some who might reasonably be described as anti-limited-government, so skip that). Being “in favor of some regulation” is not meaningful, as some want regulation favoring Google and some want regulation against Google (to put it bluntly). As to “liberal Democrat in the JFK mold”, can I skip the joke of listing all JFK’s rather conservative positions (i.e. you mean you’re for invading small countries, want tax rates less than the last Republican administration, uneasy with civil rights because it might interfere with other goals, etc ….).

    Most ideological differences can be boiled down to some version of “factual difference … different predictions about its outcome” (and different values as to who counts and what trade-offs are acceptable). And this is in fact WHY I say punditry is not the solution, because those differences very rarely change due to any sort of “more understanding”. As best, it gets down to “I understand why you think that, and you’re completely wrong”.

  42. Richard Bennett’s avatar

    I’ve found that most people who have bothered to read the SOPA bill are willing to budge on many key positions, Seth. It’s complicated, there are many ways to interpret parts of it, and the assumptions people make about what is and isn’t possible to do with Internet infrastructure respond to education.

    This is a question more of specifics than of grand, sweeping generalizations.

  43. Seth Finkelstein’s avatar

    There’s a difference between horse-trading politics, and fundamentally different worldviews. Those aren’t in contradiction. Case in point, you vs Paul Vixie – is that a question more of (technical) specifics or (political) values/trade-offs/ideology?

  44. Brett Glass’s avatar

    Most of the people who are posting angry messages on Twitter and/or on blogs regarding SOPA, or boycotting GoDaddy, do not realize that they are pawns who are being fed misinformation by Google corporate lobbyists and shills. I’d say less than .1% have read the bill. Of the remainder, most appear to be engaged in piracy themselves and don’t want it to become harder to do.

    Here’s my position. As an ISP, an honest businessman, and a musician (who would hate to be trying to make money from music nowadays in the current lawless environment), it troubles me that my network and my services are being used to commit wholesale theft, often from those who can least afford it. It’s bad enough that many of the thieves are being aided and abetted by accomplices outside the US, such as The Pirate Bay, but what is even worse is that large American corporations, including Google, are aiding and abetting that theft. (Want to find an unauthorized copy of any song in the world? Just look on Google’s YouTube. The odds are overwhelming that it’s there.) Google, in particular, is working through its usual astroturf organizations (including Berkman, EFF, Public Knowledge, and Free Press) and business associates (including sites such as GigaOm, which makes the majority of its revenue from ads placed on its site by Google), to defeat any and all legislation that might make the smallest dent in this piracy. (Its recent campaign against GoDaddy is particularly nefarious because GoDaddy, which was trying to take the moral high ground regarding piracy, happens to be a competitor of Google in the area of cloud computing. Thus, Google was not only able to use its money and vast web of connections to work against legislation that would curtail its illegal behaviors; it was also able to leverage these same resources, plus the ignorance of the masses, in an anticompetitive manner, as it did with the so-called “network neutrality” regulations it wrote for the FCC a year ago.

    Let’s set the record straight. Fighting IP crimes is not harming free speech, any more than is, prosecuting someone for fraud. (In fact, by definition, any material which is illegally pirated must be available via legitimate means, for a price, or there would be no intellectual property rights to infringe.) Stopping such crimes would only “break” even the smallest part of the Internet if it were done in an absurdly incompetent way. And to look the other way instead of doing something is not only irresponsible but harmful to our country and to society as a whole. Intellectual property laws were one of the things that were responsible for our country’s success, which now seems to be slipping away. They’re enshrined not just in our law books but in our Constitution. Let’s not jeopardize this simply because corporate criminals have found effective ways to manipulate some gullible members of the public.

  45. IPR’s avatar

    “piracy” is a crime and if “SOPA” is one of the best way to eradicate this problem; we should trust the lawmakers.

  46. Doc Searls’s avatar

    IPR, are you serious? (Serious question.)

  47. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Brett,

    You have a case, and I’m glad to see you make it.

    Standing on the same side as Google (or anybody), however, does not make one a pawn of them. The wrong-by-association case doesn’t wash, and your case doesn’t need it. Why keep going there?

    FWIW, I’ve read the bill.

  48. Brett Glass’s avatar

    When people and/or their organizations ALWAYS stand on the same side as Google, and receive money or other benefits from it, it’s reasonable to say that they are its pawns. Berkman obviously gets far too much money from Google to dare to cross it. Ditto Stanford’s Center for the Internet and Society, which was founded on Google money and relies on it. Many people are unaware how cheaply academics and their institutions can be bought.

    It’s highly ironic and sad that Lawrence Lessig claims to be a crusader against corruption and yet plays this same game. Another fox, another hen house.

  49. KD’s avatar

    Brett,

    You seem to hold an interesting combination of forward-thinking technologist views and retro-thinking copyright maximalist views.

    The situation in which musicians could make a living by selling recordings of performances did not exist until about 100 years or so ago, when technologists gave us various forms of recording, starting, I think, with the piano roll. That started the first copyright panic. Recently technologists have given us computers and the internet, which cannot function without wholesale copyright violation, thus starting about the fifth copyright panic.

    Advances in technology first enabled the recorded music business, then rendered it nonviable, and musicians are eventually going to have to go back to making their livings the way they did before the recorded music business came into being. It had a good run, but it is past its prime, and nearly done.

    When I’m told I just have to suck it up when the internet destroys the business at which I made my living, I don’t have much sympathy for others who believe the internet should not be able to destroy their business. Times change. Adjust.

    And I must disagree with your statement that fighting IP crimes is not harming free speech. There have been numerous examples over the past 10 years or so of free speech being infringed by people who claim to be fighting IP crimes. Unjustified seizure of domains is only the most recent manifestation of this corruption.

    I suppose the recording industry is another example where businesses are too big to fail, but this time not because we, the public, think we would be hurt so badly if they fail, but because they are going to buy off enough politicians to try to legislate against the inevitable end of copyright. They might succeed for a while, but they will lose in the end. Unfortunately for freedom, it might take so long for them to lose that they will have fatally wounded our society.

    THAT is why SOPA must be stopped.

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