SOPA and PIPA

By Phil Plait | January 18, 2012 6:00 am

By the time you read this, you have already heard or discovered that Mozilla, reddit, Wikipedia, and many others sites are going dark today to raise awareness about Congress’s highly regressive internet blocking legislation. The House’s version, SOPA, is making headlines, but the Senate version, PIPA, is pretty much the same.

I am not blacked out for two reasons. Since I am hosted on Discover’s site, I cannot take the whole thing down, and it would not be appropriate for me to ask. But also, simply blacking out raises awareness but doesn’t give information. I’m all about making sure people get good info, so below is a list of links where you’ll find why so many people hate this legislation so much.

- Google (!)

- reddit (they also have this page with many links to help you take action)

- Adam Savage at Popular Mechanics

- Forbes (though it’s clearly not correct to say SOPA is dead, and I no longer trust Obama will do as he says after signing the NDAA)

- Mashable

- Wil Wheaton

And I’ll note: I have a friend in the film industry whom I like and respect very much. She and I talked about this; she had a film pirated so much she made no money on it, and couldn’t pursue the pirates because they were overseas. She is right that we need a better way to find and prosecute (or at least stop) that sort of thing, and as far as I can tell SOPA would in fact stop what happened to her. Unfortunately, it does far, far more. I do not and cannot trust this government — or any that may follow — to use this kind of power judiciously. The links above will show you why.

I am against these bills, and I urge you to contact your Congresscritters. I already know my Representative, Jared Polis, is against PIPA, since he’s been fighting it nonstop. Find out what yours thinks, and act appropriately.

[Update: I had inadvertently switched which bill went with which part of Congress, and it's now fixed. My apologies.]

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Geekery, Piece of mind, Politics
MORE ABOUT: Congress, PIPA, SOPA

Comments (104)

  1. arcblast

    “I do not and cannot trust this government — or any that may follow — to use this kind of power judiciously.”

    thank you for that. i dont trust them either. the way i see it… it was never about internet piracy. wikileaks? it’s about censorship. if it was exclusively and strictly about piracy, why is it such a broad and encompassing bill with such unprecedented power to silence free speech? much of what the government is doing these days seems like one thing, but is actually intended as something very different. this is an anti free-speech bill masquerading as an anti-piracy bill.
    Glad to see that the american public isn’t so lethargic and sedentary as to just stand by and let it happen. maybe there is some hope for free speech after all!

  2. Graham

    I wonder how many will oppose Google’s censorship by manipulation of search results…?

  3. Another link to add to your collection of informative links about SOPA:

    http://arstechnica.com/

    ArsTechnica is running SOPA/PIPA stories all day with information about what they are, what effects they will have, who is against it and why, what you can do, etc etc. Definitely worth following a long for some very informative articles and good discussion.

    (disclaimer: I am not affiliated with ArsTechnica in any official capacity; just a big fan of the site)

    Cheers.

  4. Csaba

    I’m afraid this is just the beginning. Sooner or later the proponents of SOPA will come back with a “Think of the children!” type of bill like PCIPA that will be the same thing in a different wrapper and they’ll find some way to sell it because children and pornography in the same bill are a hot potato, no matter how it’s phrased.

    Let me quote from a reddit comment that is currently blacked out:

    “Lamar Smith has a royal flush and few people know it.

    SOPA may pass. It may not. He doesn’t care, and it doesn’t matter. The MPAA and RIAA started working on their legislative strategy to pass a new anti-piracy bill in late 2010. SOPA was designed to raise the noise. Everyone is playing right into the entertainment industries hand. The lobbyists are laughing manically at the ignorance of the mob. Even Wikipedia and reddit have played into it.

    What people don’t know about is the ace: H.R.1981, the Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011 which is lying in wait. It’s not complete. You see, PCIP is not contestable because it’s about protecting children. They can, and very well might, copy and paste the full text of SOPA to the end of PCIP. That’s the backup. That’s the deal that was struck with entertainment industry lobbyists. We will try to push this anti-piracy bill. It probably won’t work. Don’t worry, we can pass it under an anti-child pornography bill.

    There are two things which no Congressman will risk supporting: terrorism and child pornography. There can be no opposition, no discussion. Any anti-piracy law can ALWAYS be reframed as an anti-child pornography bill and it will pass, without even discussion. It will have the full support of the House (minus Ron Paul), the full support of the Senate, and most importantly the full support of the American people. NO ONE wants to risk being called a pedophile.”

    Source: http://www.reddit.com/r/technology/comments/old7e/sopa_is_back_it_has_not_been_shelved_and_its/c3i9fqe

  5. DennyMo

    The scariest thing about this legislation is that it’s being debated and voted upon by people who are not the most technically literate. (Yes, I’m being kind…) Generally, their understanding of the technology is limited to what their staffers and lobbyists spoon-feed them. Oh sure, a few of them might be technophiles, but most of them have been too busy “running the country” (still being kind here…) to actually pay attention to the issues behind the issues. This bill is rife with opportunities for the Law of Unintended Consequences to create lots of new victims without actually solving the problem.

  6. matias

    First off, it’s counterfactual to claim that she would’ve made money if the movie hadn’t been pirated. We just can’t know that, and it’s very disingenous to claim that all (or even a sizable portion) of the people pirating would have bought the film if they weren’t able to pirate it.

    Now, the other mistake you’re making is more serious. SOPA can not stop piracy. There is no way to make such blocks that people wouldn’t be able to get around – it just shows a complete misunderstanding on how computers work. See Cory Doctorows wonderful speech ‘The coming war on general purpose computing’, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYqkU1y0AYc – I would link you to the transcript but that’s censored in protest of SOPA today.

  7. How can your friend in the film industry be sure that if her film was not pirated, she would have made money? Is her film available on ITunes? Or is it, like many films, unavailable except through a pirate website? Black markets, like all markets, are driven by customer demand. But people don’t usually steal things if they can obtain them legally. The fact that something is accessible for free does not destroy the market for it. If that were so, libraries would have put bookstores out of business.

  8. Cheyenne

    Leaving aside whether this bill is a bad piece of legislation or a good one on the merits would SOPA/PIPA actually succeed in controlling the internet the way its supporters expect? Seems like it wouldn’t just for technical reasons -

    reason.com/blog/2011/12/22/circumventing-sopa-is-as-easy-as-install

    Looks like the vote has been delayed for a bit. Hopefully it can be amended to find some way to better protect intellectual property without going as far as these bills seem want to.

  9. If Obama lets this pass, the next time I see someone saying that Obama was a good president I’m going to go nuts. Hell… He doesn’t even need to let this pass, after what he did with the NDAA bill.

  10. Lars

    My band released a record in 2011. It’s licenced under Creative Commons, which means that anyone can copy it freely. The only limitation is that they can’t claim they made it themselves.

    Somehow, we still sell records ….

  11. Georgia

    Although wikipedia is down, all the info about SOPA and PIPA is still readable (click learn more from the main English page). Information about how to contact your Representative and Senators is also up – all you need to know is your zip code!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

  12. Chris

    Curled up on floor, sweating, shivering, can’t sleep, world doesn’t make sense. This is what wikipedia withdrawal feels like.

  13. Scott

    A shame your friend’s movie did not work out. How anybody could even begin to think that any anti-pirating measures could have rectified this is beyond me. In the end it just becomes another form of revenue for lawyers, and another way to embed your problems into drawn-out battles where nobody wins.

  14. Govt Skeptic

    I think you got the affiliations wrong for the versions of the bills and the legislative bodies.
    SOPA is the House bill, PIPA is the Senate version.

  15. Joe

    Great links Phil. I’ll be passing them around. Unfortunately, both Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt, my state’s Senators, are co-sponsors of PIPA. Rest assured they will never again receive my vote and I urge other Missouri residents to send similar ultimatums.

  16. mefromhu

    Just nitpicking: I think, you have mixed them up, SOPA is the House version, PIPA is the Senate version.

    For more info: http://www.techdirt.com

    regards

  17. John Sandlin

    The Google link suggests SOPA & PIPA wouldn’t have helped you friend either, Phil. They say the pirates wouldn’t even slow down. They’d just pop up at a new URL and keep going. Meanwhile the rest of us would loose most of the legal benefits of the internet.

    I’m not sure how far I believe that last statement. But I believe they are correct about how effective these laws would be at stopping piracy.

  18. PIPA Sponsor Patrick Leahy has lost my vote.

    Why don’t these people realize that the internet is not just a bigger version of the RF spectrum or cable TV? It is unfortunate that the pirates benefit from the internet’s anarchy, but so do we all. There has to be a way of stopping the bad guys without bringing the whole system down.

  19. Matt

    psst…

    “What are the differences between PROTECT IP and SOPA?

    At a general level, the bills are very similar. SOPA, the “Stop Online Piracy Act,” is from the House of Representatives, while the PROTECT IP Act is from the Senate.”

  20. TheBlackCat

    @ Cheyenne: Under the bill discover magazine’s website would be shut down because you posted that link.

  21. @Phil

    You should add today’s xkcd to your list.

  22. Chris

    As for your film friend part of the fallacy the movie studios are assuming is that every pirated version is a lost sale. In reality many of those people wouldn’t have paid to see the movie in the first place. They’d just have waited for it to appear on TV. Many others downloaded it to see if it was any good and worth their time. (I for one don’t like plopping down $10-20 for a piece of garbage, no judgement on your friend’s movie.) But then there are the people who just want to save a buck. The movie studios should embrace a similar format to iTunes. When music piracy was big 10 years ago and people had a legal way, many chose it. Sure there is still some piracy going on and people sticking the music into youtube videos, but it’s free advertising, someone may want to buy based on what they’ve seen/heard.

    Sorry for any factual errors. Wikipedia is down and I have to rely on my brain. It’s a scary thing.

  23. Chris

    One of my friend’s said “Too bad the free porn sites didn’t black themselves out today. Congress would get probably ten times the complaints.”

    Wait, how did he know that?

  24. Philip

    FYI, SOPA (H.R. 3261) is the House bill and PIPA (S. 968) is the Senate bill. I hope everyone will contact their respective representatives and Senators to express their opinions on these bills. And thanks for mentioning the issue on your blog. We need to spread the word.

  25. Cheyenne

    @BlackCat – I kinda doubt Discover’s website would really be shut down because one blog commentator posted a link to an article at another magazine discussing how SOPA probably has serious technical enforcement issues. But who knows.

    Anyway, the bills probably won’t pass (good thing). Hopefully Congress will be spending a lot more time on far more important issues for the next few months.

  26. jonathan

    Actually, this would NOT have helped your friend. Pirates, being savvy, would switch to foreign dnses and dns servers and life would go on. This will only affect law abiding citizens.
    :(

  27. Renee Marie Jones

    “she had a film pirated so much she made no money on it”

    I am sorry for your friend, but she is wrong. She may not have made money, few films do. She may have been pirated, but she is absolutely WRONG if she thinks that the piracy is the reason she did not make money. It is a convenient scapegoat for her failure, but she is wrong.

  28. Minor quibble: SOPA is the House bill; PIPA is the Senate bill. Phil has it backwards in the article currently.

  29. To Wikipedia’s credit, they are not just an empty black hole. They have a big grey page with information on why they are not up today, and links to information about the bills. The SOPA and PIPA pages on wikipedia are still live.
    So it looks to me like they are doing an actual informative awareness protest.

  30. Bobby LaVesh

    You can be against piracy and against internet censorship at the same time.

    I absolutely think illegally distributing music, films, etc, should be… well… illegal. I’ve never illegally copied a song or a film- and fully support legitimate efforts to stop them.

    SOPA and PIPA are not the way to do it though- they will give the government unprecedented power and force most of the web’s legitimate sites to close down or become neutered.

    This is the Patriot Act for the web. Once you give government power to censor the web- that power will never be removed.

  31. Adam

    Wikipedia’s working fine for me. I have NoScript add-on installed and had never allowed the wikipedia javascript to run. You can get the same effect by disabling javascript, if you don’t run FFx.

  32. Austin Hoffman

    This is just terrible….SOPA is the equivalent of curing a headache with a guillotine. It may stop piracy, but it would shut down our economy and unconstitutionally erode our most basic freedoms in the process.

    I just hope that everyone realizes how important this is and does their part to save the internet & our economy!

    here is another good video that explains the consequences of SOPA pretty well:
    http://www.peeje.com/peeje-goes-strike-stop-web-censorship-bills-congress-209/

    1,000s of more websites have joined the force and went dark today, we need EVERYONES help!!!!

  33. Dragonchild

    SOPA will NOT stop piracy. Pirates who feel misguided self-righteousness about these sorts of things would go back to burning DVD-Rs if that’s what it takes. Meanwhile, the government gives corporations the ability to censor free speech without due process.

    It’s a classic bait-and-switch. This is kind of like a “Save our Forests” bill that opens national forests to unrestricted logging. The name and even intent of a bill never matters; ONLY the actual legal text does.

  34. Michael Cook

    I’m curious how an American law would stop overseas pirates?

  35. GTMoogle

    While I appreciate your being vague to protect your friend, Phil, it does leave the rest of us to indulge in rampant speculation.

    I’m not sure what part of the film industry she’s involved in, but it’s quite common for studios to promise actors a percentage of the _net_ profit, and then ‘contract’ lots of work to other divisions of the studio for massive cost, so the studio can make millions of dollars on a film that ‘loses’ money. Tadaa, they don’t need to pay the actors anything more than the base pay.
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100708/02510310122.shtml <- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 'lost' 167 million, while the studio made almost a billion.

    I'm not assuming your friend is in this situation, but it is for reasons like this that it is difficult to trust anyone in the film industry when they claim that the reason for X is piracy.

  36. Doug Little

    I’m more worried that if this passes it will be used as a tool to stifle speech. Very, very scary. Also you are never going to stop piracy, it is as simple as that, finally this blog would not survive this type of thing, Phil speaks out against a lot of powerful people and organisations, it would take nothing for them to bring a suit against Discovery under this proposed legislation and have the site shut down.

  37. Peptron

    This seems to be a case of killing cockroaches with nukes. It destroys everything except roaches. It will affect everything except piracy, which will go on as usual.

  38. GTMoogle

    @ Cheyenne : ” I kinda doubt Discover’s website would really be shut down because one blog commentator posted a link to an article”

    That’s one of the worst parts of the law. They *COULD* be taken down if the MPAA/RIAA had a grudge against them. The law makes *everyone* a violator, and enforcement then becomes a matter of industry whim. Individuals don’t have the standing to get a company’s website taken offline, but companies can bully any smaller organization.

  39. NoAstronomer

    I feel for your friend but, as DragonChild and others say, SOPA and PIPA will not stop piracy, probably won’t even dent it and might actually make it worse*. The provisions in both bills are ridiculously easy to get around. There’s already a plug-in for Firefox to do so.

    Besides that both bills need to be taken to the shredder because, like DMCA, they’re poorly written and vague. They offer no protections for those unjustly accused and lack even the most basic oversight.

    If anything your friend is *more* likely to be hurt by these bills. If she has her own site it could effectively be taken down without notice or recompense. Then getting it back online takes months and cost thousands in legal fees.

    Mike.

    * Amongst other things the Barbara Streisand Effect is in play here. Today millions of Americans who previously blithely bought movies online or from stores or streamed them from reputable sites are thinking to themselves ‘Wait! You mean could have downloaded that movie for free last week!’

  40. Sevon

    “she had a film pirated so much she made no money on it, and couldn’t pursue the pirates because they were overseas.”

    I would be very curious if you could get your friends permission to speak more about this, if nothing else to encourage people to go buy/rent her movie. Also, “I know a girl who said bad things happen” with no further details is not exactly the best of examples to use. Otherwise, great post, thanks for continuing to spread the word on this.

  41. tallon

    The download of copyrighted material does not directly correlate to a lost sale. Just because an individual has downloaded something does not mean they would have paid for a copy. I am highly suspect of the comment; “she had a film pirated so much she made no money on it”.

  42. Paul Lyon

    You really need Ars Technica in that list!! Brilliant tech site, and they have an amazing science section.

    They are devoting the entire day to covering SOPA, instead of going dark. Although they did switch the default theme of the site to the dark version for the day. :)

    http://arstechnica.com/

  43. Peptron

    @NoAstronomer:
    Yeah, I recant on my “piracy will go on as usual”. Thinking about it some more I believe that it will massively encourage piracy.

    A honest person gets marked, they have to prove their innocence to get back online. A pirate site gets marked, it just pops somewhere else. According to natural selection, the only survivors are pirates, as all honest people eventually get out of the chain. With something like SOPA, my view is that eventually Internet will contain nothing but pirate sites, everything else being wiped out.

    SPORE had the strongest security device on it, and as a result, it became the most pirated game of all time. The security was so strong that after updating my anti-virus, the DRM claimed that it was a new setup, and therefore required a new licence. I had it installed on only one computer, and it seems that every update of my antivirus made the “licence” count go up.

  44. jack lecou

    This seems to be a case of killing cockroaches with nukes. It destroys everything except roaches. It will affect everything except piracy, which will go on as usual.

    It’s even worse than that. At least cockroaches are actually semi-serious pests. There’s really no evidence that online file sharing (as distinguished from other, completely different, problems, like actual counterfeiting) is even a problem on a society/economy-wide basis, let alone one big enough to bother sniffing our noses at.

    Even industry supported research, when examined in at least a mildly critical light, suggests only pretty modest damages. (E.g., see Julian Sanchez’ recent breakdown of one industry study – which, after stripping away the garbage, ends up supporting, at best, a loss figure for the entire movie industry of only about the same magnitude as the global gross from the recent Chipmunks movie: $446 million. Which is somewhat lower than the hyperinflated topline number of $58 billion…)

    And AFAICT, more independent research suggests that file sharing may not have any net negative effect at all. In addition to the offsetting benefits of promotion and discovery (e.g., finding out about new bands by downloading tracks), there’s the – empirically supported – observation that downloading one thing mostly just leaves you with that much more money to spend on something else. “Pirating” a movie just means you can spend your twelve bucks on a concert ticket or a book instead. There’s no net loss to society or the economy there (in fact, a net gain, because someone’s enjoying an extra movie, concert or book they otherwise wouldn’t – that’s a social benefit). Shutting down piracy completely would, at best, just be swapping a lost movie ticket sale for a lost concert ticket sale (while also resulting in one fewer viewing of one or the other).

    The only mechanism for file sharing to cause real damage would be if it’s resulting in revenues in all creative industries being so low — across the board, not just down in one and up in another — that substantially fewer new works can be produced, and with no possibilities that new business models might be evolving to remedy the situation. There’s no evidence that that is likely to be the case, nor is it even particularly plausible. AFAIK, the last decade or two have actually seen an acceleration in the number of works produced in most mediums, not a stagnation (well, modulo the usual complaints about kids and the poor quality of their music these days). There also appear to be plenty of ripe opportunities for new “business models” and creative mediums and industries to evolve and replace existing has-beens.

    So: Forget cockroaches, it’s more like using a hydrogen bomb to nuke a particular whorl on your granite countertop that the MPAA finds unsightly.

    Or maybe like letting a restaurant nuke the new dress shop next door because they feel threatened by it. Even though their sales are at record levels, thanks due in no small part to all the new hungry people visiting the neighborhood to buy dresses.

  45. tim Rowledge

    It’s not about piracy. It’s about controlling the entirety of the network. Piracy, ‘security’, child porn, religious ‘respect’ – any excuse that looks like it might persuade people is going to be used.

  46. Thank you Phil, for highlighting this issue. I think it’s frightening that so many of our elected officials either don’t know or don’t care enough about the internet to see the horrendous problems with this legislation.

  47. jack lecou

    And add me to the list of people skeptical of the “my film was on the internet so that’s why it didn’t make money” claim. All due respect to your friend, but there’s plenty of indication that even “pirates”, at least the ones who can afford to at all, financially support work and artists they like, perhaps particularly the more “indie” stuff. Besides, most films are on the internet. Including films you can’t easily find anywhere else – which at a guess, is more likely to have been the problem.

    I’ll just throw out another observation here as well: this fight is really about distribution models, not artists or creative work.

    You’ll notice that the people raising the biggest fuss and fighting for these kinds of laws are basically in the middle man business. Major movie studies and record companies, mostly. Established old school players trying to use every hook and crook in their arsenal to maintain their historically privileged position in a rapidly changing industry.

    It varies, obviously, but AFAICT artists themselves tend to be much more ambivalent, or even optimistic, about the internet, file sharing, and emerging new production/distribution/revenue models.

  48. mike burkhart

    Phil ,think of the slipery slope right now they take controll in the interest of stamping out piracy . Next they will be comeing after you and Bad Astronomy blog for blasting : creationism,antivaxers,Moon landing and global warming deneyers and all the other groups and people that are mad as hell at you for what you put on this blog . to quote a science fiction movie I like “there comeing you’ll be next”!!!!!!!!!!! off topic : a new Star Wars novel has the back story of Emperior Palpitine , The novel is called Darth Plages(the sith lord that he was telling Ankin about in revenge of the sith ,in case you hav’ent gessed it Darth Plages was Plapiteens sith master) I’ll just say that Palpiteen was rotten to the core from day 1 .

  49. @45 Tim Rowledge: It’s not about piracy. It’s about controlling the entirety of the network. Piracy, ‘security’, child porn, religious ‘respect’ – any excuse that looks like it might persuade people is going to be used.
    This ^^
    There’s always a plausible excuse.

    For yet another example of the sort of unintended consequences that this legislation will have, check this out: Monster Cable claims that eBay, Craigslist, Costco, Sears etc are “Rogue Sites”

    In a nutshell, this is just one potential example of companies trying to abuse these laws to squash competition. In this case, Monster Cable wants to shut down vendors of used cables, so that people will be forced to buy their (incredibly overpriced and fraudulently marketed) cables new, from them directly.

  50. @47 jack lecou: And add me to the list of people skeptical of the “my film was on the internet so that’s why it didn’t make money” claim. All due respect to your friend, but there’s plenty of indication that even “pirates”, at least the ones who can afford to at all, financially support work and artists they like, perhaps particularly the more “indie” stuff. Besides, most films are on the internet. Including films you can’t easily find anywhere else – which at a guess, is more likely to have been the problem.
    I’ll just throw out another observation here as well: this fight is really about distribution models, not artists or creative work.

    You raise a valid point. There’s quite a bit of correlation/causation muddiness in the entertainment industry’s claims of piracy harming their profits. Strangely, when a film breaks box office records, the “piracy issue” never seems to come up in the press releases.

  51. Matzerath

    As with many such ham-fisted ‘protections’, SOPA and PIPA may well have not protected your friend’s film. Like game DRM, the pirates laugh and shrug and say, ‘You can put whatever crazy draconian security-measures up you want; we’ll figure out a way around them, and the only people ultimately inconvenienced and disenfranchised from all this will be your paying customers.”
    Or in the case of SOPA-PIPA, everyone.

  52. Peptron

    Ultimately, the worst thing that kind of law would cause is that Internet business will move out of the US to other places that are more politically stable. As a person living outside of the US, I am not afraid that Wikipedia and such would disapear (they would just move out of the US), it’s just that now is not a good time for the US to commit economical seppuku.

    My worst case scenario with the best outcome is that the center of Internet moves from the US to Europe, so Europe economically recovers and the US crashes faster.

    It’s odd, but watching the US feels like looking at a glass breaking in slow motion. It’s like they are hellbent on making sure that the United States is irrelevant in the technological future:
    -The future is in stem cell research!
    -Let’s make sure it doesn’t happen here! There is no difference between a half-cell and an entire human! Sneezing = genocide!
    (Europe took the relay)

    -Oil is bad for the environment, and we’ll run out of it eventually anyway, let’s look for alternatives!
    -NO! We’ll make sure that we have no plans to ever shift away from this ressource that is running out fast!
    (Europe and Japan spend a lot of energy on research to move away from oil. US focus seems to make sure that they have the most drawn out exit possible.)

    -Internet is now central to the world economy!
    -Let’s chop that! I heard something about Al Gore and Internet too! What is the Internet anyway?
    (My prediction is that if that comes to pass, Europe will take the relay like with the rest.)

  53. OtherRob

    I’m surprised to find the “My friend’s uncle’s next door neighbor heard from this guy whose cousin once worked for the barber of this guy” argument here. How many times have we read on this blog that anecdote is not evidence…

  54. @52 Peptron: It’s odd, but watching the US feels like looking at a glass breaking in slow motion.

    As an American, I think this is an extremely apt visual metaphor (or simile, depending on how anal we’re being today). That’s exactly what it feels like to me, too, except that I’m getting bits of broken glass in my clothes. Every day I look at our politicians and media and I watch them make bad choice after bad choice. Every day I think “Ok, sooner or later people will snap out of it and demand that we make the changes needed to straighten out and fly right…” And every day, I’m disappointed.
    Now we’re watching potential presidential candidates being asked valid questions about real issues, and we have one guy who wants to re-invade Iraq, one guy who doesn’t think $370,000 is a whole lot of money (for about 10 hours of work), one guy who openly wants to build a theocracy, and now a guy who says that black people should be looking for “jobs, not food stamps.”
    Seriously? I mean, really? Sure, that’s just the Republican party, but at least we have a choice there. On the other side we have a president who promised transparency and reform, and yet has pretty much rubber-stamped the same kind of crap we got under Bush.
    I know, I know, no one outside the US wants to hear yet another Yank bitching about politics. But it feels like we’re on a bus with a bunch of chimps fighting each other for control over the (banana-covered) steering wheel.

  55. Hevach

    @51: Wikipedia may not disappear, but if it moved outside the US, instead of being shut down, SOPA requires that it be blacklisted should it be accused of violation – search engines and DNS can’t return listings for it in the US (or they themselves may be found in violation), and any means of bypassing that blacklist (like having a DNSSEC secured DNS) becomes a violation.

    Wikipedia may still be there, but for everyone living under US law the distinction is nonexistent. Should somebody decide to act on a link to an infringing site, Wikipedia will not be accessible from inside the US.

  56. Keith Bowden

    It’s good to see so many speaking out against this. We gave up far too many rights under the (un)PATRIOT Act, we can’t afford to let any more erode.

    Although I do miss taking my daily stroll over to Skepchick, etc….

  57. Peptron

    @Hevach:
    A very similar story as SOPA happened something like 10-15 years ago in France, and that sent France from being ahead on Internet technology to complete irrelevancy. I’m not up to date about where France is on Internet tech, but by the time they came back to their senses, the damage was done.

    I feel that if it came to pass, all that DNS blocking would lead to people realise the fooly of their actions, but that the damage would have been done. Wikipedia would be back available in the US, but no longer US based, like the story in France.

    The actual story in France was that: there was a free web hosting site similar to Geocities that was very popular, since free web hosting was very rare at the time. Eventually the expected happened, a kid made his own porn site and put it online. The host got sued, and their argument that there is no way they could possibly monitor millions of web pages 24/7 and that there will always be a delay before stuff like that is detected was refused in court and they lost. They had to take down their web hosting site so web hosting was gone in France for a while. Well, French web pages were still strong and going, they had just moved to other countries where there was no such silly law. So France went from leader to irrelevency overnight. I fear that the same would happen in the US.

  58. Veronica Connor

    I make video games for a living, and have done so for about 30 years. Every single thing I’ve made has been pirated on a massive scale. Arguably, my industry gave birth to the whole idea, since we were the first virtual thing that a whole lot of young people wanted. It hasn’t stopped me making a comfortable living, or continuing to do what I love. There’s no reason to believe any pirated copy is a lost sale. All the data I’ve read suggests the opposite, in fact. Furthermore, in games anyway, a lot of pirated copies are converted into sales. It’s free marketing on the backs of people who wouldn’t have paid for my work no matter what I do.

    SOPA and its ilk must be stopped. Backward robber baron oligopolies like the RIAA and MPAA must be stopped. They don’t benefit anyone but themselves.

  59. This^^ I know a LOT of musicians, and I’ve yet to meet one who thinks that the RIAA is anything but a bad joke.

  60. MadScientist

    The members of the RIAA and MPAA need to produce more stuff the consumers are willing to pay for rather than going after a minority who steal their products and threatening the majority of customers. I used to buy CDs all the time until the “copyright protection” nonsense came in and prevented me from playing my CDs on anything but a dedicated CD player – now I simply don’t buy CDs which do not conform to the Red Book specifications. It’s disgusting how the companies are also trying to shift the expense of dealing with these petty thieves onto the government – who wants their taxpayer dollars to be wasted like that? I propose we lobby Congress to pass a bill to eliminate copyright on audio and video – that will put an end to the RIAA/MPAA’s whining. It will also prove that people will still make music (and still profit from it) despite the RIAA’s claims. Oh … RIAA/MPAA members can probably increase sales by dropping their prices too. People who can’t afford the stuff in the first place aren’t going to buy it either way.

  61. MaDeR

    Probably China-like censorship tools is only way to effectively manage and control copyright violations. Thus, copyright and intellectual property rights as stands now require serious reform. I do not think those rights are inherently incompatibile with fredoom of speech, but if they are or if they will not be reformed… what is more important?
    - fredoom of speech
    OR
    - profits of few american and multinational multimedial companies and organizations like RIAA infamous from their suing 12-year olds forr milion bucks.

    I know my choice.

  62. JB of Brisbane

    Bobby LaVesh @#30 says – “I’ve never illegally copied a song or film…”
    Come on, you didn’t ever make a cassette copy of your favourite vinyl LP that your schoolfriend owned? EVERYBODY did that 30-40 years ago.

  63. jack lecou

    I used to buy CDs all the time until the “copyright protection” nonsense came in and prevented me from playing my CDs on anything but a dedicated CD player – now I simply don’t buy CDs which do not conform to the Red Book specifications.

    There’s also the refusal of big media companies to realize that things like region restrictions and selective releases are not helping them or their case. Why would anyone bother to wait around for a media company to finally deign to release something in their country/on their preferred electronic retail service/etc. when they can just download it? Why do the media companies think anyone should have to?

  64. Maria

    @4
    I fear you are right. They might lose this battle but they are not willing to lose the war and the war is against liberty. As cliche and silly as that used to sound to me.

    @ piracy in general
    There is an argument that lots of piracy is a consequence of mismanaged and throttled supply chains. That is a persuasive argument from my own experience. As soon as I got Netflix, iTunes, and Hulu and could connect more then one device AND do so while traveling AND I could get my hands on a zone free DVD player … I pretty much stopped messing with most of the “darker side” of the internet. Why? Simple. I’m lazy and I’m not interested even though I know where and how to get movies and music for free.

    Why do I need to bother with all that mess when I can click a button, and my card is magically charged moneys and I’m on my way? I’ll buy your stuff if you don’t try to gouge/hamstring me! I’ve spent more on movies/shows/music in the last year than in the 5 previous. No mess, no fuss, no converting, no risk, no corrupting files. I think most average media consumers are like me in that sense. We don’t want to be pirates we just want the content the easy and free way (free as in freedom, not free as in beer).

    We are essentially screaming at them to “Shut up and take my money already” and they, holed up in their gold plated fortresses, are throwing hand grenades at us in response

    Also remember SOPA and PIPA are not just supported by MPAA, RIAA and the like …. Corps like Channel, Nike, NFL, Microsoft etc are all on board. They hold overlapping but separate sets of goals and agendas.

  65. xmundt

    Greetings and Salutations…
    I want to add my voice to the chorus asking “what IS the movie???” Alas, I fear that while your friend may well have been told it failed to profit because of pirates, I suspect that the wise words from several other posters about the financial shenanigans that Hollywood producers pull did have more to do with its failure. Instead of this SOPA/PIPA nonsense, perhaps the Feds should be sending in teams of forensic accountants to audit the big studios and see where THEY are laundering their money.
    I was chatting with my brother in law a bit ago, and, he brought up a very good point. That is…do we want to assign the Federal Government the roll of defending private trademark and copyrights? And if we do…will this action actually make more money for the government than leaving it in the hands of the original owners? I suspect that the answer is no to both these questions. All I can see coming from these travesties of justice is a shifting of costs away from the people that SHOULD be paying them onto our backs, and, a vast expansion of the powers of the Feds to control our lives, and throw more of us in prison.
    pleasant dreams
    dave mundt

  66. @61 & 65: This is exactly why the Occupy movement is gathering so many supporters. Everywhere you look, corporate America is getting legislation drafted to further their own interests, at the expense of the freedom (and often, tax money) of the majority of citizens. It’s no longer a government “Of, by, and for the people” – it’s become an auction whereby the wealthy and powerful get to do whatever they please to secure their wealth and power, but if we serfs have a problem with it, we’re just troublemakers “waging class warfare.”

  67. Messier Tidy Upper

    Aaargh! Flippin’ politicians messing up everyone’s day’s again! :-(

    Memo to the people of the United States of America :

    Please can you just abolish Congress completely and just be run directly by the White House and state governors?

    Its not like Congress ever seems to produce anything worthwhile or create anything other than trouble for you and the rest of the world. (Online & off.) You’re already pretty over-governed (not that we in Oz can talk – we’ve even more politicians per person than you, I think.) and you’ve got the courts and states and other checks and balances in place to guard against tyranny plus a constitution that’s really pretty great in most ways. Considering Congress has nearly shut your country down a few times now – most recently last year over that “raising the loan ceiling business” Congress does seem to this puzzled outside observer to be far more trouble than its worth and to do far more harm than good. :-(

    Just think of the money that could be saved if Congress were scrapped, its congresscritters no longer draining your national purse and gumming up your nations works – you could sell the building for a fortune or turn it into cheap housing or keep pigs there and thereby raise the quality of the tenants and get more value from them! That money thus saved could no doubt fund the James Webb Space telescope many times over! ;-)

    Half joking / half-serious.

  68. t-storm

    I don’t agree with these bills either but why do you trust the government to provide for your healthcare and retirement?

  69. ND

    I have a vague recollection of a law that was considered in congress years ago which had an unusually vengeful provision (my wordage may be considered weaselly here). I don’t remember it quite well but if it rings a bell to anyone please chime in.

    Basically the anti-piracy bill was pushed by the music industry and it would allow them (the RIAA I believe) to remotely attack and erase an individual’s computer which they believed was involved in sharing of mp3s. It didn’t pass if I remember correctly.

  70. Messier Tidy Upper

    Someone may’ve already said this but :

    If these laws are as much a restriction on Free Speech and Freedom Of Expression as they seem to be – and they certainly look like it to me too – then surely they (& any similar bills rebadged) are literally unconstitutional and thus illegal and would be struck down by the US Supreme Court?

    PS. Do folks think we’ll ever get to the point where people decide we’ve really got enough laws (& other legislation?) – more than enough even already – and so we just don’t need to be making any new ones? Will the day come when we stop making new laws?

  71. OtherRob

    @Messier Tidy Upper, I’ve often thought that we should pass a bill that says in, say, three years, every single law will expire. Then we can start arguing about what laws we really need to go into effect once the time limit passes.

  72. Mr. Dave

    Many of our legislators have never sent an email all by themselves. IMHO, they’re simply not qualified to legislate anything regarding computer networks.

  73. @70 MTU: PS. Do folks think we’ll ever get to the point where people decide we’ve really got enough laws (& other legislation?) – more than enough even already – and so we just don’t need to be making any new ones? Will the day come when we stop making new laws?

    Funny, I was just talking to a friend about this. He said he hated that we call our legislators “lawmakers”. He has a point – we make so many damned laws that are often just re-worded rehashings of old ones. We don’t need lawmakers, we need law-debuggers.

  74. Nigel Depledge

    Jan Deland (7) said:

    Black markets, like all markets, are driven by customer demand.

    True.

    But people don’t usually steal things if they can obtain them legally.

    Not exactly. If it can be obtained legally at a reasonable price then it won’t be pirated. Of course, what constitutes a reasonable price varies from consumer to consumer.

    This raises a simple question that the recording industry refused to address. Back in the days when CDs were the most widespread medium for recorded music, the recording industry used to whine and complain about piracy (not of individuals, but of groups of people who would sell pirated CDs at well below their market price). And yet they had the means to defeat piracy at a stroke. All they had to do was halve the price of a new CD.

    At the time, a new release from one of the most popular artists would retail in the UK for just under £20 (around $35 US), and the recording industry’s promotional machinery was sufficiently well-greased that they were choosing what the public bought in about 80% of sales anyway. If they had reduced this cost (alongisde a reduction in the cost of the less-popular CDs), the market for the cheap, pirated CDs would very nearly have disappeared.

    However, the recording industry and Hollywood have never bothered about the intended function of copyright – to protect the livelihood of an artist. No, for the big corporations, copyright is just one more tool for maximising profit.

    I am reminded of the furore over Napster et al., when MP3 players started to become widespread. While MP3 files could only be played on a PC, no-one really cared very deeply about MP3 piracy. Once Apple launched the Ipod, things changed rapidly. In one particularly ironic twist, Metallica came to the forefront of the fight against online file-sharing (ironic because the lyrics of their 1988 track “. . . And Justice For All” include the lines “Halls of justice painted green / money talking” and “Pulling your strings / Justice is done / Seeking no truth / winning is all”).

    I recall Lars Ulrich (Metallica’s drummer and incessant chatterbox) in one interview claimed that if a plumber or mechanic downloads Metallica’s music without paying for it, then Lars should be able to get his plumbing or his car fixed without paying for it, but that misses a fundamental difference between music (etc.) and real work like plumbing or fixing cars. If a mechanic fixes your car, they can only ever sell that piece of work once. To get more money, they must do more work. But a piece of recorded music can be sold over and over again. So, once a musician (for example) has done enough good work to become widely-known, they only have to sit back and count the money.

    The fact that something is accessible for free does not destroy the market for it. If that were so, libraries would have put bookstores out of business.

    I agree, up to a point. Libraries, in general, can contain a wider selection of books than can a bookstore. And there are many reference works that one might wish or need to consult that would be prohibitively expensive to buy, but can be consulted in a library. Also, big, nationally-sponsored libraries such as the Library of Congress and the British Library act as repositories for knowledge.

  75. Nigel Depledge

    Chris (22) said:

    Sorry for any factual errors. Wikipedia is down and I have to rely on my brain. It’s a scary thing.

    Does your brain go on city-destroying rampages?

    If this is so, then I’m sure the rest of us would appreciate it if you could keep your brain safely locked up inside your head!
    ;-)

  76. Jeffersonian

    mmmmm
    sopa pillas…..

  77. Nigel Depledge

    Chris (22) said:

    As for your film friend part of the fallacy the movie studios are assuming is that every pirated version is a lost sale. In reality many of those people wouldn’t have paid to see the movie in the first place. They’d just have waited for it to appear on TV. Many others downloaded it to see if it was any good and worth their time. (I for one don’t like plopping down $10-20 for a piece of garbage, no judgement on your friend’s movie.)

    Yes. This.

    Going to a cinema is pretty expensive for what you get. Especially when you consider that most cinemas these days (multiplexes in particular) don’t do very much to stop other patrons from spoiling one’s enjoyment of a film. If going to a cinema felt like better value for money, there would be many fewer people watching pirated versions on their PCs.

  78. Nigel Depledge

    Chris (23) said:

    One of my friend’s [sic] said “Too bad the free porn sites didn’t black themselves out today. Congress would get probably ten times the complaints.”

    Wait, how did he know that?

    Probably read it in the comments on some astronomy blog or other . . .

  79. Nigel Depledge

    Cheyenne (25) said:

    @BlackCat – I kinda doubt Discover’s website would really be shut down because one blog commentator posted a link to an article at another magazine discussing how SOPA probably has serious technical enforcement issues. But who knows.

    I think TBC’s point was that SOPA / PIPA would make it possible and enforceable.

    Anyway, the bills probably won’t pass (good thing). Hopefully Congress will be spending a lot more time on far more important issues for the next few months.

    Eh? What could be more important to a Congresscritter than snuggling up to Hollywood’s wallets?

  80. uudale

    @MTU:

    “Memo to the people of the United States of America :

    Please can you just abolish Congress completely and just be run directly by the White House and state governors?”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VepS-IyKOLE

    You know not what you ask. :-)

  81. Nigel Depledge

    Jack Lecou (63) said:

    There’s also the refusal of big media companies to realize that things like region restrictions and selective releases are not helping them or their case. Why would anyone bother to wait around for a media company to finally deign to release something in their country/on their preferred electronic retail service/etc. when they can just download it? Why do the media companies think anyone should have to?

    This again is about maximising profit, and is also a relic of the days when the distribution of films, music etc. was limited by physical media.

    Taking films as an example: Since it cost quite a lot of money to make each print of a movie, it makes sense to make no more rpints than are necessary to cover the target audience. To maximise box-office returns in any particular country, it makes most sense to coincide a short but intense advertising campaign with the release of the film in as many cinemas as possible. Thus, the more prints you have, the closer you can get to reaching everyone in the country at the same time, but those prints are expensive. Basically (and IIUC, ‘cos I have not verified this and it is some years since I read about it), what the Hollywood studios used to do was make a set of prints to cover their US distribution, and then, some time later, ship a proportion of those prints overseas to release the film in other countries.

    In terms of the delayed release of home video versions of a film, the timing of these needs to be soon enough that people still remember the advertising campaign from the film release (or, indeed, remember enjoying the film at a cinema) but not so soon that it competes with cinema ticket sales.

    It seems that they wish still to hold onto this outdated business model. In these days of digital cinema and downloadable movies, it makes no sense to release the film later in one country than in another, unless it was the plan to have the movie’s stars appear at the national premier in each country (in the which case the various releases only need to be a few days apart from one another).

  82. Nigel Depledge

    Joseph G (73) said:

    We don’t need lawmakers, we need law-debuggers.

    Yes! This!

    Sadly, as long as retired lawyers are permitted to become lawmakers, you have an environment that breeds excessively complicated laws.

    Also, you need to hold your media to account for turning elections into circuses. The media circus inevitably turns elections into popularity contests. When elections were fought via the printed word instead of the transmitted image and the soundbite, politicians had to focus on the actual issues that mattered to people.

  83. SkyGazer

    A cute and possibly NSFW (depending your stand on Koalas) protest:
    http://s3.amazonaws.com/theoatmeal-img/comics/sopa/sopa.gif

  84. TheBlackCat

    “Funny, I was just talking to a friend about this. He said he hated that we call our legislators “lawmakers”. He has a point – we make so many damned laws that are often just re-worded rehashings of old ones. We don’t need lawmakers, we need law-debuggers.”

    Technically that is what we have already. There is a single U.S. code, and all new laws simply modify parts of the existing code by adding, removing, moving, and/or changing words in the code. Few, if any, laws add entire new parts to the code, they insert or remove sentences or paragraphs in various existing sections and change words here and there.

  85. @Nigel Depledge,

    Actually, it started before Apple got in the game. The makers of the first MP3 player, Diamond IIRC, was sued by the RIAA. They claimed that an MP3 player was illegal and would just facilitate piracy. If the RIAA had won, we’d likely still be stuck with CDs and tape players. Instead, the RIAA lost and now we have tons of portable music players. And guess what? People BUY music for those players! Every time the entertainment industry decries a technology as something that will destroy the industry, they invariably wind up making profits off of it a decade or so later.

  86. xmundt

    Greetings and Salutations….
    @ 67 (MTU) – The founding fathers set up the form of government we have, with its three branches, for a very good reason – to ensure that no one branch could take over enough power to create a new monarchy or dictatorship. I believe that idea is still just as valid today as it was then. The problem today is that the Federal Government has evolved in very negative ways.
    For example…it has become a huge bureaucracy, whose reason for existence has changed from dealing with the national issues to simply finding ways to keep itself going and to keep growing. It is, alas, rather like a cancer in that respect, and, I fear will have the same effect on the country as an untreated cancer has on its host.
    Then, there is the evolution of the attitudes of the elected representatives in Government. While not perfect, the representatives in the early stages of our government did attempt to figure out what was best for the country as a whole and work towards that goal. They may well have played the game in a rough and tumble fashion, but, when a compromise was reached, they all got behind it. Today, though, not only does one party demonize the members and positions of the other party, but, they apparently do not understand the meaning of the word “compromise”. When I learned it, the word meant that both sides gave up a little in order to get a larger percentage of the goals agreed to. Today, it seems that the word “compromise” means “you will do it my way or hit the highway”. Also, in terms of elections – and specifically, that of President Obama – There are too many folks out there whose only goal is to get him defeated in the next election, and, in the process spend four years automatically blocking any action he might try to take. They do not examine the proposed action and decide if it might be good for the country – they just block it.
    Finally, to beat that dead horse of “what is best for the country”, far too much legislation I see being passed today is focused on supporting or helping a small subset of the entire citizenry of the USA. At best it is neutral for the rest, but in too many cases, it is making their lives worse. As a couple of examples – there is the issue of a woman’s right to seek an abortion. Then, there is the desire to deregulate so many industries in the USA. As for the first topic, while I respect the views of the anti-abortion folks, the fact of the matter is that they are a small percentage of the total population. So…why should their morality be inflicted on the rest of the citizens? Getting an abortion has got to be a difficult decision for anyone (and not the casual impulse that the Anti-abortion folks would have you believe), so if women are equal in America, they should have the right to determine if that is appropriate. it is a complicated situation, but, again, I would rather err on the side of freedom and allow the individuals to make that personal decision, rather than allowing the government to control it.
    As to the topic of deregulation – all I can say here is that it was the lack of oversight and deregulating the banking industry that allowed the financial shenanigans that not only caused the housing crash but, ended up making it far worse than it had to be. NPR and ProPublica did an excellent examination of a company called Magnetar that was responsible for the traders making billions and the rest of us getting flushed down the tubes. I would suggest taking the time to check it out. If you still think that deregulation is a good thing after you hear that story…well…so it goes.
    this is a complicated time we live in, and, it is going to require all of us to make sacrifices to bring America back on track. If we ALL (and I am looking at you, the super-rich who have accumulated amazing wealth) work at it and work to compromise, we might not get all we want, but, we could keep America from being a nearly powerless backwater as England has become.

  87. TheBlackCat

    I just had a brilliant idea! Since there is only one U.S. code, we can just migrate the entire code to GIT. The official code would be set as Master, and whenever a senator or congressperson wants to pass a new law they can create a branch for that law. When it is ready to be debated other can submit patches to the law, which GIT can keep track of so we always know who did what and when. Then the sponsors can create a patchset and submit a pull request when they are ready for a vote. If the vote passes, the patchset is merged into master and it becomes law. If not, then the branch can either be further modified or sent to a trash repository.

    Then we just need to port the code to systemd and wayland and all our problems will be solved!

  88. TheBlackCat

    Every time the entertainment industry decries a technology as something that will destroy the industry, they invariably wind up making profits off of it a decade or so later.

    Yep, just lake tape recorders, player pianos, sheet music, etc.

  89. @TheBLackCat: Technically that is what we have already. There is a single U.S. code, and all new laws simply modify parts of the existing code by adding, removing, moving, and/or changing words in the code. Few, if any, laws add entire new parts to the code, they insert or remove sentences or paragraphs in various existing sections and change words here and there.
    Still, we have obvious bugs (like the “carried interest loophole” that Romney has been profiting from). I think we’d be better off approaching these as small bugs in the code, rather then excuses to crank out a whole new chunk of legislation. To carry the software metaphor further, there’s that impulse that programmers sometimes have (there’s probably a name for it, but I don’t know what it is) to just dump everything and start over. It sounds great – after all, the code you have is a morass of patches and underdocumented code. Problem is, it got that way through hours and hours of bugfixing. You start over again, and you create new bugs.

    @86 TheBlackCat: I just had a brilliant idea! Since there is only one U.S. code, we can just migrate the entire code to GIT. The official code would be set as Master, and whenever a senator or congressperson wants to pass a new law they can create a branch for that law. When it is ready to be debated other can submit patches to the law, which GIT can keep track of so we always know who did what and when. Then the sponsors can create a patchset and submit a pull request when they are ready for a vote. If the vote passes, the patchset is merged into master and it becomes law. If not, then the branch can either be further modified or sent to a trash repository.
    Then we just need to port the code to systemd and wayland and all our problems will be solved!

    As a geek, I love your idea. But seeing as how half of our elected representative think that the internet is a series of tubes and most of the rest only know how to look up porn and check e-mail, I don’t think your proposal would get very far.
    Still, I very much like the idea of law as a cooperative open-source project, as opposed to the gladiatorial arena that it is now.

  90. Messier Tidy Upper

    @80. uudale : Classic one there. Cheers! :-)

    @ 86. xmundt :

    The founding fathers set up the form of government we have, with its three branches, for a very good reason – to ensure that no one branch could take over enough power to create a new monarchy or dictatorship. I believe that idea is still just as valid today as it was then.

    Well the goal of preventing tyrany and one branch having too much power is certainly a good one I agree.

    Problem is the means of doing that seems to be malfunctioning somewhat and seems to have got out of hand and made it too hard for stuff to get done. The USA nearly shut down back in the Clinton era, nearly did again last year over the debt ceiling issue and whether its got worse or something I’m not sure but there does seem to be a problem there. How it can be fixed is the issue but if you keep having these crises and nearly crashing the whole political system it might possibly be time to consider some significant political reforms.

    The problem today is that the Federal Government has evolved in very negative ways.

    Indeed it has. So how can it be made to evolve and work differently?

    The bureacracy as you noted has just gone wild and needs to be pruned back hard. Less government but better seems to be one obvious solution.

    Much less political partisan polarisation too – the sides just see each other as purely black and white in a world where its all gray shades and a lot of stuff is overly simplified and really more complicated than either side makes it appear. I think both political sides really have to start acknowledging that the other side is human and makes good points and is right on some things and that their own side isn’t always perfect. But I can’t see this happening. It’d be so good if the temperature of the political debate would come down – maybe Obama losing to a moderate Republican would help that?

    @73. Joseph G :

    Funny, I was just talking to a friend about this. He said he hated that we call our legislators “lawmakers”. He has a point – we make so many damned laws that are often just re-worded rehashings of old ones. We don’t need lawmakers, we need law-debuggers.

    Nicely said and seconded by me. :-)

    I’d like to see fewer & more reasonable laws but the one’s we do have properly enforced.

  91. @90 MTU: It’d be so good if the temperature of the political debate would come down – maybe Obama losing to a moderate Republican would help that?

    If you find one, can you let me know? We’ve got the sorriest crop of Republican candidates right now I’ve ever seen. We’ve got one wants to re-invade Iraq and thinks that Turkey is run by “terrorists,” we’ve got one who hates gays and thinks we don’t have a constitutional right to privacy where sex is concerned, we’ve got one (Newt Gingrich*) who has a list of hypocrisy, lies and race-baiting so long I can’t even pick a single example to give here, and our front-runner now (Romney) angrily opposes anyone making any distinctions on the basis of wealth (it’s “class warfare” doncha know)… Meanwhile he’s worth 220 million** and uses a tax loophole to pay half of what others in his bracket do, and tried to make a 10,000 dollar bet with another candidate in a debate (who wisely declined). And of course all of these guys think that climate change and evolution are evil liberal plots. Not a single one of these jackasses is fit to fetch coffee for the president, let alone be one. Yet the only remotely moderate Republican (Huntsman) was completely buried by them.
    So yeah… if you find a moderate Republican candidate, please spread the word. We need one.

    *Gingrich has been particularly egregious and deceptive lately. I’ll be happy to fill you in if you like.
    **Let me be clear – there’s nothing wrong with a candidate being rich. Hell, they all are. But when you have one who makes comments about how “People who need a job to pay their mortgage shouldn’t run for office” (that is, only rich people should run), or offhandedly says that making over 370,000 dollars in a year (for about 10 hours of work) is “not very much”, well, it’s just ridiculous.
    And don’t even get me started on how he says that income inequality should only be discussed “in quiet rooms” (away from the poor, presumably). The guy just reeks of aristocracy and being completely out of touch with normal people.

  92. TheBlackCat

    If you find one, can you let me know? We’ve got the sorriest crop of Republican candidates right now I’ve ever seen.

    Those are the moderate Republicans of today. The country’s political demographics are much the same, but the country’s politicians have shifted right over the last few decades. In congress and the white house, people who were ultra-conservatives are now moderate conservatives, previous moderate conservatives are now fairly liberal, and previous moderate liberals are now ultra-liberal. Obama, on average, is roughly the same as Reagen, maybe even slightly more conservative, yet today’s conservatives brand him as a communist.

  93. Nigel Depledge

    TechyDad (85) said:

    Actually, it started before Apple got in the game. The makers of the first MP3 player, Diamond IIRC, was sued by the RIAA. They claimed that an MP3 player was illegal and would just facilitate piracy. If the RIAA had won, we’d likely still be stuck with CDs and tape players. Instead, the RIAA lost and now we have tons of portable music players. And guess what? People BUY music for those players! Every time the entertainment industry decries a technology as something that will destroy the industry, they invariably wind up making profits off of it a decade or so later.

    First off, I stand corrected.

    Second, yes, the recording and movie industries conveniently forget how simple it is for them to exploit new technology.

    This reminds me of a logo on the back of a Cyndi Lauper album I have (She’s So Unusual, from the mid-80s). It has a little cassette tape with crossed bones beneath it and the slogan “home taping is killing music”. Well, RIAA, guess what? It didn’t.

    Seriously, those Congresscritters who support these bills, rather than bow down to the almighty dollar, should just tell the RIAA to quit whining.

  94. Nigel Depledge

    Joseph G (91) said:

    The guy [Romney] just reeks of aristocracy and being completely out of touch with normal people.

    Heh. And the irony is, he will never be an aristocrat. To have aristocracy, you (more or less) have to have started in a feudal system.

  95. @94 Nigel Depledge: Oh you know what I mean. Sheesh. You Brits invent the language and you think that means you can correct people who are clearly wrong. The nerve! :-P

  96. TheBlackCat

    Joseph G: technically they didn’t really invent the language, it was mostly forced on them by the Norman’s ;)

  97. @92 TheBlackCat: Those are the moderate Republicans of today.

    *shivers, draws a blanket over himself and reaches for a bottle of vodka*

    @96 TheBlackCat: Technically they didn’t really invent the language, it was mostly forced on them by the Normans
    Now we’re just recursively correcting corrections. I think the thread’s about over ;)

  98. TheBlackCat

    @ Joseph G: Aha! You are drinking vodka! That proves you are a communist! Real Americans drink whiskey.

    Sorry, I’ll stop now.

  99. Haha!

    Hey, how about this: “Congress: Drop the SOPA!”
    Catchy, eh?
    Yeah, I’ll stop too.

  100. SkyGazer

    Ok shall we end this with one of the most taken down scenes in youtube history?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvXo4sGB7zM&feature=related

  101. @100 Skygazer:
    “Don’t cry. Disney owns the rights to that emotion.”

    Bahahaha. Perfect way to end.

  102. She is right that we need a better way to find and prosecute (or at least stop) that sort of thing, and as far as I can tell SOPA would in fact stop what happened to her. Unfortunately, it does far, far more.

    OK, so do the right thing and support the good proposals and criticize the bad. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and go with the folks who think that it is a human right to be able to download any creative work without paying for it in anyway and who claim that everything (including, say, snuff child pornography) should be protected because it is free speech.

    I do not and cannot trust this government — or any that may follow — to use this kind of power judiciously.

    While that might be true, keep in mind that a government evil enough to abuse such power would be evil enough to do the same damage without the backing of any law at all. In other words, if you have to protect yourself from your own government, you have already lost and all the bloggers in the country won’t make any difference.

  103. Good thread.. I had to scan it twice to understand it all though, haha!

  104. Nigel Depledge

    Phillip Helbig (102) said:

    OK, so do the right thing and support the good proposals and criticize the bad. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and go with the folks who think that it is a human right to be able to download any creative work without paying for it in anyway and who claim that everything (including, say, snuff child pornography) should be protected because it is free speech.

    Irrelevant.

    The recent increase in the fuss that the music and movie industries are making about IP is purely about maximising profit, and nothing else. They don’t care a tinker’s cuss for the struggling artist who really needs protection.

    What we do not need is legislation that would allow scenarios like the following to occur: Imagine a creative artist making a collage of various odds and ends, one piece of which they did not obtain permission to use. Imagine if that artist posted their work on flickr. SOPA or PIPA would allow the copyright owner to have the entire flickr site taken off line for hosting one piece of illegally-used material. This is just plain wrong. Sure, we can hope that such disproportionate responses won’t happen, but the point is that this legislation would make it possible and enforceable.

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