George Washingston on SOPA: America’s Future: Russia and China Use Copyright Laws to Crush Government Criticism

By George Washington. Cross posted from Washington’s Blog.

Leading American Internet businessmen warn that the draconian copyright bill on the verge of being passed by Congress would let the US government use censorship techniques “similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran.”

If you want to know what the United States would look like after this bill is passed, just look at what’s been happening in Russia:  The Russian government has been crushing dissent under the pretext of enforcing copyright law.

As the New York Times noted last year:

Across Russia, the security services have carried out dozens of similar raids against outspoken advocacy groups or opposition newspapers in recent years. Security officials say the inquiries reflect their concern about software piracy, which is rampant in Russia. Yet they rarely if ever carry out raids against advocacy groups or news organizations that back the government.

***

[A] review of these cases indicates that the security services often seize computers whether or not they contain illegal software. The police immediately filed reports saying they had discovered such programs, before even examining the computers in detail. The police claims have in numerous instances been successfully discredited by defendants when the cases go before judges.

***

The plainclothes officers who descended upon the Baikal Wave headquarters said they were from the division that investigated commercial crime. But the environmentalists said they noticed at least one officer from the antiextremism department, which tracks opposition activists and had often conducted surveillance on the group.

***

Baikal Wave’s leaders said they had known that the authorities used such raids to pressure advocacy groups, so they had made certain that all their software was legal.

But they quickly realized how difficult it would be to defend themselves.

They said they told the officers that they were mistaken, pulling out receipts and original Microsoft packaging to prove that the software was not pirated. The police did not appear to take that into consideration. A supervising officer issued a report on the spot saying that illegal software had been uncovered.

Before the raid, the environmentalists said their computers were affixed with Microsoft’s “Certificate of Authenticity” stickers that attested to the software’s legality. But as the computers were being hauled away, they noticed something odd: the stickers were gone.

In all, 12 computers were confiscated. The group’s Web site was disabled, its finances left in disarray, its plans disclosed to the authorities.

The police also obtained personnel information from the computers. In the following weeks, officers tracked down some of the group’s supporters and interrogated them.

“The police had one goal, which was to prevent us from working,” said Galina Kulebyakina, a co-chairwoman of Baikal Wave. “They removed our computers because we actively took a position against the paper factory and forcefully voiced it.”

“They can do pretty much what they want, with impunity,” she said.

***

Mr. Kurt-Adzhiyev said he now realized that the authorities were not so much interested in convictions as in harassing opponents. Even if the inquiries are abandoned, they are debilitating when they require months to defend.

Since the American copyright bills (SOPA and PIPA) target online activities, the same thing happening to Russian critics’ computers could happen to the websites of any Americans who criticize the government, the too big to fail banks, or any of the other powers-that-be.

Indeed, the American copyright bill is modeled after the Chinese system.  As I noted Monday:

Given that Joe Lieberman said that America needs an internet kill switch like China, that the U.S. economy has turned socialist (at least for friends of those with control of the money spigot), and that the U.S. government used communist Chinese torture techniques specifically designed to produce false confessions in order to sell the Iraq war, I guess that the bill’s Chinese-style censorship is not entirely surprising.

Of course, it might seem over-the-top to worry about copyright laws being used to stifle government criticism in America … if it weren’t for the fact that:

  • Some folks have alleged that copyright infringers are terrorists. See this, this, this and this
  • In modern America, questioning war, protesting anything, asking questions about pollution or about Wall Street shenanigans, supporting Ron Paul, being a libertarian, holding gold, stocking up on more than 7 days of food, or liking the Founding Fathers may get you labeled as a suspected terrorist
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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

114 comments

  1. scraping_by

    Let’s see. Occupy protesters beaten out of parks for sanitation. Debtors taken to jail for contempt of court. Now censorship to protect copyright.

    Pretext has become the context.

    1. Frank Speaking

      if it were just censorship.

      this is another case of 20th century technology based corporate profit centers trying desperately to maintain their monopoly over the production of buggy whips in the face of new technology—just like big oil sabotaging renewable energy; internal combustion engine auto industry undermining anything and everything other than the combustion engine; top down hierarchical organizations of all type subverting grassroots, bottom-up participatory structures at every turn.

      technology is at hand that could create authentic real time participatory democracy and that is what has power centers of every political stripe, economic ideology and speciality fighting the existential threat.

  2. LarryTOregon

    The people pushing this stuff must be scared shitless, scared what’s gonna happen when daylight finally shines on them.

    1. Nathanael

      They don’t actually recognize what’s coming to them. They can’t even *conceive* of what’s going to happen after they’re revealed and overthrown, which is probably why they’re so scared.

      I admit, I can’t actually conceive of what’s going to happen after they’re overthrown. If they were willing to give up their tinpot fascist practices peacefully, I could tell them what would happen, and it would be nice and peaceful and happy. But as long as they hang on violently, I know they will be overthrown — it’s inevitable, as their “system” is not sustainable — but I don’t know what will come afterwards.

      Note that I have no idea of whether Russia’s system is sustainable; I haven’t studied it. That sort of censorship and brutality tactic can work if your system is fundamentally sustainable. The system in China may be sustainable. They keep people fed and employed. I do know the current mess in the US is *not* sustainable. The US system doesn’t.

  3. Kukulkan

    Leading American Internet businessmen

    These “leading American Internet businessmen” would be the ones making money out of piracy, so of course they’re opposed to any attempt to actually enforce copyright. That would eat into their profits. So they dress up their self-serving objections by feigning concern for “free speech”.

    If you go looking for any bit of pirated material — a film, television show, book, music track, whatever — you will generally find it on a site with a bunch of Google ads around it. Google (and other internet advertisers) makes money from those ads.

    Newspapers, magazines, radio and television had a business model that involved creating content to attract an audience, then selling access to that audience to advertisers. Well that’s what Google does, except it skips the creating content part. It lets others steal it, then sells access to advertisers to those attracted by that stolen content. This is obviously superior to the old media business model because old media had to pay the people who created that content. Google avoids that and so has achieved the neoclassical dream of reducing labour costs to zero. Their profits are correspondingly higher.

    Oh, and you know those sites where you find the content? Sites like Megaupload, Filesonic, Fileserve, Filefactory, etc.? Do you notice the offers to join and be able to download that content faster? That’s how they make money off the content too. Of course, they haven’t managed to reduce their labour costs to zero; they have an incentive program where members get a small payment every time someone downloads a file they uploaded, so the members upload something, then spread the word with appropriate links to all sorts of message boards and collect their fees. And message boards where these links are spread? Well, they enter into arrangements so they get payments for every bit of traffic they send to a specific storage site. You can tell, because if someone posts a link to a different storage site, it soon gets deleted. Hey, they’re not doing this out of altruism.

    While this arrangement does cut into the profits of the storage sites, it also gives them deniability. Hey, it’s not their fault if members upload things that they don’t have the legal rights to, is it?

    So, yes, these leading American (and non-American) Internet businessmen are opposed to something like SOPA, but it’s not out of any concern for civil liberties. They’ve never evidenced any concern for civil liberties in the past, I’m not sure why anyone would think that they have started now.

    This is a blog devoted to economics, so it’s surprising to see someone completely ignoring the underlying economics of the situation and just buying into the spin.

    When William Goldman introduced the phrase “follow the money” in the 1976 film All the President’s Men it caught on because people recognised that it encapsulated a fundamental truth. Allow me to suggest that George Washington should follow that advice rather than just falling for the hysteria.

    Is SOPA perfect? No. Can it be improved? Definitely. But the problems with it are not that it’s going to turn the United States into Red China.

    Seriously, this post is on the same level as the claims that passing a universal health care bill would turn the US into a socialist hell-hole like Canada, Britain or Australia. And we know those are socialist hell-holes where the people hate their health care system because “leading American Health Industry businessmen” told us so.

    Instead of just passing on the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt being spread by these “leading American Internet businessmen”, how about analysing their claims and trying to figure out what’s really going on. That’s one of the things Naked Capitalism is good at and, I think, one of things that attracts much of the readership.

    Fear-mongering we can get anywhere.

    1. RR

      The point of GW’s post: 1) SOPA has been written so that it can be a convenient vehicle for suppression of dissent, and 2) there’s a multitude of indications that the USG will be all too happy to invoke it (and perhaps even plans to invoke it) for that purpose.

      The point of Kukulkan’s long reply: 1) GW does not acknowledge that certain internet business interests oppose SOPA because of a profit motive; 2) therefore, GW’s argument is groundless fear-mongering.

      How does Kukulkan’s reply (which conveniently ignores the lineup of high-profile non-business groups opposing SOPA precisely because of concerns about civil liberties) at all vitiate the point of GW’s post? In other words, why would the fact that these internet business interests are looking out for their own profits in their opposition to SOPA at all undermine the case, made by a number of public-interest organizations, that the SOPA is a danger to civil liberties?

      1. YankeeFrank

        Nice response RR. Its the same old tired excuse for why we must have totalitarian control of our lives — some abuse their freedoms so we cannot have them anymore. Guilty until proven innocent. I have an idea in a similar vein — banks are robbed every day (much more often than reported). It is clear that the American citizenry cannot handle its banking privileges responsibly. We must therefore shut down access to any bank that has been robbed until the people of this country learn responsibility in banking. Keep it under your mattress and pay your bills with money orders from the post office. Once all the banks have been shut down for our own good the government can take over the payments system and there can be the beginnings of democratic control of the money supply. The government will need to issue more currency to make up for the loss of banks’ usurious credit supply — say $100,000 each for every man woman and child in the USA to start. All bank debts, secured and unsecured, will of course be declared null and void as the banks won’t exist anymore, and the American people will have to suffer under this system until we learn our lesson in responsible banking. Ya know, I was against this type of idiot-think, but its growing on me.

        1. Kukulkan

          I have an idea in a similar vein — banks are robbed every day (much more often than reported). It is clear that the American citizenry cannot handle its banking privileges responsibly. We must therefore shut down access to any bank that has been robbed until the people of this country learn responsibility in banking.

          I’m going to show my age here, but I remember when robbing a bank was not only illegal, but also generally considered a bad thing. There were these special government-funded departments called “police” who would investigate bank robberies, track down the perpetrators and arrest them. Then these other public officials called “attorneys” would prosecute those arrested and, if the evidence was strong enough to show that those arrested were the ones who had robbed the bank, they would be punished by being sent to prison.

          Obviously, I never grasped the sheer genius of your attitude in which we recognise that since investigating, arresting and prosecuting bank robbers didn’t actually completely eliminate bank robberies, we should just give up and make bank robberies legal. As President Obama recently noted, none of the fraud committed on Wall Street during the Global Financial Crisis was actually illegal.

          Now, as far as I know, when they made robbing banks legal, they never actually stopped people from putting their money in banks. Quite the opposite. They want you to put your money in the banks; wouldn’t be any point in robbing them if you didn’t.

          So, you’re right. Trying to stop people from profiting from piracy is clearly as silly as trying to stop people from robbing banks. We should just get used to the fact that’s what people do.

          Thank you for clarifying that.

          1. Christophe

            Kulkulkan, your trove of circular reasoning would be impressive if it were in any way consistently applied. That it is not reflects a penchant for strategic debate rather than genuine naivety. As an ideologue, you would do better to improve your debating skills than to repeatedly trot out overused and transparent debating tactics. The audience and influence you crave cannot be achieved by the techniques you are applying. Rise to the challenge!

          2. Kukulkan

            Christophe, since you’re a mind reader, you already know my response, so I won’t won’t waste time by actually writing it up.

            I await your reply.

          3. YankeeFrank

            Wow. You are good at ascribing assertions not made to those who did not make them. I was making a joke to prove a point. But you are not willing to see the point so you set up red herrings and straw men to avoid the truth. You’re boring to debate.

      2. Kukulkan

        How does Kukulkan’s reply (which conveniently ignores the lineup of high-profile non-business groups opposing SOPA precisely because of concerns about civil liberties) at all vitiate the point of GW’s post?

        Because if these internet business interests were in the least bit concerned with civil liberties they would be suggesting ways to accomplish the anti-piracy goals of the legislation while addressing the free speech concerns. Oddly, they aren’t. They’re not addressing the anti-piracy problem at all. Why? Because they make money out of it. Instead, they obstruct hears on the subject.

        Similarly, these high-profile non-business groups would also be making suggestions as to how to deal with piracy without endangering civil liberties. Again, they’re not.

        Google already censors web sites it doesn’t approve of. PayPal and Visa have already stopped payments going to groups they disapprove of. Where was their concern for civil liberties or freedom of speech then?

        They have demonstrated that their alleged concern for civil liberties extends only as far as their bottom line and not a nano-meter further.

        Or, is this a libertarian argument? You know, where you point out that it’s only bad if the government does it. So long as it’s private companies trampling civil liberties, that’s all right.

        If you define civil liberties as the right of the one percent (and the ten percent who would like to become part of the one percent) to get free content from the rest of us, then you’re right: what I wrote doesn’t vitiate the point of the post at all. Since the entire goal is to preserve the piracy business model, describing how that business model works doesn’t vitiate it, it just clarifies things a bit.

        1. Rcoutme

          No it doesn’t. I can easily tell you how to vitiate the situation. Start by insisting that copyright material that is posted on the internet by someone not authorized to do so is illegal. When it is found, a complainer notifies the site (legally, i.e. maybe in writing or something). The site has the obligation to take down the material and ban the user (maybe allow one warning).

          AFAIK this is being done right now.

          If a site shows an unwillingness to comply, then the site can be sued just as would happen in any other case regarding newspapers, etc. The government is allowed to seek criminal charges on a person posting the protected material.

          SOPA is not needed for this.

          1. Anon

            You’ve just described the DMCA, passed as a law almost 15 years ago. A website can post user-generated content, if a copyright holder purports to claim copyright, they can submit a takedown notice. If the website removes it, they are exempt from liability. The original poster can submit a counter-notice say “no, you’re wrong” and request they put it up. Bot notices have legal contact information. The counter-notice gets forwarded to the original complainer, who can now duke it out with lawyers and in court.

            The problems with this are #1: No penalty for false claims of copyright, and Yves would have to take your post down or risk liability on herself. A second problem is that some copyright holders are notoriously sloppy, sending DMCA letters claiming infringement where none exists, based on merely doing a search for key-words, and submitting a takedown for each and every found document one, e.g., a bibliography of author names (See SFWA&Scribd or dozens of other examples). A third problem is that most sites do not have operational procedures for re-enabling after the counter-notice, or they have no way to notify the original author, so it is an effective censorship technique, or they are ordinary people, who are cowed by the legal system, which is both powerful and unfamiliar.

            The copyright holder’s problem, and why they want SOPA is that this procedure is too much effort, they want a shortcut; merely allege a site is dedicated to copyright infringment, and force service providers (ad networks and search engines) to blacklist a website, without proof. Service providers will block-first and ask questions later— they risk liability if they do not act, are given immunity if they do, are not obligated to restore service upon a counter-notice, and the risk of a penalty for a false allegation is essentially zero.

            Unfortunately, that is very broad. E.g., is this blog dedicated to infringement? It regularly quotes many other blogs, news articles, etc. A superficial examination (which copyright holders are notorious for) would confirm that. It could be taken down deliberately, by an enemy, or through sloppiness (e.g., righthaven V2.)

          2. Kukulkan

            So, basically, if you create something, you need to spend every second of the rest of your life obsessively monitoring every site on the internet, sending out take-down letters which may — eventually — be honoured. I mean, Google can take up to eight months to send a form letter reply to a take-down notice, so it’s not as if these things are all that effective. Well, not unless you happen to have something like Disney’s legal department behind you.

            And, once they take it down, someone else puts it back up within a few days. Sometimes within a few minutes. The take-down letters just can’t keep up.

            How’s this for an alternative: make it a standard part of the terms of service that anyone uploading something to a site has to declare that they have a legal right to do so and, if it turns out they don’t because the site receives a take-down letter, they’re financially libel.

            That way, sites have a legal protection: the declaration; they can claim that they believed the declaration and that covers them. If the person uploading the material didn’t have the legal right to do so then, when making the declaration, they obviously committed fraud.

            The site automatically pays a penalty when caught with illegal material, but uses the declaration to recover that penalty from the person who uploaded it. Perhaps with a small fee added on top for their time and trouble.

            Combine this with a fee paid to people who put up content that attracts lots of traffic. Since many sites already do this, they have an established financial relationship with the uploaders, so we’re just expanding that relationship to include penalties as well as rewards, not asking them to do something new that would add to their overheads.

            The penalty should be in the range of $60 to $250 per offense — large enough to be disagreeable, but not something that would break the average person, unless, of course, they’re uploading illegal material in wholesale quantities.

            I doubt that this would eliminate illegal uploads, but it should bring them down to a level where take-down letters are actually a useful response. It would be like speeding tickets; everyone knows you shouldn’t speed, but everyone also knows that we all do on occasion. However, the fines keep the number of times that people do speed down to manageable level.

            Ever wonder why the sites don’t suggest something like that? Or even adopt such a scheme voluntarily, thus negating the need for something like SOPA?

            The current model, the one you seem to endorse, is equivalent to saying that if a bank gets robbed and my savings stolen, it’s my fault because I wasn’t camped out front of the bank guarding it. Obviously, if I’m not there to tell the robbers “Don’t take this money, it’s mine”, they have no reason not to take the money. So it’s my fault that my savings were taken along with the rest of the loot. It’s really a form of blame the victim.

          3. They didn't leave me a choice

            >So, basically, if you create something, you need to spend every second of the rest of your life obsessively monitoring every site on the internet, sending out take-down letters which may — eventually — be honoured. I mean, Google can take up to eight months to send a form letter reply to a take-down notice, so it’s not as if these things are all that effective. Well, not unless you happen to have something like Disney’s legal department behind you.

            Short answer, yes.

            Long answer, if you suck on the teat of a government granted monopoly, the very least you can do is not be an asshole about it and infringe on the freedoms of others by insisting on abominations like the SOPA.

          4. Anon

            Kukulkan, this site allows user uploads — nothing stops any of us from infringing by pasting an entire newspaper article into the comments. Yves would have to implement the system you propose.

            First, we’d both have to declare who we were to Yves, meaning that there would be no anonymity in this conversation. The thinnest of accusations or court processes would unmask anonymity in any online forum.

            Second, how would Yves be able to verify that I have an identity that can be held financially liable? If she’s not legally required verify my identity, I could claim to be Santa Clause today. If she is legally required to verify that a poster can be held financially liable… well, how?

            Do we end all anonymity with a government ‘license to post on the internet’? Which will a ripe target for identity theft, and an easy way to censor critics — find a 10 word copy&paste, convict by copyright infringement, and revoke their license.

            Or, will Yves have to go to a private credit reporting agency to verify that we’re posting with real identities that are our own? Who’ll pay for that? Nobody, which means that this site’s comment section will shut down.

            Either way, the end result is either ineffective, or will make censorship easy. Either it’ll be impossible to run a website with user-generated comments, or a gov’t ID/approval will be required to post to any such website, whose permission could be revoked at any time.

            Oh, and for the latest example of an abuse: see http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/12/youtube-universal-megaupload/ where BMG music abused youtube’s antipiracy to take down a controversial video of celebrities and pop superstars singing and praising the file-sharing service Megaupload.

          5. Kukulkan

            Anon,

            Yves isn’t hosting a storage site where exabytes of material is routinely uploaded and downloaded. She doesn’t offer memberships allowing people to download material faster. She doesn’t pay fees to people who upload things that prove popular and generate lots of downloads. As such, there is no established financial arrangement between her and the people posting here.

            If someone has provided a storage site with enough information to allow those running the site to pay them fees for uploading material that generates lots of download requests, then they have already given up their anonymity and done so voluntarily.

            If you’re worried that a scheme such as the one I outlined might be misapplied to sites like Yves’s then we can add a category for “Not For Profit” sites or Commentary sites in which they are exempt from the requirements of such a scheme provided they abide by a couple of restrictions:

            i) Their business model isn’t built on generating revenue from uploaded material or the audience attracted by that material (if a site needs to run fund-raisers like this has, then I think we can take that as prima facie evidence that it’s not generating revenue from the uploaded material);

            ii) A certain percentage of the material is original content (and this may consist entirely of user-generated comments on quoted material).

          6. Kukulkan

            They didn’t leave me a choice says:
            Long answer, if you suck on the teat of a government granted monopoly, the very least you can do is not be an asshole about it and infringe on the freedoms of others by insisting on abominations like the SOPA.

            Well, that’s the thing about government granted monopolies: governments are expected to enforce them. That involves infringing on the freedom of others to steal the work the monopoly has been granted for. That’s how monopolies work.

            For what it’s worth, various governments have recognised the evils of monopoly and try to balance the benefits of this particular one (“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” according to the US Constitution, or “the Encouragement of Learning” from the official title of the Statute of Queen Anne) against the harm by making it apply for a limited time only.* Once that time expires, you’re free to do whatever you want with the material.

            They also balance the restrictions such monopolies impose with government granted benefits, like the right to free speech. And they even provide elaborate judicial systems to try to resolve conflicts between the two.

            People keep trying to cast this as a conversation about civil liberties, but it’s really about the money, and it’s interesting how commentators are flat-out refusing to even acknowledge the money. Which is rather odd for those hanging around a site dedicated to economics.

            ——————————–
            * Much too long currently in my opinion, but since you apparently believe that it shouldn’t apply at all, that’s really not germane.

          7. They didn't leave me a choice

            >Well, that’s the thing about government granted monopolies: governments are expected to enforce them. That involves infringing on the freedom of others to steal the work the monopoly has been granted for. That’s how monopolies work.

            First of all, would you please cut the crap about “stealing”, call copyright infringement what it is, copyright infringement. Stealing is a word reserved for situations where one party deprieves the other of the ability to use a resource, which clearly is not the case here. The “owner” of the original work still has full access to the original work, someone copying the work over the internet doesn’t alter this fact in any shape or form. Talking about “stealing” is nothing but a pathetic, overused and obsolete attempt to redefine the terms of the discussion in a manner that benefits one party. That is, propaganda, plain and simple.

            >For what it’s worth, various governments have recognised the evils of monopoly and try to balance the benefits of this particular one (“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” according to the US Constitution, or “the Encouragement of Learning” from the official title of the Statute of Queen Anne) against the harm by making it apply for a limited time only.* Once that time expires, you’re free to do whatever you want with the material.

            In other words, you think that it is perfectly acceptable for copyrights to be enforced to any degree necessary as long as it relapses at some point? Even though Mickey Mouse copyright acts have practically extended copyright terms to perpetuity, and will continue to do so as long as corporations keep buying the congresscritters.

            >They also balance the restrictions such monopolies impose with government granted benefits, like the right to free speech. And they even provide elaborate judicial systems to try to resolve conflicts between the two.

            You mean the completely and absolutely impartial judicial systems that are in no way inundated with Official Ideology and from which justice is only recieved by those who have the money to buy the appropriate results via correct lawyers. Right, good luck with that.

            >People keep trying to cast this as a conversation about civil liberties, but it’s really about the money, and it’s interesting how commentators are flat-out refusing to even acknowledge the money. Which is rather odd for those hanging around a site dedicated to economics.

            Perhaps the reason why people are “trying to cast” this as a discussion about civil liberties is because it IS a discussion about civil liberties. The money making ability of a few parasitical entities must in any reasonable society held as a distant second behind the ability of regular citizens to use the internet freely without having to constantly worry about stepping into some legal landmine. Also, it is pretty perverse an idea that a site dedicated to /exposing crimes and immorality in economics and finance/ would not treat a matter such as this primarily as a moral issue.

            Why don’t you go troll some other comment board you industry shill, you are as tedious as you are manipulative.

      3. Genghis Cat

        “The point of GW’s post: 1) SOPA has been written so that it can be a convenient vehicle for suppression of dissent..”

        Very speculative on GW’s part, no evidence offered (unless you are willing to accept the Russia / China tenet – the bulk of his post btw.)

        From GW’s post: “Leading American Internet businessmen warn that the draconian copyright bill…”

        Draconian = in the future you will have to pay for content that you are currently stealing and using to create ad revenue.

        That leading internet businessmen, ie, those who earn money from content that will be affected by the bill, are concerned is not a surprise. SOPA will affect their bottom line, which is a far greater concern to them than any of our freedom or privacy.

        The internet is not private, and the government is watching and will continue to watch the public’s actions on the net, with or without SOPA. If it is flawed legislation, suggest some changes that allow it to do it’s stated purpose (copyright) without leading us all to the gulag as GW seems to want us to believe.

        Best…H

        1. Nathanael

          Not speculative at all. SOPA has specifically been written so that any website can be shut down without any judicial oversight. That is designed to suppress dissent.

          I personally suspect it’s designed to suppress dissent about *large corporations* — the main operatives using copyright law to harass people right now are big companies which want to suppress any bad publicity about them. However, it’s trivially easy for the government to use it to suppress other sorts of dissent.

    2. Genghis Cat

      Agreed. How many generations now believe music is free? Until users sre responsible for every keystroke thievery will continue. Sorry we will lose the freedom to say whatever we want without fear of being recognized, but it’s an indication that too many of us can’t handle freedom responsibly. If you’ve ever downloaded music without paying for it I’m talking to you.

      And no, I don’t like the idea of a surveilance state. It’s one more price extracted by the “War On Terror”.

      Ideally, legislation would protect the rights of copyright holders big AND small, but the hyperbole of calling this a slippery slope to censorship is extreme. Let’s face it; pirates want everything to be free and they will say anything to keep things that way.

      Best…H

      1. YankeeFrank

        Yes. Agreed. We must control every keystroke of every American citizen lest a few of us download copyrighted “content” for free! I mean, we are like children really: we have been bad and have abused our freedoms so now our paternalistic and authoritarian government, for our own good, must take away those rights until every single one of us learns how to behave like good copyright respecting “citizens”. Let freedom ring.

        1. Genghis Cat

          Who said control every keystroke? Not me. Why would you choose that word other than to mislead?

          Folks need to be held responsible for what they do on the web. We are held responsible for what we do on the highways, when we start a business, in almost every facet of life. Why should the web be any different? The cries of loss of freedom don’t match the real experiences of being phished, spammed or threatened while on the web. Oh, and then there’s the theft of copyright.

          If only a few people had stolen music there would be no need for discussion. The estimate I hear most often is that over 90% of all music is stolen.

          Yes I copied records to cassettes, mostly legally. I owned the records and was allowed to make copies for my own use. After years if the industry complaining, a surchrge was added to each sale of tape as compensation. I’m not sure if it was helpful, but either way, copying to cassette was a minor issue. It had to be done in real time, rather than today’s near instantaneous copying.

          Copyright is a complicated issue, but thievery is not.

          Best…H

          1. Christophe

            “Who said control every key stroke?” How delightfully rhetorical of you. Why would you choose that question other than to mislead?

            Be careful. Apparently the rest of us can play that game as well.

            What you said was, “Until users sre responsible for every keystroke thievery will continue.” As used, “responsible” means “controlling oneself.” So in context it would indicate “controlling one’s every keystroke.”

            Your argument continues that people can’t handle freedom responsibly. Thus a surveillance state is one more extracted price we must pay. Hmmm, that does sound awfully similar to we won’t control our every keystroke, so the state must control every keystroke for us.

            Returning to your question “Who said control every key stroke?”, the obvious answer is you. Would you take less offense were it written “control, in a rights-respecting manner, every key stroke”?

          2. Genghis Cat

            Quite a few semantic leaps there Christophe. If I had meant to say control keystrokes, I would have said it.

            To intentionally misquote me as YF did as a means of dismantling my argument is a logical fallacy, as is the semantic quibbling.

            Back to the point: where do you stand on copyright verses internet freedom? What solutions can you offer?

            Best…H

          3. Christophe

            Sorry, I had forgotten about the “logical fallacy” of quoting someone in a manner they disapprove of. Is copyright just one of several property rights you would prefer to have enshrined based on your whimsical definitions?

      2. YankeeFrank

        Oh and one more thing. If you don’t like the idea of censorship and a totalitarian state, then you don’t like SOPA. Its an either/or proposition.

        1. Genghis Cat

          That’s your opinion. Mine is that SOPA will have little or no effect – government surveillance will be increasing with or without SOPA. Another way to say it is that defeating SOPA will not slow down government surveillance. So, yes, it is indeed an either / or proposition.

          Best…H

          1. Nathanael

            Defeating SOPA will certainly slow down CORPORATE surveillance, on the other hand.

            The entire purpose of SOPA is to allow PRIVATE CORPORATIONS to censor speech they don’t like. No judicial oversight.

            While government censorship may happen either way, censorship by private companies (perhaps Monsanto?) can be stopped if this sort of bill is killed.

      3. ScottW

        You never copied tape cassettes of music when you were younger, or photo copied articles? As an attorney representing clients interested in protecting copyrighted material, I rarely ran across an infringer who actually decided to pay a royalty to use the material legally after we told them to cease and desist. They usually just stopped displaying it. So, we really were not losing money from infringement by way of lost opportunity for royalties. On the other hand, infringement by those who would not pay to obtain the material legally can provide widespread exposure to artists and writers who would have little, or no, following if paying for their material was strictly enforced. My point–all of us have engaged in violating the copyright of others in the past, and except for the most part strict enforcement does not deprive the artists and authors of additional revenue. Of course their are exceptions, and irritation from someone “ripping you off,” but it is not one of the significant legal sins of the 21st Century.

      4. K Ackermann

        Do you want to know why music is free? Because it transmits indiscriminately.

        There’s a lot of crap I don’t want to hear, but do anyway. It’s free: change the laws. You want to package and sell it? That’s fine, but by making it, it will also be heard.

        1. Genghis Cat

          That is precisely the goal – preventing content from being transmitted indiscriminately.

          The laws protecting copyright are already on the books. Enforcing them effectively will cost some internet freedom, such as (and I am repeating myself, sorry) the freedom to be phished, spammed or threatened by someone you don’t know and who won’t be held responsible for their actions.

          Best…H

          1. YankeeFrank

            The point at issue is how convenient and subject to review are the decisions to cut off a website from the internet for alleged copyright infringement. SOPA will allow media companies to have websites shut down with no review. That is a power that no entity should have over another in a free society. We have courts to decide such matters. Your comfort with leaving the control of internet sites in the hands of media conglomerates is naive, authoritarian and fascistic. The lie that piracy has destroyed the music business is a joke, as the music business is doing fine as a whole, and the fact that people are buying less recorded music has more to do with the fact that the crap record conglomerates produce is awful and overpriced than piracy. The assumption that those who download free media would buy it without that alternative is self-serving corporate claptrap. The idea that its worth shutting down the freedom of the internet so that corporate media can lock down every penny of potential profit is an obscene distortion of the public good that copyright was created to support. But then again, we live in a rentier-based fascist capitalist state now so this SOPA crap is just par for the course. What disgusts me is how many supposed citizens so eagerly put themselves in chains and bow to the altar of the almighty profit…

            and in response to your thought-challenged obfuscation — how is it possible that users can be held responsible for every keystroke without those keystrokes being controlled? You are merely placing the control after the fact of the keystroke in question as if that makes it any less controlling. If my internet business can be destroyed by a false copyright violation shutdown per SOPA, how does that affect my business decisions prior to such shutdown? How does it limit the services and interactions I program into my site from the beginning? “Control of every keystroke” or “responsibility for every keystroke” — with due process free SOPA-style laws there is no distinction between the two.

          2. Genghis Cat

            Don’t worry YF. You’ll still have the freedom to behave legally on the internet after legislation like SOPA passes.

            All of this underlines how bogus the scare tactics used by GW are. This whole issue is about people not wanting to pay for music or movies or software. Virtually no one bought into the reasoning presented: that since abuses occurred in Russia and China, they will happen here. Red herring, anyone?

            Best…H

          3. Genghis Cat

            As far as responsibility for keystrokes, I look at the internet as having similarities with other public facets of life, like telephones, streets, stores, etc. You may have the freedom to yell “fire” in a crowded theater, but if someone gets hurt you may be held responsible.

            I get spammed almost every day. I get phished. I have even been threatened, all by folks who are anonymous and beyond the reach of the law. I’d rather they were held responsible for their actions.

            As it is, I don’t put anything in an email that I wouldn’t mind the whole world seeing. If I have something I want to keep secret, the last place I would put it is on the web. I am under no illusions about privacy on the internet. Certainly you can at least agree with that.

            Best…H

          4. Nathanael

            Stop lying, Genghis. What you say is simply not true.

            If SOPA passes, my website, with no infringing material, could be shut down and blacklisted by Sony Universal *just on their say-so*. No due process, no judicial review.

            Or, Yves’s entire website could be blacklisted and shut down because *someone else* posted something on it. Without her even being given a chance to remove the offending post.

            This is the key problem here. Legal activity on the internet will, absolutely, be prevented by SOPA.

            Assuming it is (a) enforced and (b) the courts don’t declare it unconstitutional. It is, of course, unconstitutional (due process violation) but I don’t trust our courts to do the right thing.

      5. Tempus

        The Big Lie: pirated music or anything else is “robbing” the creators of bazillions of dollars. First, the people doing the suing didn’t create JACK SQUAT. The actual artists or coders are not the ones whining and complaining, it is merely the 1% complaining. Anything the 1% complains about is to be ignored.

        For another thing, study after study has demonstrated that pirated content (of any kind) does NOT seriously hurt anyone. DRM-free software, music, content does as well, if not better, than obsessively (over)controlled content.

        Hell, I’m of the sort that feels it is an obligation to go out and do what the assclown corporations and government goons in their pockets try to proscribe so this sort of law will only make me go out and flaunt the rules.

        I’ve paid for all my software, all my music, but this sort of draconian overreach makes me want to stick it to them in response.

        1. Genghis Cat

          “For another thing, study after study has demonstrated that pirated content (of any kind) does NOT seriously hurt anyone. DRM-free software, music, content does as well, if not better, than obsessively (over)controlled content. ”

          I haven’t seen any of these studies you mention that can withstand any scrutiny. Please post a link to the strongest one you can find.

          I can tell you that in my lifetime, recording budgets have shrunk massively as sales have evaporated. There’s no bigger factor in the evaporation of sales that I am aware of than piracy. Twenty years ago, $150,000 budgets were common for artists that none of us ever heard of. Today there is essentially no budget at all; with few exceptions artists have to pay out of their own pockets.

          I am not arguing that record companies handled any of this very well – they didn’t. I went independent years ago because of their predatory business practices, and I do not support a return to the bad old days. I do see a need to balance the interests of the artists, listeners and the business people, managers and publishers, etc.

          Best…H

          1. TiberiusB

            Never heard of any studies, huh? Not for a deliberate lack of effort, I’m sure. Putting aside the ongoing global economic crisis as any sort of a potential contributing factor, I can see how intense consideration of the problem would only leave piracy as the primary culprit.

            Here are a few easily found links on the subject. Five more minutes with Google and I’m sure I can double it. Try harder.

            http://www.skepticaleye.com/2011/02/online-piracy-increases-sales-of-dvds.html

            http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/10/09/removing-copyright-restrictions-can-decrease-piracy-study/

            http://www.zeropaid.com/news/86009/study-pirates-buy-10-times-more-music-than-they-steal/

            http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2010/04/benefits-of-piracy.html

            http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110725/04104115231/new-study-piracy-increases-quality-content.shtml

            http://www.roughlydrafted.com/RD/RDM.Tech.Q1.07/708F20CD-E67D-45C7-AF95-3E1A6AC07C37.html

            http://news.cnet.com/2100-1027-5181562.html

            http://www.uproxx.com/technology/2011/10/pop-didnt-eat-itself-why-piracy-didnt-destroy-the-music-industry/

          2. Genghis Cat

            Well, as I had said, these don’t bear scrutiny so far. (I’ve looked at 4.)

            First one relates to Japanese Anime DVDs. Buh-bye.

            Next one relates to DRM. Here’s a quote: “Because only a legal user will be effected by the DRM restrictions, those who illegally download the music are not affected.” Strike two.

            Next up is from a site called “Zero Paid”. Think they might have an axe to grind here?

            I also looked at the cnet piece and was able to find a contradictory piece, also on cnet. Sheesh.

            So, no strong evidence found supporting your claims yet. That’s why I say, do your own homework and find the very strongest study that supports your claim. It shouldn’t take you long. The Google search is a good start, but reading and examining the stories will take you further.

            Best…H

          3. Genghis Cat

            I should have made it clearer: your first link referenced the sale of Japanese anime DVDs in Japan. No mention was made of music in the American market.

            Best…H

          4. Nathanael

            Well, that’s pathetic. The first study gave you some clear proof, and your response was, “Well, they’re Japanese, so that can’t possibly apply to Americans.”

            Cluestick: Japanese people are not so different from Americans.

          5. YankeeFrank

            Shouldn’t the onus be on those who want to have vast censorship of the interent to prove their case rather than we who wish to preserve freedom on the net? Regardless, you are clearly blind to the abuses that will accrue due to the draconian powers provided to the media congolmerates. You assert they are hurting immensely due to pirating, but provide no proof, and then assert they must have unconstitutional rights to protect against the unproven thefts. You’re a troll in other words. Your arguments are totally irrational and unproven yet you reiterate them over and again, throwing up straw men where you can and conveniently placing the burden of proof on the wrong parties when you think you can you not-so-sly dog.

            Yay fascists and government/corporate control of the internet! Let freedom ring, within the confines of corporate approved speech zones. Go shit in your hat.

  4. Paul Tioxon

    If our society were nothing but apps for smart phones and tablets, maybe dissent could be crushed. There is a lot more to dissent than what is carried on fiber optic cables. Occupy showed that boots on the ground controlling territory sends a more powerful message than slogans on blogs, even a million blogs. Equally of concern for America future is the Chinese towns and cities in open revolt. The future holds more than the jackboot smashing our faces over and over, if China is any indication or Russia for that matter, expect more open revolts of towns and cities.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/8951638/Chinese-police-besiege-town-and-cut-of-food-supplies-in-bid-to-quell-riots.html

    Anti capitalist dissent did not just start in America in Zucotti park, it has gb

    1. Paul Tioxon

      Anti capitalist dissent goes back in the most relevant manner for decades in this country. Many people radicalized have created platforms for societal change, such as credit unions, which were extremely limited in scope for years, but have branched out into consumer and small business lending that are recreating the decentralized, extensive Savings and Loan system that worked for decades as the financial engine for building the middle class standard of living. There used to be over twenty five thousand such banks, most are gone in consolidation into the TBTF entities.

        1. F. Beard

          “The few who understand the system will either be so interested in its profits or be so dependent upon its favours that there will be no opposition from that class, while on the other hand, the great body of people, mentally incapable of comprehending the tremendous advantage that capital derives from the system, will bear its burdens without complaint, and perhaps without even suspecting that the system is inimical to their interests.” The Rothschild brothers of London writing to associates in New York, 1863.

          1. Paul Tioxon

            Everything that would revolutionize society does not have to be truly radical in some drastic dramatic sense, it would just have to be placed in the service of society, not capitalism. The credit union system is a not for profit enterprise. They pay no taxes, but operate in a less costly manner for the benefit of people not profits. They are regularly reviled by the bankers that you seem to hate. They are attacked as dead beats with an unfair competitive advantage, the lack of desire to make profit so strong, that the very structure of their enterprise is devoid of profit accumulation and capital formation.

            They are so radical to the government, that when Reagan came to power it sought to destroy the National Consumer Coop Bank back in 1980. It stopped a national coop movement and Community Development Corporation movement dead in its tracks. It is unfortunate that little attention is given to simple solutions that have proved their validity to a solution of the problems of capitalism. That is of course, IF you think capitalism has only been corrupted and with a few tweaks here and a lot of honest people there, all will be well. That we just need to act on the correct theory, that there is just one correct theory and it is impossible that the future replacement of capitalism could exist with it side by side in the present.

            I would draw your attention to radical solutions that are working in the here and now. That there can be several solutions, based on different theories, and they can work in concert as capitalism destroys itself. I would like to continue to eat, to be heated in the winter, and my standard of living would be nice to maintain, as simple as it is. But without taking the mechanism of state and of capitalism and putting them into service for the people, instead of profits, and worrying about the ontological implications of fictitious capital instead, I am afraid we will all starve and or freeze to death without operating institutions that we are even vaguely familiar with in order to survive into the future.

            Here is a model for an economy that exists now, side by side with the much larger global capitalist system, but can grow over time.

            http://dissentmagazine.org/article/?article=4056

            Neither Revolution Nor Reform: A New Strategy for the Left

            By Gar Alperovitz

            “For over a century, liberals and radicals have seen the possibility of change in capitalist systems from one of two perspectives: the reform tradition assumes that corporate institutions remain central to the system but believes that regulatory policies can contain, modify, and control corporations and their political allies. The revolutionary tradition assumes that change can come about only if corporate institutions are eliminated or transcended during an acute crisis, usually but not always by violence.

            But what happens if a system neither reforms nor collapses in crisis?”

          2. F. Beard

            @Paul Tioxon,

            Credit unions suffer from the same moral flaw as banks – the so-called “credit-worthy” are allowed to steal purchasing power from everyone else.

          3. Nathanael

            F.Beard: have you looked up Alternatives Federal Credit Union?

            The point of a well-run credit union is that the membership should be able to *vote* on who is “credit-worthy”. At that point, it’s not theft, it’s democracy (with all its flaws, naturally, including the three-wolves-and-a-pig-voting problem).

    2. Frank Speaking

      boots on the ground!?

      controlling territory!?

      you are delusional if you seriously believe what you have written.

      don’t worry about capitalism—the capitalists are will on the way to carrying out its demise

  5. Binary Bert

    “The group’s Web site was disabled, its finances left in disarray, its plans disclosed to the authorities.”

    Sounds like they weren’t very clued up – a web-site and financial records could easily have been run off-site and even in another country, with all “its plans” stored remotely in password protected files – with another innocuous set of ‘plans’ in front of them for plausible denial. Apps like ‘TrueCrypt’ will even clean memory and caches when you log off hidden folders.

  6. Alex SL

    Given that … the U.S. economy has turned socialist (at least for friends of those with control of the money spigot)

    I really, really, really with people would stop calling the government being owned by large companies “socialism”. It is socialism if the government owns the companies (and not even then if the goal is not to achieve greater equality, it could be argued). Please make an effort here, this is not rocket science.

    1. toxymoron

      I would contest that argument. ‘Socialism’ is aiming at greater equality, yes, but without reference to ‘company ownership’.
      If the government owns the companies (or the companies own the government, that distinction is superficial), you either have fascism or communism. Fascism is when the companies decide where to loot (oops, ‘invest’), communism is where the state directs the investment.
      In that sense, China is still communist, while the USA is now a fascist state. France, germany, and most of Europe were ‘socialist’ countries, in a sense that huge sums of public money were spent on the population to protect from the worst excesses of the current crisis. Luckily we have Merkozy trying to put an end to all that.

    2. mansoor h. khan

      Alex SL said:

      “Please make an effort here, this is not rocket science”

      It is not rocket science. All major religions of the world say something like:

      “don’t let your neighbor starve”.

      The truth, the benefit and the validity of the above principle has been proven over and over again for thousands of years.

      mansoor h. khan

      1. Nathanael

        Even from an entirely selfish and pragmatic viewpoint, there are many benefits to this. Reciprocality is the main one: if you help your neighbor, he will help you later.

        (This also shows that if your neighbor is an ungrateful psychopath who refuses to help you when you are starving, you should *not* help him when he is starving. We need to do this to the psychopathic banksters.)

        It is even more important for *the powerful* to not let the large number of *less powerful* starve. History shows they will be overthrown, bankrupted and perhaps executed if they do let the majority of their people starve. Yet seemingly our great and powerful do not, on the whole, realize this.

    3. scraping_by

      Think of three threads of socialism.

      The first is group ownership of assets. This is traditional ownership of resources by tribes, clans, families, villages, etc. Often called the commons. Under attack everywhere by legal systems run by insiders.

      The next is Marxist socialism, which is the government ownership of means of production. Think Sweden, Russia, Nebraska, North Dakota, etc.

      The last is Nationalist Socialism, also known as Fascism or Corporatism. The government and business are one. Of course, we know the senior partner, don’t we?

      The current power constellation is undoubtedly corporatism, that is, nationalist socialism. We have the business lords served by the government lackeys, including cleaning up their messes.

  7. F. Beard

    To all those who won’t create unless you are paid to do so; fine then don’t. Who needs you? Creators create because that is what they do. They are often content to live in poverty so long as they can create. They don’t need to squeeze every last cent from what they create nor do they care to. They have better things to do.

    And now we are going to risk destroying the greatest invention for the sharing of knowledge since the printing press?

    How many of you are using a FREE distribution of linux? Or a FREE WEB browser? I use both and they are far superior to the crap from Microsoft.

    1. Genghis Cat

      I’m on a Mac. (Just because Microsoft does something poorly doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.) All my software and music and other content is paid for. I’m not saying this to sound superior – I do this because I am a content creator and I want to support the business that helps to feed my family.

      So, you are advocating not paying people who create content? Writers, actors, musicians, directors, camera crews, recording engineers, etc? Are there any other occupations that should work for free? Electricians? Retail clerks?

      What 40 hour a week job are you willing to do for free?

      Best…H

      1. Grafonola

        So, I attempt to share a transfer of my copy of the Seattle Harmony Kings 1925 Victor recording of “How Many Times?”. At the time that this disc was waxed copyright was for 14 years, so the record is in the public domain, no?

        Well, in the Federal Court of the Southern District of NY (a court notorious for favoring publishers) a record company in the mid-1970’s secured a ruling based on a precedent of 1909 (regarding piano rolls) that recording, pressing and selling a talking machine record DOES NOT CONSTITUTE PUBLICATION, and so of course the copyright of unpublished material remains in the creator’s hands in PERPETUITY. Of course the courts have also ruled that in this sense, and in the absence of artists contracts to the contrary, the phongraph company IS THE CREATOR in whom these rights forever inhere

        Should the successors to the Victor Talking Machine company be able to prevent the exchange of a nearly nintey year old recording for the rest of time? They have no interest in publishing, selling or promoting it themselves, but they attempt to prevent modern enthusiasts from exchanging copies of these excellent recordings. How does this practice encourage the creation of new works, or reward creators?

        1. Genghis Cat

          “in the absence of artists contracts to the contrary”

          This is a telling phrase. It sounds like the ruling is legally correct, but frustratingly wrong.

          I agree with most of your conclusions on this case, although to be fair they are exceptions to the general copyright issues related to piracy. The recording you mention sounds like it would only sell a few copies, so perhaps copyright law should allow some sort of “fair use” if the rights holder is unwilling to distribute the recording themselves.

          On the other hand, they do own the rights and they can do whatever they want under the law.

          Best…H

          1. Grafonola

            One other point that I might make in this case is that the successor company to Victor Talking Machine cares so little about the recording in question that they no longer retain in their archives the metal parts ( these having long since been sold for the few cents of their value as scrap metal) nor do they retain a copy of the recording in any form, neither has the firm bothered to retain the recording ledgers which might allow them to establish ownership. Yet do they seek to limit the exchange of copies of this and many, many other obscure recordings of no commercial value.

          2. Nathanael

            Here’s the problem: this sort of case is NOT an exception. It’s actually typical.

            There is a vast, vast quantity of “orphan work” due to the unreasonable extension of copyright to obscene and unconstitutional lengths. Even if only a dozen people are interested in each one, it makes for an enormous number of cases.

            Heck, current demented copyright law makes it very hard for scholars to “legally” study variant versions of a movie (something I’ve done). There is supposedly a fair use provision, but the DMCA makes it painful to actually use it. SOPA would make it *impossible*.

  8. Genghis Cat

    GW – In re-reading your post, I am amazed at the poor reasoning displayed.

    Point 1 – “If it happens somewhere (Russia) it could happen here.” You’re still are afraid of Russia, right?

    I guess the expected response is something like, “Quick, pull these blankets over your heads.”

    This is fear-based b*llsh*t. Yves, maybe you could weigh in here? Have a look at what has happened to the music industry due to unrestricted piracy. Maybe have a look at software piracy, movie piracy. Got a real solution to propose? I’d love to hear it. You will not find an effective course that doesn’t restrict use of the web.

    GW – I am not in favor of giving the government any powers they don’t need, but I am in favor of protecting – make that re-establishing – copyright. If this legislation is flawed, suggest some fixes that accomplish the stated goals of the legislation. The Red Scare tactics undermine your arguments.

    Best…H

    1. F. Beard

      Got a real solution to propose? I’d love to hear it. Genghis Cat

      Here’s one. Quit exploiting the poor and maybe they won’t feel entitled to steal back.

        1. F. Beard

          And how would you write that piece of legislation? Genghis Cat

          I would abolish all government privileges for the banks, the counterfeiting cartel, the means by which the banks and so-called “credit-worthy” (typically the rich) steal purchasing power from everyone else including and especially the poor.

          I would also bailout the entire population equally till all debt to the counterfeiting cartel is paid off.

          1. Genghis Cat

            While I agree with your thoughts, I think they are beyond the current discussion. To re-make the entire world is a solution, but an unlikely one. So, we are stuck looking for incremental ways of addressing social problems.

            The problem at hand is (as I see it) copyright verses unrestricted web use. I am in favor of re-establishing copyright, and I am willing to give up some web freedom to get it, such as the freedom to be fished, spammed or threatened by someone I don’t even know and who will not have to answer for their actions.

            Best…H

          2. F. Beard

            So, we are stuck looking for incremental ways of addressing social problems. GC

            You are addressing symptoms, not root causes. The “need” for a police state is a sign of fundamental flaws in a society.

            And we are not “stuck” unless we think evil is stronger than good.

          3. Genghis Cat

            I can’t think of a successful society without an enforcing arm – police, military, etc.

            All societies are flawed. I say we are “stuck” with using incremental change because revolutionary (or “quantum leap”) change is so difficult – incremental change is what we are left with. I did not mean to imply anything about good or evil; their inclusion is your contribution, so take it up with yourself! These words are often used as absolute terms, but they vary wildly depending on who is using them and how. Just ask Sam the Sham…

            Best…H

          4. F. Beard

            All societies are flawed. I say we are “stuck” with using incremental change because revolutionary (or “quantum leap”) change is so difficult – incremental change is what we are left with. GC

            Who said reform had to be revolutionary? It would not take much to effectively end the banks’ ability to counterfeit. The effect would be revolutionary though as government backed/enforced theft of purchasing power was abolished.

    2. Christophe

      “In re-reading your post, I am amazed at the poor reasoning displayed.” -Genghis Cat

      Ditto. More amazing is your ample display of transference.

      Please quit leaving yourself wide open to these ridiculously obvious potshots. Most of us prefer at least a pretense of challenge.

    3. F. Beard

      I am not in favor of giving the government any powers they don’t need, Genghis Cat

      Of course. Even bankers are libertarian EXCEPT where banking is concerned.

    4. diptherio

      Ghengis, it seems that if piracy were really doing major damage to the music or software industries, we wouldn’t be seeing nearly so much of either. Yet, despite widespread piracy, there are still ooddles of new music and software applications being released on a near-daily basis. If piracy were truly the innovation-killer that people claim, it seems like the flood of new products, music, etc. would slow to a trickle, but that’s not what we’ve seen.

      And Beard is right, to an extent. I’ve never been paid for any of the poems or essays I’ve written, yet continue to write both. I lived in an artists collective where exactly 0% of the tenants made their living off their art and few made any money at all, yet all of them still continued creating. And of course, if pecuniary profit were the only incentive, we wouldn’t have open-source software or anything else. This is not to say that creators should not be able to get remunerated for their creations, just that remuneration is not necessarily necessary to spur creation in the first place.

      What musicians, software designers, and others are going to have to figure out in our brave new electronic world, is how to provide goods and/or services that can remain non-collective. Musicians, I am told, make most of their money from concert tickets already, which are not susceptible to piracy. Software developers might have to offer tech support/advice on a members-only forum for a monthly fee, or some such. Asking the gov’t to get involved with it’s big-stick approach, which as GW points out, can easily be used for all sorts of nefarious purposes, is not the ideal solution…not by a long shot.

      And we might want to pay attention to how other governments are using their copyright laws to shut down dissidents. I believe it was this very sight that not too long ago linked to a story from right here in the US, wherein a hip-hop blog was raided and shut down on supposed copyright infringement grounds. When those claims were disputed and shown to be false, the Feds took a year to finally return the confiscated equipment, with no apologies and, of course, no due process for the affected party. I’m sure you can find the story if you look around a little. It can, and will, and has happened here.

      1. Genghis Cat

        “Musicians, I am told, make most of their money from concert tickets already, which are not susceptible to piracy.”

        This is a very recent development. Not long ago, most of a creative musician’s income would come from sales of recordings and fees generated by broadcasting or inclusion in a movie or tv show.

        This all but disappeared once recordings could be copied digitally.

        Copyright is a very complex subject. You could study in school for years; get a degree in music business law and still have trouble working your way through the issues involved. I work making content; the business side is less interesting to me than being creative. Most musicians are the same, which explains the “starving artist” concept.

        Best…H

        1. F. Beard

          I work making content; the business side is less interesting to me than being creative. GC

          I would have bet the opposite.

          But if you are interested in being more creative:

          The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered. Proverbs 11:25

        2. Nathanael

          The issues are actually simple, and were discussed in the UK in the parliamentary debates over 100 years ago. The publishers wanted to extend their money-grubbing monopolies, which benefited nobody but the publishers, and hurt everyone else. They were stopped that time, by a very wise speech which explained exactly why they were wrong.

          Lately, the publishers have been winning, and we’ll probably have to temporarily abolish copyright entirely in order to restore sanity to the system.

          Copyright should last for no longer than the lifetime of the (human, not corporate) author. It should cover *only* the right to *receive money* for copies or performances — distributing copies free, and performing for free, have historically been human rights.

          A separate and distinct right is the right to receive credit for one’s work, and the right to stamp a book as “authenticated” or “unauthentic” (bowlderized, etc.) — these should be automatic and inalienable rights of the author. But they have nothing to do with copyright.

  9. F. Beard

    And BTW, there is NO end to selfishness:

    THe who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity. Ecclesiastes 5:10 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    1. Genghis Cat

      Yes, the piece was meant to be frightening. Try to relax, and read a few more sources before you lock into an opinion.

      How many good social choices are made when fear is a primary factor?

      Best…H

      1. Christophe

        EconCCX, yes, this is a surprisingly witty post – so promising. It makes the disappointment that much more acute when you read what follows.

    1. Genghis Cat

      Internet surveillance is coming, no doubt. Then again, we are observed when we shop, when we drive, when we go to school. No, I don’t like it, but it will not be stopped. It may perhaps be controlled to prevent abuse, just as other surveillance methods are.

      Best…H

        1. Genghis Cat

          Yes, funny!

          My fingers aren’t always disciplined enough to manage the MBP touch pad. Somehow I posted in the middle of changing a word; it let me continue with the post. I couldn’t make it happen again if I tried.

          Best…H

  10. LucyLulu

    On a related note, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for some of these holders of patents and copyrights.

    As one example, which is far from isolated. I take a medication that isn’t covered by Medicare. It costs $700/month. The patent ran out on it in 2006, when it cost $350/month, but at that time, the manufacturer paid the five companies with licenses to market a generic hundreds of millions NOT to market the drug until June 2012. At the same time, they doubled the price of the drug. There is only one alternative medications that can be used to replace this one, introduced in 2009 by the same manufacturer. It was introduced at $350/month — they intentionally lowered the price of the new drug in an attempt to convert everyone to a medication still under patent for when generics of th original came out in 2012 (which doesn’t happen to work for me). I can purchase the generic illegally overseas for $60/month, that is $1/pill vs. $11/pill. The FTC has filed an anti-trust suit against the manufacturer (Cephalon). However, the FTC, filing jointly with a large Canadian generic manufacturer, has lost an identical suit against another pharmaceutical company. Free markets and all that.

    We pass laws that protect corporations and punish consumers. And instead of plans that would reduce the outrageous healthcare costs that Americans pay, we merely come up with plans that shift more of the costs to the consumers. When states tried to pass laws against predatory lending before the financial crisis, they were immediately repealed when the rating agencies refused to rate any MBS with loans from those states. Where are the laws that protect consumers/citizens?

    1. Frank Speaking

      thanks for the specific example of corporate perfidy.

      Corporations have no national identity, no quaint notions of patriotism or respect for a nation’s Constitution, Bill of Rights or rule of law.

  11. Lambert Strether Post author

    Legalities aside, if the bulk of the royalties went to the artists, then the moral case for infringement would be a lot stronger. As it is, we’ve got corporations buying up rights and then extending and extending and extending them far beyond the time limits envisaged Constitutionally; rentiers at play.

    There also seems to be a double standard at play: People should be held responsible for their actions on the Internet: Well, modulo the question of whether we want to go down the road of verifiable online identities (no), there are plenty of people who aren’t help responsible for their actions at all, and they include the CEOs of the corporations, as well as their enablers in the government. So, sure, responsibility is good, and “You first!” to the pushing this bill!

    1. Grafonola

      again, riddle me this:

      So, I attempt to share a transfer of my copy of the Seattle Harmony Kings 1925 Victor recording of “How Many Times?”. At the time that this disc was waxed copyright was for 14 years, so the record is in the public domain, no?

      Well, in the Federal Court of the Southern District of NY (a court notorious for favoring publishers) a record company in the mid-1970′s secured a ruling based on a precedent of 1909 (regarding piano rolls) that recording, pressing and selling a talking machine record DOES NOT CONSTITUTE PUBLICATION, and so of course the copyright of unpublished material remains in the creator’s hands in PERPETUITY. Of course the courts have also ruled that in this sense, and in the absence of artists contracts to the contrary, the phongraph company IS THE CREATOR in whom these rights forever inhere

      Should the successors to the Victor Talking Machine company be able to prevent the exchange of a nearly nintey year old recording for the rest of time? They have no interest in publishing, selling or promoting it themselves, but they attempt to prevent modern enthusiasts from exchanging copies of these excellent recordings.

      How does this practice encourage the creation of new works, or reward creators?

      1. Genghis Cat

        “So, I attempt to share a transfer of my copy of the Seattle Harmony Kings 1925 Victor recording of “How Many Times?”. At the time that this disc was waxed copyright was for 14 years, so the record is in the public domain, no?”

        Maybe not. The song could be in the public domain but the performance is a separate issue. There are various ways to extend the time period that may apply, and technicalities may alter the interpretation of the statute. These are questions for a copyright attorney.

        Best…H

    2. Genghis Cat

      By Act of Congress, artists begin with all of the rights to the work they create with certain exceptions like “work for hire” arrangements. They choose to make deals with various entities, such as labels and publishers, giving up portions of their rights in exchange for advances of money. Those who pay for the copyrights own them just as the artists did.

      I agree that copyright has been abused by extending the time of coverage far beyond the original intent. The downside as I see it is that it makes little sense to invest in new music if you can continually extend old copyrights.

      Copyright is the real issue here, not the fear mongering of what may happen based on what goes on in Russia and China.

      Surveillance of the citizenry and loss of privacy will continue, regardless of how this bill moves forward. Protecting our rights and privacy will require much more sweeping legislation, possibly a Constitutional amendment. IMOYMMV.

      Best…H

  12. Externality

    Homeland Security’s secretive seizure of and subsequent actions towards a hip-hop website called Dajaz1.com demonstrate how copyright law is being exploited by the national security state.

    In 2010, Homeland Security, through its Immigrations and Customs Service, seized a number of music blogs on the grounds that they were engaged in copyright infringement. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/14/business/media/14music.html

    One of these was Dajaz1. http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/09/how-a-music-site-disappeared-for-a-year/

    DHS, we now learn, seized Dajaz1 with a sealed court filing that was filed in a special court docket whose existence was also sealed. The government then decided that all further proceedings would also be conducted under seal and without giving the site owner a chance to respond (ex parte, in legalese). The government apparently even planned to conduct a planned permanent forfeiture of the website under seal and ex parte.

    When Dajaz1’s attorney tried to contest the seizure, DHS responded that because DHS filed the matter under seal, they could not discuss it with Dajaz1. Nor, DHS insisted, would Dajaz1 be allowed to know the case number, see any legal filings or other documents, have access to redacted legal filings or other documents, file anything relating to the case, or have prosecutors pass messages to the (anonymous) judge.

    Even after the statutory deadline passed for DHS to either release the website or file a formal forfeiture proceeding, the government continued to hold the site without explanation or apparent authority. Federal prosecutors then alleged that the statutory deadline had been extended.

    [Dajaz1’s attorney] asked for a copy of the the court’s order allowing the extension. The government told him no and that the extension was filed under seal and could not be released, even in redacted form.

    [Dajaz1’s attorney] asked for the motion papers asking for the extension. The government told him no and that the papers were filed under seal and could not be released, even in redacted form.

    [Dajaz1’s attorney] again asked whether he would be notified about further filings for extensions. The government told him no.

    [Dajaz1’s attorney] then asked the US attorney to inform the court that, if the government made another request for an extension, the domain owner opposed the extension and would like the opportunity to be heard. The government would not agree.

    And file further extensions the government did. Repeatedly. Or, at least that’s what [Dajaz1’s attorney] was told. He sent someone to investigate the docket at the court, but the docket itself was secret, meaning there was no record of any of this available.

    The government was required to file for forfeiture by May. The initial (supposed) secret extension was until July. Then it got another one that went until September. And then another one until November… or so the government said. When Bridges asked the government for some proof that it had actually obtained the extensions in question, the government attorney told Bridges that he would just have “trust” him.

    (emphasis in original)

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20111208/08225217010/breaking-news-feds-falsely-censor-popular-blog-over-year-deny-all-due-process-hide-all-details.shtml

    After a year, DHS decided that it no longer wanted to contest the matter and gave Dajaz1 its website back. A case that started out as an secretive homeland security matter, and which was maintained under the utmost secrecy, suddenly ended. http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/12/ice-admits-months-long-seizure-of-music-blog-was-a-mistake.ars Homeland Security still will not substantively discuss why it shut the blog down or why it suddenly dropped the matter when the media became involved.
    http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/09/how-a-music-site-disappeared-for-a-year/

    The potential for abuse is obvious. All Homeland Security needs to do is file a sealed pleading alleging that a website is violating someone’s intellectual property and seize the website without notice to its owner. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/14/business/media/14music.html Once they have it, DHS can refuse to discuss the matter, refuse to return control of the site, and refuse to even allow the site’s owner to contest the matter. DHS can even preempt legal challenges by the site’s owner on the grounds that the matter is already being handled in a sealed docket known only to DHS and the court. If the political pressure becomes too much, DHS can, after a year or more, simply give the site back. They do even need to apologize, they can simply allow the case to expire. In the meantime, the site is offline and the site’s owners silenced.

    1. Externality

      Should be:

      They do not even need to apologize, they can simply allow the case to expire. In the meantime, the site is offline and the site’s owners silenced.

      1. Genghis Cat

        Abuse of any law, well intentioned or not is obviously bad, and this certainly appears to be abuse. However, it doesn’t deny the need to re-establish copyright.

        Best…H

        1. Nathanael

          The way to “re-establish copyright” is to WEAKEN IT.

          Make everything which people normally do (like sharing copies with friends) LEGAL; make it illegal to transfer copyrights away from the human creators at all; make copyrights expire when the authors die; and then people will respect what’s left of copyright.

          As long as copyright is overreaching, people will never ever respect it.

          This is the fundamental nature of law, actually. Some more examples.

          If you pass draconian drug laws, you’ll find that everyone ignores *all* of them, and 8-year-olds are being handed marijuana. If you pass reasonable drug laws which allow consenting adults to use recreational drugs under limited circumstances, you can successfully keep drugs away from specific vulnerable populations. The example of Prohibition is most dramatic here; drinking and driving could never have been successfully banned until Prohibition was repealed.

          If you pass overreaching laws giving police the power to lie in court without personal consequence, and giving them immunity when they shoot, assault, or attack people, people will stop cooperating with police when they are trying to investigate actual crimes.

          It goes on and on. It’s important to keep the laws limited, because as soon as the laws become unreasonable and oppressive, people stop complying with *not just* the unreasonable and oppressive laws, but *all* of the laws in that area.

          If enough laws are unreasonable and oppressive, people will start to ignore *all* the laws *all* the time — better to be hanged for a sheep than for a lamb, you know.

  13. jordan

    People need to keep writing and calling your Reps as well as doing this to Washington.
    In 2012 you need to Vote every Politician who would sell out our freedom.They are all Benedict Arnold and deserve to be tarred & feathered just like we did in the dawn of our Union.

  14. falun bong

    What an interesting debate. I’d just broaden it a bit to encompass the overarching concept of “freedom”. America was the world’s shining beacon in this regard, and the received wisdom among Americans is that the country still stands for “freedom” and is the “free-est country”. We bomb people across the globe apparently because they don’t yet have our “freedom”.

    I wonder how much longer it will be before this outdated myth and utter falsehood dies out. Patriot Act, Guantanamo, NDAA, TSA, “if you see something, say something”, and now SOPA should serve as coffin nails. Today’s America is about global corporate, government, and military dominance and control in ways that would make Founding Fathers and WWII veterans vomit, All that’s left is the daily Orwellian re-education of the sheeple, “war is peace”, “ignorance is strength” etc.
    That’s the real definition of “fascism” cited above: an unholy alliance of corporations, the government and the military. In America today the only thing missing is the brown shirts. Think about it next time you see Newt Gingrich on your telescreen…

    1. Genghis Cat

      I agree with your concerns about unrestricted corporate power. As far as SOPA or other copyright strengthening legislation goes, the trick will be in balancing the interests of large corporate copyright owners and small individual creators.

      The pendulum has certainly swung very far in the corporate direction.

      Best…H

    2. Nathanael

      “I wonder how much longer it will be before this outdated myth and utter falsehood dies out.”

      Who still believes it? I’m in a somewhat unusual community, but nobody I know believes it. Bush killed it for most of them, and Obama killed it for the rest of them.

  15. kievite

    As for Russia dealing with NGO I think George Washington can benefit from reading STRATFOR analysis (free from their site: http://www.stratfor.com) Russian Protests Alone Pose Little Threat to Putin(December 12, 2011).

    There has been public confirmation that Washington has increased its financial aid to groups inside Russia, by $9 million in the past few weeks alone. These groups include one of the most prevalent watchdogs to denounce the elections as well as a number of media outlets that have devoted heavy coverage to the protests. Putin has accused Washington of stirring up resentment against the Kremlin and Putin.

    This is not a new tactic by the United States, which has a multi-billion-dollar budget to fund and support non-governmental organizations, media outlets and other groups operating in Russia. However, the move at this time is critical, because Washington has an immediate vested interest in depicting Putin as weak.

    1. Nathanael

      It seems to have dropped off the site.

      I think the title is implausible. Every leader has thought that protests posed little threat to them. They are idiots. While it is true that protests *alone* pose little threat, protests *combined with a global economic depression* and *concentration of wealth in the 0.1%* will overthrow most of them in fairly short order.

      The survivors will be those who provide bread as well as circuses (more accurately, food and employment for practically everyone) — Saudi Arabia is certainly doing so (and will do so until its oil money runs out), while China is fairly successfully doing so as well.

      I haven’t been following Russia so I don’t know its economic state, but unless it’s actually improved from its 2005 situation, Putin’s in trouble. He may be smart enough to fix the situation (by providing that bread and those circuses), though.

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