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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. 


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 Brenda Siegelman on January 22, 2012 at 3:37pm

  so if you  you go to the library of congress, Thomas portal, you look up  : H.R.3261 -- Stop Online Piracy Act (Introduced in House - IH)  that gives you , as a citizen , access to the bill text.  

Comment by Brenda Siegelman on January 22, 2012 at 3:30pm


   Let me start out by saying that we do not download media in my house. We buy cd's movies , books and subscribe to magazines. Everyone should be paid and credited for their work. My problems lie is PIPA and SOPA's slippery slopes.

 the slope is in the wording of the bill and the punitive damages for someone who posts an article that may contain a link to a quote for a song... Normally fear like that could be considered paranoid , but we live in 'special' times when the erosion of privacy and the right to pursue knowledge is at question (they always check a suspects library book choices). the wording should target piracy and not the exchange of knowledge and ideas backed by quotes and examples...   In going through the text of the bill I found points that would open the gateway to more censorship and do little to curb piracy and compensate artists. A better bill needs to be written to protect intellectual property from piracy.

Comment by David Vidal on January 22, 2012 at 3:23pm

I'm not at all convinced "giving the government the right to take down a site on a whim" is what this bill does. If it is, then yeah, that's bad, and there should be some burden of proof that there is illegal activity going on. But that doesn't involve a public hearing. It involves evidence of illegal activity. And should there be damages? Well, I suppose if you're falsely arrested for anything, there should be. But there's not, usually. Those things are easily changed in an anti-piracy bill. Here's the fundamental difference I see... I believe the internet is just a giant commercial zone. That might not be the intent of its developers, but that's all it is now. And the government has the right to regulate commerce, especially in regards to piracy.And while most people are well intentioned in their opposition,  I see people who don't want it regulated because they're making a ton of dough thru piracy, directly or indirectly.  And they're gonna scream "First Amendment!" no matter what bill comes up to regulate them.  Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's all about the good of humanity and personal freedom. But I doubt it. 


Anyway, this bill is dead. But another one will come around, because there's blatant theft going on as we speak that needs to be dealt with. And the First Amendment does not give them the right to steal.

Comment by wiffledust on January 22, 2012 at 3:07am

but, david, giving the AG rights to take down a site on a whim IS a bear. that is what is obvious to me. and i freely admit i may not be explaining it well. i'll ask my friend brenda to come on here if she has time. she's a fervent protector of the rights of artists and she hates this bill. she calls it an excuse at censorship having no benefit to an artist whatsoever. i'm not sure i can get her to come over or not. but i'll try.

Comment by David Vidal on January 22, 2012 at 1:27am

I'm reminded of one time when I was a kid in southern Colorado, where people do a lot of hunting. We lived way up in the mountains, and used to let people cross the property to hunt in the National Forest. And one time this hunter came by the house, visibly shaken. He and his partner had been hunting bear. The hunter had seen a big black bear, standing up, across a clearing. He took aim. Just before he squeezed the trigger, the bear started yelling at him. In English. It was, of course, his partner. I think that's kinda what's happening here. All these people saw a bear that wasn't really there, even though its obvious to them that it was. Only in this case, they went ahead and squeezed the trigger.  I'm still open to actual evidence that it was in fact a bear... though at this point, it hardly matters. Except the hunter's partner had relatives. Like me. And they kinda wanna know why you shot him. And the explanation that he was obviously a bear just seems a little flimsy, unless you can come up with fur and claws and such...

Comment by David Vidal on January 22, 2012 at 12:54am

I had a hit song in China once. I think. Never saw a nickel...

I think what we're seeing here is an honest attempt to match the laws to modern times. In olden times (you know, the late 20th century) people couldn't deal in stolen goods while never setting foot in the country the goods were stolen from, nor stepping foot in the country where the stolen goods were bought. That's why they have to make "facilitators", like Google, legally responsible for content. If you can come up with an equally effective way of controlling the contraband, you could probably make a small fortune for yourself in selling it. Of course, they'll probably just steal your idea and implement it  :  ) 

  And as for the First Amendment violations... no, I don't see them. If it's that obvious, it seems you should be able to point it out and it would be crystal clear. I'm a big believer in the First Amendment, and understand the nuances of the English language pretty well.  But nobody has shown me any wording from the bill which infringes on anybody's First Amendment rights...  I'm still waitin' on that one. If you can't explain it, maybe somebody else can. So far, nobody has stepped forward with actual wording from the bill that does that, or anything even close,  at least to my mind. It still sounds like the weapons of mass destruction logic used to justify the invasion of Iraq to me. Or the knee jerk reactions about Second Amendment rights (which I believe in too) that inevitably happen when anybody tries to do anything to regulate any kind of weaponry. We're dealing with regulation of commerce here... and nobody has the right to transport stolen goods, via the internet or otherwise. That's what's obvious to me.  


Comment by wiffledust on January 22, 2012 at 12:31am

just wanted to add that most of the countries that pirate don't particularly do it on the internet. the biggest loss in funds from privacy is still hard copies in parts of  china, hong kong, and taiwan. also, any decent tech person can get another country's server in a matter of seconds after a site is shut down. the law doesn't match modern times. there has to be better ways to handle this

Comment by wiffledust on January 22, 2012 at 12:05am

i'm afraid i don't agree with you about the lack of first amendment violations. to me, it's obvious. i don't know how how to explain the obvious to you ..i mean what is obvious to me. and it seems to others too. something is not obvious to you here. and i'm not being snarky at all. i'm honestly confused why you don't get it. but i definitely respect your outrage over piracy, and i don't disagree with you that a very loud debate would have been healthy. but i protested this, because i feel that shutting down people's livelihoods and free speech on an off chance of wrongdoing is absurdly unamerican. i think there are better ways to make sure people are compensated for their creations than this bill...which i feel would hurt entertainers more than help them.

Comment by David Vidal on January 21, 2012 at 10:46pm

What bothers me is that there has been a massive effort to subvert constructive discussion about the merits and possible problems with this bill. It should have been debated publicly in Congress, covered by the media, etc. Instead there's been near hysteria about supposed First Amendment violations, with nobody being able to point out precisely what those violations are. I think the people who notified their representatives in Congress were well-meaning and acting on good faith that the information they were getting was true. They were trying to do the right thing. Yet, when the dust begins to settle a bit, nobody can seem to come up with concrete examples of actual wording in the bill that violates anybody's First Amendment rights... at least I haven't seen it. So the Congress has been flooded with e-mails saying don't vote for this bill, when in fact, most people who wrote in to urge Congress not to vote for it don't have a clue what's in it or what its actual purpose is. They know what they've been told is in it, by the very people it seeks to hold accountable for the piracy that is going on using their services. The "facilitators". How else would you describe them?  It looks for all the world to me like it has been shot down by an excellent manipulation of public opinion through unverifiable hearsay, in 140 characters or less. Meanwhile, the blatant thievery goes on. And it adversely affects a lot of people I know in a very direct way. 

Comment by wiffledust on January 21, 2012 at 9:54pm

i will support legislation that stops piracy that is not over reaching. all first amendment violations are interpretations. that's why there is the supreme court. and even then reasonable minds can disagree!

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