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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 David Vidal on January 21, 2012 at 7:57pm

It's a complex issue... way beyond some perceived First Amendment violation... which, btw I still haven't seen. What you gave me is an interpretation. What does it really say? I think there is a lot of borderline (if not outright) paranoia about this bill that is being fanned into a bonfire by the very people who are profiting from the piracy and whose revenue would be affected if it became law. Movies and television are a big source of income for entertainers, including songwriters and musicians. If you really want them to get paid, you'll support legislation that stops the piracy. 

Comment by wiffledust on January 21, 2012 at 7:46pm

and look at all the people responsible. reminds me of old colleges with honor systems. you have to turn in everyone just in case!

(i) IN GENERAL- A service provider shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures designed to prevent access by its subscribers located within the United States to the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) that is subject to the order, including measures designed to prevent the domain name of the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) from resolving to that domain name's Internet Protocol address. Such actions shall be taken as expeditiously as possible, but in any case within 5 days after being served with a copy of the order, or within such time as the court may order.
(ii) LIMITATIONS- A service provider shall not be required--
(I) other than as directed under this subparagraph, to modify its network, software, systems, or facilities;
(II) to take any measures with respect to domain name resolutions not performed by its own domain name server; or
(III) to continue to prevent access to a domain name to which access has been effectively disabled by other means.
(iii) CONSTRUCTION- Nothing in this subparagraph shall affect the limitation on the liability of a service provider under section 512 of title 17, United States Code.
(iv) TEXT OF NOTICE- The Attorney General shall prescribe the text of any notice displayed to users or customers of a service provider taking actions pursuant to this subparagraph. Such text shall state that an action is being taken pursuant to a court order obtained by the Attorney General.
(B) INTERNET SEARCH ENGINES- A provider of an Internet search engine shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures, as expeditiously as possible, but in any case within 5 days after being served with a copy of the order, or within such time as the court may order, designed to prevent the foreign infringing site that is subject to the order, or a portion of such site specified in the order, from being served as a direct hypertext link.
(i) PREVENTING AFFILIATION- A payment network provider shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures, as expeditiously as possible, but in any case within 5 days after being served with a copy of the order, or within such time as the court may order, designed to prevent, prohibit, or suspend its service from completing payment transactions involving customers located within the United States or subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and the payment account--
(I) which is used by the foreign infringing site, or portion thereof, that is subject to the order; and
(II) through which the payment network provider would complete such payment transactions.
(ii) NO DUTY TO MONITOR- A payment network provider shall be considered to be in compliance with clause (i) if it takes action described in that clause with respect to accounts it has as of the date on which a copy of the order is served, or as of the date on which the order is amended under subsection (e).
(i) REQUIRED ACTIONS- An Internet advertising service that contracts to provide advertising to or for the foreign infringing site, or portion thereof, that is subject to the order, or that knowingly serves advert
Comment by wiffledust on January 21, 2012 at 7:42pm

you'd have to know something about web sites to know just how capricious this is but this is referencing below:

(b) Action by the Attorney General-
(1) IN PERSONAM- The Attorney General may commence an in personam action against--
(A) a registrant of a domain name used by a foreign infringing site; or
(B) an owner or operator of a foreign infringing site.
(2) IN REM- If through due diligence the Attorney General is unable to find a person described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1), or no such person found has an address within a judicial district of the United States, the Attorney General may commence an in rem action against a foreign infringing site or the foreign domain name used by such site.
(3) NOTICE- Upon commencing an action under this subsection, the Attorney General shall send a notice of the alleged violation and intent to proceed under this section--
(A) to the registrant of the domain name of the Internet site--
(i) at the postal and electronic mail addresses appearing in the applicable publicly accessible database of registrations, if any, and to the extent such addresses are reasonably available; and
(ii) via the postal and electronic mail addresses of the registrar, registry, or other domain name registration authority that registered or assigned the domain name of the Internet site, to the extent such addresses are reasonably available; or
(B) to the owner or operator of the Internet site--
(i) at the primary postal and electronic mail addresses for such owner or operator that is provided on the Internet site, if any, and to the extent such addresses are reasonably available; or
(ii) if there is no domain name of the Internet site, via the postal and electronic mail addresses of the Internet Protocol allocation entity appearing in the applicable publicly accessible database of allocations and assignments, if any, and to the extent such addresses are reasonably available; or
(C) in any other such form as the court may provide, including as may be required by rule 4(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
(4) SERVICE OF PROCESS- For purposes of this section, the actions described in this subsection shall constitute service of process.
(5) RELIEF- On application of the Attorney General following the commencement of an action under this section, the court may issue a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction, or an injunction, in accordance with rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, against a registrant of a domain name used by the foreign infringing site or an owner or operator of the foreign infringing site or, in an action brought in rem under paragraph (2), against the foreign infringing site or a portion of such site, or the domain name used by such site, to cease and desist from undertaking any further activity as a foreign infringing site.
Comment by wiffledust on January 21, 2012 at 7:39pm

and....all i have to do to take down your site, prevent it from googling, prevent you from accepting payments on the site, and block all advertising on the site is to suggest it. total whim.

Comment by wiffledust on January 21, 2012 at 7:35pm

the bill says you the AG can take down any site that even FACILITATES infringement. for any reason they want. so your site could be taken down. why? who knows. maybe they suspect my cousin vinny of doing something they don't like and you named it. maybe you recommended a youtube video. who knows. that's the point. it doesn't matter. they can close down any business without even direct contact with you. you don't see that as a rights issue?

Comment by wiffledust on January 21, 2012 at 7:30pm

and perhaps that small amount you earn sh ouldn't be so small. again, i realize this is off topic to some extent...

Comment by wiffledust on January 21, 2012 at 7:30pm

i can't address all of this at one time. and i think that it would be insane for me to argue the fact, the very true fact, that i want to see entertainers paid. so no screw you is necessary. however the nature of the industry is changing. in the not too distant past there was a system by which a major label or distibutor or both paid the artist in one way or another. and the thought was that these big companies were working for the artist's best interests. that is not always the case anymore at all. and it is often the entertainers or the entertainment companies giving away art in order to get it heard that is much more common and yes, believe it or not, profitable. i am not talking about the stealing of it. i'm talking about the round about giving it away. if you sell your music on itunes, you are essentially giving it away. that exists to sell apple devices, not music. to think anything else is naive. and, yes, there is a plethora of musicians participating in just that.

Comment by David Vidal on January 21, 2012 at 7:22pm

When you have time, I'd love to read the specifics in the bill that bother you. Because otherwise we're just going round and round about generalities. The bill, and the First Amendment, have very specific wording in them.

As far as piracy in the entertainment business, there have been numerous lawsuits about plagiarism, and there are very specific laws pertaining to what plagiarism is. Often very large damages are awarded to the person whose work was plagiarized. When rap first came along, there was a good deal of plagiarism involved, because samples of other peoples work were being used, and the technology was new.  But that's long since been resolved in the courts. There are very specific delineations of how much of what you can use without having to give credit, and thus pay royalties for it. As for movies and television, I'm not aware of all this theft that supposedly goes on, but then I'm not an insider in that business. Ideas might be "stolen"... but as for actual scripts, I'm not aware of it. Because if they like your script, and want to use it, they're gonna want you to maybe write another script. One of the great things about the film and television industries is their unions are very strong. The musicians union, excepting classical musicians, is not.

When you hear music on television or in a movie, the creators of that music are paid. There is front end money, in the form of licensing fees for publishing and use of the master, and back end money, or royalties.  Songwriters are independent contractors. For instance, I have a song in "My Cousin Vinny". I get royalties when that movie shows, depending on whether it's network or cable, what time slot, etc. I don't get a lot of royalties, because I only have one song in it. But the royalties are there, they are paid quarterly, and all the other creative content is paid for as well. The screen writer, the actors, the producer, and so on are paid royalties. So if "My Cousin Vinny" shows on television in Bulgaria, I get a very small royalty from that, and the other creative content producers get paid royalties as well, commensurate to their contribution or how well they negotiated. If, however, the movie is illegally downloaded (which I'm sure it has been a zillion times), I get nothing. Nor does anyone else who was involved in it. And so, that's taking money out of my pocket. Now you can argue that the system isn't right, that I shouldn't get paid royalties, that you should be able to download it for free if you want, that it's good for the betterment of humanity to have it freely distributed, and so on. To which I would reply, quite frankly, screw you. Because that's part of my income.

So when you're talking billions of dollars in lost revenue, you're talking about thousands of people like me not getting their eensy weensy pittance out of that chunk. And that pittance can buy groceries, and gas, or pay for internet service, and so on. So yes, helping the entertainment business helps the entertainer. To survive in this business, you have to spin as many plates as you possibly can in order to earn anything vaguely close to minimum wage.  To say it doesn't help the entertainer is like saying helping the restaurant business doesn't help the busboy. Of course it does. Because without a restaurant, there is no busboy.


As far as internet technology is concerned... it can be shut down right now. The whole thing. They don't need this legislation to do that. I think its naive to believe they do. If there were a real emergency in America, where the government rightly or wrongly deemed it necessary to shut down the internet, I think you would be stunned how fast it would go down. Look what they did in Egypt. You think they can't do it here? Of course they can. To think otherwise is truly living in la la land.

As far as this plethora of songs and songwriters out there,  very few of them are making anything resembling an act

Comment by wiffledust on January 21, 2012 at 6:06pm

i'm really not an expert on this and hesitate to post in detail until or unless i refresh my mind again. however, i think you are leaving out of this discussion that there is alot of piracy that musicians and film people participate in that everyone knows is good for the industry and that's why they do it. ....that's certainly not an answer to your question, but i'm throwing it into your feelings about the industry going down the tubes. the industry is not going down the tubes. there are more people providing singer songwriter material than ever before. and movies are there and making money. so is tv. but all of these industries are changing. and very rapidly. protecting a huge entertainment company does not necessarily help the entertainer anymore. i think technology and all of its modernisms has to be brought into this discussion. for example, as maggie states the entire discussion would be shut down. and you liken it to a hearing. that's just it. it's not. it's how we get information now. shutting someone down now is not like not giving them a hearing. it's like gagging them.

Comment by wiffledust on January 21, 2012 at 5:51pm

well speaking for myself, i read specifics that helped me make up my mind. but i haven't had time to go back and find them. i'm not copping out. just been busy....

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