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#20151 - 01/18/12 02:53 PM Some thoughts on SOPA
tacit Offline


Registered: 08/03/09
Loc: Portland, Oregon, USA
As almost everyone who uses the Internet is aware, a lot of Web sites have blacked out today in protest of SOPA and PIPA, two pieces of legislation being considered which would severely impact the Internet in an effort to stop online copyright violation.

If either one of these bills were to pass into law, they would likely significantly impact us here at Fine Tuned Mac, since our content is all user-generated. Language in the bills could potentially make those of us who maintain and moderate FTM responsible for links to pirated content placed by users, and might even compel us to moderate all user input--a nontrivial job in the extreme.

The legislation is clearly a bad idea. But there's a part of the discussion which is not, I feel, being given enough focus. I've written about it extensively here. I invite anyone interested in SOPA to read it and welcome your comments.
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#20152 - 01/18/12 06:32 PM Re: Some thoughts on SOPA [Re: tacit]
joemikeb Online
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
I have no objection to owners of intellectual property receiving just compensation for the use of their property, but SOPA -- as it is currently written -- is simply bad law. It is too broad and has far too many unintended consequences. I urge everyone to contact their congressional representative and senators and urge their opposition to SOPA in its current form.
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#20153 - 01/18/12 07:21 PM Re: Some thoughts on SOPA [Re: joemikeb]
alternaut Offline

Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
In the Whitehouse.gov petition drive named VETO the SOPA bill and any ...rmation started a month ago, the coordinating team sent out a follow-up message last week: Combating Online Piracy while Protecting an Open and Innovative Internet.

In it, they summarize developments while reiterating the importance of the issue, stating a.o. 'So, rather than just look at how legislation can be stopped, ask yourself: Where do we go from here? Don’t limit your opinion to what’s the wrong thing to do, ask yourself what’s right.'

Obviously, the intention is to gather ideas to work into potential regulation, but this phrasing may be as good an opening as any to make the point tacit brought up. Clearly, fallacies entertained by part of the public at large are part and parcel of the piracy problem, and I don't think it would hurt to belabor that point when there is an opportunity to do so.
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#20179 - 01/20/12 12:32 PM Re: Some thoughts on SOPA [Re: alternaut]
artie505 Online


Registered: 08/04/09
I assume there's more to be learned, but WCBS Radio just reported that the Senate has "shelved" PIPA.
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#20180 - 01/20/12 12:44 PM Re: Some thoughts on SOPA [Re: artie505]
alternaut Offline

Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
It appears Reid decided to pull it after the realization that the IT industry-cum-public reaction had reached critical mass yesterday. But what really bothered me is the support/sponsorship this ill-conceived monstrosity received in the Senate from what I thought were common sense members. What were they thinking?
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#20183 - 01/20/12 03:16 PM Re: Some thoughts on SOPA [Re: alternaut]
artie505 Online


Registered: 08/04/09
Originally Posted By: alternaut
It appears Reid decided to pull it after the realization that the IT industry-cum-public reaction had reached critical mass yesterday. But what really bothered me is the support/sponsorship this ill-conceived monstrosity received in the Senate from what I thought were common sense members. What were they thinking?

I dunno what the members of either house of Congress were "thinking," but it seems to me that common sense has been sorely lacking in both bodies recently.
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#20186 - 01/20/12 05:47 PM Re: Some thoughts on SOPA [Re: alternaut]
dkmarsh Offline
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09

A number of the "common sense members" of the Senate are heavily endowed by the entertainment industry, and were therefore reflexively inclined to support the bill. (Note that Democrats were, on the whole, slower to abandon the legislation than Republicans.)
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#20191 - 01/20/12 07:45 PM Re: Some thoughts on SOPA [Re: alternaut]
tacit Offline


Registered: 08/03/09
Loc: Portland, Oregon, USA
What they were thinking, I suspect, has partly to do with the amount of money they get from their patrons in the Recording Industry Ass. of America and the Motion Picture Ass. of America--but only partly.

They are likely also annoyed and frustrated, like I am, at the appalling amount of piracy (not just movies and music; the DoJ has been aggressively targeting counterfeit sites hawking fake Rolex watches, designer handbags, and even tennis shoes) that organized crime, particularly Eastern European organized crime, is engaging in on the Web. I don't know about you guys, but I get, on average, 2-4 fake Rolex watch spam emails, 10-12 spam messages advertising fake Louis Vuitton goods, 1-2 fake Canada Goose spam emails, and lately about 20 spam messages hawking fake Christian Louboutin shoes. This kind of piracy legitimately does hurt retail sales in the United States, while pumping vast amounts of money into the coffers of organized crime.

The problem is, Congress is made up of a bunch of people who stopped keeping up with technology when the ball-point pen was invented. They have only vague ideas of what the Internet is, and more vague ideas still of how it works; when someone says something like "There's a big list of domain names on computers out there, and if you take a Web site off the list, nobody can go to the Web site any more" they think "Hey, that sounds like a great way to shut down these bootleg sites!" They simply lack the technical skill to understand why that doesn't work.

And their patrons at the Recording Industry Ass. of America and the Motion Picture Ass. of America are hardly any better. These are a bunch of guys who make their living screwing actors, writers, and singers; they're not technical wizards any more than the Congresscritters are, so when they're asked to help draft legislation, they come up with halfwitted, brain-dead, appallingly misinformed rubbish like SOPA.

So that's what they were thinking. They were thinking that they are being asked to legislate something they don't understand and don't have even a vague grasp of.

They are not malevolent (well, I take that back--some of them are), and they're genuinely astonished by the resistance to these proposals. That isn't an act. They sincerely don't understand why people think it's a bad thing to try to go after pirates, bootleggers, and mobsters--because they sincerely don't understand why the legislation they have written can never succeed. They simply aren't informed enough to. How could they be? They grew up in a time when almost all communication media, from newspapers to telephones, were centralized and had a single point from which they could be controlled. There's no way they are educated enough to be able to wrap their heads around a decentralized, distributed system like the Internet. Asking Congress to understand the Internet is like asking a dog to do calculus.

But the problems that these misguided, pig-ignorant bits of legislative excrement are trying to address won't simply vanish. The fact is, piracy *is* a problem. People *are* profiting from other people's work, and that's not cool. There currently aren't any effective ways to combat organized crime online, and one way or the other the tech industry has got to grow up and come to terms with that.

Part of the issue, I think, is the us-vs-them mentality that we have. Internet users see the Recording Industry Ass. of America and the Motion Picture Ass. of America as the enemy, and justify pirating content by how much they hate them. The respective Asses of America see Internet users as the enemy, a bunch of greedy, self0indulgent, entitled children who believe we have the right to have everything for free. And it's asinine, if you'll pardon the pun. We're both on the same side. When people are rewarded for creating, everyone wins. When people are discouraged from creating because the money ends up in the pockets of organized crime, everyone loses.
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#20199 - 01/21/12 03:53 AM Re: Some thoughts on SOPA [Re: tacit]
artie505 Online


Registered: 08/04/09
Thanks for your thoughts and insights.

> There currently aren't any effective ways to combat organized crime online, and one way or the other the tech industry has got to grow up and come to terms with that.

Not to mention the entire rest of the world.

The Internet...the http://w(ild)w(ild)w(ild).west.com!

And the nature of people and the Internet being what they are, can you, from your position of expertise, envision, even fantasize about, any sort of feasible approach to the piracy problem considering that the lesson of recent history has been that the bad guys are both smarter than the good guys and steps, if not miles, ahead of them?
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#20204 - 01/21/12 07:00 AM Re: Some thoughts on SOPA [Re: tacit]
alternaut Offline

Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
My question above was more rhetorical than real, but I still appreciate your response, with which I agree. But there remains the life-size problem of how to best deal with internet piracy without throwing the baby out with the bath water, so to speak. And just to be clear about it, I personally have no solution either.

In this context I somewhat disagree with a comment Artie made in his preceding post. I don't think that the bad guys are smarter than the good ones (both recruit from the same pool), and the only reason the baddies appear (miles) ahead is because they use ambush/guerilla tactics in a field that at the current internet development stage has too many targets to secure them all within the current restraints (users still want stuff to just work).

It is interesting to note that with every new web development, many of which are commerce-driven, new vulnerabilities are created which can be exploited profitably in ways that were not intended. It may take a long time before this coincidence can be disrupted effectively, if that's ever a realistic option. After all, and despite many attempts to modify that, software deals with actual user requests, not intentions.
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#20205 - 01/21/12 10:34 AM Re: Some thoughts on SOPA [Re: tacit]
dboh Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Quote:

But the problems that these misguided, pig-ignorant bits of legislative excrement are trying to address won't simply vanish. The fact is, piracy *is* a problem. People *are* profiting from other people's work, and that's not cool.


They need to kick all the lawyers out of the room. Crafting vague provisions -- to cover even non-existent contingencies -- is their specialty and is also the root cause of most of the lousy legislation that's come out of Congress.

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#20207 - 01/21/12 12:26 PM Re: Some thoughts on SOPA [Re: dboh]
alternaut Offline

Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Originally Posted By: dboh
They need to kick all the lawyers out of the room.

Given the lawyer content of Congress, that might even help the remainder find the elusive consensus... smirk
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#20208 - 01/21/12 12:42 PM Re: Some thoughts on SOPA [Re: dboh]
ryck Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Okanagan Valley
Originally Posted By: dboh
They need to kick all the lawyers out of the room. Crafting vague provisions -- to cover even non-existent contingencies -- is their specialty and is also the root cause of most of the lousy legislation that's come out of Congress.

Good point. If it wasn't for lawyers, we wouldn't need lawyers.
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#20209 - 01/21/12 03:22 PM Re: Some thoughts on SOPA [Re: alternaut]
dboh Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Okay, maybe I shouldn't have made such a broad, generalized statement. Get rid of those lawyers representing clients who have an interest in the issue. Surely there must be all kinds of copyright experts in academia -- who haven't sold their souls yet? crazy

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#20212 - 01/21/12 05:32 PM Re: Some thoughts on SOPA [Re: artie505]
tacit Offline


Registered: 08/03/09
Loc: Portland, Oregon, USA
Originally Posted By: artie505
And the nature of people and the Internet being what they are, can you, from your position of expertise, envision, even fantasize about, any sort of feasible approach to the piracy problem considering that the lesson of recent history has been that the bad guys are both smarter than the good guys and steps, if not miles, ahead of them?


Ah, now that IS the million-dollar question, isn't it? If I had an answer, I think I'd be rich.

Intellectual property laws as they exist now have always relied on the assumption that piracy is costly. If you're going to make fake Rolex watches or bootleg someone else's book, you have to have money and you have to do it in an organized, large-scale fashion. Today, when anyone can pirate content almost for free, the old approaches to enforcement clearly don't work.

And honestly, I think the Asses of America have shot themselves in the foot with their clumsy, Draconian "Let's go arrest our own customers" approach. All it has done is backfired, creating an entire generation of people who see copyright as evil and who justify theft based on the unfairness of the enforcement actions.

I'd like to see several things happen:

- Better approach to education. It still appalls me how many people have beliefs like "If it's posted on a Web site, that means it's in the public domain" or "As long as I give credit to the source, I'm not breaking copyright law" or "If I'm not going to buy it anyway, then there's no harm in me taking it."

- A better system of management. The Asses of America built a huge business model out of centralized distribution of content; in an era when it cost north of $100,000 to record an album and then press a bunch of records, artists needed the studios. Now, however, when an artist can afford to record an album on his own, the studios are left scrambling to try to justify their continued existence, and trying to keep a stranglehold on distribution in order to choke out people who try to go it on their own. This hurts everyone--the public, artists, you name it--with the arguable exception of studio executives.

- A better system of payment. Right now, a lot of people pirate because they're lazy and it's easier than buying things, not because they're actually evil. If a person could buy a track as easily as steal it, a lot of music piracy would go down. iTunes tries to make this easy, but it's limited to Apple's proprietary software, and Windows folks hate the iTunes software because dear God does it suck on Windows. All the other little music stores haven't managed to get the right combination of wide audience, easy-to-use software, and content worth having. Netflix is now easier than piracy for TV shows and movies, but they screwed up their own business model when they hiked their fees,

- More levelheaded enforcement. Putting someone in jail for 5 years for stealing a Michael Jackson song when the doctor who KILLED him only got 4 years is just nuts.

- A more reasoned response from Congress. Going overboard with broad, poorly-thought-out, technically infeasible legislation like SOPA is even more nuts.
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#20216 - 01/22/12 01:09 AM Re: Some thoughts on SOPA [Re: tacit]
artie505 Online


Registered: 08/04/09
Thanks for your insights...precisely what I expected, and frightening.

If the solution to the problem is so deeply rooted in people and education, we're in for a long, unhappy haul.
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The new Great Equalizer is the SEND button.

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#20220 - 01/22/12 02:41 AM Re: Some thoughts on SOPA [Re: alternaut]
artie505 Online


Registered: 08/04/09
> In this context I somewhat disagree with a comment Artie made in his preceding post. I don't think that the bad guys are smarter than the good ones (both recruit from the same pool), and the only reason the baddies appear (miles) ahead is because they use ambush/guerilla tactics in a field that at the current internet development stage has too many targets to secure them all within the current restraints (users still want stuff to just work).

Granted that the good guys and bad guys recruit from the same pool, but the Internet has changed the landscape, and where there used to be only two options for pool members, the cutting edge and the bucks, there's now a very attractive third option, i.e. computer crime...an aberrant, but extremely lucrative, combination of the two.

And, further, the Eastern Europeans who are so heavily engaged in computer crime grew up in a pressure-cooker atmosphere that fostered a "beat-the-system" mentality, and they're simply more adept at finding and exploiting chinks in the world's armor than are many, perhaps most, others.

So "smarter" was not really the correct word for me to have used; "more adept," "more motivated," maybe both, maybe something altogether different, are would be more accurate descriptions.

And I think the bad guys are way ahead of the good guys, in attitude if nothing else, because what the good guys view as solutions, the bad guys view as problems; there's no complacency on the flip-side of the Internet.


Edited by artie505 (01/22/12 03:49 PM)
Edit Reason: Cleanup
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#20233 - 01/22/12 02:15 PM Re: Some thoughts on SOPA [Re: artie505]
tacit Offline


Registered: 08/03/09
Loc: Portland, Oregon, USA
Originally Posted By: artie505
And I think the bad guys are way ahead of the good guys, in attitude if nothing else, because what the good guys view as solutions, the bad guys view as problems; there's no complacency on the flip-side of the Internet.


The good guys are also bound by the rule of law--subpoenas, international jurisdictional boundaries, and so on--whereas the bad guys aren't.
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#20238 - 01/22/12 05:56 PM Re: Some thoughts on SOPA [Re: tacit]
Hal Itosis Offline


Registered: 09/03/09
Loc: 10.6.8 (build 10K549)
Speaking of intellectual property, i think one of the stronger influences which helped halt that legislation can probably be attributed to Wikipedia going black the other day.

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