Why Banks Back SOPA, the “Bring the Chinese Internet to America” Bill

Although lots of technology-related sites are correctly up in arms about the Stop Online Piracy Act, the MSM has given it short shrift, and the financial blogosphere has not paid much attention (cross posts of some of George Washington articles being a welcome exception).

SOPA and PIPA (Protect IP Act) use nuclear-weapon-to-kill-a-mouse scale solutions to Internet piracy. David Carr in the New York Times, in an rather anodyne article given what is at stake, gave an overview of what is wrong with the bills, namely, a lot. Even if you accept the proponents’ dubious claims about the losses from “rouge” foreign websites ($58 billion!), the bills probably won’t fix that problem and will create a host of new ones. Despite assertions that it would create jobs, it would actually deter technology startups, undermine scientific journals, and could fragment the Internet domain name system. It’s tantamount to making the public wear ankle bracelets to combat shoplifting.

So why is the American Bankers Association one of the sponsors of a bill that seems awfully remote from its terrain? The bill allows anyone to send a complain about a purported SOPA violation and get the site disappeared. This faster and more brutal than the execution of Wikileaks via cutting off its access to payment networks. From TechDirt in December (emphasis theirs):

I wanted to call out one key point that was really made clear by an amendment offered by Rep. Jared Polis late in the day yesterday, which hasn’t received nearly enough attention. As you may recall, with the “manager’s amendment” version of SOPA (i.e., SOPA 2.0), the “notice-and-shut off funding” section of the private right of action in Section 103 was removed. This was good, because we’ve seen how the notice-and-takedown provision of the DMCA has been widely abused.

However, what most people missed was that the bill effectively sneaks this back into the bill in a much worse form in Section 105, which supposedly grants “immunity” to service providers for taking voluntary action to stop infringement. The true impact of this section was only made clear by Rep. Polis’ attempt to limit it, as he highlighted how this broad immunity would likely lead to abuse. That’s because this section says that anyone who takes voluntary action “based on credible evidence”: basically gets full immunity. Think about what that means in practice. If someone sends a service provider a notice claiming infringement on the site under this bill, the first thing every lawyer will tell them is “quick, take voluntary action to cut them off, so you get immunity.” Even worse, since this is just about immunity, there are no counternotice rules or anything requiring any process for those cut off to be able to have any redress whatsoever…

End result: SOPA 2.0 contains a crazy scary clause that’s going to make it crazy easy to cut off websites with no recourse whatsoever. And this part isn’t just limited to payment providers/ad networks — but to service providers, search engines and domain registrars/registries as well. Yes. Search engines. So you can send a notice to a search engine, and if they want to keep their immunity, they have to take the actions in either Section 102(c)(2) or 103(c)(2), which are basically all of the “cut ’em off, block ’em” remedies. That’s crazy. This basically encourages search engines to disappear sites upon a single notice. It encourages domain registries to kill domains based on notices. With no recourse at all, because the providers have broad immunity.

Oh no, this isn’t crazy at all, it’s authoritarian. Imagine how long Goldman666 or Matt Taibbi or Karl Denninger or yours truly would be around with this rule. Wikileaks demonstrates that even Swedish domiciled sites are not safe.

And it isn’t just the banks that favor SOPA. So too does the AFL-CIO.

The Internet lets people talk to each other. What this bill does is go after that feature in the name of attacking crime. Does crime require that people talk to each other? Yeah. So does everything else. Legacy organizations, be they banks or music companies or Big Pharma or the AFL, are willing to sabotage open communications if they think it will help assure their survival. And given how banks’ ability to loot depends on ignorance of how extensive and nefarious their abuses are, their motivation to shut off information is high indeed.

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  1. Kakko

    A great article that fizzles near the final sentence.

    “…the AFL, are willing to sabotage open communications if they think it will help assure their survival”

    It’s not “survival” as it is, but rather raising barriers to entry, making life for competition more difficult, and making “survival” WITHOUT constant improvement and “survival” WITHOUT need to continually offer a better product, easier.

    One more reason why the US is headed either toward political revolution or economic collapse. It’s only a matter of time.

    1. digi_owl

      Those two may well come hand in hand. Once burgers and PPV cage matches are no more, there will be political upheaval…

  2. EconCCX

    It’s worth remindering that shutting down web sites at the domain level shuts down email as well. Fortunate at least that Global Usury depends on the electronic flow of commercial information, even as it attempts to stem the political.

  3. Wade Riddick

    It’s ironic that you decry the lack of property rights enforcement in the banking sector when thieves loot the system from above, but you haven’t been able to get behind any system of digital property rights enforcement that limits theft from below.

    Have you considered that maybe one of the reasons people write so few memorable hit songs today is the same reason the real estate market has collapsed – because people don’t like doing work when they get ripped off so easily?

    I admit SOPA has flaws, but there hasn’t been any other solution really except to force artists more and more into a advertising-supported model – which, as you so frequently observe, skews the nature of information delivered to the audience. What subscribers are willing to pay for is considerably different than what advertisers are willing to subsidize. How many advertisers, for instance, want news stories about their toxic food, toxic debt and toxic medicine – all of which our society is awash in?

    It’s a simple information asymmetry problem and as long as it persists, TV producers are going to slant towards materially impoverished street thugs jacking cars instead of morally impoverished pharma thugs pushing Vioxx (which, by the way, resulted in a criminal conviction and several deaths). One group hires lobbyists and the other doesn’t. One group buys ads and the other doesn’t. The injustices in a society start with the property rights system. The epidemics of piracy and disinformation are directly related.

    1. Cameron Hoppe

      With no offense to you, Wade, I have to disagree with your assessment of the music industry. I think we can both agree that most of the music played on the radio is purile, unenlightening, and putrid. However, I blame that on the fact that ~95% of American radio stations are owned by 3 national broadcasters. Anyone who’s taken a trip to a different State in the last few years can flip on the radio and listen to the exact same morning, afternoon, and evening shows they hear in their hometown. This is true on even pop-rock FM stations. I believe it was Malcolm Gladwell who wrote in Blink about the process these conglomerates use when they choose which songs to play on their stations: they play 20-second clips for random individuals in their target demographics. Based on these results, they decide whether a singer’s work is acceptable or not. This leaves very few formats available for play.

      It’s true that electronic file sharing has carved-up the profits of the traditional record companies. It has also created new avenues and definitions of success for recording artists. Look at how many well-known artists have attained success through YouTube, social media, or by selling albums on street corners. Furthermore, hitting it big on the radio doesn’t translate into automatic dollar signs; the real money is made from touring, doing live shows, and meeting fans.

      Piracy is a convenient excuse for record companies to reduce variety and to place the blame for lost profits. I don’t buy it. As a society we made the choice to allow local radio stations to be gobbled up by national conglomerates. We are dealing with the consequences. Furthermore, closing down websites will not stop it. Most musing sharing occurs through peer-to-peer networks or in-person. If a friend of mine has a song I want on his phone or player, it can be copied in less than 30 seconds. SOPA and PIPA won’t stop piracy; they’ll barely even be speed-bumps.

      1. Mel

        Very true. The keys here are repeatable industrial production and uniform quality control. These are what get you cash flow you can depend on. They don’t work for art, but with enough money and political connections you can behave for a long time as though they do.

        Working artists are distributing for themselves through the Internet, while it lasts, and getting along.

      2. Peripheral Visionary

        “Furthermore, hitting it big on the radio doesn’t translate into automatic dollar signs; the real money is made from touring, doing live shows, and meeting fans.”

        Unfortunately, this simply is not true. Setting aside the most successful musicians who run industrial-scale touring shows and charge sky-high prices, touring is largely break-even for musicians. The revenue from club shows is low, and the costs – for equipment, for travel, for promoters, etc. – are high.

        Most of the money that musicians make is through record sales, which in our era is primarily download royalties, although there are still some sales of CDs. Touring – again, for most bands other than a few of the largest – is a break-even venture that is designed to promote sales of downloads, CDs, and merchandise.

        Radio is more or less negligible. Listeners are down, and what royalties do get paid go mostly to the distributors and the top musicians.

        That’s why online piracy is such a big deal. Downloads of songs without royalties being paid directly deprives musicians of their primary source of revenue, and worse, disproportionately impacts those at the lowest levels of the industry. And the primary excuse that people made to justify not paying royalties on downloads – that the music industry was making all the profits and that none was going to the musicians – just doesn’t work given how many modern musicians are effectively bypassing the industry and self-publishing.

        This bill may be the wrong bill and may have all sorts of problems – on that you will get no argument from me. But the problem it purports to address, particularly as regards musicians, is real.

        1. Nathanael

          No, it’s not.

          People have always copied songs for each other. Musicians have always made their money through providing *non-replicable* things, like performance, signed copies, commissioned works, etc. The “money from record labels” era was a flash in the pan. It’s not economically viable, it will never be viable again, get over it.

    2. Zach Pruckowski

      There are already powerful tools for taking down copyright-infringing content and for pursuing pirates criminally and civilly. And as Mr. Coughsalot points out, there are other ways to strengthen them without destroying the internet.

      As to the idea that piracy is killing subscription-based models, look at HBO/Showtime – some of the best shows out there are on subscription channels, and quality basic cable shows (which also require a subscription) are likewise thriving.

      Also, I’m not sure how anyone can look at Hollywood today and see a shortage of people eager to get recording contracts or shows on the air. Any quality shortage isn’t due to a supply shortage caused by low prices.

      Finally, you’re ignoring the power of sites that SOPA would shut down like Reddit and Youtube for promotion. There are an awful lot of artists (Louis CK being a prime example) who owe a lot of sales to viral promotion

      1. Genghis Cat

        The tools require far too much effort on the part of the content owner. Even when successful, the pirates move elsewhere and the content owner has to start over. For the individual artist this is simply impossible.

        Theft is theft. Stop piracy and I will be happy.


        1. Meta-Best...H

          I must shift the focus of the conversation away from the fact that SOPA would neutralize the multivocal nature of the internet, and that certain powerful and corrupt interests are behind it precisely for that reason. Well, there’s always the Theft! Copyright! Individual artist! angle I’ve been using. Let’s see whether it will still work. Meta-Best…H

        2. digi_owl

          It is too much effort to keep jailing criminals as well. Maybe they should just be shot on sight or have their extremities cut off?

        3. Nathanael

          If you don’t want the music you write to be freely shared, we will be happy to boycott your music.

    3. Andyc

      I hear some people
      been talkin’ me down,
      Bring up my name,
      pass it ’round.
      They don’t mention
      happy times
      They do their thing,
      I’ll do mine.

      Ooh baby,
      that’s hard to change
      I can’t tell them
      how to feel.
      Some get stoned,
      some get strange,
      But sooner or later
      it all gets real.

      Walk on, walk on,
      Walk on, walk on.

      I remember
      the good old days,
      Stayed up all night
      gettin’ crazed.
      Then the money
      was not so good,
      But we still did
      the best we could.

      Ooh baby,
      that’s hard to change
      I can’t tell them
      how to feel.
      Some get stoned,
      some get strange,
      But sooner or later
      it all gets real.

      Walk on, walk on,
      Walk on, walk on.


      Whoops, just blew up Yves site under this new law

      Wade makes some good points but maybe this is a good point too.

      1. Andyc

        I remember
        the good old days,
        Stayed up all night
        gettin’ crazed.
        Then the money
        was not so good,
        But we still did
        the best we could.

        This covers the “why dont they write good songs anymore?” question too, I doubt its because of these money issues and I’m sure many people write great songs yet….the music industry has been dumbing down music since the 70’s looking for the easy, quick money…now they are stuck with the results.

    4. Genghis Cat

      I agree with Wade. For all of the inflammatory arguments offered by GW and Yves – this is how China / Russia crack down on dissidents, etc. – this issue is about intellectual property rights. On one side, content creators and owners who can no longer justify spending money to create content that will be stolen, and on the other, those who want content for free.

      The only freedom that remains on the net appears to be the freedom to be phished, spammed, scammed, etc., all by anonymous perps. Wait, I forgot – the freedom to *share* (steal) content you don’t own.

      If any of the anti-SOPA forces agreed that protecting content was worthwhile, their complaints might be justified. Instead, it’s nothing but scare tactics.

      Yves, you can do better. Find a disinterested source that can argue authoritatively about both sides of the issue. The damage done to content creators and owners is real, and it is past time to do something about it. If not SOPA, then what?


      1. LawButler

        Screw ownership of content if it trumps free speech, or limits free speech to any significant degree. Artists create, first and foremost, to be heard. “Owning” art necessarily limits the distribution of the art, and thus copyright laws generally (except for the odd super-successful exception) hurt overall distribution of art rather than helping.

        The “owners” of art are generally very different people from the artists themselves. They are businessmen, seeking to strangle every last bit of money they can out of people’s love of art, for themselves, using the government to limit the spread of art as much as possible.

        By starving people of art, they start paying for crap — the crap the businessmen make available for cheap. The whole industry is built on suppressing art, and then rationing it out for the highest price possible.

        Very little of the money extracted from the population as a fee for looking at art (via the copyright monopolies that have nothing to do with the actual cost of distribution) goes to the artists themselves. It goes to the moneychangers.

        Those moneychangers deserve to be chased out of the church. True artists can earn a respectable living without them — it’s these parasites that are hurt by piracy, and their loss is transferred, as a greater gain, to the art-consuming public.

        1. Genghis Cat

          In songwriting at least, 50% ownership is retained by the creator except in “work-for-hire” situations, such as being a staff writer for a publisher.

          The content owners finance the lives of creators. Often, that is to the benefit of the artist. I have seen both sides of this argument, having been taken advantage of by content owners and artists alike. There are bad actors on both sides.

          And, even if you think content owners are “bad” in some way, that doesn’t justify stealing their property.


      2. Yves Smith Post author

        First, I make my money from IP. I’m not unknowledgeable here re my rights and enforcement.

        Second, you seem to ignore that this bill would kill the Internet as we know it and you offer NO alternatives. You also ignore that some moves of the industry to limit distribution have backfired (the way the music industry went after gym instructors who’d make their own tapes, yes tapes, for workouts. This was a way that new music got introduced to people, often old farts who would not hear it otherwise and some bought it.

        Third, it is a violation of the First Amendment per top Constitutional expert Lawrence Tribe.

        Fourth, NO ONE made the music and film industries go to digital distribution. They embraced it to lower distribution costs. Now they don’t like it and want to go to draconian enforcement measures? What about planning don’t you understand?

        Fifth, Did you read the damned post? Completely unsubstantiated and even patently untrue clams will get a site disappeared. You SERIOUSLY back a regime that is “kill first and allow no means for resurrection later, even for Mafia revenge killings?” What planet are you from?

        1. Genghis Cat

          Yves, thanks for replying. Back to the point please: how do you suggest protecting copyright? If the application of the Stop Online Piracy Act is flawed, the aim of protecting content owners and creators is not. The arguments against SOPA ignore the problem the law is attempting to address, and the inflammatory rhetoric underlines how desperately pirates want to continue stealing content.

          The expertise I am suggesting you locate is on the main issue of protecting copyright on the net. It will not be a simple task to stop internet theft, but without it content creation will change forever – which is far more significant than changing the internet imo.

          However involved you are in ip your viewpoint is skewed. Simply because you don’t steal protected content and sell advertising on it doesn’t mean it isn’t being done.

          Our lives are regulated in every public avenue. Go to school, go to work, drive a car, contribute to a campaign, use a phone, etc. Why should the internet be different?

          I’m willing to give up the freedom to be phished, spammed, scammed, even threatened by anonymous actors on the internet in return for the protection of copyright. What are you willing to give up to protect content owners and creators?


          1. Meta-Best...H

            Back to the point? Anything but that! The point, of course, is the actual topic of the post–but you have to admire my efforts to derail the conversation! Meta-Best…H

          2. Foppe

            So much vacuous and unfalsifiable blather here. Go away, ghenghis, you’re not saying anything, and it’s rude to take up other people’s time.

          3. Genghis Cat

            Yes, sorry to derail you into pondering the purpose of the Stop Online Piracy Act.

            But, now that we’re here, where do you stand on the rights of content providers and owners? I stand firmly against piracy. And no, I don’t want violators thrown in prison without due process, but thieves run the risk of winding up in prison.

            Anyone else here oppose piracy? If not I get it. It also explains the fear mongering as primary argument, focusing on a possible problem that doesn’t yet exist rather than the real issue of piracy.

            Who here hasn’t downloaded music without paying for it, or used cracked software? Who here keeps their front doors unlocked? The old saying is that locks are “to keep the honest people out”. The dedicated thieves can always get in.

            Sooner or later, online piracy by honest people – the bulk of the population – will be addressed by SOPA or some other piece of legislation. Condemning SOPA without commenting on piracy leads to questions about motive.

            So Yves, where do you stand on the rights of content creators and owners? You can oppose SOPA all you want, but if you are in favor of the rights of pirates over the rights of content creators and owners then your arguments are easy to ignore.

            I am from planet Earth, btw. You?


          4. Genghis Cat

            Foppe says:
            January 11, 2012 at 5:10 pm

            So much vacuous and unfalsifiable blather here. Go away, ghenghis, you’re not saying anything, and it’s rude to take up other people’s time.

            Ahh, another supporter of free speech on the internet weighs in.

            Yes, it is indeed rude of me to discuss the interests of someone who earns a living helping create content (me) that is then stolen.


          5. Foppe

            You really have no idea, don’t you.. The people pushing sopa don’t give a rat’s ass about your rights, or your ability to generate income to support yourself with. I guarantee you now that you will not make a living “creating content” even if all “internet piracy” indeed did become a relic of the past.

          6. bob

            The whole premise of your arguments here amount to-

            “And no, I don’t want violators thrown in prison without due process, but thieves run the risk of winding up in prison.”

            But this isn’t accurate. Piracy is not stealing, no one will ever go to jail for it. It’s a civil matter. No jail time possible.

            You continue to mix up real property rights with IP, completely different, and not at all comparable.

            Talk about going over the top to make your point?

            And you seem to be willing to trust both TBTB and the mega-conglomerate entertainment industry to back you up. When has that EVER happened? You say yourself you have been ripped off, what did they do for you?

            How would this legislation change that? Is there a part of it that you can point to that specifically helps you?

            Would you prefer to make piracy criminal law? Even criminal law has a burden of proof attached to it, with the standard “Innocent until proven guilty”.

            From below-

            “In other words, even if all SOPA did was stop online piracy, they’d still oppose it.”

            Nice way to sum up the position of EVERYBODY but yourself.

            Let’s sum yours up- mandatory jail time without trial, instantly, on the accusation of one person, me, without any recourse.

            Genghis, emperor of the internet. At least the name makes sense now.

          7. Mr. Coughsalot

            Bob – there is criminal liability for piracy, even if there was no financial gain (see the No Electronic Theft Act). That said, I think almost everyone here (save Wade and Ghenghis) agrees that the potential for mischief under this legislation far exceeds the intellectual property benefits.

            In fact, I’d argue that SOPA’s broad language actually harms IP owners, given that most IP owners, studios and distributors are accused of infringement far more often than your typical internet user.

          8. Genghis Cat

            Bob, thanks for the clarification. I found a few FBI links to folks being imprisoned for theft of IP.

            I see online accountability as the answer for protecting the rights of all. No, we won’t be able to phish, pirate, scam, spam, insult and threaten anonymously anymore, but I can live with that. The actions of the government enforcing the regs should also be able to be scrutinized.

            FWIW, I’d like to see Wall Street better regulated too.


          9. Nathanael

            Protect copyright by restoring it to its original, limited scope.

            Lasts 17 years. Doesn’t cover non-commercial activities at all. Only covers publication. Doesn’t apply to adaptations or transformative uses. Requires registration and payment of fee….

            …people respected copyright when it was reasonable.

      3. Lambert Strether

        Classic concern trolling. You write: “Yves, find a disinterested source that can….”

        If the such a source exists, presumably you can easily supply it — and indeed would have, given how much it would strengthen your argument.

        Since you do not supply it, I can only conclude that such a source either does not exists (or, more likely, is easily shredded).

        In addition, I’m out of sympathy with commenters who suggest that posters do they work they themselves are unwilling to do.

        1. Genghis Cat

          Oh dear, concern trolling. And how would you characterize your input? I’m thinking ad hominem – attack the messenger rather than attack the argument.

          By “disinterested” I read someone who doesn’t have a stake in one outcome over the other. As it is, the stakes of the pirates are well represented on this thread.

          If a disinterested and knowledgable party can’t be located, I’d like to see someone with actual copyright expertise weigh in, like a copyright attorney who represents owners and creators.


          1. citizendave

            Defending the “pirates” is, IMHO, akin to defending the right of free speech for someone whose speech you find abhorrent. We need to uphold the principle of free speech, and there is no perfect way to protect that right without some unpleasant consequences. Trying to censor the pirates is like throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

            This subject has been a core concern at Tech Dirt for years. There you can find many arguments on all sides of the question.

            We probably need new Intellectual Property paradigms for the Internet age. After reading Mike Masnick at Tech Dirt for a long time, I am convinced that I should give away my best work, in the hope that enough people will like it so that something good will come back around to me. If you like it, send your donation of any size to my bank account routing number.

          2. Genghis Cat

            Which version of free speech are you talking about? The Citizens United version? And how is stealing music akin to free speech?

            In today’s environment, yes, you have little choice but to give your work away – it will be stolen in any case. This is a new development and the stated purpose of SOPA is to stop online piracy.

            There are limits on free speech, as there should be. Yelling “fire” in a theater, etc. You are also held responsible for what you say in the public arena, as it should be on the internet.



          3. citizendave

            At 2:58 PM Genghis said “…the stakes of the pirates are well represented on this thread…”

            Then I said “Defending the ‘pirates’ is…akin to defending the right of free speech for someone whose speech you find abhorrent…”

            At 4:38 PM Genghis said “…Which version of free speech are you talking about? The Citizens United version? And how is stealing music akin to free speech?…”

            When I responded to “the stakes of the pirates are well represented on this thread” I said “defending the pirates”. I would edit that to say instead “tolerating the pirates”. The point I wanted to make is that when we champion free speech, we must be prepared to tolerate speech we don’t like. Similarly, I don’t really want to defend the pirates, but I believe we must tolerate them for the sake of avoiding onerous censorship. In both cases, upholding free speech and avoiding censorship, we must be prepared to accept the collateral damage of activity we don’t like, in order to protect what we hold most dear.

            Some people — RIAA, for example — insist that every illegal download is the equivalent of a stolen song or album. Others suggest it’s much more complicated than that. If you view it as free marketing, free advertising, and good will, it takes a big bite out of your loss figures. The example I relate to is IBM giving away the specs for the PC, versus Apple keeping their proprietary hardware closely held. PC hardware and software flourished and gained 90% of the market, while Apple barely survived.

            Another factor is that many of us, upon learning that the artist in question, for example Metallica, is extremely uptight about piracy of their art, we will turn away from them, even though we enjoyed their art. If you’re that uptight, forget you. Have you factored that into your profit-loss calculation?

        1. Genghis Cat

          Nope. I’m independent. I collect no mailbox money. I work for a project and bill for my hours.


          1. Lambert Strether

            Yes, piecework — whether by the word or by the comment — does lead to lower quality. I applaud the wisdom of your employers, who clearly incentivized you properly for your work on this thread.

  4. Mr. Coughsalot

    Wade is incorrect. There is alternative legislation being proposed – the OPEN Act – which provides IP enforcement without creating the unaccountable, Chinese-style censorship mechanism of SOPA/PIPA. SOPA is yet another step in creating unaccountable, uncontestable power in a small set of hands.

    Initially, SOPA can be used to attack political opponents and protest movements via shadow takedown requests which – as noted here – do not require counternotice. Importantly, I don’t believe either version of the legislation even requires the attacked website be told who requested the takedown. Anyone who thinks political use of SOPA is implausible need only look at Russia, which was using bogus copyright infringement accusations to shut down opposition media outlets. (These actions were so draconian that Microsoft offered free licenses to nonprofits in Russia to counter this attacks). In the US one only need to look at legal attacks on opposition in the mid-2000s.

    Once passed, how long will it take for SOPA to be extended to include “terrorism” related content? Save a vocal political minority, who would disagree with shutting down terrorist websites? Only a few would realize that the discretionary, unreviewable nature of a terrorism designation by the executive (thanks to the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act) it becomes easy to shut down Occupy, Tea Party or other movements that are not officially sanctioned. They can be deemed “low level terrorism,” as Occupy has been (supposedly) designated.

    SOPA is in many ways a sibling of the NDAA and the mortgage mess. An incredible amount of power over individuals is placed in the hands of a few. Be it our ability to speak through a 21st century printing press, our homes, or even our individual liberty, there’s an increasingly high tide of unaccountable power that needs to be stemmed before its too late.

    1. Genghis Cat

      So by saying, “Chinese-style” – you mean to imply it is bad? Is that because it is Chinese?

      Where do you stand on the rights of content owners and creators?


      1. Mel

        What .. their right not to be whisked out of sight without recourse because somebody else claims their creation collided with somebody else’s creation? Whatever your creation might be, under SOPA I can make it vanish just by writing letters.

        1. Genghis Cat

          A perfect example of an inflammatory argument. Yes, it appears that the use of “Chinese-style” is meant to inspire fear, rather than face the real issue of copyright protection.


          1. Meta-Best...H

            Watch this: if I simply dismiss an argument as inflammatory, then I don’t have to address it. Poof! Meta-Best…H

          2. Genghis Cat

            Yes, inflammatory and off topic. The “Chinese-style” comments are designed to create fear of SOPA – the Stop Online Piracy Act.

            I am in favor of stopping online piracy. You?

            I am not interested in sending pirates to prison without due process. Pirates are thieves, and thieves often wind up in prison.


          3. Foppe

            I am in favor of stopping online piracy. You?

            I am not interested in sending pirates to prison without due process.

            I love false dichotomies. Anyway, if these are the choices I get, then no, I do not favor “stopping online piracy”. So the music industry will go the way of the dodo, at this size anyway. Who cares. Paper clips are still being made, even though the margins are pathetic. Music will be made as well. So will other stuff.
            IP is mostly a racket that kills innovation (through patent pools and analogous) and makes possible extreme rentierism.

          4. Genghis Cat

            And here is the crux of the discussion – some folks here don’t care about the rights of content owners or creators.

            FWIW, a paper clip costs more than an illegally downloaded song.

            But as you say, who cares? And this is why the “Chinese-style” arguments are unimportant and can be ignored – you simply don’t want to stop online piracy, so you would be against SOPA if stopping online piracy was all it did. Points and thanks for your honesty.


          5. Mr. Coughsalot

            Ghenghis Cat:

            (1) Chinese-style refers to the unaccountable takedown mechanism of the censorship firewall run by mainland China. SOPA would set up a similar infrastructure for the US. Since you are an intelligent commenter and already knew this, I can assume your question about “Chinese-style” was snark.

            (2) Under existing systems like the DMCA, its not just problems by the content owner, there are also substantial problems with erroneous, incorrect or false takedown requests. While SOPA supposedly fixes the former problem for content owners, how do you propose modifying SOPA to reduce the later problem?

            (3) Pirates (who are subject to both civil and criminal liability) are technically proficient and can circumvent DNS blocks, website takedowns, and filtering mechanisms. SOPA doesn’t solve that problem, but it does make it easy to take down online speech. How would you modify SOPA to to target piracy more effectively while reducing the impact on legitimate speech?

            Thanks and looking forward to your reply,
            Mr. Coughsalot

          6. Nathanael

            It is amusingly obvious that the RIAA/MPAA employee HAS no response to your points. Classic propagandist behavior: always ignore the actual arguments against you.

        2. Genghis Cat

          I think it is too easy to smear and scare by using the term “China-style”. I was asking for specifics and thanks for providing them. FWIW, my wife recently travelled to China on business and we had no issues communicating via Skype video chat. We didn’t discuss Chinese politics, but that was about the only limit we observed.

          Points 3 and 1 are related, unfortunately. It may well be that the only way to protect copyright is to make everyone accountable for their keystrokes. I don’t like this at all, but I also don’t like the theft of intellectual property.

          re Point 2, I’d suggest penalties for abuses – liabilities for damages, etc. Being held accountable for keystrokes should work in all directions.

          I don’t support taking down online speech, but those who speak should be held accountable for their words, just as they are in public.

          These are just concepts I am suggesting. The difficulty of crafting a law that is fair and effective is beyond any of us on this thread, certainly beyond me. The concept of balancing the competing interests is what I am asking for.


  5. citizendave

    The logical progression would be from one-complaint reactionary takedowns, to prior restraint. The next stage would see permissible Internet content proscribed down to an email to your mother wishing her a happy birthday. And then the crazy paranoid dipsticks would say that’s not really a message to your mother, it’s a coded message to activate a sleeper cell.

    And then: The Dream Police (Cheap Trick).

    These bills are of a piece with the Patriot Act, which was a law-and-order right wing agenda waiting for a Shock Doctrine moment such as 9-11 to advance. Ostensibly about protecting property rights, the effect would be to provide a broad enforcement mechanism to quash anything The Powers That Be find objectionable or subversive or aesthetically distasteful. Church Lady for Attorney General.

    In the Soviet Union, people used “samizdat” to secretly publish and disseminate banned texts hand to hand, all the while fearing discovery by the KGB.

    1. Fíréan

      A list of who supports this SOPA bill, in any of it’s incarnations, all known persons, organisations and entitiies, would be very helpful.I second Lambert Strethers post to which i am replying.

  6. goat_farmers_of_the_CIA

    “I admit SOPA has flaws…”
    After reading the original post, this sounds like saying “I admit the Chinese censors are a bit too harsh…”

    “Have you considered that maybe one of the reasons people write so few memorable hit songs today…”
    A big maybe, a huge maybe in fact. Where’s the evidence that less “hit songs” are recorded today? What is the criteria on which you base this judgement? Is it an aesthetic or economic one? I can’t argue with any based on the former, but about the latter:
    “As previously reported, U.K. single sales – which are almost entirely digital in format – enjoyed a banner year in 2011, climbing for a fourth successive year to a record high of 177.9 million, up 10% from 161.8 million the previous year.”

    All in all, this sounds like another lame attempt at whitewashing an industry that has been caught cheating the same artists it claims to protect:
    …by 6 billion and growing.

    “The epidemics of piracy and disinformation are directly related.”
    And so we are supposed to believe, like you imply in the most, blinkered, naïve way, that what the NYT and WP published during the run up to the Iraq and Lybian wars was not disinformation? Or do you mean that all those pirated videos of John Pilger’s documentaries on corporate greed and murderous Western imperialism are propaganda paid for by a foreign government or some die hard left wing billionaire? What you say in your third and fourth paragraphs in no way supports this claim. The mainstream US press has been cheating their readers since before Internet use became widespread in the mid ’90s. Did they report on the increasingly mutinous behavior of American soldiers (reported by Pilger, no less) that finally forced the US to leave Vietnam? They destroyed Gary Webb when he published the links between the CIA, the Contras and the crack epidemic in LA, and this just in 1996. I could go on and on with more cases like this…

  7. Pwelder

    Yves – when you discuss situations like SOPA it would be helpful to include the House or Senate Bill # for anyone inclined to write their Congressional representatives.

  8. Gil Gamesh

    There’s a basic principle at work here. If an activity is legal, that activity poses little or no threat to power. Voting, for example. Generally allowed, except where undesirables might upset desired outcomes (see recent enactments restricting voter eligibility and access). One may demonstrate and protest, in designated, pre-approved, quarantined zones, far from the objects. And the converse, of course. The Web is nettlesome, even dangerous. Don’t count on its current mode of being to continue much longer.

    1. sgt_doom

      Gil Gamesh makes some excellent points, but in answering the question posed by Ms. Smith as to why the ABA would support SOPA, I would humbly suggest, according to the US Treasury Department’s report of 1945, implicating Chase Bank (Rockefeller), J.P. Morgan, Union Banking Corporation and Bank for International Settlements’ colluding with the Nazi’s Third Reich, for that very same reason these aforementioned involved in Nazi collaboration were also the Wall Streeters responsible for founding the American intelligence establishment (or as many prefer to call them, the Financial-Intelligence Complex) — providing themselves with endless financial intelligence for their selfish profit, and the requisite command and control to enforce their power over the population.

      Once people called me crazy for citing historical fact, but fewer and fewer are now doing so…….

      1. Justicia

        SOPA, as described, allows the banks to use their position as funding intermediaries to become private Internet censors.

        If this did not further their consolidation of power over our democracy you’d hear them wailing and whining about what an administrative nightmare SOPA was imposing on them and how much it would cost to implement it.

  9. i

    Despite the objections of anyone rational, this will happen. Yes, it will break the internet. The internet is inconveniencing world leaders and the financial elite. They would be all to happy to revert it back to something small and controllable like Compuserve.

    It won’t work, of course, but most government officials are just too dumb to understant why. The million geek army will insure open internets for the foreseeable future. These open internets will undoubtedly be labeled by the MSM as “rogue” internets or “pirate” internets of some other nonsense.

    Look forward to your blog on the alternets.

    1. Lambert Strether

      Links, please! I’d be very interested in writing a survey post of these technologies. (I’m geeky enough to write on them, just not geeky enough to curate them. The Internet really does not make the interesting stuff all that easy to find…)

      1. citizendave

        I’ve been looking at Internet anonymizers, such as TOR: https://www.torproject.org/. But it’s one thing to be on the consumer end, browsing and emailing relatively anonymously — it’s quite another problem to offer content on a web site at a fixed IP address. You could use some form of dynamic DNS (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_DNS) but to stay one step ahead of the censors, and have your clientele be able to find your site would be, I think, exceedingly difficult.

        To paraphrase Yves earlier in this conversation, we’d best not plan to fail in our endeavor to protect free speech.

        The only technological remedy I can imagine is to build an Internet infrastructure that belongs to We, The People. As it stands, we have come to depend on commercial carriers for transport. If we could build our own IPv6 infrastructure, and treat it like the public highways, and the Public Commons in general, I for one would feel more confident that it would help us to preserve and defend the Constitution.

  10. Bagbalm

    When a law is this bad it does not good to oppose it. Embrace it. Give them a dose of their own medicine. Create parties with friends to sit and file objections to as many web sites as possible in an evening. Take the whole damn net down for commerce. If one person is pissing in the stream and you can’t stop it then the way to stop it is for everybody to step up and piss in the waters.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, SOPA is going from looking like a done deal to a maybe not happening deal. The reason appears to be DC believes that tech is one of the few industries where the US has leadership, and the loud and unified outcry by tech leaders has gotten their attention. So assuming bad laws will win is a really destructive posture.

    2. Chris A

      We didn’t really have the luxury of weighing pros and cons with the Patriot Act, but had that been so, letting that monstrosity of a law pass and then attacking it post-implementation wouldn’t have been likely to get us anywhere, as we can see from its history.

      I’m no expert on that law, but it seems analogous to SOPA in its very authoritarian features and, as Yves writes, its “nuclear-weapon-to-kill-a-mouse” characteristics. The contrasts between the two are also obvious; the point being that accepting SOPA in hopes that people of sound mind will later awaken to its overreaching and destructive implications is unlikely to be a fruitful strategy.

    1. citizendave

      Ultimately, those who provide the infrastructure can block anything. Any denial of free speech is a step toward the slippery slope. The censor’s whim will be the last word.

      1. Nathanael

        Ultimately, the overthrow of the government will be the last word.

        China’s internet censorship is tolerated because it is actually very limited.

        The free-for-all created by SOPA, with any and every large corporation censoring left and right, would simply drive business out of the country, until one of them decided it was cheaper to overthrow the government and repeal SOPA than to move. That business would have national popular support. It would succeed.

        We live in interesting times.

  11. bc

    It’s not nearly as much fun being at the top of an assholeocracy as it used to be. Goddamned internet is ruining everything. Need it to make the slaves more productive, but then they use the damned thing to compare notes. Decisions, decisions.

  12. Hugh

    It’s very predictable that when topics like this come up defenders of these wild ass power grabs invoke starving artists, but of course the really big holders of copyrighted material are corporations. Do you think that the politicians in Congress give a rat’s ass about independent content producers? Please, they work for the corporations and the only reason this law is where it is is because the corporations want it. That it would wreak havoc on the internet and on free communication is an added benefit which in the long run from the kleptocrats’ point of view will likely turn into its main benefit.

    1. Genghis Cat

      I work for content creators who are funded by corporations. I also work for independent artists who fund their own projects. I’d like to see online piracy by the average citizen stopped.

      No, I don’t want folks sent to the gulag for copyright infringement, but the gulag and “Chinese-style” arguments are being used by some as a way to oppose copyright. In other words, even if all SOPA did was stop online piracy, they’d still oppose it.


      1. Anarcissie

        So what? It’s still a really bad proposal.

        I think the connection with copyright is that the concept of ‘intellectual property’ is fundamentally flawed, and the only way to enforce it is to have draconian laws and enforce them with great severity. The Chinese model isn’t strong enough; obviously it leaks. Of course, that may work for you if you’re hot enough about forcing culture and intellectual life into a propertarian box. Should SOPA or PIPA be enacted, they too will fail, yet stronger and more destructive laws will be passed, and then you can start up the gulags.

        1. Genghis Cat

          It’s simpler than that – I want to be paid for the work I do. Piracy makes a serious dent in my effort to remain employed.

          And, are you saying any protection of copyright is a bad proposal?


          1. Nathanael

            “It’s simpler than that – I want to be paid for the work I do.”

            That makes you a rent-seeker. If people aren’t willing to pay you for your work without goons censoring the Internet to benefit you, then *you shouldn’t be paid*. Think about it.

  13. Genghis Cat

    Ahh! A jouster!

    I suspect that I have no proof you will accept. Sorry to disappoint.


      1. Genghis Cat

        That’s what I asked you what you wanted. “Anything” is a touch broad and while I appreciate your invitation to try to please you I think I’ll pass.

        It’s also beside the point. Either way, theft of content is going on in violation of the law.

        I know, prove it…


        1. bob

          You stated-

          “Piracy makes a serious dent in my effort to remain employed.”

          You made the statement, about first hand knowledge, then refuse to offer up ANYTHING as proof.

          It’s beside the point anyway, raping and killing of babies is ongoing, in violation of the law.

    1. Lambert Strether

      “I suspect that I have no proof you will accept.”

      Very elegant. I like an upper-grade troll every so often. Refreshing!

      NOTE I also note that a second request for linky goodness has been turned down. Is providing links to your interlocutors not in your scope of work for RIAA?

      1. Genghis Cat


        “Although there are two sides to the story, the fact remains that CD sales are down, record stores large and small are going out of business, and music artists are relying on touring more than ever to recoup the loss of royalty money once paid for by the sale of CDs. As a result, record companies, record stores, CD manufacturers and others involved in the music business have reduced staff or gone out of business. The IPI study shows that music piracy resulted in a loss of more than 70,000 jobs in the United States in 2005.”


        1. Genghis Cat

          Yikes. That link cites a study from IPI, a Romney site. This is the first time I have knowingly agreed with him…

          I won’t be voting Republican in any case. And, no I don’t work for the RIAA.


      2. Genghis Cat

        Yes, I realize that downloads are increasing (slightly), but cds are still 2 to 1 over downloads. It’s also worth noting that copying a physical cd (counterfeiting) is considerably more difficult than sharing a file via p2p.

        Digital music is far too easy to steal and stolen music generates no direct income. Indirect income may be generated (interest in concerts) but these will not benefit everyone involved in production.


  14. JCC

    For all of you that worry about the artist getting screwed and that SOPA is necesary to protect musicians, it might help to read a little on how the industry actually works.

    For example, David Byrne has an excellent article here: http://www.wired.com/entertainment/music/magazine/16-01/ff_byrne

    “The label, in this scenario, owns the copyright to the recording. Forever.” is one of the many money quotes in this article.

    Groups like The Grateful Dead are a prime example of people that depend on free and open distribution of their works, and they are far richer than Metallica (of course the quality of the music has a lot to do with that).

    And people like Bob Marley (his estate now), John Fogerty, etc. have had to fight for years to have any rights to what they created. Piracy is not what they’ve been fighting.

    Using the Music Industry as the excuse as to “why we need SOPA” is a lousy one. Artists face far more theats from the Industry than they do from users on the Internet. It is also a relatively small part of what the Internet is all about.

    SOPA threatens the ‘Net as a whole, and does very little to protect artists. The constant harping on Artists’ Rights is just a cover for those that want massive censorship in the hands of Private Corporations, and as much freedom as possible to be taken away from “the people”.

    Unfortunately the constant harping by some in support of SOPA/PIPA is also a direct result of falling for the never-ending and massive propaganda put out by Corporate Interests. It is just noise to divert attention from the real aims, as the article clearly discusses.

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