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Protect IP Renamed E-Parasites Act; Would Create The Great Firewall Of America (techdirt.com)
491 points by yanw 1801 days ago | hide | past | web | 148 comments | favorite



The key point here, as another commenter pointed out, is they are not going to give up.

You can win a battle here, perhaps rally around your congressman and get it killed, or petition the president to veto it, but it doesn't matter. They'll just be back again next year, and the next year, and the next.

This is the importance of constitutional amendments: they settle things on a broad scale exactly to prevent this kind of nipping (although it still happens, it just takes much longer time) We need an amendment or two around internet and computer freedom, specifically that computers are extensions of our minds, not machines to play content on, and that the internet is our primary form of political organization and persuasion, not a fancy telephone line.

I hate to be all doom-and-gloom, but I think that boat has sailed. The tech community might get its act together, give up all social causes and form some kind of committee or group to push for such amendments, but I seriously doubt it. Half the community is in bed with big media and the other half are just as concerned with other issues as this one. We are not organized, coherent, or focused.

Just saw a great series on PBS, Ken Burns' "Prohibition". It was all about how focused groups can make big changes -- but it takes a long time. I don't see the kind of anger and outrage against this as we had against alcohol. Very sad, because this is a lot worse.


The reason they can continue to relentlessly push for it is because the paid lobbyists who are pushing for it are just doing their day job. They can spend the rest of their lives at it. The public only has so much spare time.


Aren't there are paid lobbyists pushing on the other side of it too? Perhaps there are not as many or they're not as well funded, but I believe they still exist.


Companies like Viacom are also rounding up their employees to support such things:

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/10/makers-again...


Yea, as Google etc are pushing against it, I predict deadlock for years just like net neutrality and the telcos ended up being.


The other reason is because people continue to infringe upon their rights. If people stopped taking what's not theirs, you'd have a hard time getting anyone to spend time on this legislation.


When copyright is rolled back to 28 years, I'll stop "taking" content. As it stands now, the "rights" to said content outlive that content's creators by nearly a century.


Netflix has convinced me that I won't pirate if I don't have to. In fact, if Netflix had everything that premium movie networks in Canada offered, I doubt I would download any movie ever.

Unfortunately, in Canada, the government is protecting our cable networks and limiting companies like Netflix. This protectionism is lazy because it doesn't ask these providers to advance to what Netflix provides (ie, complimentary streaming with cable subscription), it asks the Canadian citizen to "not worry about it" - effectively leaving Canadians with less options in the guise of "protecting thousands of jobs".

Regulators say, "Well, since they don't get Netflix like the US, they'll keep their cable subscriptions." But instead, we're lowering our cable packages and pirating as needed. So the cable companies try to squeeze our bandwidth down to ridiculous per GB rates so we won't download. Luckily, the backlash was strong enough to hold rate limiting off - for now. Downloading torrents isn't a huge technical feat. And setting up automated processes to download your favorite tv shows and movies is becoming easier and easier.

If Rogers or Bell just built the technology necessary to compete with Netflix, Netflix wouldn't have enough advantage over cable (broadband + cable is more convenient than broadband + cable + Netflix + Netflix compatible device).


We already have laws to deal with this. Skipping the court system shouldn't be part of the deal.


It's not taking. There is a subtle but _clear_ reason it's considered infringement and not theft.


"taking".

Antagonizing content consumers may be counterproductive to your efforts to convert them into customers.


the key here is a supposed right for secure piracy-free distribution. Providing for such a right seems to place a heavy burden on society in exchange for which the society is supposed to get some benefits. About benefits - does it mean that the human race would be less creative and inventive (or even stop to create and invent) without the copyright protection?


People have been breaking copyright law for ages. The only thing that has changed is that it's easier to break copyright law. It's a trade-off really. As you make content easier to create and distribute, you will inevitably make it easier to break copyright law.

The argument against this law is that it's better to have content be easier to create and distribute, and worth the trade-off.


As you make content easier to create and distribute, you will inevitably make it easier to break copyright law.

You also make copyright law itself less necessary. Its primary purpose is not to protect authors and creators, but rather to incentivize distributors. That's where all the cost and risk was when copyright originated. Now that distribution costs have dropped to nearly nothing, there is little necessity for copyright.


To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

I've never seen anyone claim that copyright was to protect distributors.


>I've never seen anyone claim that copyright was to protect distributors.

Then I guess you have not been in this discussion for very long, or never paid attention. The fact is, copyright was never meant for creators. It was invented by distributors for distributors. The first copyright law was a censorship law to limit the amount of books printed when the printing press was was getting widely available in England that gave a total monopoly on publishing to a guild of publishers, without even attributing a book to the original author, but instead to the guild member who registered the book, attaining its newly invented "copyright".

You know what's the funniest thing about this? The content industry hails this as a stepping stone for authors and their rights, and what's worse, the public believes them. It's a lie, simple as that. Authors never asked for copyright. There was no collective push to stop the copying of their works. On the contrary, they wanted their works to be read.

The internet has made copyright obsolete. Moreso, it has made it harmful, and it needs to go away. The internet's here to stay. Copyright, by any means, isn't.


Everyone should read this post, the origins of copyright are very enlightening when trying to understand the insane system we have now.

Intellectual property is system of monopolies inherently incompatible with a competitive, creative and innovative free market, how the IP-industry managed to turn this argument around in the minds of most people is truly scary.


Thank you.

To all who are interested in facts over fiction: if you want an even more comprehensive view on the matter, try http://questioncopyright.org/promise.


The copyright make sense only in connection with distribution. Without the very act of distribution (like exhibiting or selling of the work), the copyright doesn't make sense as nobody would know the content of the work. You can create or invent without any risk of copyright infringement (and thus without any need for the notion of copyright) as long as you don't attempt the distribution.


A brief history lesson: http://questioncopyright.org/promise


While an interesting analysis, I think it should be pointed out this is a nonstandard opinion. I don't have a problem with nonstandard opinions, I have a fine collection of them myself, I only object when people try to claim them as the mainstream interpretation. You ought to know when you've left the mainstream.

The mainstream interpretation most certain is that copyright is to protect creators, not distributors.


> The mainstream interpretation most certain is that copyright is to protect creators, not distributors.

That is certainly the idealized, simplified narrative that most everyone will have been taught these days, but in terms of how copyright actually came about, way back when, it is largely a case of post-hoc rationalization. Hence the link: majority opinion doesn't change reality, only its perception.


If distribution cost were high and creation cost insignificant, copyright would not be needed -- the creator can handle competition from other distributors of his creation because they have to cover the same costs he does. It's only when creation cost is significant relative to distribution cost that the creator cannot compete with other distributors. Digital distribution is the extreme case of this: the creator must cover the cost of creation, while his competitors have almost no costs to cover.


If distribution cost were high and creation cost insignificant, copyright would not be needed -- the creator can handle competition from other distributors...

While this is probably true, it certainly doesn't mean that distributors want such competition. They want a competitive advantage, and it's much cheaper to get such an advantage by picking popular authors than having a technological arms race or price war with other distributors. Copyright was introduced to provide an artificial monopoly for distributors.


>It's only when creation cost is significant relative to distribution cost that the creator cannot compete with other distributors. Digital distribution is the extreme case of this: the creator must cover the cost of creation, while his competitors have almost no costs to cover.

nobody forces the creator to create [or distribute the work]. Keep it in/to yourself. Nope, somehow "creators" feel that the society is owing them the copyright protection.


nobody forces the creator to create [or distribute the work].

Of course not. We just want to encourage them to do so.

Nope, somehow "creators" feel that the society is owing them the copyright protection.

That's the agreement between this society and creators who publish their creations.


>Of course not. We just want to encourage them to do so.

well, i doubt that Coens would stop creating if this copyright/IP system didn't exist. What i'm sure about is that there wouldn't be those crappy patents with my name on them. You get what you encourage. Enjoy.


It's also easier now to block (and punish) "copyright infringers", which gives a scary authority to those who get to define that term.


Not so. People spend time on this legislation because the lobbyists encourage them to, and the lobbyists encourage them because that's what the AAs pay them to do. And the AAs don't just want to make sure people don't take content illegally, they want to make new laws so that previously legal uses become illegal (e.g. no ripping DVDs, must buy a new copy for every device).


I agree with you about the persistence problem; the government acts like a rotten two-year-old that keeps trying until it gets its way. Like a two-year-old, it learns what it can get away with and tries harder each time. Unlike a two-year-old, it doesn't grow up and learn what not to do.

We shouldn't need a constitutional amendment here; the constitution is a whitelist of things the federal government may do, not a blacklist of things it may not do. While the constitution does sadly include the notion of copyright, it does not include anything allowing regulatory authority over the Internet.


Hang on one second, who in the hell is "the government" in this situation?

The politicians supporting this bill, mostly republicans, work the phrase "I'm anti-government" into every single public speech they give. Those are the only supporters on the public payroll, the rest are all corporate entities and lobbyists, as well as the Chamber of Commerce, natch. Those are your pro-government marxist ideologues in this story.

I really think the phrase "the government" or even worse, capital-G "Government", should be banned from any discussion of policy, it turns everyone involved into an idiot. Government and industry both have lots of moving parts.

Lastly, I agree that our existing constitution should prevent this sort of law. I'm not optimistic about the current "small-government" supreme court agreeing with me.


The sponsors of this bill break down as 16 Democrats to 11 Republicans. How does that work out to "mostly republicans"? It appears that this has support from both parties, and I think casting it as a party issue will weaken opposition.


From another article:

"Thankfully, political leaders concerned about liberty, innovation and due process have stood up in opposition to this proposal. Senator Ron Wyden, a moderate Democrat from Oregon, has courageously put a hold on the Senate bill because of his concerns about the bill’s infringement of free speech and stifling of innovation.

“This is a question of whether the content sector can use the government as club to go after the innovation sector and everything it represents,” said Wyden at a recent Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco. “This is a cluster bomb where you should be going in with a laser, and the collateral damage to innovation and freedom is huge.”

Additionally, Tea Party leaders like Michelle Bachman have said it is inconsistent with Tea Party values. Consumer groups, legal scholars, venture capitalists, leading entrepreneurs, Internet scientists and YouTube users have all joined in opposition."

Basically, it's less a Left versus Right issue and more an insider versus outsider one. (Though I will point out that the only person who has apparently put much effort into stopping it is a Democrat...)


Ok, it's bipartisan, but the only meaningful opposition has come from democrats, and the entire political spectrum of "anti government" has lined up behind it. I'm just saying breaking everything down to "government" is a ridiculous tagline that obfuscates more than it helps.

I mean, even if this is approved, it's basically the government doing extremely cheap contract work for the companies who'd benefit. I have a problem with it being done, period, if the ISPs formed a cartel with the MPAA to do this without the government it'd be just as bad.


the only meaningful opposition has come from democrats, and the entire political spectrum of "anti government" has lined up behind it

Which Libertarian think-tank was it that was supporting the bill?

Really, jbooth, your partisanship isn't helping anything.


Some of the think tanks on all sides are alright, but most legislators on both sides ignore the principled argument as soon as the established industry weighs in. That's the problem. I said it was a bipartisan failure in my last comment.


Please don't make this into another democrat vs republican issue. They may be using different language but both parties are essentially the same when it comes to the things they actually do.


> the government acts like a rotten two-year-old that keeps trying until it gets its way

Point of clarification: the government itself has no inherent interest here, and is acting mostly on behalf of influential Big Content lobbyists. Like so many other first-world systemic problems, this is yet another government-industrial complex.

> the constitution is a whitelist of things the federal government may do

Yes, this is how it should work, but it hasn't worked this way for a long time; scope creep has taken on a life of its own. Without implying a simple, "magic bullet" solution, We The People should acknowledge just how broken our electoral system is, and that it is the central impediment towards regaining anything resembling a constitutionally constrained democratic republic.


> Yes, this is how it should work, but it hasn't worked this way for a long time;

More concretely, this bill would be allowed up by the prevailing (contorted) interpretations of the copyright clause and the interstate commerce clause.


The copyright clause does not provide authority to regulate the operation of the Internet. And yes, the commerce clause gets contorted into an all-encompassing regulatory justification, but that doesn't make it right.


I agree with you about the persistence problem; the government acts like a rotten two-year-old that keeps trying until it gets its way.

That's because the House elections run on a two-year cycle, and this is the part of the cycle at which people are paying the least attention.

While the constitution does sadly include the notion of copyright, it does not include anything allowing regulatory authority over the Internet.

/facepalm It doesn't say anything about aeroplanes either, but you'd be mad if they started falling out of the sky onto your house so you put with the FAA. Dark hints about constitutional permissions are a signal of irrelevance, because if it was as obvious as all that the issue would get in front of the Supreme Court much faster. You have to take the history of constitutional jurisprudence into account, because courts do.

This is the sort of problem best fought at the ballot box, which means holding your nose and opening your wallet.


I wouldn't necessarily argue that the federal government should not have any new powers, but rather than they should not simply assume them in contravention of the constitution. If the federal government wishes to expand its purview, it should have to get a constitutional amendment passed. Yes, that requires quite a lot of work and requires more consensus than political decisions normally require; good, that's a feature.

(Personally, I think we'd almost certainly be a lot better off if all bills required margins much greater than 50%; then, only universally accepted policies would gain acceptance.)

Hence my argument that we should not need a constitutional amendment to say that the federal government may not do something, unless the constitution currently says it may.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCulloch_v._Maryland is 'the' case which explains the existence of the Federal government's implied powers as well as the enumerated ones. For good or ill, the Supreme Court's interpretation of the constitution is the law whenever there's a disagreement, and the decisions of the Marshall court in particular are very important (not least because Marshall was in office for so long so early in the USA's history).

It's pointless to have arguments about the constitution without reference to past controversies - I've highlighted the relevant section here, but this whole page is effectively the 'rest' of the Constitution that lawyers are paid to think about: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_landmark_court_decision... There's a short and very readable book by Prof. Laurence Tribe called 'The Invisible Constitution' that examines the competing approaches to constitutional interpretation and implementation.

Now in California, we do have a very comprehensive state constitution of the kind you're talking about - any significant expansion of state power or rules has to trace its way back to some specific constitutional provision. It's not my idea of an improvement: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/const-toc.html


People act like there is no downside on hamstringing the federal governments ability to govern. Over-restriction of what the federal government could do is precisely what led to the creation of the Constitution.


Depends what country you live in.

In my country the Constitution was enacted for the very purpose of restricting what areas of law the federal government is allowed to weigh in on.

Plenary power is retained by the states.


No, it was amended for that purpose. The Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution afterwards, not at the time of enactment. Plenary power is retained by the states in some areas - the ones where it has not already been delegated to Congress. Art. 1 s.8 certainly does give Congress the plenary power over interstate commerce, copyright, and a number of other things...not least 'post roads,' which are arguably equivalent to 'communications infrastructure.'

There are limits on Federalism, but it is far from the unconstitutional imposition you seem to think it is.


I beg to differ.

We don't have a Bill of Rights or a Congress.

Regardless, I'm not sure how you got the impression that I think federalism is unconstitutional or an imposition... I generally feel that multiple conflicting state-based laws is an inefficient way to run a country, and note that the constitution gives the states the ability to cede legislative power to the commonwealth (as it should).

Just stating the facts ma'am.


To be fair, the repetition is how the system SHOULD work. Do you think the first attempt at passing a women's suffrage bill passed?


The good news is that strong cryptography will keep our private thoughts private forever. You may go to jail for refusing to tell the government what your private thoughts are, but they'll never be able to find them out without your help.

Now if only I had thoughts worth keeping private...


FWIW, I wish you'd keep most of your thoughts private :-)


I get that a lot :)


That's why we have to have our own people working tirelessly to oppose this crap. The EFF, for example:

https://www.eff.org/helpout


The above is practically the worst thing you could write on this topic.

As engineers, we are accustomed to think of writing as a mere exchange of data. But in the political arena, writing is an act. The act embedded in the above comment is to convey the defeatist attitude of its author. "Don't bother to campaign against this bill, only a constitutional amendment will do".

Never say the other side is going to win. Never say the other side is too strong. WE are going to win, we are going to keep going no matter how long it takes.


There is a way to kill big media: create companies that don't act like big media, or more specifically, big media's unethical acts.

After all, they are trying to stop the spread of their own media. What about them stopping the spread of their competitors' media?


As long as our bandwidth and/or content is in the hands of corporations who'd rather fuck us than cultivate virtuous, reciprocally beneficial relationships, we will never be free.

I always worried, as a kid, that one day I'd grow up and think nostalgically back to days before the internet had been made dull and sterile by government rules.

I wasn't imaginative enough then, or even as a young adult, to predict this kind of nonsense would happen instead.

The internet is destined for a bleak period. We care, we're pissed, sure. But most people aren't. Most people don't even know. And wouldn't care if they did.

This law, or one like it, will be subverted in breathtaking and terrifying ways. Thought using the DMCA to shut down early thanksgiving coupon sites was bad? That's going to seem cute by comparison to what you can do when a moronic, bureaucratic authority can disappear entire websites at will.

I've been scratching my head for years trying to think of a way out. But I just can't. The most powerful means of distribution and communication in human history is either in the hands of inept, short-sighted, unimaginative buffoons or subject to regulation from the same.

I'm excited for the practical and technological revolution that upends this control. But I can't imagine what it would look like or how it would work. And that leaves me a pretty sad panda while we wait for it. But – this kind of stupidity is bad for everyone. Even the morons who want this law passed. So I'd like to believe that this period will pass with the same inevitability that will bring on its start.


>I've been scratching my head for years trying to think of a way out. But I just can't. The most powerful means of distribution and communication in human history is either in the hands of inept, short-sighted, unimaginative buffoons or subject to regulation from the same.

if you think about it, the Earth's most advanced political systems - the US and the other Western democracies - are just refined implementations of 2000+ years old architectural principles - the Greek's "democracy" (decisions and laws are made by a group of people limited to the size of the big room, the modern refinement of this ancient system is that the members of that group are supposedly elected instead of just being rich and powerful elite of the society) and the Rome's "rule of law" (a law overrides moral and any other motivation/rationale). It's somehow disappointing that human race hasn't been able to come up with (or more precisely - hasn't evolved enough for) a better system. [The most recent attempts to build new, and thought at the time as significantly improved, systems - fascism and socialism/communism - turned out to be catastrophic disasters.]

>I'm excited for the practical and technological revolution that upends this control. But I can't imagine what it would look like or how it would work.

every time significant technological development happens - be it steam engine, Smith&Wesson, radio, cars, phone, television - it looks like it would change the world and free the people from the control of the system ... well, as it happens, the system just absorbs the technological development as a more advanced tool for the control. And it is happening the same way with the computers and the Internet. All the improvement in the society comes from improvement in people (which of course is frequently technically facilitated and accelerated by the technological advances). "Peasants are also humans, not a property", "women are also humans, not a property", "blacks are also humans, not a property", "gays are also humans", ..., (some day we will even evolve enough to recognize the rights of animals and look back in horror to today's treatment of them as property) - all this is just a change in people minds, not a change in law (which follows the change in minds) and not a change in technology (which though does usually help a lot)

>And that leaves me a pretty sad panda while we wait for it.

Look at the "Occupiers" - like the new born kittens they don't know what to do, where to go, yet they have already "born" while we're sitting and waiting :) [ note : i don't have illusions - many of the Occupiers will become lawyers, government employees, political officials ... - ie. indistinguishable part of the system and will try to forgot their "stupid mistakes of youth", yet just for a moment they are "born" and it became an undeletable part of the whole human race history and evolution]


some day we will even evolve enough to recognize the rights of animals and look back in horror to today's treatment of them as property

I don't know, that one is a little fuzzy. Animals are difficult legally. Pets, for example- if we decide they have their own will and it should be illegal to prevent them from going outside, many of them will just up and get eaten.

Now, maybe they have a right to get eaten. But I think it safe to assume they don't want to be eaten. So, it's fuzzy.


>I don't know, that one is a little fuzzy. Animals are difficult legally. Pets, for example- if we decide they have their own will and it should be illegal to prevent them from going outside, many of them will just up and get eaten.

we somehow manage it with 2-4 year old children which is what most advanced animals (cats, dogs, dolphins, killer whales, apes) are known to be as smart as (the animals may be even smarter, we just can't yet recognize it and communicate accordingly)

Looking back at the history, it was, for example, normal to sell children or to castrate children for specific practical purposes, like Chinese eunuchs or Italian castrati, ie. treating them just like property. Today we are evolved enough to not do it. The same with animals.


So if we are not to sell pets, does that mean we need to give birth to them ourselves?

Obvious situational differences aside, I'd actually hazard that pets aren't too far away from the rights of 2 year olds.


>So if we are not to sell pets, does that mean we need to give birth to them ourselves?

200 years ago it would sound like a valid issue about slaves. Today it sound like absurd.

As long as you are boxed inside the "owning" paradigm, your issues sound valid and arguments are sound. Yet, once the paradigm shift in people minds happens - from "owning" to "coexistence" - the issues and the arguments would become either moot or absurd.


So in the coexistence model, how would things work? I'm genuinely curious how you see things functioning.


lets suppose there is an alien race present in the neighborhood of the Solar system that's technologically and mentally superior to human race. Applying our current human standards it would be natural if the aliens apply the "owning" paradigm toward humans - we'd make such a funny, easily trainable pets! They would control our population through neutering and mass euthanizing as to them it would sure look like we aren't able to manage it on our own. They would keep us "inside" as otherwise we can go outside and hurt ourselves (if we brought to other planets) or start a brawl or even war among ourselves if we left to our devices on Earth.

Lets suppose that after some time the aliens would notice that humans are also intelligent beings, with intelligence that would seem to the aliens as much inferior, yet still intelligence, and these rough sounds produced by humans is actually a meaningful, though as would seem to the aliens very primitive, communication. And if the aliens would try to imagine changing "owning" to "coexistence" model they would naturally ask each other the question "So in the coexistence model, how would things work? I'm genuinely curious how you see things functioning." Would you have anything to say to the aliens in response to such a question? :)

[Note: the obvious elephant in the room of the human/animals relationship - meat eating - will be addressed in a few decades by synthetic meat which by superceding natural meat in energetic efficiency and biological fitness for human body would make eating natural meat a stupid disgusting obsolete habit like smoking. Note to the note : i'm not a vegetarian and quit smoking 10+ years ago]


>It's somehow disappointing that human race hasn't been able to come up with (or more precisely - hasn't evolved enough for) a better system.

A little off topic, but since it was bought up, I am going to mention that I have been thinking of a systems where members of Parliament or Congress are hired by a committee from the general public and then last for something like 20 years terms (unless he or she themselves resign of course). It would take advantage of the separation of powers spreading power out among different kinds of people, so it would not have the problems a dictatorship or monarchy have. It would also allow specialization.


it sounds like a hybrid between Supreme Court and the corporate board/CEO scheme.

To me the problem lies deeper - it is in the principle that government/state is a concentrated power (taken away from people by force) and what behaves like a violent force against the people. Any tweaks to the current system is tweaks with who and how authorizes the application of that violence.

The government should get it power through willful delegation from people. The US was a nice attempt to implement the idea. Unfortunately the "willful" isn't there anymore. And without it the government looses moral ground under its violence.

The next stage would be government/state system that acts not through force. What can be used instead of force? Persuasion/education, consensus...? it is though too far fetched for any specifics.


>hired by a committee from the general public

Actually, randomly selecting people from a state or province, similar to a lottery draw, may be a better idea. The key is to make sure it is a large variety of people.


>all this is just a change in people minds

In this case, it is the content industry that think they can "control" content. Not sure if it is possible, but I wonder if retraining legacy MBAs would help.


I am headed to DC tonight and my partner and I and a few other VCs entrepreneurs and folks from Google are going to try to talk some sense into congress on this bill. Wish us luck tomorrow.


Can you share what types of meetings you have lined up, if you'll be speaking to any members of Congress in a formal setting, etc?


I'm glad an excellent communicator with a solid reputation like you is going to bat on this issue. If you find yourself in doubt, just think "what would fakegrimlock do?"


Consider a blacklist of our own, if you write, vote for, or play a role in legislation that restricts and censors the internet you will be barred from using our service.

Imagine a future in which politicians are incapable of using even the most basic web services and technologies because they have been barred from use. It would be quite an embarrassment if you could not have a Facebook or Twitter account, couldn't advertise on Google, and your email was rejected by most ISPs.

Of course, this should paint an image of how ludicrous the notion of any blacklist is.


I think this may actually be genius. Someone call Zuck, Jack, and Larry.


I think Wikipedia Italia had a better idea. Forget the politicians, Google and Facebook have the ability to highlight the implications to virtually everybody in the US. Big corporations might not often be inclined towards grandstanding, but there's precedent when it comes to Google objecting to censorship. A little "if this Bill passes, we'll be serving a lot less search results" message above every search performed by US users would be sufficient to make the bill politically suicidal, methinks.


Thinking about it more, this is a great way to spread the message of how awful this bill is.

We do not need the big tech companies to sign on, we just need a handful of small startups. Startups are representative of future economic growth and everyone understands this.

Example headline would go something like this -- "Fearful new legislation will cripple the internet, a growing number of young tech companies have banned 28 senators from ever using their products."

If anyone wanted to do this, I would put up a few thousand dollars.


I would have called this too ridiculous to pose an actual danger before the PATRIOT Act.

It points to a deeper problem, though: Lawmakers intent on passing something that a large portion of the public finds objectionable can often achieve their goal simply by persistence; renaming and resubmitting a bill each time oppositional furor dies down, or slipping pieces of it into unrelated bills until it's effectively passed.

I'm normally far more progressive than conservative, but at times like this I wish there were some penalty associated with proposing or backing a really bad bill, or with legislation by subterfuge.


That's a special case of what I believe is called the ratchet effect: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ratchet_effect


> I'm normally far more progressive than conservative, but at times like this I wish there were some penalty associated with proposing or backing a really bad bill, or with legislation by subterfuge.

I believe the intended result for this, if a sufficient portion of the represented find this behavior objectionable, is to lose one's office. This assumes an educated electorate , or at least the voting subset of the represented to be so educated and so opposed.


But oftentimes, the party of the incumbent won't run another candidate (since that might split the vote and lose the seat to the other party). So the only way to vote an incumbent out is to vote for the other party, which may also be against your interests.


You might also turn in a blank ballot. Depending on circumstance, this might be a fine way to signal to the incumbent that they did not do a Good Job, though you in general support the policy of their party. Close races, etc, will change the calculus of voting. Some states do not include blank ballots in the vote totals, others do.


An simple improvement to our voting system would be to include a 'none of the above' option on all ballot papers. If 'none of the above' should win, another ballot must be held and the original candidates are excluded from running.


Too bad writing a message invalidates the ballot. Otherwise you could write "Candidate A, with protest"


Officeholders don't read ballots.


>You might also turn in a blank ballot.

Which is equivalent to boosting the winning party.


Is there a "canonical" justification for why the US legislative system allows non-germane additions to a bill? Or is ball-of-mud style legislation the norm due to tradition, rather than some philosophical ideal?


Do you mean riders? https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Rider_%28legi... The House actually has a "germanness rule" (which is not in the Constitution), so they generally avoid it as a matter of policy. But the Senate has no such rule. https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Christmas_tre... So a bill which passes the House goes to the Senate, where riders are added. Then the modifications go back to the house, where it might be passed depending on whether they like the new additions or not.


I wish there were some penalty associated with proposing or backing a really bad bill

There is: the ballot box (standard annoying answer), or by organizing and forcing them to pass a bill saying they can't do what is in the bad bill. Both the Occupy and Net Neutrality movements overlap here.


The sad thing about all of this is that the backers of the legislation stand to lose, in the long run, if their legislation is passed.

Consider the VCR. Back in the 1980s, when the VCR was a new and disruptive piece of technology, the film industry lobbied to have it outlawed or at least severely restricted. They lost that battle, and it's fortunate for them that they did. A decade or so later, home video sales and rentals would grow to account for nearly half the revenue of the entire industry. What had initially been seen as a menace came to be seen as a savior. Highly ironic, to say the least, and the irony is compounded even more by this attempted legislation.


Totally agreed. The internet is merely a medium, you aren't going to stop piracy by "banning" it.

What really pisses me off is that I have to wait 2-3 months for a film to go from cinema to dvd. I don't pirate because I'm fiscally short, I pirate because I just saw an amazing movie and I want to watch it again. I don't want to go back to a theatre, I want to watch it at home, but I can't. The irony is, I can go to a nearby hotel and rent pre-pay-per-view movies that are still showing in the secondary phase of the cinema market (cheapie theatres). Why can't I rent pre-pay-per-view at home? I pay 8 bucks for a fucking PPV as it is, why can't I pay the $11 I would at the hotel or at a theatre.

I don't get why when I want to pay them more money they make it impossible for me to do so.


Film studios and TV networks are eventually going to come to the realization that piracy is a marketing vehicle for them. Of course, they'll still need to find a way to make money off of their content, and that's an understandably tricky situation. But recent studies have shown that movie pirates are also movie studios' biggest paying customers.

The big challenge for studios right now is that there used to be two lifecycles for any given film: the exhibition lifecycle (i.e., the theatrical release window), and the ownership lifecycle (i.e., DVD or Blu-ray purchase). These days, both are being compressed, and ownership is increasingly unnecessary. Piracy may or may not be a legitimate threat to ownership, but that's sort of beside the point, because ownership -- as a fundamental concept -- won't matter in the cloud-driven, on-demand world of the very near future. But piracy can still exist as an interesting exhibition tactic. It just needs to be harnessed in the right way, and/or a compelling and equally convenient alternative needs to be created.

This is a very tough spot for studios, but legislative attempts at sticking their heads in the sand are not going to solve any problems for them -- and may, in fact, exacerbate their problems by putting innovation attempts on hold.


Of course, they'll still need to find a way to make money off of their content, and that's an understandably tricky situation.

No it isn't. I don't pirate anything that I can find on Netflix. Bittorrent is like simply like a Netflix cache-miss.


> Of course, they'll still need to find a way to make money off of their content, and that's an understandably tricky situation.

Not particularly. TV networks regularly make money off of their content online. I can go to virtually any networks website and stream an episode of whatever and get adverts in the regular breaks. Why not simply do the same with a movie?

People don't care about giving up 18 minutes of their lives for 42 minutes of a show. Why do the movie networks have such a hard time grasping that people will gladly give up 30 minutes of their lives to advertisers for a 90 minute film.

I genuinely think they don't do this simply so they can say "well people are stealing because they just don't want to pay".


I don't watch broadcast or cable TV anymore because I don't want to watch 18 minutes of ads every hour.


The issue I see with that is that we've grown accustomed to breaks in our TV shows, whereas we would likely see any break in our movie experience as jarring and negative.

Something more like YouTube's banner ads along the bottom might work.


Banner ads piss me off more than a commercial break. I'm used to advert breaks in movies around the holidays when every network runs old movies so I'm sure it wouldn't be a huge leap.

Perhaps cut the breaks to every 30 minutes or so. An advert break every 10 minutes in Titanic would likely induce suicide.


I would not sit through 18 minutes of commercials for a 42 minute show, neither 30 minutes for a 90 minutes film.

I don't mind watching commercials (for television particularly), but your numbers are really, really high.


It might surprise you to know that is the standard length of advertising in a one-hour block of commercial television.

So I imagine you do sit through 18 minutes of commercials for a 42 minute show.


It doesn't surprise me at all. But I don't watch broadcast television.


I don't get why when I want to pay them more money they make it impossible for me to do so.

I take it, then, that after you've pirated, you buy the DVD when it becomes available?


I do. I have something like 500 DVDs which I've bought.

I pirate some DVDs because for me that's less illegal than buying a DVD from a different region and making my DVD a region free player.

(Pirating a DVD means the content owner can sue me for a loss of a sale; the cost of the DVD plus legal costs. Cracking region-locking on my DVD player is a criminal offence.)


In Australia, it got passed. It was effectively illegal to use VCR to record programs.

How did I know this? Due to the new Copyright Act amendments which made breaking DRM illegal, extended copyright length among other things. One of their arguments for the copyright amendments update is that VCR recording should be legal.

IIRC: $93,500 and 5 years jail for copyright infringement. You better not copy a single file without permission. Importing material that infringes copyright, $71,500 and 5 years jail. You better not download a single file without permission.

It seems there's no apparent distinction between non-commercial and commercial sharing so your grandmother accidentally forwarding a picture is liable for penalties.


Rep. Lamar Smith is also the legislative genius behind the bureaucratic monstrosity that is our current immigration system. I don't like him much, as you can probably tell.

Two things you can do: Write, on paper, to your congressional representatives and explain briefly and politely that this legislation will hinder job growth, hurt exports, and mention that you will donate only to legislators who vote against this bill. Then follow through. If you can afford it, make a donation to a known existing opponent and include a copy of your receipt with the letter to your representative. Money talks like nothing else does. It does not have to be a large amount. Nor is it important for you to agree with the other politician about everything. All you need to do is make it clear that there are votes and issues at stake on this particular margin. A pattern of small donations outside of election season will get people's attention.

Donate to either a primary or general election challenger in Rep. Smith's district.


Here's the wiki for the 21st district of TX (Mr. Smith's): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texass_21st_congressional_distr...

Seems like he's been in office since 1987, so there may not be much hope for a challenger in any given election.

Any standout opponents of this thing that I could donate to instead?


Ron Wyden seems to be the leading legislator for tech freedom, but I admit to being a poor scorekeeper in this area - I like law more than politics, so I don't pay enough attention to individual congresspersons.


Yeah, I've donated to him this year already. Wondering if he has any counterparts on the house side...


Another concerning section is the power to take action against, "any entity that knowingly and willfully provides or offers to provide a product or service designed or marketed for the circumvention or bypassing of measures described". Does this mean that the Tor Project would be shut down? It would be nearly impossible to eradicate a piece of open source software, but if this bill has passed, it would not be a leap to imagine a bill making the use of Tor or related services a felony passing.


For a minute I thought this was satire put out by one of the campaigns against the Act. I was thinking, "Who would really call something that?" I'm glad I clicked the link to see that it's actually what happened.


Same here - the utterly tone-deaf nature of the name literally made me think it was a link to the Onion.

It is just freaking weird that the biggest, most blatantly rent-seeking organizations in the world call their own legislation the E-PARASITE bill.


E-PARASITE bill; the bill by and for e-parasites.

Seems legit, no?


The government has identified DNS as an especially vulnerable component of the internet and intends to attack it:

"A service provider shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures designed to prevent [...] the domain name [...] from resolving to that domain name’s Internet Protocol address."

Hard to tell which incarnation of this effort will become law, and when, but it seems prudent to assume that it will. Rather than simply hope the government won't attack the network, or petition the government not to attack it, we should engineer improvements to the network which increase its resistance to attack.

Time for a more distributed, probably peer-to-peer, DNS.

It's been said that the internet interprets censorship as damage, and routes around it. That's precisely what these threats call for.


Didn't Wyden put a hold on the "PROTECT IP" act in the Senate? Does that make this moot, or will there be a new bill in the Senate?


Weird coincidence. I just saw Wyden speak a few minutes ago at a town hall style meeting here in Oregon, and asked him about PROTECT IP when he was taking questions.

I'm not sure he can keep it on hold indefinitely, but he definitely sounded committed to doing whatever is within his power to oppose it.


I'm not sure, but I bet there's some way around it. And that lobbyists will be trying to unseat him.


This is a new bill.


I thought the name change was great. As long as you recognize who the real parasites are.


Yeah, the irony is pretty intense.


Silver lining: the word "IP" is apparently so unpopular that it's better not to associate your proposals with it.


I would like you to be right: do you have evidence that this was the reason the name was changed?

I am personally hoping that "PARASITE" has a much more negative ring that will make it easier to campaign against the bill.


Yeah, the people we think of as parasites and the people they think of as parasites are two different sets.

Brand them as the parasites and kill it. Maybe a Googlebomb is in order, listing the sponsors of this bill as e-parasites? Sadly, the document linked on SCRIBD doesn't seem to include the list of cosponsors and mentions only "Mr. Smith of Texas".

Does anyone know where to find out who all is sponsoring this? A quick search only found a bunch of news about it and copies of the bill, but no further information.


Is anyone putting together any kind of concerted, consolidated effort to kill this bill?

There must be some kind of movement one can throw their weight behind to help stop this nonsense.


Yes. If you're an entrepreneur you can sign onto this effort: https://docs.google.com/a/google.com/document/pub?id=1_etELz...



Thanks for this


These things scare me because I think a significant amount of citizens don't know what they stand to lose, and I think politicians understand just enough to know exactly what they're taking away.


First COICA, then Protect IP, now E-PARASITES Act? Looks like I have to contact my local congressmen again. Seems like they spend more time renaming this bill than actually reading it.


> Looks like I have to contact my local congressmen again.

Yeah, you and some giant company with tons of cash to finance his next campaign.

Guess who's gonna win his support.


IF this were to become law, that would definitely be scary, but from the description of what they require of the ISP, it sounds like they aren't blocking access to the server, just keeping the DNS from resolving to the IP. Thus, could you not use a public DNS (or foreign DNS) server, thus getting around the blocked DNS from your local ISP? Just an idea, or wonder, of mine.


Yeah, let's just allow them to pass their restrictions bit by bit in subsequent laws, arguing that "as it is we can still get around it".

It doesn't matter if we can get around it using a public DNS server. For one, tomorrow they can even outlaw using non government compliant dns providers).

What hackers tend to forget is that such problems are not technical, are political. "Bypassing" by technical expertise is not a solution, it's monkey-patching a system that's broken and dangerous.

1) Even if geeks can bypass some restrictions, they too tend to lose --content, community participation etc-- if the general populace cannot do it just as easily, or is scared not to do it.

2) Even the cleverest bypassing can be outlawed.

3) One should not trust one's self to always be one step ahead of the government in the bypassing game.

Take P2P for example. Say you're totally bypassing the P2P download restrictions with some clever hackery that makes you untraceable online, be it Tor or whatever. What good will it do if the authorities can come knocking on your physical door and find that same illegally downloaded stuff in use on your computer?


I hate this sort of article. Every month or so, another "look at this evil bill that will destroy our liberties" article comes out, and everybody gets all worked up about it.

tl;dr - The judges sitting on federal courts and the supreme court aren't responsible to voters, don't need campaign funds, and don't have a career to worry about. In the unlikely event that this bull makes it out of congress and past the president, it'll be struck down. Just like it has been every time before.

Sure. If this bill was an enforced law, that would be bad. Unthinkably bad. But that goes for a great deal of what happens in congress - especially the House. A small portion of this manure actually manages to make it out of congress and past the president - and it gets taken to the courts. The more interesting cases make it to the Supreme Court, where the nine judges who aren't up for re-election, have no career to worry about, and are already rich enough to be well impossible to buy off, get the pleasure of telling - in this case - the entertainment industry to go stuff it. The supreme court has repeatedly refrained from supporting this sort of thing, and they're unlikely to start in the future. Even if the worst happens, and this thing gets passed, the courts will strike it down long before the bureaucracy finds a way to start enforcing it. It's highly unlikely to affect any of us.

Some other commenters have almost correctly pointed out that "they're not going to give up" - because in many cases, fighting for these inane laws is their day job. First, there's also a group of people whose day job is to argue these sorts of laws. And another group whose day job is to strike them down, _even if_ the opposition is poorly argued. Second, those lobbyists are likely to be loosing their jobs soon as the industry paying for them begins to fall apart.

So, please. Stop freaking out every time one part of the government does something stupid. Writing to your local dimwit to point out the obvious: ok. Running in panicked circles on the internet: unhelpful and irritating.

/rant


Some would arguing that the panic raises awareness which helps kill these things before they become a reality.

Also many of us would not like to wait several years if such a bill is passed to see which way the Supreme Court will decide.


After Citizens United, I no longer trust the court.


You do realize the consequences if they had ruled opposite of what they did--that a movie made by a corporation was not protected speech covered by the first amendment.

Books, movies, magazines, television, radio, and many websites, would no longer be protected under the first amendment, and would be open to government regulation and censorship.


>Second, those lobbyists are likely to be loosing their jobs soon as the industry paying for them begins to fall apart.

The key would be probably to get the well-funded opposition continuing until that happens, and this will likely last for years. I like to compare it to the end of support of XP.


I think I'm just going to start copyrighting trivial javascript and CSS code, then sue the fuck out of the MPAA when one of their offshore developers steals it from me. Fight fire with fire, they say.


Has anyone done an audit for all the websites of the supporters of this act?

I remember some recent HN article about someone (German politician?) who had used a photo without permission on his website.

Lily Allen has spoken out about piracy, but used then distributed music via her blog.


I'm with you in spirit, but I'm feeling pretty pessimistic about how successful your crusade would be.


How is this working out for Australia? I understand a blacklist/firewall was put in the place there?


No, it died just before the last election in August 2010. Officially it's 'on hold', but practically, it is dead.

How? A lot of pressure put on a lot of politicians in the run-up to the last federal election, which promised to be very close (and was actually one of the closest in history).

You obviously have to pressure whomever holds the majority, but you've got to let the other side know about it as well.

So Australia is filter-free for the foreseeable future - it's become a 'dead issue' that politicians aren't willing to spend political capital on.

US Folks should take this as a bright data point that these battles can be won, but it will take a lot of effort.

Personally it's something that Tea Party and OWS types could get together on, because it sucks for everyone. That's what happened in Australia - they took heat from both 'sides' of politics and it got dumped (sorry, postponed)


That's great news! Do you have any nuts and bolts information on how this was organized? (Was there any formal opposition?) If so, that could be very useful here...


Not yet, in fact I haven't heard much on the subject for a while now. Currently, a few of our major ISPs have agreed to a voluntary Interpol blacklist, but that's about it currently. And it seems to be working for its designated purpose well. http://delimiter.com.au/2011/10/19/telstras-filter-has-block...


The sad thing is that it seems that the worse a bill is, the more likely it is to pass.


How would this effect Canada or Europe?


I do like American government acts.

I always picture the governor in Mel Brook's Blazing Saddles:

"Patriotism is good isn't it?"

"Yes Governor"

"So I should sign this PATRIOT act without reading it?"

"Yes Governor"

"Parasites are bad aren't they?"

"Yes Governor"

"So we ban them ?"

"Yes Governor" ....

If only Mr Obama had found a way of making his health care bill spell out "IF YOU VOTE AGAINST THIS YOU ARE SO GAY" ACT - he would have got it through.


> he would have got it through

Huh? You realize it's law, right?


Does stopping internet piracy mean no more talk like a pirate day?


I hope not


The problem is that the only people who bother getting up in arms about this are the objectively pro-piracy crowd -- the folks who think that they ought to be allowed to freely download a copy of any movie in existence without paying for it if they happen to feel like doing so. Otherwise known as the "I want to do X, therefore X should be legal" school of legal thinking.

I see some of that crowd in this thread. I'm not interested in arguing with 'em. But when the loudest spokesmen against some particular piece of silly law (and this is a silly law) turn out to be extremists with a position that most thoughtful people would disagree with, it makes it difficult to put forth a coherent argument against it.


'Otherwise known as the "I want to do X, therefore X should be legal" school of legal thinking.'

You mean like "I want a monopoly, therefore monopolies should be legal. Also, I should have police powers to enforce my monopoly: search people's computers, shut down their internet access, make accusations based on flimsy evidence like IP addresses, and presume guilt rather than innocence."

Like that?

I mean, if society were a roomful of people, and someone stood up and suggested that, would you nod and agree?

I'm not saying copyright isn't a useful tool for society to encourage creation of works, but it does need to be balanced with other things. Not least is the fact that it hinders the creation of derivative works. This argument is even stronger in the realm of patents.


the folks who think that they ought to be allowed to freely live on the Crown's lands without owing the duty and/or paying taxes to the Crown.


Full of shit as always.




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