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Caught In The Spin Cyce... Why You Are Probably Wrong About SOPA

Now that a national hissy fit has been thrown regarding proposed legislation to stop rampant internet piracy (thus cowing the bovine politicians we sometimes mockingly refer to as our 'leaders' into submission),  I think we should look at the real issue at hand regarding SOPA. 

Money.

Nothing more, nothing less. Unless you consider trafficking in stolen goods to be a valid exercise of your First Amendment rights. If you do, then please read no further.

Internet piracy is a real and devastating problem. It has decimated the music industry, and is in the process of decimating the movie and television industries. I remember the days when getting a song on a television show or in a movie was considered small potatoes, because there were much bigger fish to fry in the music business. Now, film and television is about all that's left. The rates they pay haven't gone up... they've gone down. Like a reverse adjustment for inflation. But you'll take a quarter when you used to make a dollar, if that's all that's being paid.

I'm neither expecting nor desirous of sympathy. I'm one of the fortunate few in this world who gets to follow his passion in life... partly from luck, partly from fate, with a good deal of help from friends and family, and to a large extent from pure narcissism and stubbornness. I just want to express an alternate view from what I perceive as being the near hysterical and borderline paranoiac view of SOPA that is now prevalent on the internet.

Money equals power. A tremendous amount of money has been accumulated by a few people who I will refer to as 21st Century Internet Moguls. In cahoots with these Internet Moguls are Internet Pirates. A gang in New Zealand just got busted with records of $500 million in profits last year from pirated material. That's a lotta dough. A pirate's $500 million profit is the rightful owners' $500 million loss. You can play semantic games with the logic of that, but.... $500 million here, $500 million there, pretty soon you've got a billion dollars. Annually. From one pirating site.

Because they operate from foreign countries, like Belarus or Estonia or wherever, these Internet Pirates are difficult to control. The douchebag in New Zealand apparently had a server in Virginia, and thus was breaking U.S. laws. And I'm sure the officials in New Zealand were more cooperative than the officials in, say, the Ukraine would be.

Being that it's almost impossible to stop most of this piracy due to jurisdictional issues, the powers that be from the entertainment industry (who I'll refer to as the Hollywood Moguls), in conjunction with such supposedly nefarious allies as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, went about influencing Congress to draft legislation that would allow them to stop this outflow of funds from the United States. In order to do this, they had to make culpable the participants who are in the United States, and thus subject to U.S. law.

Enter the Internet Moguls.

In order to make the  Internet Moguls compliant, the Hollywood Moguls want laws with real consequences. My understanding is, as it stands now, if there is a complaint about copyrighted material being illegally distributed via Google or You Tube, they will voluntarily take it down. But this voluntary system is only stopping a fraction of the illicit materials being distributed. As soon as one site goes down, another pops up (ie. the same pirates just operate under a different name). Because this plethora of illicit material generates a lot of revenue, the Internet Moguls just look the other way until the proper complaint is filed. And so on. It's a wink and a nod system, with not even a slap on the wrist for the U.S. companies who are passively in cahoots with the Internet Pirates draining capital from the U.S.

I'm not trying to paint the Hollywood Moguls as being any more saintlike than the Internet Moguls. There are no saints involved.

People want the stuff that the Hollywood Moguls create, or there would be no illicit market for it and thus no problem. Not only do they create goods people want, they create lots of jobs. For writers, for actors, for technicians, for musicians and carpenters and painters and all the support people involved.

Most of those jobs are right here in America. Thus the involvement of the Chamber of Commerce, and the AFL-CIO. 

The Internet Moguls create jobs, too. No doubt about it. And that's why I would like to see the debate take place on the merits of the actual issues at hand.

But instead, the Internet Moguls have done a tremendous spin job, turning the debate into one about the First Amendment, by putting out alarmist propaganda about how your First Amendment rights are being threatened.

It is my belief that nobody involved wants to take away our First Amendment rights. The Big Bad Government, the Hollywood Moguls, the Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO... none of them. What they want to do is stop Internet Pirates from draining American resources.

The SOPA legislation is dead in the water. Maybe it was worded poorly. Maybe it over reached. But the piracy continues. And something will be done. The Hollywood Moguls will not just roll over.

When the next legislation comes through, and it will, all I ask is you don't listen to the alarmist rhetoric which will be inevitably spread by the Internet Moguls, who, after all, have lots of money at stake here too. If You Tube is legally responsible for its content, it could arguably break the company. Google is already seeing less than projected profits for its last quarter. It has everything to do with the money involved. It has nothing to do with your (or their) First Amendment rights. If I'm wrong, then it's an issue that should be argued before the Supreme Court, not the Twitter Court. 

The Internet Moguls will not roll over either. Nor should they. And the Internet Pirates certainly won't just go away. Action is needed, and will be taken. President Obama, politically astute man that he is, has distanced himself from the doomed legislation while simultaneously ordering his Justice Department to crack down as hard as they can on the pirates themselves.

My whole point is this. Because I believe us to be an intelligent people, I would like to see the public debate be based on the merits of the actual issues at hand, and not some sensationalist internet spin job designed to deflect attention from the real problem and its possible solutions.

Now, if I could only distill that down to a Tweet...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comment by David Vidal on January 23, 2012 at 2:08am

I agree with you wholeheartedly, Brenda.  As I have stated, my concern has been with the baby, not the bath water.  Strong legislation is necessary, and will come. Having lived in and dealt with Hollywood for over 30 years, it's a stone guarantee that bunch ain't gonna roll over and play dead. I have work to do myself, and almost blew out the entire left side of my brain reading that damn thing. It's been a pleasure meeting you :  ) 

Comment by Brenda Siegelman on January 23, 2012 at 1:20am

David, I'm sorry, but I can't take the argument further at this point. This is a very busy time for me and after a certain amount of reading legal lingo, my brain explodes. Rest easy, a better bill protecting artist's rights and criminalizing the counterfeiters and/ or online pirates on a large scale is coming..

This was an unusual week , people did speak out. An agreement will be reached. We are at an awkward time , when technology changed so quickly the law makers have been unable to keep up. They are learning about what they did wrong now. Expect changes, as their teams research into  what should be excluded from regulation.

Comment by wiffledust on January 22, 2012 at 11:53pm

David, we read this differently. Yes, they really can take down any site. Perhaps you're not seeing it because you see their deliniations as logical...which to a person who does not create on the web might seem logical, but in fact is way overreadching and capricious. But I've said all that. So I'm probably going to bow out having said all I can on this.

Comment by wiffledust on January 22, 2012 at 11:49pm

You put that so well, Maggie. I think that is why I was having difficulty in this conversation. Yes, I use the internet for commerce, but my main use is also information exchange. And, therefore, to me someone sticking their head in and monitoring a conversation I am having in whatever form on here on the off chance that I may be pirating, feels to me like someone coming into our discussion at my dining room table when I'm playing an excerpt of David's record to you to show you why I like it. And promotion then is also in that area of sharing information about someone, and people can attribute good or bad motives to that. So, yes, a very important observation you made there. Thank you!

Comment by David Vidal on January 22, 2012 at 11:46pm

Okay, I read the bill. Honestly, no big red flags went up. I find it to be far reaching and comprehensive. But, as it states succinctly at the very beginning, not at all about restricting peoples' First Amendment Rights. If you can show me which sentences do that, I'd be glad to re-read them. I understand the concern with government overreach. I wish people had exhibited the same concern before the Patriot Act was rammed through. As far as I'm concerned, most of the loss of First Amendment rights you are understandably concerned about were already given away in that one.

   

I think this bill is totally in line with the right of the federal government  to control international commerce and piracy, both of which are explicitly covered in Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution (I think that's the right Article and Section numbers).


They cannot just randomly pick websites and shut them down under this. There is due process, which is well delineated. I'm a little suspect of the "slippery slope" theory anyway, because, as i mentioned, it is very reminiscent of the "they must be there, therefore they are there, and if they aren't there they will be soon" justification for the invasion of Iraq. or perhaps more appropriately, the abject paranoia of losing Second Amendment rights every time a government agency tries to implement reasonable gun control, even on a local level.

 

The way I read it, this bill pertains strictly to commerce and piracy, which the U.S. Constitution absolutely allows.

Comment by David Vidal on January 22, 2012 at 11:46pm

Okay, I read the bill. Honestly, no big red flags went up. I find it to be far reaching and comprehensive. But, as it states succinctly at the very beginning, not at all about restricting peoples' First Amendment Rights. If you can show me which sentences do that, I'd be glad to re-read them. I understand the concern with government overreach. I wish people had exhibited the same concern before the Patriot Act was rammed through. As far as I'm concerned, most of the loss of First Amendment rights you are understandably concerned about were already given away in that one.

   

I think this bill is totally in line with the right of the federal government  to control international commerce and piracy, both of which are explicitly covered in Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution (I think that's the right Article and Section numbers).

They cannot just randomly pick websites and shut them down under this. There is due process, which is well delineated. I'm a little suspect of the "slippery slope" theory anyway, because, as i mentioned, it is very reminiscent of the "they must be there, therefore they are there, and if they aren't there they will be soon" justification for the invasion of Iraq. or perhaps more appropriately, the abject paranoia of losing Second Amendment rights every time a government agency tries to implement reasonable gun control, even on a local level.

 

The way I read it, this bill pertains strictly to commerce and piracy, which the U.S. Constitution absolutely allows.

Comment by Maggie Friend on January 22, 2012 at 11:03pm

Agreed and I think that it is very important to think about the different uses of the internet.  David mentioned that he thinks of the internet as a "giant commercial zone" but, for many of us, it remains the "information superhighway."  This is why departments charged with maintaining internet infrastructure are known as Information Technology.  I use the internet daily to assist in preparing classes, writing papers, reviewing new scientific findings, using the library, accessing authorized youtube content to reinforce a concept in class, using wikipedia content as an introduction to more complex scientific concepts, as an interface for extra credit assignments, to communicate with colleagues around the world on a variety of matters important to my discipline, to name a few common uses.  That is, although it has become a center of commerce for some, for many of us it remains a center of information exchange.  When I'm not working, the internet provides an opportunity for me to review news from many disparate sources from the Boston Globe to the Beirut Daily Star in an effort to find the kernel of truth in the spin.  None of my colleagues supports these bills and we are not folks easily fooled by spin.  For me this helps to clarify why, so many times in this discussion, we have been  at cross-purposes:  on the one hand there is concern over regulating commerce on the internet to prevent piracy while on the other is the concern that such regulation, given the current design of the internet and the text of the proposed bills, would of necessity interfere in the free flow of information either intentionally or unintentionally and this is unacceptable to those of us who use the internet primarily as an information resource.  It is not as though we could just switch to some other medium.  The internet is the primary medium of information exchange.

Comment by wiffledust on January 22, 2012 at 4:09pm

i think we all agree that something should be done about the piracy. i just don't believe it should be THESE bills

Comment by David Vidal on January 22, 2012 at 4:00pm

Thank you, Brenda. I will go thru it later this evening... I've got a gig this afternoon.

My main concern is that in the near hysteria that has surrounded this bill, people seem more than willing to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. Bills are amended all the time. As we all  know, that's what they do in Congress. Draft, debate, amend and vote on legislation. Maybe the wording is bad, or the bill over reaches (I will read it in its entirety, I promise). And indeed, we do live in 'special' times that call for 'special' laws.

What I don't want to see happen is people losing site of the very real problem of internet piracy. It affects me, it affects my family, it affects my friends, and it needs to be dealt with in a way that actually solves the problem, without infringing on anybody's constitutional rights.

 The issue to me is one of regulation of commerce, and should be approached as such. It's not much different than regulating the banks, which is something I support wholeheartedly as well.

Thanks again for the link.

Comment by Brenda Siegelman on January 22, 2012 at 3:41pm

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