Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Internet giants place full-page anti-SOPA ad in NYT (boingboing.net)
687 points by andrewdumont on Nov 16, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 111 comments

If that is the kind of ads tech giants make, then we have all lost.

This needs more Don Draper and less wall of text. It needs to tell a compelling story with a righteous underdog fighting the good fight which would be squashed if this law passes. It needs to paint anybody who support it as a traitor to America(TH).

And it needs to rebrand it the "Killing the American Dream Act" so that nobody can politically afford to support it.

Just posted: Republican Darrell Issa says "it has no chance of passage".


The tech industry has enough money to buy 10x more lobbyists than the entertainment industry. This would be a wiser investment than the ads.

I know it may seem that way on the surface, but the proponents of this bill are larger than you think.

The MPAA represents companies with a combined market cap of $250 billion dollars. That's small enough for us to beat, but Pfizer ($150bn market cap) and Microsoft ($220bn market cap) are also major proponents. All together, there's a LOT of muscle behind this act, lobbyists alone aren't going to cut it.

Not to sound naive here- but why does Microsoft support this if all the others don't?

Microsoft makes the vast majority of their money selling licenses. So does the entertainment industry.

For years these industries (software, music, and video) grew to massive size by exploiting cheap duplication of digital goods and control over distribution channels. Now that further advancing technology has brought duplication and distribution to the masses they are franticly trying to regain control.

The opposing tech companies sell services and advertising. Copyright infringement largely doesn't affect their bottom-line and these proposed measures will be costly for them to implement and legally difficult for them to follow.

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) seems to be in favor: http://www.bsa.org/country/News%20and%20Events/News%20Archiv...

Its members are made up of mainly non-web technology companies that sell expensive products and are worried about piracy or counterfeiting of those products: Oracle, Microsoft, Adobe, Intuit, Symantec, etc. Conversely, they don't run user-generated-content sites like YouTube or Facebook, so aren't worried about the problems with weakening safe harbors.

Allow me to be cynical but, if SOPA passes and breaks the Internet, these software companies would gain a lot. Especially Microsoft. Remember the "good old days" of Microsoft Everything? I hope you're as fond of them as these software companies seem to be.

I hope Bill Gates with his philanthropy drive goes publicly against Microsoft company's support for censorship.

Bill Gate's philanthropy is funded with Microsoft (and Berkshire-Hathaway) stock. They'd be fighting against themselves.

I envy your optimism.

The paranoid security geek in me says "You know those Microsoft contributions to SAMBA lately? Could they go for a takedown order of the open source project on the allegation of copyright infringement now and make the SAMBA project fight to get their domain back?"

The cynic in me says that Microsoft's contributions are a subtle sabotage. Back in the day, Samba was incredibly easy to configure as a domain controller with full UNIX account sync. The latest Samba now requires the creation and maintenance of an actual Windows registry, a separate account system, etc.

Is "You gave it to me!" no longer a valid defense as for why you have someone else's IP?

Yes it certainly is. And its so obvious that I bet the trial would take less than a year. But that's a year where Samba doesn't have a web page now.

No. If they contributed something, it's now under a free license.

Microsoft contributed the code under "GPLv2 or later", despite samba being under GPLv3.

GPLv2 does not contain the explicit patent grant that are part of why GPLv3 was created. And I very much doubt the courts will consider "or later" to include the patent grant.

The code in question seems very peripheral (something about using Firefox for configuration), and have received zero comments on the developers list. I would be very surprised if Microsoft had any other motivation for the release, than to make the engineer who worked on it happy.

However, it is probably not an accident that they choose the version of the GPL without a patent grant.

It would be interesting to see the implicit patent grant in v2 (remember - you can't grant all the liberties required in the license without granting use - and the right to grant it further down the chain - of any patents embodied in the code) tested in court.

Also, unless I'm very wrong, the terms "GPLv2 or later" means you can use the software under v3 if you prefer to use it that way. The only way to block the explicit patent grant (but stay will the implicit one) would be to license it under plain v2.

Or they could just buy controlling shares of a majority of mpaa members and end this silliness for good.

My guess is this approach will work well for the tech industry in the short term. The real change needs to happen in the system and with those who represent us. I'm looking forward to a (hopefully) more computer-literate generation of representatives being elected in the coming years.

Or just buy the politicians like the regulated industries do.

If Google was serious they'd put something on their front page. The readership of the New York Times is nothing compared to Google's traffic.

With great power comes great responsibility. If Google uses their core product for every political battle they need to engage in, it cheapens the brand. SOPA is evil, but it's not going to severely injure Google. So it's not worth cheapening their product for.

While I agree with you that they need to be careful not to cheapen their brand, I'd argue that they have a history of displaying custom doodles for far less significant things. A simple "stop censorship" doodle, akin to those being displayed by a number of other websites, would go a long way without cheapening Google's brand.

"Merry Christmas" is a very different message from "Get rid of a law that will cause us to make less money".

More like "stop a bill from being passed into law which may shut down us and the rest of the internet as you know it" - do you have any idea how much labor it would take to be a search engine, video site or social networking site if you were liable for the legal status of all user-created content? Practically every site you use would go under, including the one we're on right now.

Well, that's not how it would happen of course. It's actually worse than you think. If the law were used like you propose, there would be a massive outcry to the point that it would have to be invalidated. Instead, it will be selectively enforced, like everything else these days, in the interest of maintaining power and control for the parties that have purchased this law from their government.

Of course, in ten years time it could have an industry-wide chilling effect much like the DMCA, however in the meantime that will not happen. That's not how you introduce creeping, malicious legislation, and the folks responsible for this know that, of course.

The difference is that the doodles are not coercing people into action. If you remember, there was a significant backlash when Google added the seemingly sweet "call your father" reminder on Fathers' Day. I can't imagine that this would be much different/better.

"Do no evil." - Google.

Seriously, though, I agree. A company should not make politics corollary to their brand name. If Google takes a stand on things by taking advantage of its vast user base, it will be disingenuous. A blog post is one thing. Plastering a message across their header on the home page is far different. Most Google messages are fairly innocuous, holiday themed graphics. There is a time and a place for political infrastructure, and it is not the same as for the corporate infrastructure. This is why SOPA is a problem in the first place - corporations and politics becoming intertwined in unproductive and abusive ways. You make a stand outside your brand, and you do it with integrity by not forcing it upon your user base. I agree with the theme that SOPA is bad, but I don't think it'd be good for Google to fight by putting it on their webpage.

Mozilla, I can see. Yahoo! I can't. Reddit, I can see. Google, again, I can't. Different kinds of traffic, different amounts, and different audiences.

> SOPA is evil, but it's not going to severely injure Google.

Am I reading the bill in an overly alarmist way? It sounded to me like SOPA would make YouTube basically impossible to run.

No, that's about right. It would make YouTube legally responsible for all user-created content. According to YouTube's press statistics, 48 hours of video are uploaded every minute. If you were to hire a team of people to watch all the videos and make sure they aren't copyrighted, you'd need 2,880 people working around the clock - and that's just to keep up with the NEW videos, letalone the backlog of stuff that's already there. At my state's minimum wage (~$10/hr) that's $691,200 per day in additional operating costs, or $252.5 million per year... Of course they could off-shore that to cut costs, but it'd still be ridiculous.

The most chilling part is that even if they could swallow the cost, determining what a court would find infringing is hard. Of course they can filter out the obvious cases.

I have a two year old son. He loves Thomas The Tank Engine. And he loves Youtube and will frequently ask for "Thomas on the laptop". Most of the Thomas related videos on Youtube are actually re-enactments using the toy trains rather than copies of the TV show. There's apparently a whole community around this - with movies ranging from shaky clips of a kid playing to elaborate productions trying (though usually failing badly) to get close to the production values of the original series.

Some of them use snippets of the music from the TV show - how much is too much? Some use music I can't place - copyrighted or not? I can't tell. Some of them re-use dialogue. Some use text from the books. Others have invented their entirely own stories (but might still run afoul of copyright because they use the characters). Some has as their only similarly that they use the train sets as props.

The question is, how many of these would a court find infringing? (how many should they find infringing in a reasonable world?).

The end result is that to protect themselves legally, they'll need to reject everything that even has the appearance of being infringing.

This will likely throw out a massive amount of non-infringing content as well as a lot of stuff that is in a grey area legally but that the public will find ridiculous that they have to block. Vetting it will be far too hard

Of course, this latter part is perhaps the biggest light at the end of the tunnel: The chilling effect on speech are so strong and so far overreaching due to the lack of legal safeguards, that I can't imagine SCOTUS not throwing out substantial parts of this law.

Why would they bother trying to vet YouTube? It seems like it would be more practical to move the servers outside the US and stop providing YouTube access to US IPs. Maybe throw in "CrippledTube" for US visitors (only registered media companies allowed to upload) if they think the cross-company infringement danger is small enough.

Considering that US is an important market in terms of ad revenues, that might be as good as shutting down youtube.

Google is already legally responsible for all the content on YouTube. The DMCA does not remove liability, it just sets out a process for managing liability--the takedown notice. If Google ignores conforming legitimate takedown notices, under the DMCA, they are fully liable for the infringing content. And as we see with Viacom, the DMCA does not actually prevent private lawsuits.

True, but the DMCA requires a takedown notice and then failure to comply before anything can be done. SOPA allows pulling of DNS entries as a first action, meaning sites are down while they handle the complaint. There's also a huge difference between "liable" as the DMCA defines it (must remove when notified) and "liable" as SOPA defines it (must remove immediately, notification == site death)

The private right of action in SOPA is actually modeled on the DMCA notice. Let's say a record label asks PayPal to stop payments to an allegedly "infringing site". PayPal must notify the allegedly infringing site of that request within 5 days. If that site provides a counter-notification, PayPal leaves the site alone and checks out of the whole process. From that point, the record label has to go to a judge to try to get an injunction against the site (with all the associated burden of proof, etc).

The DNS blocking is only available to federal law enforcement; a private complaint can't pull DNS under any circumstance.

1. a private complaint can't pull DNS

2. It is available to federal law enforcement.

May be I'm just being cynical, but there seems to be an obvious way around fact 1. using fact 2.

money == power; gov officials seem to be willing to go to ANY length, given enough Shift+444

Hey, if we're going to have a fascist government anyway, I'd rather Google be the corporation pulling the strings... Too bad it's just not in their DNA.

They probably will... better to escalate the response than to go apeshit prematurely.

Yeah or censor google search results from any .gov clients!

I am very sure the implied threat of we are considering moving our data centers out of the US has probably already been thrown behind the scenes

I've been thinking a bit about this and it's more a detriment to the United States than it is to the Internet. Censorship is a losing battle, especially with an educated public. There's just no way that this can work, it's a perpetual cat and mouse at best.

I feel that SOPA will pass, there's no doubt in my mind - it will just be a much watered down version, much like any other bill that passes these days. Even this so-called "anti-SOPA" ad is not really anti-SOPA, it just disagrees with certain aspects of the bill. They're basically asking for a compromise and they'll get it. There will probably be a long and expensive process in order to shut sites down. There will probably be some clauses about staying up if you are compliant with take-down notices. And there will probably be more bureaucrats added to the system, with jobs that are essentially useless and another needless expense. Ultimately, it will be like the War on Drugs, War on Terror, TSA and what have you; some far-fetched, pie in the sky plan that never had a chance of working in the first place.

The sad part is that people in Washington don't understand the consequences of what they are doing. They seem to think they have a blank check to play around with. Slowly but surely, they add things like this and the government gets bigger and more expensive to run. You can't just fire bureaucrats, they have a knack for sticking around.

I can't help but feel like I'm watching the slow death of a once great nation. I haven't heard anything lately coming out of Capitol Hill that has any semblance of intelligence.

>> And there will probably be more bureaucrats added to the system, with jobs that are essentially useless and another needless expense.

This is really twisted. The industry is taking something it wants to do -- draconian copyright enforcement -- and passing that activity (plus the cost) to taxpayers. The system is broken. You can clearly see that when special interest groups that represent a small minority can get taxpayer money and spend it against the majority while at the same time getting the majority to pay.

Web companies should know how to write a readable text, it's pity they could just come up with something like that.

This text is not coincise, it doesn't draw the attention of the reader to any specific point and it shows several other shortcomings, if the message ever comes across I am pretty sure this page won't help.

It might just be that verbose text does more to differentiate this from normal advertising, and perhaps enforce the impression of these companies writing from a position of expertise.

Large image, looks like advertising, easy to overlook.

Dense columns of text, looks like bland content, easy to overlook.

Ogilvy-styled image, headline and text, looks like advertising.

Headline and then text that looks like the letter it is, hey, let me just skim this and see what these guys are upset about. Wow, Facebook and Twitter. And so it goes.

Yes, they could've come up with one or two sentences that appealed to the emotion and pushed the reader to a custom url relating to this issue. Or even an exaggerated screenshot of what could happen if the bill passes.

Ah well. Rational writeups are all fine and good but not when you probably have a split second to capture the attention with an ad.

It's aimed at the committee members, not the average punter, and it is serious because an emotional non-fact-based driven approach would backfire. The NYTimes location hints at the power they have to do more.

Sometimes, longer, more thoughtful text can be more powerful than short, punchy advertising copy.

If you're in the tech industry and you realize how stupid this proposed law is, realize that it's no more stupid than the vast majority of laws passed by congress, you're just better equipped to judge it.

"when a respected information source covers something where you have on-the-ground experience, the result is often to make you wonder how much fecal matter you’ve swallowed in areas outside your own expertise." -- Rusty Russell

The ad proves the old maxim true: "Everyone's a reactionary against something they know about."

Nearly all of the companies listed in this ad were heavy donors to the Obama administration. Now they understand what their donation got them.

Everyone in the Internet industry feels extreme pain when these regulations are proposed, and rightly so. SOPA is an insane example of a bankrupt government flailing about.

However, the same commentariat thinks that regulation is somehow "necessary" in medicine, law, or energy.

("<Calamity-of-the-day> could have been prevented if we just had more rules on the books! Surely the evil profit-making corporations would cut every corner they could, just to make a buck! It's not like taking it in the shorts every single day in the press will hit their stock price!")

Once you've tasted government intervention in your industry, you'll want some mouthwash.

Its simple to think that regulation is good and bad if you generalize and say that no industry should/should not be regulated just because it causes inconvenience.

Regulation should be in place to put safeties into a system. What i mean by that is don't let people "cheat" too much. By cheating the reasonable bounds of the system the whole system would suffer (people dying, civil liberties slashed or financial systems collapsing).

That said industries you would want tight regulation on is in the food or medical industries.

Nothing is black and white but always varying shades of grey.

Where is the url in there for more information/followup? Wasted opportunity.

I don't mean to diminish this effort but just imagine this kind of response every time we decided to declare war somewhere far far away. I'd be impressed. Certainly sending people to be maimed or killed is just as critical?

Don't you remember the momentous uproar over Iraq? There were non-stop protests for at least a year before the war actually started, and for years afterwards.

There were no similar protests over Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Libya because the US was only providing air support, and because Afghanistan started only a month after 9/11 and everyone was still shocked and compliant.

ck2 probably doesn't remember the momentous uproar over Iraq because the media was not at all interested in covering the protests. Unless you were in a city where a protest was going on and physically saw it, it basically didn't happen.

And there were protests over Afghanistan; I participated in some myself. We weren't all shocked and compliant - the first thing I said upon seeing burning towers on the TV at the Indiana University Student Union was "Reichstag", and I wasn't wrong.

There are protests over everything at all times. That's why the media doesn't cover them. They aren't news. There are crowds of demonstrators in every major city, outside of every abortion clinic, and on the National Mall in DC 24 hours a day.

The Iraq protests were the largest protest movement in decades and lasted for years. It really wasn't difficult to find out about them.

> the first thing I said upon seeing burning towers on the TV at the Indiana University Student Union was "Reichstag", and I wasn't wrong.

Well, there's always someone comparing the current administration to Nazis....

It really wasn't difficult to find out about them.

Heh. You live in a large city.

Only since January. I only lived in small towns, not even metropolitan areas, up until then.

Have a look at http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-h3261/money - which companies / interest are supporting - who received money from them - who's opposing - who the opposing groups sponsored etc

There was also a full page ad in today's Wall Street Journal, same letter. http://pic.twitter.com/jisFPt4s

Am I the only one that did a double-take when I saw Zynga on there?

Why not Zynga? Their demographic is not piratically inclined and due to the nature of their product piracy is probably not an issue to an extent it is for hollywood. However, their existence is at least for the moment linked to facebook. Anything that threatens facebook threatens zynga. If facebook has to police their users' content, you can bet at least some of the necessary money will come from facebook's cut of zynga's profits. Also, this is publicity right before their IPO.

Their relationship with Facebook probably influenced (compelled?) them to sign onto this.

Indeed, one could imagine a potential copyright infringement complaint leveled at Zygna by Paramount, claiming that "Mafia Wars" borrows too heavily from the "Godfather" films. Completely frivolous, indeed, but possibly threatening enough to Zygna's daily operations for them to heed warnings about these bills.

Remember: companies are not your friends. The may be your allies this time, but the may also turn against you if the tide changes.

I was a bit surprised too. I certainly don't count them in the same league as the others mentioned.

Despite their recent PR blunder (and what a blunder it was), they're still considered a tech giant. Their IPO passed a billion benchmark, so they are in a position to say, "Hey, look at us, we kinda know a thing or two about the internet."

Giant? There are a bajillion small tech companies across the country that make more money than that.

In terms of their industry - no company does as well with social networking games. It piggybacked on Facebook's success before Facebook made it more difficult to become very successful in that area.

I wonder if we can start a site called PoliticiansAgainstInternet.org, get it a lot of publicity and sway the votes away from them. It should be so popular that politicians will dread getting on that list. Maybe Anon can dig up more dirt and expose it on there?

*not sure how to edit the comment, hence replying.

The site would have "pay to promote button". People who care keeps donating which will directly fuel the ad campaigns set up on adsense, facebook ads, twitter promoted links etc. It will be all over the place.

95% of people would look at that wall of text and turn the page.. they really needed something that would actually draw in peoples attention if they want it to get noticed

The 5% that read it are the ones who influence policy in Washington. The most powerful thing on that page is not the text - it's the logos on the bottom. The average senator can not tell you the difference between a DNS server and a Warez server, but they know who Facebook, Google, eBay, et al are.

Remember, there are a lot of people out there who go to Google and type in www.gmail.com into the search box on a daily basis. To them, Google IS the internet.

I was just thinking about it and I'm sure if all the page said was 'Stop SOPA' and had all of those logos there.. I would be wanting to find out more about the issue.

> We support the bills’ stated goals "providing additional enforcement tools to combat foreign "rogue" websites that are dedicated to copyright infringement or counterfeiting"...

Why doesn't anyone just call bullshit on the whole concept of the US extending its law to apply to the rest of the world?

Well, because while that's a popular theme in United States history, it's not relevant here. The websites in other countries would not be literally sued into oblivion if their servers aren't in U.S. territory - they'd be blocked via DNS intervention.

So, really, the United States wouldn't be extending its law to apply anywhere else but the United States. It would be blocking what content is viewable within the borders. But this isn't even the real issue - because you can still bypass this using the IP address directly instead of the domain name. The real issue is the corporate abuses which could be allowed to take place within our borders if websites aren't deemed to be doing enough. It could make the internet environment tyrannical in content control for fear of websites being shut down.

This is great. It's just a shame the last time anyone picked up a paper was about 10 years ago. Can't argue with the sentiment though.

I happened to buy today's NYT, as I often do. I find it nice to go offline and hold a physical paper.

Senior citizens pick up papers, and all of them go to the voting booths.

Yes, but do Senior Citizens recognise many of those brands?


What is also impressive is the presence of Zynga in the internet giants club.

I was thinking the exact same thing!

I was thinking the opposite. Outside of Silicon Valley people say things like, you know Zynga... the company that made farmville. People think it is a 1 employee company. (I know they have a $B+ valuation, but no one outside the valley does, especially not law makers)

Well played, MS and Apple.

Microsoft is a supporter of SOPA: http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-s968/money

I don't want this to sound snarky but....

Do you know that they were invited and declined?

is it possible that no one asked them to join, or declined to let them join?

It's certainly in Apple's interest that this pass. Less piracy -> More iTunes customers. More iTunes customers -> More iOS devices sold. More iOS devices sold -> More profit for Apple.

These bills would also allow someone to demand the takedown of the entire iTunes store over a single allegation of copyright infringement in a single app. Consider how much trouble they've had with patent trolls in the past.

iTunes Store != App Store

What about iCloud?

Wouldn't they be liable for every song, every photo, every video, every document their users store? Maybe they've got songs (mostly) covered via the agreements for iTunes Match, but the rest seem hard to pull off (especially since, IIRC, taking a picture (or video) of a copyrighted painting, sculpture, etc. can be infringement in some cases).

iCloud doesn't enable public sharing. It's a personal backup system.

Thank you for the correction. I don't know that but just assumed (and yes, I know what that leads to :)) that they opted out given the collective weight of the other orgs involved.

And Amazon.

They are in a totally different market. Why would they be a signee?

What are you talking about? Microsoft is in the same market as at least 5 of those companies listed.

SOPA is largely an anti-counterfeiting bill. Microsoft does not want people to be able to buy counterfeit versions of Windows, so they support this bill.

Google, on the other hand, doesn't make anything that can be counterfeited, so they have nothing to gain from this bill. They do have a lot to lose (with all the censorship provisions), so they are taking a stand against the bill.

I agree that's what they are pushing it for, but they seem to want to apply the same hammers to counterfeiting of physical goods and digital copyright infringement. Physical goods and media are very different.

The lost-income argument of this needs to be battled, because I doubt that everyone buying fake rolexes at $200 each is going to be saving up for the real deal. I have to assume that the same type of arguments are propping up this debate. I want to know where the people that support this get these numbers from. Do people really think that by passing this legislation we will somehow get money for nothing?

Does anyone really think that this won't be applied to Wikileaks and the like...

> SOPA is ostensibly an anti-counterfeiting bill. ...


Imagine Microsoft being able to block Google at the DNS level because Android infringes on their IP. Imagine Apple wielding the same power against Samsung and every retailer carrying Samsung phones.

They may never use that power, but it would certainly make negotiating much easier.

Did anyone notice the missing Godzilla-head in Mozilla's logo?

The irony. The giants of Internet advertising spread their message via dead-tree paper ads.

because dead-tree paper is cheaper

A TLDR skim of this ad by the average NYT reader will see only this: We support the bill.

Yes, I omitted the words "goals of the" [edit: 's stated goals] but I'm talking about what the average reader will get out of the ad before they flip to the next page.

Not good, imho. And yes, they do care about the average reader. If they were trying to reach people other than the average reader, there are better ways to do that.

That is irrelevant as the average NYT reader is not the target of this ad. This ad is a letter to the people listed in the first line, delivered to them via the NYT. Unlike a letter which will be handled by an intern this letter will be read directly by the congressmen it is addressed to, and by spending the money for the full page ad they express who serious they are about this.

Then it's even worse, because the average congressperson is not nearly as bright as the average NYT reader.

Very nice. It's a nice touch that the logos at the bottom are in alphabetical order. I want a copy of this

Full page ad? Big deal. Obviously they screwed up by not buying a bunch of senators and congressman.


Glad to see a public stance by the internet community

Besides the gist of the ad, I noticed that Facebook did not use their logo without a background (AOL too).

Huh. Google should take out an ad on its front page!

Maybe censor all requests coming from the .gov domains.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact