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Reddit admin: "If SOPA passes it would almost certainly mean the end of reddit" (reddit.com)
427 points by gasull on Dec 18, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 150 comments



If you wanted to implement something like this, regardless of merit, then DNS blocking is by far the worst way to go about doing it.

Anyone with an interest in using pirate sites will simply switch to alternate DNS providers, there will always be a way, and legitimate users will be subject to rampant and arbitrary censorship in the name of "stopping piracy".

You can't stop piracy. It's a supply and demand problem. It's a perception problem.

How can you convince someone that the TV show that is broadcast for free over the air is legal, but downloading exactly the same show at a later time is illegal?

Companies have all the tools they need to reduce piracy but they refuse to use them, instead trying to extort money from people through more conventional means. They'd rather have ten sales at $20 than thousands at $1.


As much as I despise SOPA, and realize this is little more than an wealth transfer to the entertainment industry from the internet industry, I will acknowledge that DNS blocking is actually a pretty efficient way to stop your average person from accessing web sites.

Remember - SOPA is not designed to stop piracy - there are hundreds (thousands) of mechanisms for file sharing that your average government policy will have no impact on. What it will do, is make it burdensome for 99% of the non-nerd population.

As long as the 99% are impacted, the entertainment industry really don't care about that final 1% trading files to their hearts galore. This isn't about principal - it's pure economics.


No, see, you're forgetting the six degrees of separation thing. All it takes is for someone who knows someone who knows someone to help them. They just need some plug-in or whatever to check their DNS against an uncensored one and their geek friends will probably be passing such things around in less than a week. I think someone already made that program actually, so I think the blocks are likely to be ineffective before they start.

That myth that "this will make it hard for the 99%" thing has been trotted out during every single anti-piracy failure ever. (There have been no lasting successes.) Once the "smart cow" opens the barn door for everyone else, it's open. Every single cow can just walk right out and it will be too late when you go to close it. It's like we're playing a game where we flip a fair coin. Heads, I win. Tails, we flip it again. And yet people still think that maybe next time it will work.

Think we can make it up with even harsher punishments? Well, the Great Firewall of China leaks like a sieve. Incidentally, they also use a form of DNS blocking, as I understand it (something like spoofed NXDOMAIN replies).


> That myth that "this will make it hard for the 99%" thing has been trotted out during every single anti-piracy failure ever. (There have been no lasting successes.)

I would call the dramatic decline in the relative size of the peer-to-peer music "sharing" world to the iTunes world a lasting success. Steve was right that 99¢/track was a winning proposition, but it's easy to forget how effective the RIAA's legal and technical jamming efforts were at pushing Napster and friends out of the mainstream.


That's not making it harder for people to infringe, that's making it easier for people to do things legitimately. I think I've posted many times on another article saying that it's an incredibly good way to do business and the resounding success of those who make it easy to legitimately acquire and enjoy their stuff proves it.

Yet even now, there are still people who will screw the fans in a futile attempt to stop piracy. And even when iTunes opened, it was trivial to download anything in the catalog for free. Yet we can see how popular it is for people to do things legitimately in spite of this.


"All it takes is for someone who knows someone who knows someone to help them"

Not so sure. I've tried explaining bittorent to several non nerd friends and they all say "oh I'll just watch it streaming".


I think that's a pretty strong argument in favor of piracy being a distribution problem that's solvable by better legitimate infrastructure. People take the path of least resistance. iTunes, Netflix, and Steam are all wildly successful because they've made it painless to obtain music, movies, and games - enough so that people use and prefer them over mechanisms that let them pirate the same content for free.


A decade ago - ALL my friends were using direct connect. Few of them were nerds, most were barely computer literate. But free movies made them motivated enough to learn. Some even ran their own hubs even though they had no interest in computers otherwise.

Things like this spread fast, especially among young people. The reason people stick with streams today is because they have no motivation to learn anything else.


mooki - If you do a survey, you'll find that maybe 1 in a hundred people have even heard of direct connect. It may be the case that all of your friends were using it - but in the scale of 250 million americans, I would be shocked to discover that more than 2.5 million of them indicated they had used Direct Connect to share a movie.

The RIAA/MPA and friends are concerned about the 247.5 million people - less concerned about the 2.5 million people.

It's why Usenet basically contains every single media property of interest - the decent search engines for it are pretty much buried in the blacknet, and will stay there, out of sight of the 99%.


Streaming is simpler and the legal implications are a lot less dramatic, so why would anyone use bittorrent if given the choice?


Everything is available on the torrents/usenet. Everything. Not everything is available through streaming (or even for sale)

Try and purchase Game of Thrones. I spent 20 minutes looking for a mechanism I could purchase it - no luck.



I think he meant videos, which are on preorder and will only be released in March?

http://www.amazon.com/Game-Thrones-Complete-First-Season/dp/...


I know. That's why I said "given the choice".


Right now "Feh! forget torrent, i'll stream it instead" is probably a decent way. If laws like this pass, and you can't stream it, then people will learn about bittorrent


Bittorrent takes effort.

All this will take is a Facebook post of "Hey, install this plug-in and you can access all the things!" and suddenly the 99% are on board.


Sounds like they already have an easy, legal alternative. Which most people seem to agree is the best way to beat piracy.

That said, if you don't think there's going to be an installer/.reg file/some easy fire and forget way to switch a computer's DNS to an uncensored one for techies to send to their friends, you're being shortsighted.


Do you mean like one of the sites that has the file on a server somewhere in Sweden and lets you watch in crappy quality in a flash player? Or do they mean Netflix or something. If the former, then this legislation might be effective to stop them. If the latter, then they have the economic means to pay for convenience, which is the whole point of SOPA: make piracy inconvenient.


No I mean watching it on Megavideo (where you have to reboot your router every x min, watch it in small crappy format). Somehow "google a torrent file, download that file if it has enough seeds, open it with the torrent client and when it's done it will be in this folder on your hard drive", is too complicated.


I don't think he was justifying the punishments, but rather the logic. I can tell you, assuredly, that most users will be impeded by something as simple as DNS. Hell, look how simple it is to load up TOR--people still don't do it. Look how simple it is to port over to GMail--people still don't do it. Look how easy it is to use google to fir pirated music (e.g. "site:mediafire.com filetype:rar")--people STILL DON'T DO IT. Look how easy it is to use true crypt. People still don't do it. Look how easy it is to use a YubiKey with OTA--people still don't do it. Look how easy it is to use Google 2-factor auth. People still don't use it.

...etc

Look how easy it is to download stuff off bandcamp or Amazon's mp3 store. People still use iTunes even though AAC is a PITA.


Where I live normal people are using Direct Connect for downloading pirated stuff, a protocol that's more popular than torrent here.

Direct Connect uses IPs for connecting to hubs. There are no web interfaces either. Instead you have to download and install the DC++ client.

Lots of people that aren't in the "99% of the non-nerd population" are using it - in fact by my estimates there aren't a lot of nerds as the nerds have moved on to torrents.


Let me guess, somewhere in Eastern Europe?

I know people who are closer to computer neophyte than computer nerd using DC++ successfully.

Reason? Network effects and availability of content not available on torrents.


Yes, Eastern Europe.


I disagree. The younger population is far more technical than the current older population. Granted I live in a tech-y city (Seattle), and a lot of my friends are "internet savvy," but everyone I know that is under 35 torrents stuff. Simply making it harder to get to web sites will not stop "non-techy people" from pirating. Napster seemed to do really well and it didn't NEED DNS.


Torrents are not what I would consider a nerdy way of sharing files - and have some pretty straightforward DNS vulnerabilities. The first target of SOPA will be every worthwhile Torrent Search engine. Those sites will be taken down overnight.

Moving to static IP addresses puts the owner of that RIR block in jeopardy.

Napster was sued out of existence, went bankrupt, and shut down.

If SOPA passes, it will be a multi-billion dollar wealth transfer from the Internet Industry, and our personal freedoms, to the Entertainment industry. It will be effective in at at least two (Negatively impacting our freedoms, and the Internet Industry) - remains to be seen if it will benefit the Entertainment Industry.


Oh I agree on all accounts. My point was that if SOPA passes I don't think it will stop the "99%."


It will impact precisely 0% of the users that want to access pirated material. They will Google for solutions and they will find them.

"Oh, they'll just block those searches" you'll say, and then maybe they will, but then they'll re-phrase it. They'll ask around and, lo and behold, someone they know will know someone that can "fix" it. Maybe even for a price!

Napster tried to crack down on pirated music one time and people switched from literal spellings to Pig-Latin in a heartbeat. You wanted "Metallica" and you'd search for "Etallicamay". Word travels fast. How are you proposing to subvert that? People can adapt faster than laws.

What it will affect is site operators simply trying to make a living and having to deal with being DNS blocked all the time. Startups will fail. People will lose their digital possessions because one of the users on the site where they chose to store them was flagged for a copyright violation.

Legitimate users and businesses want a consistent, predicable identity. Shady ones could not care less how often they have to switch domains, IPs, service providers, nor how hard they are to find by the average user. They're underground. It's all word of mouth and word of mouth doesn't care about DNS filters.

It is simply not possible to block something on the internet. There is always a way around it. Look at how locked down some corporate networks are and people have found ways to bust out using HTTP or DNS tunnelling.


I'm suggesting it will impact 99% of the casual users who just want content, and will impact 0% of the dedicated users who care enough to bypass those measures.

Torrents are attractive because it's easy to download content. If you go shut down the search engines for torrents - people will move onto the next easiest option - iTunes, Amazon, etc...


>You can't stop piracy. It's a supply and demand problem. It's a perception problem.

I would go further; it is a greed/exploitative problem.

You have every type of good in the world manufactured/produced/farmed/coded/filmed/etc. for far less than what the retail cost is. (the initial arguement is supply and demand) -- but that is simply false. Look at profits and margins.

Apple and every oil company in the world is the perfect example of why this is true.

Their supply is NOT in concordance with demand. Their profits and margins show this.

Other business models have proven this out; make things cost less - and more people will buy.

Actually, to Apples credit - this is an area where they are showing this; Apps that cost ~.99 are seen to be a value to the user at that cost thus paid apps make tons. (However, if you look at margins, again Apple fails. Their margin on paid apps is between 100% and ~5% (if you try to figure in the cost of the overall infrastructure to supply the apps (i*Device development etc. though the mobile market has a lot of outlying factors which refudiate the margin cost to apple, whereas the iPad is a device wholly dependent on the app market)


Oil companies have far worse profit margins than say Apple or Microsoft. They have good years and bad years but Exon regularly trades below 10 P/E where tech companies often trade above 20 because tech companies are far more capable of long term growth and far at the whim of classic inelastic supply demand curves. (In other words if oil when back to 30dollars a barrel people would buy more oil, but they would not do so quickly.)

As to iPad's many people buy tablets and never load a single app on them. Unlike consoles where the device is subsidized by the software sold apple treats it's app store as revenue neutral. They have income but they poor it back into iOS development, because long term the OS with the best software wins and they can still make fat margins on the devices themselves.


Cutting off the advertising revenues will definitely slow down piracy sites. SOPA isn't just about DNS.


It'll put a dent in their revenue, but it'll also open up a massive market for underground advertisers.


>"How can you convince someone that the TV show that is broadcast for free over the air is legal, but downloading exactly the same show at a later time is illegal?"

People know that copyright infringement is not lawful though, don't they. They just don't care.

Same way people know the speed limit but don't care to abide by it


>"How can you convince someone that the TV show that is broadcast for free over the air is legal, but downloading exactly the same show at a later time is illegal?"

People know that copyright infringement is not lawful though, don't they. Generally, they just don't care.

Like speed limits on roads. People don't care enough to strictly abide by the law, or moralise their non-compliance in some other way - late at night, good conditions, law is silly, nobody around, etc..


It's not broadcast for free it has commercials. Plus for cable/hbo/ect. you pay extra for the service.


"""You can't stop piracy. It's a supply and demand problem. It's a perception problem. How can you convince someone that the TV show that is broadcast for free over the air is legal, but downloading exactly the same show at a later time is illegal?"""

Actually, the thinking seems to be, you don't have to convince them, you just throw them to jail or fine them.


I don't think it's a supply and demand problem. It's an ignorance problem and a financial problem. Media companies perceive piracy to be the cause of lost revenue above all others.

Step 1: Media companies need to understand the Internet. I honestly don't think they're actively trying to take freedoms from us. I think they just still don't "get" the web and haven't come up with a business model that takes advantage of it yet.

Step 2: once they "get it" they could use the tools they already have more effectively and attempt to use the web to their advantage without SOPA.

Put yourself in the shoes of the people at the media companies who are behind this for a minute. You're an old, probably conservative, wealthy person who is most likely hyper aware of anything going on that's entertainment related. To you it seems like theres far more of your company's content online than there should be and because you're in the media business you perceive the web to be an entertainment medium and nothing more. It dawns on you that since you're in control of content distributed through TV, the movies, and other conventional platforms (like DVD and BluRay) you should also be able to have control over this new entertainment medium too! It doesn't occur to you that the web is of, for, and by the people because the media has really never worked that way.

As hackers we're easily able to see the big picture and understand that the web isn't just one big On-Demand entertainment network. To us it's about entertainment as much as it is about communicating, working, sharing knowledge, education, art, and so on. But these people are viewing it from an outdated perspective.

I think that if we really want to make a change here we need to quit assuming that this is only about power and control for the sake of power and control. This isn't good vs. evil here, it's just two competing world views. If we understood why they believe they should be able to implement SOPA-like initiatives then we'd be better equipped to stop the problem at its root.


This reminds me of a story about the first atomic bomb test. Not too long before the first detonation was to occur, some scientists voiced a concern that there was a slim chance that the blast would be strong enough to ignite the atmosphere and pretty much destroy the world. These voices were in the minority, and disproved through calculation and common sense -- but the official paper disproving it did not arrive until a year later. So the first atomic bomb was detonated with a few lingering doubts about whether it would instantly destroy the world.

This is what the SOPA debate feels like to me, except there are no reasoned arguments disproving its opponents' worst fears, just pat dismissals of the opposition.


I don't think that many are arguing that it's going to be an obvious complete annihilation. The backlash would be far too large if Reddit actually went down. More likely, it's just going to be small sites here and there that are too small to defend themselves, and that not enough people care about seeing go away to make an outcry loud enough for Washington to hear. That's what's really scary about it - that it will have very bad, almost silent effects that few outside of tech notice.


I agree that the effects won't be instant, and I too worry about the unpredictable chilling effects on the internet, free speech, and the U.S. technology industry. Like Robert Frost said, "for destruction ice is also great and would suffice."


So like, Reddit in 2005?


Yeah, 2005 Reddit would probably be pretty screwed. Areas with a lot of user generated content might calcify if this big barrier to entry comes in, and only the big incumbent players are safe. I imagine the fact that govt. clearly wants this is probably already going to have a chilling effect on riskier areas, even if nothing gets passed.


As well as digg, for not cracking down hard enough at the time 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0 was extracted.


Discussion of paper with PDF link: http://lesswrong.com/lw/rg/la602_vs_rhic_review/


So by your own analogy, SOPA is a nuclear weapon?

Awesome.


I'm getting certificate errors -- is this part of the point or something else?


it's because OP linked to the HTTPS version of reddit, which doesn't exist. akamai will serve an HTTPS version of any page that they cache, and if the customer has not configured HTTPS they will serve it up with their certificate.

reddit uses akamai for page content but not for any authentication, there are no security benefits to using https://reddit instead of http://reddit


You are avoiding eavesdropping attacks but not man-in-the-middle attacks.

That did not stop me from removing the 's' instead of clicking three times in Firefox.


FWIW, a HTTPS version of Reddit does exist. It just happens to be on the pay.reddit.com hostname instead. See:

https://pay.reddit.com/r/SOPA/comments/nhfes/do_you_guys_rea...


there was an explanation from one of the admins once upon a time about why pay.reddit wasn't any more secure than standard reddit. i forget the details, but the consensus was don't bother.


I'll stick with the side of caution and use the freely available HTTPS version until someone proves the above claim.


Not part of the point, try the http version: http://www.reddit.com/r/SOPA/comments/nhfes/do_you_guys_real...


Nothing in the SSL certificate returned identifies www.reddit.com hence the warning. The common name of the cert (typically used to identify the website) is actually a248.e.akamai.net. I think akamai are a service that many websites use but their generic SSL cert can cause problems. You can view the cert using: http://certlogik.com/sslchecker/www.reddit.com/


Chrome told me I was being redirected to Akamai, so I'm guessing it's just a configuration issue. "Proceeding anyway" takes you to the right place.


Had me baffled too. Explanation here: http://revealingerrors.com/akamai_ssl

Scary stuff - I never heard of this Akamai entity before.


If SOPA passes, every user-generated content website is going to have tremendous costs, in many cases prohibitive. I think only Facebook and a few players would have the resources to police their content. This is going to be really bad for Silicon Valley and the startup community.


Actually, thanks to the economics of computer startups, the big players, if they were held to the same standards as everybody else, are worse off. They have fewer people-per-post than smaller sites, not more. It's that whole scaling thing that is the reason why computer startups can be so exciting and lucrative.

Of course, the key phrase here is "if they were held to the same standard as everybody else". Though I think the second-order effects of SOPA would be more bizarre on something like Facebook than you'd think at first blush. The mere fact that they could still be legally shut down in a heartbeat still can't help but have a profound effect on their world even if the trigger is never actually pulled for fear of generating an uproar.


Considering HN is all user generated content, does pg have a perspective on SOPA's potential impact on HN?


One shining note to remember before everyone turns doom and gloom, in the States (if I remember what the citizenship pamphlet said when I got my green card), it's not really "law" until it stands up to a test case in a court of law.

Since the congress critters are lining their pockets left and right from the lobbyists for this bill, it's not in their personal interest to turn it down, even if they know it won't stand up in court.

And if it passes, it's almost guaranteed to be tested (and overturned) in court - as it's been mentioned many many times, Youtube, Google, Bing, etc etc have way too much to lose to let it go unchallenged.

Seems like it's just status quo here in the States with the new "pay-n-pass" government.


> really "law" until it stands up to a test case in a court of law.

Hence Gingrinch's desire to kick judges he disagrees with out of office.

My other worry is the possibility of a hostile party successfully preventing a case concerning an obviously unconstitutional law from ever getting to a civilian court. The latest NDAA is designed to do just that.

In other words: the courts may no longer be available to fall back on when congress goes wacko. Doom and gloom, indeed.


> it's not really "law" until it stands up to a test case in a court of law

This is not true. It is law until it's overturned.


Whether or not enforcement of the law is enjoined before that determination depends on legal criteria for injunctive relief. There may or may not be any attempt to enforce a new statute on this subject, even if the statute is passed and the President signs it. I'm sure lawyers are already thinking about how to challenge (and how to defend!) the statute in the court system if it is passed and signed.


And looking at Lessig's appearance on Daily Show (about his new book), congress uses ridiculous things like this to extort money out of businesses to keep themselves in office.


OTOH, a site could go out of business before SOPA is overturned.


The legal system can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.


That's true, but if SOPA is not overturned, it would set a very major precedent, thus allowing similar laws to be passed. I would rest much easier if it didn't even that far.


If the bill passes, would people band together and try and invoke the bill on the very people that wanted it in?

Like the government website, record labels, etc, on the very frivolous grounds they are trying to ignore right now to get it approved.

I wonder how quickly it would be changed then?


This is a great idea. Anywhere user content is allowed, start spamming copyrighted material. Turn comment sections on whitehouse.gov into the next Pirate Bay.


HN admin: please s/https/http/ in the story link.


The point of maximum leverage for SOPA seems to be lobbyists, and those who instruct them, not the congressmen who they buy. Right now they seem to be well hidden, and the decks are stacked in their favor, with protests and letter writing campaigns to Congress seemingly ignored.

Maybe the time has come for those who are pushing for this act to be fully exposed, and subject directly to public outrage. A handful of Big Content execs should be a lot easier to influence, than 485 members of Congress.


FWIW, Erik's the GM of reddit, not just an admin.


Just come to Spain guys :)


They could host Reddit in Spain (or anywhere else), but the whole US "market" would still be closed to it (via DNS blocks). And I'm betting the majority of Reddit's population is from the US.

And of course other countries will probably decide to follow the US's lead.


Is this true even if they're not hosted on a US-controlled TLD such as .com? If they use the .es TLD, then shouldn't anyone with access to a name server that accurately mirrors the zones for that domain have access? I don't see how it's in the US's power to prevent that. Perhaps there'd be a transition period where international name servers stop trusting US mirrors of international TLDs and US root name servers, but if you stop using those it should still work. Right?


> If they use the .es TLD, then shouldn't anyone with access to a name server that accurately mirrors the zones for that domain have access? I don't see how it's in the US's power to prevent that.

I think ICANN still has the power to censor .es domains. Can anyone please either confirm or correct me?

> Perhaps there'd be a transition period where international name servers stop trusting US mirrors of international TLDs and US root name servers, but if you stop using those it should still work. Right?

BlockAid DNS and Telecomix DNS don't remove domains taken down by ICE. But how long until port 53 to BlockAid and Telecomix is blocked in the US?

Anyway, most people won't change their nameservers and Reddit would loose most of its revenue if the domain reddit.com was taken down, and to prevent it they would need to monitor/censor the user-generated content, and they can't afford it.

Bottom line: SOPA would make Reddit too expensive to run to be profitable.


I think ICANN still has the power to censor .es domains.

Technically this is true, but it would cause a revolt that would just end up destroying ICANN.


"""Technically this is true, but it would cause a revolt that would just end up destroying ICANN."""

Yes, because American's are so rebellious that any attempt to suppress their liberties coughpatriotactcough results in a revolt...

Actually, 99% of American rebelliousness is in merely quoting the constitution and the 4 amendments in a world and a political and law system that has render most of those obsolete in practice...

For example, the "right to bear arms" meant something WHEN people could use those to overturn their government --now, it's just an excuse for people to get guns to "protect their property" against robberies and such.


If ICANN starts breaking non-US domains, I have a feeling it's not Americans who would revolt.


Under SOPA, a name server that accurately mirrors the zones for that domain is illegal. http://wendy.seltzer.org/blog/archives/2011/12/15/stopping-s...


Ok, so it could be considered illegal in the US -- but it's not in the US, nor has anything to do with the US. If someone is running an accurate name server outside the US, with no ties to the US, that does no business with the US, the US can say it's "illegal" all they want but it's still there.


> If someone is running an accurate name server outside the US, with no ties to the US, that does no business with the US, the US can say it's "illegal" all they want but it's still there.

Yes.


We've been through this in Germany. When the Zugangserschwerungsgesetz passed Blogs and Forums were full with tutorials about how you can change the name server in various operating systems. The Zugangserschwerungsgesetz was never implemented so we don't know how many people would have actually used an alternative resolver.


As far as I understand it, they can force every DNS provider under US-jurisdiction (usually the ISP, for instance Comcast, but also OpenDNS and Google) to remove or alter DNS records. This works for .com the same as for .es, but of course it doesn't prevent you from using a name server outside the US.

At least that is how the "Zugangserschwerungsgesetz" in Germany works and I think SOPA will be similar in this respect, but I might be wrong..


  At least that is how the "Zugangserschwerungsgesetz" in Germany works and I think SOPA
  will be similar in this respect, but I might be wrong..
No, that's how the Zugangserschwerungsgesetz (access hindrance law) was supposed to work. But it didn't pass and the governemt abandoned it after a public debate.

Edit: ok, it turns out I'm misinformed. The law passed somehow after it was already dead, so it was never applied.

Germany was lucky that somehow it was achieved to make this law subject of public debate. Maybe Americans should copy the strategies that were used by German activists back in 2008 :) But on the other hand, I think that it would be a lot more difficult to achieve this in the American media environment. America's media was asleep when the Bush administration decided to invade Iraq, it will also be asleep this time.


I don't think American media are asleep on the subject of SOPA. I think they're awake and on the other side. It just so happens that not discussing SOPA is probably the best thing they can do for it right now.


It did pass indeed and was signed on February 2010, so it was valid law until it's revocation on 1 December 2011. Additionally all of the larger ISPs implemented the necessary technical infrastructure. It is true that the law was never applied, but still it was valid law.


The media was wide awake during the Iraq war-mongering. They were the primary supporters of the war. War is good for business. They are war-profiteers.


US jurisdiction reaches further than you might think. For example, at the moment, both Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone are subject to US jurisdiction (via T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless, respectively). I wonder what would happen if, under SOPA, someone sued foreign ISPs with US interests to get them to alter DNS records internationally (or to shut down someone running an accurate name server on a network they control, etc.).


> At least that is how the "Zugangserschwerungsgesetz" in Germany works

Worked. It was never really applied and it's been repealed since.


That's true, it was never applied and it was revoked on 1 December 2011. Nevertheless it was valid law for almost two years.


>And I'm betting it's the majority of Reddit's population is from the US.

Not an absolute majority, but it is by far their largest market.


ACTA has just passed the Council of the European Union and Spain will have to make that into national law. The situation in Europe is much worse.


The real problem is it's not just SOPA. This authoritarian trend has been going on since 9/11. The Patriot Act, Homeland Security, the Secure Fence Act, and recently NDAA, and PIPA. Each one is a clever euphemism design to conceal its true dystopian purpose. The American regime is strengthening itself to unprecedented levels... for what?

Generally countries do not strip its citizens of so many civil liberties unless there is a clear goal ahead. We will probably find out in the next few years.


> Generally countries do not strip its citizens of so many civil liberties unless there is a clear goal ahead.

Not sure about that. I think the natural tendency is for any institution to try to grab more power, no matter what the situation is - since 9/11, congress has found doing so unusually easy, and has responded by taking advantage of the opportunity.

That's not to say the abuses aren't only a few years away, but I don't think these power-grabs have been done with those abuses as a perceived goal. They're just power-grabs.


Power-grabs are the abuse. There need not be any imoral motive behind the desire for this power, nor any plan to use them "for evil". We have already seen (UMG) that, given such power, there will be "accidental" abuse that has a major, negative effect on small players and citizens.

Even if you believe that these were genuine "accidents", do you believe that it is acceptable to allow these interests to have such power? Do you think it is just about "unimportant" things like copying music?

The US is still the worlds largest superpower, but compared to 20 years ago it has vastly less power. Its power has declined and continues to do so. Any student of history will tell you that this is exactly when states transform from free nations to fascist states.


> Any student of history will tell you that this is exactly when states transform from free nations to fascist states.

No, absolutely not, that's not how it happens. Go back and read your history books. Also, Godwin is not on your side.


I don't think I mentioned the Nazi's, but since you bring it up.

"From the prosperity of the empire during the Wilhelmine era (1890-1914), Germany plunged into World War I, a war it was to lose and one that spawned many of the economic crises that would destroy the successor Weimar Republic."

"During the Hitler era (1933-45), the economy developed a hothouse prosperity, supported with high government subsidies to those sectors that tended to give Germany military power and economic autarky"

Economic crises inducing a transition from democracy to plutocracy/fascism, and massive military spending, ending in wars on multiple fronts.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_history_of_Germany

I suppose I should also qualify my statement as "dominant states". Since the most common way for small states to be converted to fascism is by the dominant state (i.e. USA) installing fascist/authoritarian governments for them. So I concede that, in general, you may be right.


> Economic crises inducing a transition from democracy to plutocracy/fascism, and massive military spending, ending in wars on multiple fronts.

There is one major thing missing from your description; it's so glaring and obvious that I'm amazed that you don't notice it. Nazis rose to power through a populist platform which promoted ethnic/racial hatred and reappropriation of resources from those perceived as morally "corrupt" (the Jewish people) or "too powerful" (the British empire). The Nazi leaders did not come to power first and then all of a sudden decided to exterminate the Jews out of the blue; the they went along with what was a populist sentiment at the time (while adding fuel to the fire by the means of propaganda and mass media which was relatively new at the time), and exploited that precisely that popular, hateful sentiment to guarantee their rise to power. I recommend watching a documentary called "The Goebbels Experiment" for a look from the inside on how it happened.

N.B. By going with what you're suggesting, any possible "empire" is fascist, which is blatantly wrong. Plutocracy is bad for various reasons, but plutocracy =/= fascism and genocide. I find it hilarious when people blame plutocracy for causing fascism because it is precisely the supposed "plutocracy" of the time (which was actually a codeword for rich Jews) which drove (indirectly of course) ignorant/resentful Germans in the 1930s to support Hitler and his clique.


So what you're saying is that after a decimation of their economy, Germans were angry at the economic elite in their country. They then listened to the entertainment industry's pressures to remove their freedom of speech, and other civil rights.

Sounds about right.


No, a really important feature of fascism is this hate component which keeps being omitted.

SOPA sucks, but it isn't driven by an ideology of the nation's renewal through purges of some undesirable class, return to cultural and religious fundamentals of the nation, pressing need to defeat communism and prove the nation's glory with war and occupations...

Whether or not the US is moving toward fascism in some way, SOPA is incidental to that - SOPA is nothing more than a big present to certain industries


> a really important feature of fascism is this hate component which keeps being omitted.

Yeah -- it's like an elephant in the room and no one among those who are the first to bring up comparisons between the U.S. and fascist states talks about it. I wonder why.

> SOPA is nothing more than a big present to certain industries

That is the best way to think about it -- it's akin to government pork in a way.


Great Britain was once the world's greatest superpower and yet managed to transition without becoming fascist. I think that history actually shows a diversity of scenarios.


If your going to define fascist as something that apply's to more than just Italy then, Great Britain got a lot closer to fascist than you might suspect. For example, agricultural subsidies use public funds to prop up private enterprises which is fascist. They also went into public surveillance, and indefinite detention without trial etc.

PS: It's a slippery term, but originally it had nothing to do with Germany.


Nah, its been going on for way longer than that. Look at all the expansions off police power that were granted during the Clinton years to deal with the War On Drugs and such.


There has been a horrifying advance in the last few years, but online networking has also been advancing in leaps and bounds (that is, power to individual citizens banding together that didn't exist in 2001), and combined with the way this latest specific threat has awoken people, I think we have a shot at this one. It's just one, but it beats none. Maybe we can begin to turn the tide.


"The nature of law is to maintain justice. This is so much the case that, in the minds of the people, law and justice are one and the same thing. There is in all of us a strong disposition to believe that anything lawful is also legitimate. This belief is so widespread that many persons have erroneously held that things are 'just' because law makes them so." -Fredric Bastiat


People care so much about SOPA, but not as much about the Internet Tax Bill, which means every small e-commerce site will be forced to collect taxes for every jurisdiction in the US.

I seriously doubt all of them have the manpower or money to properly collect sales tax.


Sounds like an opportunity for a web service. Post total sale and customer's state, get back the tax due and a token. If/when the sale is finalized, post the token back and have them track your taxes due to each state. Monthly, invoice the total amount due, and pay each state, keeping a service fee.


To compute sales tax in the US, you need a full address and product type(s). Not even zip code is granular enough to determine the tax rate. It can vary by county, township, inside/outside city limits, and in all these different combinations (literally thousands for the whole country) what items are subject to sales tax varies region by region too. For example, most states don't tax web design service, but there are a few that do. Most states don't tax advertising services, but a few do, and it depends what type of advertising is being bought.

Passing on an address and a total to an API will do the trick 99% of the time, but technically, some of the businesses using that API are going to fail to collect sales tax in some cases where they should.

I am hopeful that if enough state legislatures get serious about taxing internet sales, they'll band together to do some nationwide standardization. That kind of thing can't come down from the federal government; congress has no authority to tell a local municipality it can't levy its own sales tax, but state governments can. Kind of like how they all agreed (is it all? I think one or two didn't) to the Uniform Commercial Code so that the basic laws of sale contracts are the same in every state.


I got distracted typing my response so I ended up responding 22 minutes after you. Damn.


> I seriously doubt all of them have the manpower or money to properly collect sales tax.

Isn't this usually when someone pipes in and says "seems like a good opportunity for a startup"? It's a complex but well-defined domain - perfect for building a paid service. Input to the API is billing zip code, the type of good/service being sold, the date of transaction, and the pretax amount. The lawyers will point out other factors I don't know about. The output is the tax to charge.

Charge by the API call, with different tiers/bulk pricing options for those who need to process many microtransactions versus those who are selling more expensive, shipped goods.

Or do people believe that once a credit card number is used on the internet instead of in a point of sale reader, the transactions really should be exempt from any taxes? I agree it's a lot harder problem to solve, don't get me wrong, but doo people really believe the "correct" solution is to just say "we should never have sales tax on the internet because it's different"?

Edit: If this law passes, such a service would also be an awesome competitive advantage for some of those startup payment processor companies that I see sprouting up.


It is interstate commerce, as such sales tax should not be collected under current laws.


Current laws, maybe - I'm no lawyer, and won't pretend to know the answer.

But I asked if people actually expect that it reasonably should stay that way. I see many people indignant about the idea of collecting sales tax for internet purchases. I'm not sure if that's because of the undue burden on the collector (a solvable problem) or if they really think interstate transactions on the internet should be exempt from taxation forever.


Yup. SpeedTax, and Avalara are two that I've looked at. Both have SOAP APIs as the primary method of talking to them, and solve the problem in very similar ways.


"Isn't this usually when someone pipes in and says "seems like a good opportunity for a startup"?"

I guess SOPA will spawn some good ideas for startups too. Companies that will scan your website for "violations" and others that are started by lawyers to protect you.



it's interesting to me that the same folks who wanted Citzens United because it was supposedly pro free speech are also in favor of SOPA which is pretty clearly anti free speech. what they have in common is both favor large corporations at the expense of individuals and the non-rich. more freedom for the former and less for the latter. not a good trend in a country historically and ostensibly founded on individual liberty and non-aristocracy.


I like Citizens United and I dislike SOPA. That's just one data point, but strong free speech advocates do exist.


Likewise. I side with the ACLU on Citizens United - i.e. that the Supreme Court decided it correctly.

You can rationally be displeased what you expect the outcome of the case to be (e.g. increased ability for corporate financing of election campaigns), but I don't think there's a coherent defense of the sections of BCRA that the court struck down.

ETA: The government argued that BCRA would allow them to ban, for example, a 500 page book that contained a single sentence endorsing a candidate (http://reason.com/archives/2010/06/29/will-elena-kagan-allow...). If you think SOPA is heavy-handed, just think what BCRA could have led to.


Hell it allowed the government to block the release of an independently produced film, by the group Citizens United. It's crazy that anyone could think that's ok.


What is the ACLU's stance on SOPA?



I support Citizens United's case, but my issue was with the ruling. It was too broad and went beyond the scope of the original case.


Just to be fair, the people most invested in destroying campaign finance reform (the Cato folks) have been pretty good when it comes to SOPA.

Of course, I'd say the people they serve are are quite happy to ignore them when it's convenient for the court aristocracy, but I can't see them as guilty of any obvious inconsistencies.


I think Citizens United was decided correctly, and while I support stronger protection of IP, I think SOPA is written too broadly.

I see a big distinction between putting out an original movie that mentions a candidate (the issue in Citizens United) and building a website to distribute other people's movies (the issue in SOPA).

Edit to clarify: distribute other people's movies without their permission.


Reddit admin engages in scare tactics, fear mongering, and the worst kind of hyperbole.

Guys, the Internet isn't going to shut off is SOPA passes so please chill out and try to be rational. All anyone is doing is talking about a workaround to a Gret Firewall that doesn't even exist and pissng their pants over the US becoming fascist.

Panic never helps anyone. While everyone is busy hiding under the bed waiting for SOPA to be over I wonder what else isnt being talked about? I'm sure it's far more important than this distraction.


I don't think they're suggesting that the internet will shut off, just that the overhead of them having to respond to takedown demands etc will be more than their 11 employees are able to deal with in a standard working week on top of their existing workload, meaning it will cease to be financially viable.


I know, I get that. I'm a little frustrated by all the hysteria though. I know my comment sounded snarky and it's because of my frustration. The title of the post was very link-bait-y but the actual admin's comment made sense.

There are way too many submissions about SOPA that are repeats and the discussion is literally exactly the same. It's all about DNS workarounds or using OpenDNS then some guy says "no, use DownDNS" and it's just the same.

I know SOPA is awful but I think we can take a break from it for a minute and enjoy Christmas. There doesn't seem to be anything new to say about it so let's let it go for a sec, get away from the computer, and stop literally panicking.


DNS circumvention won't help. The section of SOPA titled "ENFORCEMENT OF ORDERS" specifically empowers the AG to "bring an action for injunctive relief" against anyone helping to circumvent SOPA's DNS blacklisting. Since other parts of the bill give them immunity, they can do it very freely and everyone has to be really afraid of triggering that kind of action.

If more people actually read the text they'd see precisely how bad it is, without any exaggeration being necessary.

"Enjoy Christmas" is a terrible argument for why I shouldn't care about legislation that creates vast new liabilities for the entire internet industry - one of the few industries doing at all well since this recession began.


Raising awareness of any sort definitely helps for a bill that has yet to be voted on.


I'll believe it when I see it. I just don't believe the US government wants to shut down Reddit, Wikipedia, YouTube, and all of the other major sites the alarmists are claiming.


It's not a conspiracy theory that the government wants to kill these sites.

But SOPA would open these sites up to problems that would be enforced by law, and which would cause them much harm, quite possibly to the extent of them shutting down.

The politicians either don't understand these problems, or don't care about them - you can be the judge on that.


Or they care too much about the money they get from lobbies. SOPA creator got half a million dollars:

http://politics.slashdot.org/story/11/12/18/1836249/sopa-cre...


> The politicians either don't understand these problems, or don't care about them - you can be the judge on that.

The politicians simply know SOPA will never be invoked against those sites because they play nice (as an example. see google giving UMC a private way to remove youtube videos). It will be invoked on thepiratebay, etc. and any other site someone decides they don't like or doesn't play nice.


I think people are being a bit hysterical. I remember the same thing happening when the DMCA was passed. The government just wants to end flagrant abuses of piracy. I don't think they are going to sic their dogs on Reddit. Sites like YouTube are already in compliance. So, I think it does smack of conspiracy theory, yes.


The trouble is that SOPA doesn't require government intent to cause site closures; a copyright holder must merely send a letter to a site's advertising agency or payment processor to cause its funds to be cut off in five days. No court order required.

Now, the criteria is that the site is "dedicated to the theft of US property", but advertising agencies and payment processors are held immune to liability for actions they take under the law, so they have no reason to verify that the site is, in fact, dedicated to theft before shutting it down.

There does not need to be an active government conspiracy for this to harm websites.


Interestingly enough, if you bothered to read the comment by reddit's admin you would note that the DMCA has increased the cost of running reddit. We've also seen the DMCA abused by media companies to take down content they have no rights to. Usually, these cases involve a victim without the money to hire lawyers to fight it.

There were never claims that the DMCA would literally shutdown sites like youtube and reddit. But the criticisms of it certainly seem justified in hindsight.


Especially when you consider how many different ways fair use has been weakened and restricted post-DMCA.


Where you might see conspiracy theory, I just see the power of human stupidity. It's far more reliable.


"Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanlon%27s_razor


"Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice." --http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Grey%27s_Law


Yes ending flagrant abuses is the stated goal of the bill, but the methods it uses toward that end leave lots of unintended consequences which will be very, very damaging. Those in support of the bill either haven't taken the time to understand those consequences or simply don't care.

The conspiracy theory is that the unintended consequences are in fact intended by the MPAA/RIAA. Given their past and present behavior, it's not a stretch.


The ones passing it now first care more about the money they received, and second, they actually believe what MPAA/RIAA are telling them. That this is absolutely necessary and that they will only use it against serious offender. The thing is, if SOPA existed a few years ago, Youtube could've easily been considered a serious offender. No question about it.

Viacom filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Youtube, because it had so many of its videos posted by users. Also, other sponsors of SOPA, such as NBC, would've wanted Youtube dead, too. After all, the only reason they started Hulu was to fend off Youtube, even though they didn't like having Hulu at all, since it undermines their real cash cow, the old traditional business model.


Its not that they want to close down any of those sites, its that they are simply unaware and do not care one way of the other. Those passing this bill have an agenda which simply does not speak to any of the things that concern us, and our concerns (and our agenda) simply does not speak to the things that concerns those who are passing this bill.


I would strongly doubt the unaware portion and put more emphasis on them not caring one way or the other.


I don't understand why this should be downvoted. Are those downvoting it suggesting that the government does indeed want to see these sites go? Or that they will go?

One thing that has been confusing me during the course of the proceedings is that it has been repeatedly suggested that SOPA will be only affecting foreign websites. Is this not actually the case? Or are people more concerned with the precedent that will be established?


It's a statement akin to "Yeah, he may driving drunk, but I don't think he intends to kill anybody." People rarely intend the ill consequences of their risky behavior, but closing your eyes and humming doesn't make it safer. The legislators who passed child pornography laws probably didn't intend to cause 13-year-olds to get prosecuted under the law, but that's what ended up happening. Passing a law that allows terrible things to happen and just trusting that nobody will ever actually do those terrible things is naive at best.

So any question that starts with "Do you really think they intend…" is a red herring.


It's being downvoted because the governments intentions are somewhat irrelevant.

The law - as it is written - can be used to shutdown sites like Reddit. There is nothing stopping someone using it in that way, even if it isn't the governments intention.


> I don't understand why this should be downvoted. Are those downvoting it suggesting that the government does indeed want to see these sites go? Or that they will go?

The Government doesn't care, and the sites will go because it will be too expensive or impossible for them to monitor user-generated content.

> One thing that has been confusing me during the course of the proceedings is that it has been repeatedly suggested that SOPA will be only affecting foreign websites. Is this not actually the case?

Wrong. It will also affect foreign websites because ICANN controls the DNS system.


From what I've been reading, the bill grants the DoJ power to combat sites outside of US jurisdiction.

See title I sec 102. http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?c112:1:./temp/~c1124uh...:

Is this only a piece of the larger picture?

edit: On further inspection, it appears as though title 2 does in fact grant powers for combatting domestic sites as well.

Or at least the language isn't explicitly speaking to foreign websites.




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