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.
Google's lawyers bringing up the Wikileaks payment processor embargo as a preferred solution also supports this position. Google (and other Internet companies) aren't really trying to protect free speech or other perceived rights, they are merely trying to protect their own interests.
Most corporations put their lobbying efforts behind or against legislation based on what's in their interest. I don't believe that the public can honestly expect them to act any differently so long as their behavior is in accordance with the law -- even if only technically, and even if the law should be changed.
I don't like SOPA one bit, and I don't think it should pass. I think what this highlights, however, is that legislation should stem from principles and the interest of the people (individuals only, please). This is not currently the case, thanks in part to a long history of Supreme Court decisions (culminating in Citizens United v. FEC) which permits corporations to buy politicians. It is certainly not in most politicians' interest to alter the status quo.
As with the Occupy Wall Street crowd, I say again: if corporations are following the law of the land in a way that's detrimental to the public, then the law is what's broken. In this case I'm increasingly of the opinion that all campaign contributions of any kind should be banned. In any case I'm appalled that the primary concern with sweeping and dangerous legislation is what will happen to the economy, and not the basis on which such a law is founded.
Corporations are composed of people, and I expect people to act morally. Laws are never going to properly capture morality, to put it another way legality is a weak indicator of morality. I humbly submit that it's not OK to be a sociopath in the service of a corporation, just because legally corporations are allowed to be sociopaths. People are just people, and should use their consciences.
This complex system is goal oriented towards making more and more profits - and the trouble is Groupthink happens. Let me quote Wikipedia on this:
the desire for harmony in a decision-making
group overrides a realistic appraisal of
And in corporations, because of inertia it is really hard for individuals inside it to steer it off the wrong path, especially since such individuals also have their own problems to worry about, like building a career or paying their monthly mortgage or paying for their child's private school. Instead, they end up getting assimilated in the hive-mind, which is a powerful force. Sometimes corporations do change drastically, but it starts from the top, most likely from the CEO. But not even a CEO can steer a company unless she's a force of nature, mostly because a CEO doesn't get elected unless she can promise ... more profits.
Basically corporations are inherently evil and should be treated as such. Unfortunately, this doesn't happen and the only reasonable things that you can do as an individual is to (1) fight against such legislation + (2) vote with your wallet.
And I don't know what other people will do about SOPA, but my intent is to not pay for music ever again. Fuck iTunes. And even though I have a monthly habit of going to my local movie theater, I'll never again rent or pay for a home movie again. I work too hard for my money and the RIAA and MPAA of the world can kiss my ass.
Google is one of the few companies that I would say has stayed strongly principled and has taken a really long view on a lot of things. I think it's probably because the founders are principled and idealistic and are still at the helm, but also because they seem to have hired idealistic people from top to bottom. I wonder if it could ever be the case that a majority of companies were Googley.
And our congresspeople could be imagined as mini corporations. Instead of selling goods and services they sell political influence. Instead of shareholders they have constituents. And they often act according to their best financial interests.
Unfortunately the only real effect of this is that only the independently wealthy would be able to successfully run for office.
If getting information to the public about candidates costs money, then that's just another tragedy of the commons - an external cost of government that is simply ignored so that the rich and powerful can have government to themselves. It is very easy to argue that informing the public about their options in an election is essential and should therefore be covered by public funds.
It seems to work pretty well.
But most politicians right now they know they couldn't gather as much money as they'd like this way, because they know there aren't that many enthusiastic people who love them enough to give them money. So getting money from rich people or corporations is a shortcut to being elected.
Exactly. No bill should be longer than a couple of pages. The Constitution is less than 15 pages, no bill should be longer than that. (Or you can pick another arbitrary number as long as it is low).
Special interests are unintentionally creating a worse world for all of us (and not just IP proponents, I mean all special interests from banking lobbyists to teacher unions), and the way they are doing it is because bills are impossible to understand (even if that's your job!), and so everyone tries to get their short term benefit while making the whole system worse in the long run.
Make a constitutional amendment saying no bill can be more than 15 pages and I guarantee you countless problems will go away.
Remember, of course, that without line-item or amendatory veto powers, the legislature can simply stuff unrelated things into unremarkable bills and get away with it. It's a great reason for your 15-page rule, and also a great reason why it will never happen.
It's like those solutions to fight bureaucracy: it's easy to come up with a simpler solution, but invariably you end up finding out that there's a down side to it.
Then no bill would pass.
The default for a congress man/woman is to say no. The reason bills are so long is that if you want me to vote yes to your bill then I get to write 2 pages into your bill giving me what I want.
Take a 10 page bill get 100 votes and you've got a 210 page bill that has a chance of passing.
With a law that says no bill can be more than 15 pages you'd never get it passed unless everyone agreed to vote for everyone else's pet bill, then instead of one monster bill, you've got 100 small bills which is arguably worse off as it means you've got to kill many smaller bills rather than being able to kill one larger bill.
Representatives could still trade votes if they wanted, but we would have more visibility into the process. What's bad about that?
My thinking was that the time to pass a bill would still remain about the same, regardless of size. This means that we wouldn't see as many little bills passed as large bills.
I get your point about smaller bills providing better transparency. That's a very good side effect of smaller bills!
Anyway, "fewer bills passed" could be a good thing, depending on your perspective. The job of Congress isn't to pass as many bills as possible any more than the job of programmers is to write as many lines of code as possible. Less output may be better.
If a society stops being composed primarily of good people that make the right choices for the right reasons, that society will crumble, and no amount of legislation will save it.
This should really be the aim of the OWS movement!
More important is the conflation of artificial persons and actual people. In light of my previous concept of a corporation as an entity that does whatever's legal, however amoral, to make a profit, it's silly to apply moral concepts such as "inalienable rights" to them.
Companies like Microsoft, Apple, most game companies, and of course content companies transmit their entire IP to each customer. It is impossible to technologically prevent the copying of this IP--we all know the failings of DRM. Thus they must depend on the law for protection.
I hypothesize that Google might be less sanguine about IP protections if a new technology became available which allowed anyone to easily view and copy the Google search algorithm code at any time.
A few people I work with were dead-set against SOPA and all it stood for - suddenly, after seeing Apple here, had a completely different, sympathetic opinion towards it. Are you fucking kidding me?
This is what is wrong with movements like these - they are easily bent on self-fulfilling, cognitive dissonance. It's disgusting.
Not defending SOPA -- I don't have a clue about its intricacies -- but when a bunch of companies that don't sell software are against a bill that purports to try to do something about software piracy, I don't really see what the news is. In fact, these companies are all basically ad networks...
That doesn't mean you should abandon all reason and blindly trust them. Actually, you should be wary and watch your back - if their interests change, as you say, a company won't think twice and back-stab you without batting an eye.
There's a reason that there's no law that holds telephone companies responsible for law-breaking which is organized over their wires / cell towers. It's ludicrous.
The phone companies have all sorts of legal duties to law enforcement. If a court orders it, they have to assist with taps, traces, geolocation, call records, etc.
As you say, piracy is already illegal. And we know there's a ton of casual piracy that goes on--see:
So the question is: what mechanisms of enforcement can dampen casual piracy and yet be acceptable to most tech companies?
That's not to say this is a good bill. It's not. But if it's in the interests of companies with significant IP to protect to support it, companies with significant IP to protect like Microsoft, Adobe, and Apple can be expected to support it.
Their support is really that simple.
Umm, actually I think they make their money buy selling products. Consumers are rarely (ever?) driven by a "restrict my freedom" motive...
Sure, only selling things makes revenue directly. However, policies abridging freedom help both companies scale--by attempting to lock users into their platforms and making it difficult or impossible to not buy their software when getting a new computer, both companies get more people to spend more money.
I find their revenue models very different, Apply making it on hardware + iTunes (Music, apps, movies, etc), MS making it on Software.
How do you group them as the same? And call it 'Lock-in'?
Edit: for clarity
The alternative to "supporting SOPA in virtue of membership in the BSA" is "leaving the BSA over the BSA generally lobbying government to enforce copyright protections." That's kind of the point of the organization.
If you don't expect AutoDesk and MathWorks and SolidWorks to leave the BSA just to avoid this kind of second-rate muckraker reporting, then ignore the fact that Microsoft, CA, and Apple didn't leave either.
Note also that BSA members fund it proportionally to each member's revenues, so it's fair to assume that Microsoft and Apple have a bigger weight in its decisions.
The BSA actively states it speaks for all that list of companies, if the companies both remain a member and do not state otherwise thats _exactly_ what they do.
I mean you are falling for their trick if you chose not to blame the member corporations of their BSA for the actions/statements of the BSA, that is exactly its purpose, to take positions that are unpopular/anti consumer, and shield their members from criticism.
It works for the RIAA/MPAA, it works for the BSA too...
Furthermore, it is quite possible that they feel the need to maintain a good relationship with the RIAA et al.
Its like the zinga incident in which they forced employees to give back their unvested stock. I can totally understand it from a business view, but its a "bad smell". If I worked for Microsoft now,I would really feel bad
With a little less snark, employee's should consider alternative employment.
That said, there's been a lot of links on the front page suggesting a seller's market for developer talent.
That being said I think that it is important to raise the level of discourse on this issue in the community and I do not think that this article does much to that end:
"We can, however, show that it does. And somewhat
disingenuously, if I may."
Yeah, how about that. In short, Microsoft
is using a front group to throw its support
behind SOPA, while publicly saying and doing
nothing, thus avoiding our rancor and displeasure.
Well, no, that won’t do at all.
I'm surprised this hasn't been flagged to death. Are people not actually reading the article?
The conclusion Microsoft suports SOPA by helping support an organzation that supports it is inescapable.
How is it a fallacy to assume MS has a large voice in deciding BSA's policy? Also when you dismiss an argument with a pithy "Textbook logical fallacy", shouldn't you disclose that MS is one of your clients? 
The fallacy is, "if they're not guilty, all they need to do is deny it". It's used by the powerful against the powerless way more often than it's used against big companies, which is all the more reason not to legitimize it.
Let's, for example, assume you generously donate a given sum every month, to Greenpeace. According to you logic, nobody can say you support them.
Microsoft pays the fees required by their BSA membership and allow the entity to brag abput their membership. The entity's charter is to defend the interests of their members and one of the ways to do it is supporting SOPA. How can anyone say, considering Microsoft's previous support to PIPA and their support to BSA, that they don't support SOPA?
How likely is that Microsoft would chose not to comment and, at the same time, be against SOPA? The odds of that are vanishingly small.
About the first part of your last message, you never kept it really secret ;-)
All of the companies in the BSA are big/high value. Nevertheless, my gut tells me that some of the companies on that list are not ones that would be ready to face the limelight of an organized protest. Real or virtual. As such, targeting a few of the more vulnerable companies on that list could make them publicly distance themselves from the legislation, if not outright oppose it.
It's like saying google support SOPA because they do business with the RIAA.
Why are Dell and Intel members? None of their direct competitors are.
Cadence Design Systems
CNC Software – Mastercam
Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corporation
Siemens PLM Software, Inc.
Almost every webapp I've used is a recreational activity compared to some of the problems the above companies solve.
Particularly amusing in comparison are the antivirus vendors, Autodesk, CNC, and Solidworks. They are gen-you-winely complicated.
Seriously though, I do hear what you're saying. But I used the words chip and niche. If I could chip a tiny niche out of Microsoft then I'd be a happy man.
I guess my point, which I didn't make at all clear, was that everyone's trying to get a slice of Facebook, Google, Salesforce, 37signals (all smart companies) when they could be going for these dinosaurs.
First, that list of companies has deep pockets, and it is WAY harder to undue legislation than prevent it in the first place. So, suggesting in any way that we let it be and take some other tactic is bad advice, IMO.
Second the "niche webapp" bit is way too cliche. What "webapp" is going to threaten Dell, Intel or Apple? Even some of the software companies on that list focus on things that are not going to fall prey to "niche webapps" for any foreseeable time.
So, to me, your comment was a strawman that added no value.
For sure, they aren't going to fall prey to a single webapp. But they are being chipped away at - Autodesk is now up against Sketchup. Microsoft is facing Google Docs, iOS, Ubuntu, Android etc etc etc. All those competing products came from acquired startups - I doubt they set out to 'fell Microsoft' , and nor have they done it.
I wholeheartedly agree with you that we oughtn't to let this legislation roll through - I was a bit flippant on that.
Aside from the writer's total desperate reaching for a real story, let's all remember this is the BSA. the BSA has been independently campaigning to stop piracy by all means necessary for years now. How is this any shock at all that now they'd support SOPA? It's not Google supporting it, it's big ass software companies! Come on!
So you mention Apple in the title and we're all supposed to be shocked and horrified? We're supposed to be shocked that the company that just had record breaking profits is going to support a piece of legislation that is total dog shit for everyone but huge copyright holders?
Come on now. Let's cut the crap and be real. This is a non story. SOPA sucks, I love Apple, I'm still not moved. Waste of time to read.
Last I checked, nobody is putting a gun to your head to buy a piece of software that you feel is overpriced for your perceived benefit. And that certainly does not give you the right to just outright steal it. There simply is no moral justification for that - it's theft, plain and simple.
If you feel something is overpriced, then don't buy it - either go with an alternative, or build a competing product and disrupt. But I daresay they are justified in 'throwing a tantrum' when people steal their stuff.
Ehr, sorry, but this is not true. It's not a gun, but you have to own a copy of Windows for some government/state services in some countries, because their software is written for it.
Also, copying software is not a "theft, plain and simple". I'm not sure how you missed the whole debate about it that lasts for a few decades. If it was so "plain and simple", there would be no debate.