Notice that the supporters are software companies and the opposed are Internet companies. Here is a theory I proposed yesterday:
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.
I have interned with Microsoft in the past, and am scheduled to in the future. Therefore take everything I say with a metric ton of salt. Obviously my opinions don't speak for them.
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.
>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.
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.
While you are right that the people working for a corporation should act as human beings, not some kind of soulless aliens, the reality is a pretty simple one ... a corporation is a complex system in which the whole really is bigger than the sum of the parts.
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
That's right, it is in our nature to behave irrational as part of bigger groups, which sometimes makes people do completely stupid things ... how do you think group suicides are possible?
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.
Corporations' only moral code is greed. And I'm not talking abstractly, I've been part of discussions at companies where people adamantly say it is wrong to leave money on the table no matter what. The only time it is OK not to grab all money you can is if it might prevent the company from grabbing even more money in the future.
The REALLY long term game is helping your country be prosperous so that you have an educated workforce to draw from and people and people and companies wealthy enough to pay high prices for your products. That requires a pretty pervasive altruistic/moral attitude to make it work, though... tragedy of the commons and all that, otherwise.
Yeah, definitely aware that it's not realistic in the current environment (and it might not be realistic on a wide scale, period, given human nature). Just thinking aloud.
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.
Right and this also explains other behavior. Take patents, for example. Microsoft took advantage of the laws pertaining to software patents and now that they have a massive patent portfolio, they use them to generate revenue and hurt competitors. And they try to influence the law to protect or enhance this revenue stream and competitive advantage. So Microsoft is somewhat a product of the legal terrain and the legal terrain is to some extent a reflection of Microsoft (and other companies).
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.
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.
In Denmark (and other European countries i assume) we have public founding.
Parties who have been nominated for an election and received at least 1000 votes in the recent election, are entitled to receive state aid amounting to 28 DKK (~USD 5) per vote.
Under this system, how can a new party gain traction? Can they spend their own money if they don't have public funding? And if so, why would established parties NOT spend their own money if they have more than public funding will provide?
Any registered candidate would have to get funding for public funding to make any sense. Since the registration is already in place, there you go. If you can't get your minimum signatures to register, you don't get funding. Seems fair to me.
Looking ahead to the next ca election with 2000 candidates... Give each candidate enough money to buy a tv ad and go bankrupt or give each candidate a nickel? I can't envision this system leading to more informed voters.
Yeah, they were real informed last time without public funding. If you guys like to have a circus every time there's nothing I can say about that, but private funding isn't the answer. Because the outcome of that is Governor Schwarzenegger.
Ban corporate donations, and limit personal donations to a relatively small sum. Ron Paul for example is getting millions every month from donations made by people alone. This should be the status quo, not the exception.
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.
I don't see how that is any different from the current situation. Surely everyone who has run for office and seen even the slightest level of success in the US in the last century have been independently wealthy before-hand?
> I think what this highlights, however, is that legislation should stem from principles and the interest of the people (individuals only, please)
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.
I remember the article about lying to federal investigators several months ago that said something along the lines of "you are not qualified to know if you are breaking federal law. Get a lawyer." This is why.
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.
> Make a constitutional amendment saying no bill can be more than 15 pages and I guarantee you countless problems will go away.
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.
I would say that what you describe is a MUCH better situation. If you have 100 small bills rolled into one, it's easier for representatives to say "I voted for this part, not that," or even, "I didn't see that part of the bill." With many smaller bills, it makes the tit-for-tat more explicit.
Representatives could still trade votes if they wanted, but we would have more visibility into the process. What's bad about that?
Not sure we'd see fewer bills passed; the cognitive load for each one would be smaller, so maybe they could work faster.
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.
You can't force people to make the right choices through legislation. There will always be loopholes and technicalities, and a law system that attempted to do so would be so restrictive of individual freedoms as to be entirely impractical.
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.
You are right....The notion that corporations (which is a group of individuals together to achieve a particular objective,most commonly money) have the same rights as individuals(objective:happiness) is the root of this mess!....But I dont know if such an old legal precedent like Dartmouth vs Woodward can be changed!...Not that people havent tried.....http://movetoamend.org/!
This should really be the aim of the OWS movement!
The notion of corporations as people is fine with me as a legal fiction (the original intent). The major advance in the Dartmouth case was that contracts made by corporations were valid, and that the state didn't have the right to arbitrarily dissolve them. I wouldn't want that particular aspect to be any other way.
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.
You're absolutely right. There's not even a gray area between the companies supporting vs. opposing SOPA. Black and white. SOPA would be a huge backstep for anyone trying to innovate or sustain on the web
The dividing line can be neatly seen as whether a company derives its value from server-hosted software or not. Companies which derive their value from server-hosted software have no reason to support IP-protecting legislation because their IP is already protected by the server/client architecture.
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.
You know what those companies have in common? They don't sell software. If your business is basically running a website, what do you care about piracy?
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...
Does that mean Microsoft and Apple have to support any anti-piracy bill, without any regard for its consequences? Because if that's true, then they are no better than RIAA and MPAA and they couldn't care less about the Internet and censorship, as long as they reduce the pirated copies by 10% (if that).
That's correct. In these cases however, I think it's not unreasonable to side with them, if only temporary. The enemy of your enemy is your friend, after all. Sometimes it doesn't matter why someone fights, it matters who he/she fights.
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.
To come at that question from the other direction, I sometimes wonder what (if any) anti-piracy bill some tech folks would support. The counter-argument to better IP enforcement often seems to be "change your business model", which is not a policy statement.
Piracy is already illegal. Just like child pornography is already illegal. There is no need to make extra laws about it, and whenever somebody purports to write a law to "prevent" a crime that is already illegal, you can know that that law will contain terrible, overreaching things.
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.
But the bill would give software companies the same tools to go after warez sites too. Why wouldn't Adobe want to be able to crack down on sites that distribute cracked copies of Photoshop? Or Microsoft with illegal copies of Windows or Office?
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.
Those were all internet companies--internet freedom really matters to them. Microsoft and Apple, on the other hand, make money by restricting users' freedom and do not rely on the internet nearly as heavily. Their covertly supporting SOPA does not really come as a surprise.
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 think what his message is meant to be taken in the "Free Software" sense. You know, proprietary anything is evil, all software should be free, hippies rule the new utopia and all that. I won't speak for Microsoft as I'm not sure how they do it but what you mentioned with Apple and iTunes is pretty much it right there. What people who repeat this message forget is that this "lock-in" is not bad or evil to many people. Sure, the hackers want to install their own apps and use alternative app stores and all that in which case I'd say find another (or create another) platform. My mother and the vast majority of consumers want to tap their screens a couple of times and get a cool app. It's not lock-in to them. To them it's easy and convenient. Technology is for everyone, not just those l33t enough to hack.
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.
this is not a new thing, that's what you are missing here, this isnt some radical position shift for the BSA where the companies that are members have had no time to react to this extreme position they have chosen to take.
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...
The membership of this group is basically a list of businesses that startups should be chipping away at. Let them spend their time lobbying, while you sneak up behind them and whack them on the head with your niche webapp.
I'm not seriously suggesting that two guys in a garage set out to build an index of web pages like Yahoo's - Yahoo has hundreds of people for god's sake.
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.
Thanks, I appreciate the opportunity to engage. Apple, Intel and Dell are the misfits on that list, fine. Although by the same logic Microsoft (the equivalent of a webapp developer in its time) should pose no threat to IBM.
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.
Maybe someday, but I just can't see a web app that could seriously compete with the likes of Adobe or Autodesk in the foreseeable future. While there are online services that provide some of the features found in applications like photoshop, they are hardly compelling enough to get any Adobe or Autodesk customer to jump ship. Same goes for the like of Siemens and Mastercam, but probably more so.
Trend did a pretty decent job with Housecall - I think that was mainly an ActiveX control? I don't know much about the AV industry, but their market (Windows PCs) is being challenged by mobile devices, tablets, *nix, Macs and browser-based systems.
Why is Apple still a member of the BSA? They might as well pull out. They aren't in the business of selling costly software licenses - they give most of their software away, ostensibly to drive hardware sales. But it seems to me there's little that BSA does that dovetails in their interest.
Possibly to drive more revenue towards iTunes and whatever other online initiatives they have in the works. While they themselves aren't being heavily affected by copyright infringement they do have an interest in more people turning towards legal outlets for content.
Furthermore, it is quite possible that they feel the need to maintain a good relationship with the RIAA et al.
Many people don't want to work for an employer who has no principles. In this case, hobbling the internet is pretty clearly a large net negative for society, and pretty much the only reasons you would try to do that is for reasons of pure self-interest.
In my opinion it is also about values, I can totally understand why they favor these laws, but I want to work for a company that has the same values as I have.
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
If I need to wander into the wilderness I will, but there is a gray area. We can fight for freedom, without sacrificing material comforts at the moment. In general I prefer evolution to revolution, so the less extreme action is the first one I will try.
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."
Since when does membership/support of business alliances and/or lobbyists count as disingenious? I do not think you will see any veteran reporters on the hill write that being a member of the BSA equates with any disingenious activity; the fact that microsoft is a member is public knowledge.
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.
Note that the article provides no support whatsoever for the claim that BSA is a Microsoft front group, or that Microsoft is using it to intentionally support SOPA.
I'm surprised this hasn't been flagged to death. Are people not actually reading the article?
Whether the BSA is a Microsoft front group or not is something people have been debating since it was founded in the late '80s, and probably depends on how close ties you require to call something a "front group". There was a bunch of debate and some litigation over it in the 1990s.
1. BSA has long been critisized as a fornt for MS. 
2. Microsoft is widely believed to be largest contributor to BSA 
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? 
Gah! You figured me out! Secret shill for Microsoft!
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.
Your boolean logic is flawless. Unfortunately, this is not what we are dealing with.
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 ;-)
That last sentence is contemptible. Sadly, it fits squarely into the mores of HN commenters, a majority of whom care far less about the truth than they do about whatever nerd narrative they happen to be infatuated with today.
I can't help but wonder if this couldn't be made into an opportunity for those of us who oppose SOPA.
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.
I was on the fence about whether being a BSA member was enough to make one complicit in support of SOPA. But I think I've been swayed...BSA's support of SOPA would add a huge weight of legitimacy to the pro SOPA supporters. It's disturbing to say the least.
This link is tenuous at best. Being a member of BSA does not mean that the BSA dictates policy for these companies. (BSA is a non profit that comes under criticism for their rather obscure 'piracy' estimates.)
It's like saying google support SOPA because they do business with the RIAA.
Over 100 comments here and most everyone seems surprised? The reporting in that article was complete crap. I don't like Microsoft but I don't see any evidence in this article for the claim that the BSA is a front for MS. That bit was recycled from a claim Some years ago in Uruguay which also doesn't totally make it clear that the BSA is a front.
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.
It's no coincidence that most of the companies on that list sell mediocre software for way more than it's worth. They rob us with their high prices, yet they throw a tantrum when we rob them back. Make your software suck less and maybe I'll consider paying for it.
"They rob us with their high prices, yet they throw a tantrum when we rob them back"
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.