SOPA and PIPA

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) bills got a lot of attention yesterday when sites like Wikipedia went dark to raise awareness of and in protest against what they feel are the bills overreaching and dangerous implications. Here's an open letter from www.stopthewall.us that expresses some of those concerns:
We fear that the broad new enforcement powers provided under SOPA and PIPA could be easily abused against legitimate services like those upon which we depend. These bills would allow entire websites to be blocked without due process, causing collateral damage to the legitimate users of the same services – artists and creators like us who would be censored as a result.

We are deeply concerned that PIPA and SOPA’s impact on piracy will be negligible compared to the potential damage that would be caused to legitimate Internet services. Online piracy is harmful and it needs to be addressed, but not at the expense of censoring creativity, stifling innovation or preventing the creation of new, lawful digital distribution methods.

The relevant aspect to computer audio is the attempt to deal with access to websites that media companies/copyright holders believe offer illegal access to music, i.e. copyright and trademark infringement. Sites like YouTube and Soundcloud could very well be prime targets and the contention among dissenters is that large media companies would have the ability to shut down websites without due process. Further, websites that do not have the financial clout to fight even frivolous claims could very well be forced out of business.

PIPA and SOPA's clout also extends to websites that link to or provide search results from deemed offenders. The gist of this aspect of the proposed law is that site owners should be responsible for policing their content even is this content amounts to a hyperlink. Credit card companies and advertisers that do business with alleged offending websites are also within the purview of the Bill's rights as they could be forced to stop providing services to deemed offenders.

These bills do have support from many people and organizations inside the music industry including the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), the largest trade organization of independent musicians and labels. From the A2IM website:

Today a number of websites are shutting down in protest of proposed anti-piracy legislation. They are taking a unilateral action to make their content unavailable. However, under current law, A2IM members whose copyrights are infringed upon cannot take similar action. Our independent labels and their artists have no practical way of taking down illegal links to their music from rogue foreign websites accessed via U.S. search engines.

We urge these search engines to support U.S. content creators by working toward anti-piracy legislation acceptable to all. Let’s have a debate that genuinely acknowledges that the voices within our joint communities are deep, broad and diverse and let’s all agree that doing nothing is not an option.

The media has portrayed the issue as that of two giant industries (movies/music and technology) in conflict, as though this was a battle solely between very rich businesses. In fact, our members are small and medium sized independent businesses that invest in the creation of music and whose very existence is being threatened by the availability of illegal content on line. We look forward to solution oriented discussions among all parties.

While the issues of 'music piracy' and 'illegal downloads' are certainly valid and need addressing, Sopa and Pipa appear to be yet another heavy-handed ham-fisted attempt that puts too much power in the hands of those companies who have the financial resources to directly impact the content of the proposed laws.

It's worth noting that the apparent means to block access to alleged offending sites is by editing their Domain Name Service (DNS) record. In effect, this would dissociate a website's IP address from their domain name so if you tried reaching a blocked site by entering its domain name in your browser, "www.soundcloud.com" for example, you would not get there. However one workaround to this scenario is to simply enter the website's IP address in your web browser instead.

COMMENTS
deckeda's picture

... is weaksauce:

... They are taking a unilateral action to make their content unavailable. However, under current law, A2IM members whose copyrights are infringed upon cannot take similar action. ...

Sites haven't taken themselves offline because they felt they infringed upon themselves. Where's the Bad and Irrelevant Analogy Police when we need them?

 

Meanwhile, Google "SOPA dns" --- apparently DNS filtering is "off the table" as of 2 days ago. They've given up on that idea. And I think PIPA was kneecapped when 13 Senators went against it yesterday, some of whom were initial supporters.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

There are now 7 Senators/former co-sponsors of PIPA that pulled their support following Wednesday's protests which makes some politicians angry.

Here’s Senator Chris Dodd (PDF),

"A so-called “blackout” is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals. It is our hope that the White House and the Congress will call on those who intend to stage this “blackout” to stop the hyperbole and PR stunts and engage in meaningful efforts to combat piracy."

Apparently they did work not diligently enough since the “so-called ‘blackout’ / gimmick” made some Senators even more diligent.

It's also important to note that sites like Google and Wikipedia have the ability to reach millions of people in a day with their message and this was one of the first times they chose to flex this muscle for political ends.

Here’s Professor Tim Wu of Columbia Law School as quoted in the NY Times:

“This is the first real test of the political strength of the Web, and regardless of how things go, they are no longer a pushover,” said Professor Wu, who is the author of “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires.” He added, “The Web taking a stand against one of the most powerful lobbyers and seeming to get somewhere is definitely a first.”

deckeda's picture

What strikes me as different this time (as opposed to some previous content creator or distributorship initiatives) is that they failed to rouse the needed partnerships from these large Internet presences.

Consider that for the recent FCC net neutrality mess Google and Verizon's buy-in were both secured eventually. Just enough to make the whole thing watered down, at best. Different situation, different players, sure, but it's as if this time the framers assumed they could describe what they wanted in a way that would automatically appeal to everyone's sense of fair play --- but they made it so heavy handed and simplistic it backfired.

Partnerships are the MPAA's (pardon my French) raison d'être, and should be their forté, whether serving the large Hollywood studios and theaters (I just saw "This Film Has Not Yet Been Rated" -- oy) or getting Washington to do their bidding.

It's written right on that PDF memo, by them referring to Dodd still as Senator (I guess I'm not comfortable with that title courtesy in this manner as I would be when referring to a former President, say) as well as the tradition of hiring former Washington insiders to run the MPAA (Dodd, Valenti etc.)

If the various blackouts and other "publicity stunts" do wind up killing this thing, or making it sane and workable, it'll be a nice example of our system of representation actually working, even if it was other large entities that made it happen on citizens' unknowing behalf. We'll take it any way we can get it, sometimes.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

As reported in the Washinton Post:

Jan. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid canceled next week’s procedural vote [on PIPA] on a Hollywood-backed anti-piracy bill, the latest blow to the legislation after a global online protest by Google Inc. and Wikipedia.

And

Google said yesterday it collected more than 7 million U.S. signatures urging Congress to reject the legislation. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that shut the English language version of its website for 24 hours to protest the bills, said more than 162 million people saw its blackout page.

That's a fair number of citizens.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

In the January 21st-27th edition of The Economist, there’s an article on p.33 titled “Stopping SOPA”. While the bulk of what’s reported is by now older news, they raise a few pertinent facts that I was unaware of until now (which is just one reason I enjoy reading The Economist):

“The bills [SOPA and PIPA] have powerful backers: according to OpenSecrets.org, which publishes political finance data, between July 2009 and June 2011 pro-SOPA interest groups donated $85m to members of the House and $45m to senators, while the anti camp gave $17m and $27m respectively.”

Yes, that’s $174m in total spent making sure musicians get their fare share (yuck yuck) and the Internet provides access to free knowledge.

But wait there’s more:

“In fact, the only place where support for SOPA and PIPA is almost unmixed is in the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, whose members count the media industry among their most generous donors.”

Let’s not forget the scathing condemnation by former Senator Chris Dodd who is now Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. of the internet protests against SOPA and PIPA by Wikipedia and others which he characterized as an “abuse of power”. Hmm. Perhaps he was having an introspective moment instead.

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