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House Judiciary Committee Refuses To Hear Industry Concerns About SOPA (techdirt.com)
99 points by d0ne 1851 days ago | hide | past | web | 35 comments | favorite

Techdirt doing procedural reporting about congress.

Do yourself a favor and search for [ycombinator tzs techdirt] (actually, if you have a little time, you can leave the "techdirt" out of that query, because 'tzs is awesome) and get a feel for Techdirt's track record on stuff like this.

You can very safely assume that procedural shenanigans for this bill will be covered in excruciating detail by sites that haven't obliterated their own credibility, like the EFF. Meanwhile, all this posting did is get a bunch of people to spend time talking about how "congress is bought and sold" and the system needs to be replaced and something about Obama and boom look at that I flagged this story.

Really: go read 'tzs comments; they're fantastic.

You want the EFF's coverage? I think it was already on HN, but here you go:


Ars Technica also has a discussion of its constitutionality, as debated by famous constitutional scholars, which might interest those with a legal bent:


Both of those: credible sources.

Techdirt? Not so much.

I hope that provides more value to the story.

I take this all as an indication that the industry, especially with the hire of someone like Abrams, is seriously pushing the issue and plans to make it an issue in the next election if they don't get what they want before then.

If this is so devastating why doesnt Google do a "mock seizure" in which there search engine is seized by the government. They cant out influence Hollywood, but they sure can cause a ruckus online.

Why do you prefix HN usernames with a '?

Because some people have usernames like 'the.

It's cute that people still get worked up about stuff like this, as though they're honestly surprised that legislators are bought and sold.

Here's the thing: the system is broken, and it impossible to fix. It will fail, though, and that's when there's an opportunity to replace it with something better (or, something far far worse).

You go against the big media companies and their news services will make sure you don't get elected again. The news networks pick who wins and who loses elections. Propaganda works. Look at all the legislators who signed the net neutrality pledge. They were all defeated, 100%.


While you may be right in that the system won't be fixed, the correct response is to not get worked up about it and sit around waiting for the system to fail. It's not like government will disband and people will look around and say "Ok, that didn't work. Anyone have any other ideas?"

Keep getting worked up, and keep making noise about it. More people need to care more.

Yea, it is not impossible to fix if people would simply wake up in time for the next election.

Yeah? Wake up and vote for...who? Neither side of our current two party system has made noteworthy improvements. So...it's election day....I'm wide awake...and who am I supposed to be voting for?

A naive question: we have a lot of wealthy people sympathetic to the idea of a minimal government, why aren't they buying legislation that prevents this blatant corruption?

"Minimal government" is just a slogan used by the people who are buying our government. Their idea of minimal government is eliminating the EPA, fewer bank regulations, and the like. Homeland security, more IP laws, restrictions on privacy? Oh, we have to make some sacrifices for our own security

Indeed, the other day I heard some guy on the radio talking about how garbage collection should be provided by the private marketplace rather than as a government service paid for by taxes. Look, that might be a cute experiment in New Hampshire where the population is described in terms of villages, but not in any serious metropolis. I probably should have called in and explained the tragedy of the commons.

> Look, that might be a cute experiment in New Hampshire where the population is described in terms of villages

San Jose's garbage service is nominally provided by a private firm.

What is it about garbage service that you think requires govt employees?

San Jose's garbage service is nominally provided by a private firm.

Under contract to the city. The competition happens at the tender level, it would be highly inefficient to have multiple garbage pickup companies vying for the business of each individual resident. Past experience with private fire engine companies and the like suggests that this would end badly.

> it would be highly inefficient to have multiple garbage pickup companies vying for the business of each individual resident.

Why the assumption that that's the only way to have multiple garbage companies?

If something is actually too inefficient, the costs will stop them and they'll come up with a plan that is "efficient enough".

> Past experience with private fire engine companies

Is irrelevant because the business model is completely different.

Also, that experience is overstated by folks pushing a monolithic model. History is written by the victors.

Fine, show me somewhere that doesn't use a tender-contract model.

If something is actually too inefficient, the costs will stop them and they'll come up with a plan that is "efficient enough".

Why do you think companies seek monopoly concessions, or that distributors seek same from producers in the private marketplace? That's what the current litigation over trash disposal contracts in Sf turns upon: http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/2011/07/san-franciscos-garba...

Meanwhile, other approaches to competition in the garbage industry have historically proved problematic: http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/cb_7.htm http://clevelandmob.com/warofwaste.html http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2008/november/galante_110408

> Fine, show me somewhere that doesn't use a tender-contract model.

That's a different issue. Politics....

>> If something is actually too inefficient, the costs will stop them and they'll come up with a plan that is "efficient enough".

> Why do you think companies seek monopoly concessions, or that distributors seek same from producers in the private marketplace?

To avoid competition. Of course that question isn't related to the statement quoted.

Yes, some garbage companies are/were mobbed up. Since some of them had city franchises, it's unclear why you'd bring that up. In any event, it's as irrelevant as the fact that the mob engages in other biz.

In my suburban New Jersey neighborhood, garbage collection is handled by two private companies. Granted, we're not a serious metropolis, but we're not exactly a village either. The system appears to work, trash gets collected, and whenever my provider attempts to jack up rates I call and threaten to switch and they play ball.

Seems like the only hope for stopping this is a presidential veto. Time to step up the pressure on Obama and push for it. He's not exactly an ally, but congress is a foregone conclusion.

Obama has hired a good number of former RIAA officials to work in his administration, so I'm pretty doubtful of a veto.

As am I, unfortunately. Still, a presidential veto, however unlikely, still seams more realistic than the bill being defeated in congress.

Well, the well-funded opposition is just beginning.

What kind of democracy is that?

The best money can buy, son.

Wait. Are we in favour of industry lobbyists now? I'm confused... ;-)

Surprise surprise. This is going to get ramrodded through.

People seem to forget that the other previous laws were modified by court decisions to something more reasonable as its less likely to buy off Supreme Court Judges than congress people..

The main fight is not in congress people its those first few Supreme court cases bought before the court by industry big firms like Google, Amazon, etc

Mike Masnick is turning into the Matt Taibbi of copyright. I'm not a supporter of this legislation, but nor am I a supporter of this uninformative tabloid journalism. If Mike Masnick wanted you to be fully informed then he'd explain what the procedural future of this bill is if the judiciary committee does give it the nod (which would not exactly be surprising, because the House judiciary committee is headed by Lamar Smith and is thus going to give the nod to any bill of which he's a sponsor). He could point out how it's then got to survive debate and a floor vote in the House, how it would then have to be reviewed by a Senate committee and debated and voted on there, and how the reconciliation process would come into play if the committees don't agree.

But there's none of this, just another 'from the snarky-joke-about-bureaucracy department' subheadline, and another article suggesting certain and imminent doom to follow immediately after the committee hearing. It's pure gutter journalism, and the only redeeming feature is that most of us happen to agree with the author's stated position. I don't even know if this is Masnick's actual position or not; he comes across very much as a journalist who has mastered the art of identifying a market and telling the people in it what they want to hear. He always appeals to the emotion, and never provides context.

This is called 'point of view' journalism. Here's an explanation by a well-established practitioner called Matt Labash on a journalism industry website; he was discussing it in the context of conservative/liberal politics, but the fact is that this is a style employed across the political spectrum:

[on why point-of-view articles sell so well] Because they feed the rage. We bring the pain to the liberal media. I say that mockingly, but it's true somewhat. We come with a strong point of view and people like point of view journalism. While all these hand-wringing Freedom Forum types talk about objectivity, the conservative media likes to rap the liberal media on the knuckles for not being objective. We've created this cottage industry in which it pays to be un-objective. It pays to be subjective as much as possible. It's a great way to have your cake and eat it too. Criticize other people for not being objective. Be as subjective as you want. It's a great little racket. I'm glad we found it actually.

Please don't interpret this as a critique of conservatism in particular; it's populism that I hold in low regard. Nthing Tom's suggestion below that you look to the EFF for informed and informative argument against this legislation. Call me a an elitist snob if you like, but I am sick to the back teeth of this linkbaity rubbish passing itself off as journalism. Shallow uninformed coverage like this makes it easier to marginalize the interests of consumers and open-internet advocates, because the average Joe does not have the patience to listen to someone running around with hair on fire.

I'm sorry, but ..what? While Masnick's critique may not be wholly comprehensive, and is most definitely emotional, I'd argue that in this case some emotion is appropriate.

This legislation is indefensible; even in a diluted form it will almost certainly have a disproportionately chilling effect on innovation in one of the most vibrant sectors of our economy.

This legislation is indefensible;

Of course it's defensible: we're protecting American jobs...US film industry alone is worth $billion$...good American jobs...stemming the tide of pirate warez flooding our shores...could anyone make Star Wars today with the economic threat of piracy blah blah.

I think SOPA is terrible legislation and that copyright creep is a danger to our long-term competitiveness. But the entertainment industry is a large part of the US economy and has some legitimate concerns about how to protect its cash flow in an age where the marginal cost of copyright infringement is asymptotically approaching zero. Naturally the industry is going to argue for an extremely narrow interpretation of property rights under such circumstances, and copyright radicals don't help themselves with rallying cries such as 'information wants to be free' which sounds suspiciously like welfare socialism for couch potatoes. So far the best argument from the reform side is 'make better content and people will willingly throw money at you' which is on a par with demanding that government or captains of industry create more jobs or cut spending or pay more taxes.

It takes little account of the producers' economic dilemma, which is unreasonable, and in policy arguments the least reasonable-sounding participant usually loses. Notice how the best public wins against the RIAA and its ilk have come as a result of unreasonable overreach, eg the contention that LimeWire users owe RIAA members $75 trillion in damages. SOPA can be sold to a largely indifferent and ignorant public as a reasonable response to the objective fact of industrialized copyright infringement. As you might have noticed, the public is not too hot on free trade and related concepts at the moment, because unemployment is so high and wage growth is so low. So the Techdirt crowd end up sounding like the digital equivalent of Occupy Content - even where people may agree with it, there's a certain air of entitlement to the whole thing, the public has a limited appetite for the Chicken Little story, and the ongoing failure of the sky to fall (ie of innovation to halt despite the lamentable flaws of the copyright and patent systems) eventually causes them to stop listening.

This is rapidly turning into a philosophical argument, and we're probably not going to agree about methods. My question to you (and indirectly, to Techdirt) is this: what/where is the alternative to the IP status quo that will increase cash flow and jobs? A nice simple easy-to-understand alternative is a necessity, because although I personally believe in creative destruction and the marketplace of ideas, 'leave it to the market' is not a winning argument with the general public right now. What's needed is a positive alternative that offers an obviously bigger payoff than SOPA.

I was actually interested in reading Taibbi's book on the financial crisis, would you actually recommend against that?

I think Felix Salmon at Reuters sums Taibbi up nicely: "you don’t read a Taibbi rant for an evenhanded look at both sides of a complex story. It’s more a forcefully-put case for the prosecution: some of his charges might not stick, but he’ll throw a few chancers in as well for good measure".

To that I'd only add that Taibbi seems deeply incurious. Other journalists will attempt to explain the motivations and mechanics behind a particular trade or instrument. Taibbi will respond, "I talked to some of the principals in this story and there's no way you can come to any conclusion other than that this a giant fraud". Which may be right as far as it goes, but it doesn't help you understand what's actually happening.

I think people like us are trained to be very wary of anyone attempting to conceal facts, even if they're right. We can think for ourselves.

So many excellent people have done real legwork (defined partially as "hurting their brains to understand things like how a trust holding 250MM of mortgages is tranched and why a hedge fund wants one of those tranches and a bank another"), it seems a shame that everyone's paying attention to the journalist who's really just got a talent for telling people what they want to hear.

Even if that's what you really want, Michael Lewis does a better job of it. For that matter, you really ought to read _Liar's Poker_ if you haven't already. Some of the acronyms have changed, but the underlying game is the same.

For the record, I appreciate and enjoy Taibbi's writing on politics.

I haven't read it, and as you can see I have an axe to grind about him. If it's a collection of his RS articles, then I'd say not to bother. I'm a legal nerd, and I just find his coverage way too factually selective for my taste: I'd be afraid to quote him on any topic other than as a reflection of the fact that people are angry, because I worry that I would get called on for having the facts wrong. Every time I have ever dug into the facts behind a Matt Taibbi story I have felt shortchanged at best, lied to at worst. Your mileage may vary.

I do like Michael Lewis's writing - it's not perfect either, but he's good at presenting complex facts and tries to approach his material from a neutral standpoint. I have not yet read 'Reckless Endangerment' by Gretchen Morganstern and Joshua Rosner, but there seems to be an emerging concensus about it being the best serious book on the subject for a general audience.

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