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The White House's Response to SOPA (whitehouse.gov)
290 points by sim0n on Jan 14, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 148 comments



Let us be clear—online piracy is a real problem that harms the American economy, and threatens jobs for significant numbers of middle class workers and hurts some of our nation's most creative and innovative companies and entrepreneurs. It harms everyone from struggling artists to production crews, and from startup social media companies to large movie studios.

One of these things is not like the others.

While we are strongly committed to the vigorous enforcement of intellectual property rights, existing tools are not strong enough to root out the worst online pirates beyond our borders. That is why the Administration calls on all sides to work together to pass sound legislation this year that provides prosecutors and rights holders new legal tools to combat online piracy originating beyond U.S. borders while staying true to the principles outlined above in this response.

We fully support the censorship of the internet, which baffles and scares us. However, this single step may have been too drastic. Please allow us some time to find stepping stones.


I voted for Obama, but when he says "Let us be clear", you know some bullshit is coming.


To me, bullshit indicates that the speaker does not actually believe what he says.

Is it possible that Obama just has different values from you? The way I read it, he very plainly is in favor of prosecuting copyright violators, and simply wants to eliminate some of the more egregious provisions of the currently proposed law.

I don't think Obama is trying to obfuscate that view in any way, and is being very clear about it.


Unless the WH response stated that explicitly, it's probably phrased specifically to sound like a reasonable position to everyone who reads it, regardless of their position.

So no, it's not clear.


Perhaps values themselves can be bullshit. The word sounds more like cursing than terminology, so when someone says that something is bullshit, it is not clear if the meaning is "something is a lie" or "something is incorrect" or something else.


Read the essay "On Bullshit" by Harry Frankfurt (http://press.princeton.edu/titles/7929.html).


Yes, if he doesn't believe what he says he is lying. If he doesn't care whether it's true or false, but feels what he's saying will further his goals, he's bullshitting.


"Bullshit" is generally a messy combination of lies, misdirection and words intended give one impression but have a different meaning.


I believe Harry Frankfurt had something to say about that.


While I agree with the sentiment, this isn't written under Obama's name. Its listed authors are Victoria Espinel, Aneesh Chopra, and Howard Schmidt.


Attempting to alienate the President from an official press release from the White House is pushing a bit too far on a technicality. His administration is responsible for the ideas expressed in that release, whether his name is on it or not.


I didn't mean to "alienate the president" from this in policy position terms, but speaking of rhetorical style and flourishes, it seems a little silly to use "Obama says" to cover anything written by anyone officially on behalf of his administration.


And anything that starts with "Look...".


Quote of the day.


Sure, but you can cherry-pick other parts, too:

Any provision covering Internet intermediaries such as online advertising networks, payment processors, or search engines must be transparent and designed to prevent overly broad private rights of action that could encourage unjustified litigation that could discourage startup businesses and innovative firms from growing.

Proposed laws must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet through manipulation of the Domain Name System (DNS), a foundation of Internet security

etc etc

It's not a perfect statement, but real politics is about compromise.

Perhaps a solution can be found so goods manufactures can have some course of action against counterfeit-good websites, without it destroying the internet. I'm not sure what that solution could be, but we shouldn't preclude the possibility.


Politics isn't a compromise, it's a ratchet. The laws the entrenched interests want are rarely repealed - they are only passed. So we get the DMCA, but we never compromise and eliminate some of the bad parts. We get SOPA (perhaps watered down), and once it's passed, we'll never eliminate the bad parts. Then they try again.

In much the same way, the emergency of 9/11 is over, yet the patriot act still lives. Similarly, bureaucracies get created, but never seem to get destroyed.

Compromise slows things down, but it never seems to stop it. And compromise always goes one way. That's why we can't be satisfied with compromise.


Bureaucracies and bad laws are destroyed - in wars when you're on the losing side.

Just ask Japan and half of Europe after WW2 for example. Maybe that enabled the great 30 years that followed ?


Very few governments will ever willfully simplify themselves. The trend is always for more complexity, more departments, more officials, more wars, more government employees. This happened with the Maya, the Romans, the Egyptians, and practically ever other fallen civilization. That's because a civilization gets used to solving problems in a certain way and when they start to get a negative marginal return on their investment, they keep trudging along and eventually the society collapses unless there's a new source of technological capability that can keep things moving along. Anyway, that's just Joseph A. Tainter's "Collapse Of Complex Societies" in a nutshell for ya'.


Definitely. U.S. General MacArthur and staff literally wrote the current Japanese "Peace" constitution, and forced the Emperor from Japanese politics.


That's the hypothesis of the economist Mancur Olson.


Isn't this sentiment self-fulfilling, if shared by enough people? (full disclosure: although I don't work in politics, I live in DC and my SO works in congress).

When Lamar Smith held hearings on the bill, Google was the only anti-SOPA tech company invited to speak. Truth is, Google was a cynical choice for the token opposition, since they aren't very popular in congress right now — because of anti-trust, among other things — and they're terribly disorganized when it comes to politics. So there was no real tech input in crafting or modifying this legislation (I don't count GoDaddy). If this response is genuine in its request for legislation crafted by both sides of the issue, it will not be an amended version of any of the current bills. Anyway, I'm told that it's extremely unlikely SOPA will make it out of committee — non-judiciary members who don't have a stake in the issue are inclined to vote no after being flooded by constituent calls, and leadership doesn't like to introduce bills on the floor of the house that won't pass.

If you're offered a seat at the table, isn't it better to try to influence the process? Sure, if you get steam-rolled and ignored you have every right to complain and be angry, but why not do so when and if that happens, not before?


We need to go on the offensive so that the compromise position ends up moving things our way.


>Politics isn't a compromise, it's a ratchet.

Doesn't do much to explain women's suffrage...


Better example: 18th amendment (1919) vs. 21st amendment (1933). Prohibition empowered three bureaucracies that were then disempowered over a dozen years later. I don't see how that can be seen as a ratchet.

There are many such examples from all over the world; millions if you look at the actual details of laws, rather than just the broad strokes.


Things are much worse now than they were pre-Prohibition. We have the awful three-tier system which means higher prices and less choice for consumers. Not to mention the accumulated brewing knowledge that was lost by Prohibition + a 45 year ban on homebrewing. It's only in the past 20 or so years that we've begun to undo the damage, and we're still worse off.


I would pick a different example. The 21st Amendment rescinded much of the power 18th Amendment gave, but then retained: "The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited."

So, perfect example of the ratchet effect: go forward, but then not all the way back. Okay, okay, ratchets don't allow any backward movement, but close enough.


Sure it does. Womens suffrage didnt repeal any laws, remove ant government powers, or destroy any beauracracies. Try repealing the 19th amendment and see how far you get.


> It's not a perfect statement, but real politics is about compromise.

We can't win by repeatedly compromising between the status quo and the extremist positions adopted by the MAFIAA. The best we can do is lose more slowly. To win, we need to take the offensive legislatively as well as technologically. I tweeted 25 proposals for this yesterday; here are a couple:

• Instead of fighting to keep DMCA's safe-harbor provisions, let's work to expand them. For example, make filing a false notice costly for the filer: provide a civil cause of action to the speaker whose speech is squelched, with statutory damages of, say, US$3000.

• Legalize noncommercial copyright infringement completely, as long as proper credit is given. The current copyright law was written over the course of 200 years with the idea that it was regulating the commercial activities of publishing companies, and it's far, far too complex to expect ordinary people to understand, particularly in relation to their hobbies. But over the last 30 or 40 years, it's accidentally come to apply every time you SMS your friends or celebrate a birthday in a restaurant. Laws should codify and enforce social norms, not contradict them. This proposal would bring copyright law in line with current social norms among the YouTube set.

• The NET Act redefined "commercial gain" to include the expectation of receiving copyrighted works. Repeal that, because otherwise it criminalizes BitTorrent. (It was actually enacted in order to criminalize David LaMacchia's open-access FTP site, which was a sort of mid-1990s version of MediaFire or DropBox.)

• Require all software developed under government contracts to be released as open source unless it's classified. Taking taxpayer money and investing it in the creation of privately-owned capital goods, such as valuable software copyrights, is straight-up corruption, bordering on embezzlement. If the taxpayers paid for it, they should have the right to use it, as long as that use doesn't interfere with the use it was built for.

• Eliminate FCC device approval for license-free bands like ISM 2.4GHz; prosecute only if illegal emissions occur. This would open up an immense space for hobbyist experimentation in new means of communication, and additionally make it a lot easier to get Wi-Fi cards working on Linux, since right now manufacturers claim the FCC forbids them from providing source to their radio firmware.


> Perhaps a solution can be found so goods manufactures can have some course of action against counterfeit-good websites, without it destroying the internet. I'm not sure what that solution could be, but we shouldn't preclude the possibility.

The civil court system?


Yeah, but then the new class of "rightsholders" would have to pay for the enforcement of these new "rights" themselves. Surely they're entitled to have their "rights" enforced at others' expense.


When rights of Imaginary Property ("IP") are upheld more vigilantly than the rights of due process (see: Manning, NDAA, SOPA, PIPA, OPEN, etc), you know the system of checks and balances is broken.


Manning is being court-martialed under the UCMJ, like any other soldier would be, for leaking classified information. I don't see how either IP or lack of due process apply here. Manning is being given due process, and his offense had nothing to do with IP any more than that of Julius Rosenberg or Jonathan Pollard.


Compromise is appropriate and necessary when advancing civil liberties and protections that have traditionally been ignored by society, not when compromise involves abolishing existing protected liberties.


Its pretty clear that the government wants is to inject themselves in the whole distribution chain of online commerce, from advertising, search, payment, etc. DNS was just one link. That's pretty worrisome.


That press statement, to me, is a typical example of using transparency as a political tool to give citizens a false sense of participation.

This is Obama's passivity during the LGBT rights activities during 2011 all over again.

(Well, except that I am sure he wasn't paid to sit idly by when the LGBT movement was at its apex.)

Keep calm and carry on.


Is this "passivity" a critique or praise of Obama? Not to go too far off-topic, but...

Despite the economy and foreign policy being by far the most important issue throughout his presidency, his administration has been quite active and successful on LGBT issues.

They've repealed DADT, changed the rules for LGBT in foreign service and passed Matthew Shepard hate crimes legislation.

He's done all this without making LGBT issues a public spectacle, with a Congress that hates him and a public that hasn't made up its mind. It's for these reasons that HRC provides its full-throated support for Obama.

Again -- I'm sorry for derailing the SOPA discussion, but we should keep our facts and impressions well-founded or our primary arguments will fall flat.


I remember 2011, wasn't that the year when don't ask don't tell got repealed?


Most of the anti-SOPA companies like Google would agree with the sentiment of this statement. Look at their statement during the SOPA hearings. http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/pdf/Oyama%2011162011.pdf

"While we have serious concerns with SOPA as written, we look forward to working with the Committee to find focused mechanisms that effectively target foreign rogue sites. Already, Google and other companies are engaged in voluntary, industry-led efforts to attack the problem. As detailed below, we believe that legislation guided by common sense principles and focused on eliminating the financial incentives for rogue sites – while avoiding collateral damage – would receive wide support from the technology sector."

Not everyone who is against SOPA is also (publicly) OK with online piracy...they limit their arguments to the logistical problems introduce by SOPA enforcement


You put too much into their words, but it's simple, they just don't get it. And it's not just the US Government, or the UK Government, or any other Government, it's the entire ruling class who just sits with its head in the sand and wishes that things would just remain the same. The last two times when that huge of a disconnect happened we had the French Revolution and Lenin's grabbing of power in Russia, let's just hope that this time things will be smoother.


I disagree; actually, they _do_ get it. The ruling class gets it very well indeed. They saw the use of the Internet in the Jasmine Revolutions, and are shit scared about it spreading to other countries. This is why they want to jump in and get control of the Internet _now_, while there is still time.

This time they tried the excuse of music and movies (because hey, who doesn't like good music and entertainment?). Next time they'll try with something else (maybe the usual standby, child porn).

Make no mistake about it: SOPA/PIPA will happen, unless we really ratchet up the resistance. A few phone calls to a senator don't cut it. Users likes us, and companies like Google, Facebook, etc. need to put down some serious cash.

Welcome to the big leagues!


In what way do the authors of this statement "not get it"?

This thread seems to be full of a depressing amount of cynicism, FUD, or outright lies aimed at the people responsible, but it seems to be one big ad hominem. I don't see a lot of comments even trying to address the substance of the statement.

I do see several posts dismissing the whole response as empty rhetoric that doesn't say anything, even though there are several measures they say quite plainly and unambiguously they won't support (and it is good that they won't). OK, we get it, some of you don't trust Obama/government/the US/whoever. If you start from the position that they're just generating emtpy waffle to appease the critics, you have immediately rendered any contribution you might make irrelevant, since you presuppose that nothing you say matters anyway.

I don't see a single post acknowledging that any realistic official position on this sort of issue must strike a balance between addressing genuine problems with piracy and addressing genuine technical/ethical concerns with the measures used to do so. In fact, that's my big problem with much of the opposition to proposed laws like this: it's all reactive and complaining about bad laws, but no-one is stepping up to propose a real solution that is more technically and ethically acceptable and still does something about the original problem. Shouting abuse from the cheap seats isn't going to advance the debate in any useful way.

Sadly, the level of debate here is more like Slashdot lite than anything constructive: information wants to be free, they wouldn't have bought it anyway so it's not a lost sale, artists aren't entitled to any income and should just give live performances, the big media companies are asking for it with their consumer-hostile policies, intellectual property isn't real property and copyright infringement isn't theft, yada yada. It's just rationalising breaking the law, and I would bet good money that most people doing so haven't got the slightest clue about how many people work in creative industries and the real economics of those industries, though I'd also bet that the same people are among the first to complain about the state of the economy as their taxes go up, unemployment rises, their investment/pension returns fall, and so on.

So, can we please try to have a constructive, balanced debate about this issue from now on? We have clearly reached a tipping point. There is potentially more public awareness and support for action from other businesses both large and small now than at any time in a generation. We can make a robust case that the whole system is broken and needs to be restored to some kind of sanity that can be accepted as reasonable by most people and enforced against the remainder, or we can continue to throw stones at the glass house and convince the political classes beyond any doubt that the lobbyists are the only sane people in the game.


>I do see several posts dismissing the whole response as empty rhetoric that doesn't say anything, even though there are several measures they say quite plainly and unambiguously they won't support (and it is good that they won't).

I agree that there is rampant cynicism abound, but it is not without merit. Obama "quite plainly" (in fact, explicitly) doesn't support NDAA, yet he somehow managed to reconcile has lack of support with making the bill into law. The people believe the white house is full of shit.

>Sadly, level of debate here is more like Slashdot lite than anything constructive:

No HN post is complete without a smug jab at an inferior web community, great way to elevate the debate.

>yada yada. It's just rationalizing breaking the law

Another quality debate technique: aggregate every position enumerated by the silly neckbeards and broadly dismiss them all in a single rhetorical stroke.

>I would bet good money that most people doing so haven't got the slightest clue about how many people work in creative industries and the real economics of those industries

That is just insulting. Particularly on HN, many of those who take the positions you casually dismiss represent a surplus of extremely creative and successful software developers who endure the dubious menace of piracy on a daily basis. The reason these people say things like "do live shows" is because they responded to the reality of a digital world by creating value that is not intrinsically bound to a sequence of ones and zeroes (SaaS etc) instead of refusing to adapt.

>So, can we please try to have a constructive, balanced debate about this issue from now on? We have clearly reached a tipping point. There is potentially more public awareness and support for action from other businesses both large and small now than at any time in a generation.

I agree that a more constructive debate would benefit everyone, but we don't just throw all our ideas out the window in an effort to placate those who might just be on the wrong side of history.


In my mind I can theoretically believe piracy is costing someone somewhere some money.

My problem with this kind of legislation however is: - that it vastly overestimates the real scale of the problem - that when legitimate alternatives appear - like with iTunes vs music piracy - the problem tends to evaporate or at least start a significant downward trend - that even if the 2 previous points were incorrect, it still doesn't take into account the relative weight of the problem it tries to correct and the problem it creates

So IMO, not implementing the legislation will not damage the other industries, while at the same time not impede the downward trend in piracy - provided legitimate alternatives are available. Implementing the legislation OTOH may or may not stop piracy quicker, at the cost of a lot of collateral damage.

If lawmakers absolutely must legislate something, I'd propose to make laws that remove barriers and obstacles to implement those "legitimate alternatives". For example, set up globally centralized licensing to break down geographic barriers, or an official way to figure out from who you need to license a song, a movie, code. Basically remove every obstacle between the consumer and the licensor. If that happens, I'm willing to bet that piracy will be a fraction of the problem it is now.

But yes, you'll never eliminate it completely - but I think that even the most strident pro-IP people realize they'll never be able to banish all piracy from this world.


>no-one is stepping up to propose a real solution that is more technically and ethically acceptable and still does something about the original problem.

To do that would be to accept the premise that there was an original problem. I think most people here would agree with me when I say that the current laws are entirely adequate to deal with online piracy. We've already compromised. Current laws restrict our free speech a little bit to protect the profits of copyright holders. I'd prefer if current laws were relaxed or repealed, Hollywood would prefer if my rights were infringed upon even more. In what way is the status quo not an adequate compromise?


> In what way is the status quo not an adequate compromise?

In the way that the current laws are flagrantly abused by significant numbers of people, at an unknown but substantial cost to the legal rightsholder.

Whether new laws are required to address this situation or more effective enforcement of existing laws would suffice is a different question, of course.


> In what way do the authors of this statement "not get it"?

The times are changing. I'm not saying "they don't get it" as in "they're stupid, they don't know what they're talking about" (they certainly do, otherwise they wouldn't have received lobby money), I'm just saying that they cannot see that the whole world is changing, or if they do see that, they have the audacity to think that they can do something to stop it.

Anyway, as a guy living in Europe this whole SOPA thing reminds me of one of Marx's stories, about a English industrialist in the mid 1800s who had just set foot in Australia and who wanted to mimic the same capitalistic conditions there (children working 16 hours per day etc.) as he had done in native England. But much to his surprise, Australia being a new world with new rules and capitalism not being a universal or Platonic-like truth, he wasn't able to exploit people in Australia as he used to do in England.

And about "cynicism", I know I'm probably in the minority, but to my knowledge there's nothing wrong with thinking critically about the world surrounding you and not just thinking that there's some "ideal" to which all those around you would eagerly submit.


I agree that the times are changing. The Internet provides us with a means to share information quickly and cheaply, with a wider audience than ever before, and it allows anyone from a single person working alone to a global business to contribute that information initially.

But some things are not changing. Good content does not create itself. Most of the time, the best content is not created by hobbyists working in their spare time, either. We've been trying this experiment for a while now, and everything from Open Source software to self-published books paints a very clear and consistent picture: while there are the occasional gems, most of the work simply isn't very good by professional standards.

Creating the most informative, useful, interesting or entertaining content usually involves a lot of hard work. Often that work is done by a whole network of people with specialist skills. Often that work is not particularly enjoyable or glamorous. Often that work is not done by people who are going to reap vast rewards if the product is a hit, but rather by people paid a relatively low wage for their efforts. Still, the people doing that work have rent to pay and mouths to feed and interests of their own to support.

Now, I will be the first to agree that modern copyright laws in many jurisdictions have gone way too far in some respects. That is harmful to consumers, because it prevents them from doing otherwise reasonable things (or punishes them if they do those things anyway). IMHO, it is also harmful to businesses, because any law that loses the support of the public by going too far also loses any useful impact to the extent that the underlying idea is reasonable.

But a lot of the nay-sayers in this debate seem to see only the free side of this situation. They see that the marginal cost of distribution is now near zero, and conclude that everyone should be entitled to good content for free because it's out there anyway. They ignore, deliberately or out of ignorance, the often very high fixed costs associated with creating good content in the first place, or they decide (within some ethical framework that I have never understood) that it's OK for other people to contribute to that cost but they don't have to themselves. Then they rationalise their position with the kinds of excuse I mentioned before.

If this trend continues, we will develop an entire generation with a horribly damaging entitlement culture, and unless a viable alternative economic model develops sooner rather than later, content production will become a race to the bottom and good content (by today's professional standards) will become one of those mythical things we explain to our grandchildren starting with the words "When I was your age...".

This is not inevitable. All it takes to stop it is near-global standardisation on a fair economic framework that promotes the creation of good content. Whether that is copyright or something else is an interesting question. But as long as we confine the debate to a black-and-white "Big Media Bad, Cheap Freeloading Good" or "Cheap Freeloading Bad, Big Media Good" result, no real solution is going to get anywhere and we're just going to see a continuing arms race between commercial content producers and freeloaders with increasingly absurd penalties hitting the players on both sides when they lose.


In my view, a utopian society produces a lot of high-quality art, which everyone is free to consume, to study, to modify and to share with a friend.

Laws concerning art should get us as close to that society as possible. We should value both our freedoms and plentiful art, not just the latter as you seem to be arguing.

Copyright and patents are a compromise: since there are no effective business models that generate high-quality liberated content, we will make do with high-quality restricted content instead. It's the poverty mentality: since we can't have both our freedoms and high-quality content, we'll take just the latter.

Increasingly, though, the premise of that compromise is no longer true. Thanks largely to the Internet, more and more businesses are successfully generating high-quality open source software, and more and more artists are distributing high-quality art that they encourage people to be creative with.

Since we don't need that compromise as much any more, one would expect to see IP laws get gradually less and less restrictive. Every year, we should be seeing fair use getting expanded, copyright terms getting shorter and software patents getting weaker. We don't need to abolish copyright and patents all at once, until we find good enough business models that are widely applicable. But we certainly don't need more laws like SOPA.

> "But some things are not changing. Good content does not create itself. Most of the time, the best content is not created by hobbyists working in their spare time, either. We've been trying this experiment for a while now, and everything from Open Source software to self-published books paints a very clear and consistent picture: while there are the occasional gems, most of the work simply isn't very good by professional standards."

I suggest you familiarise yourself much more with open source software. I would argue that the best operating system kernels, the best browsers, the best servers, the best programming languages, the best databases, the best virtualization software and the best media players are all open source. Most of these (such as Linux, Apache, Firefox, Chrome, Hadoop, etc) are not developed solely by "hobbyists", but primarily but by fully-paid developers. The same goes for books: a lot of O'Reilly's books nowadays are licensed freely, and yet they still make a profit. These products are definitely very good by professional standards. Computer engineers were the first to catch on to these business models, but they will spread to other types of art, just as the Internet is spreading across domains. The law should embrace this change, not resist it.


> "Good content does not create itself"

While it's tempting for me to caricature my idealogical opponents using examples of pithy, meaningless platitudes such as this one, I shall strive not to follow your example. If you really do value honest discussion, I think you'll find such preaching to be self-defeating.

> "...everything from Open Source software to self-published books paints a very clear and consistent picture"

Please do break this down with some stats and examples. You can't possibly be so naive to think this statement will be taken as axiomatic.

> "...while there are the occasional gems, most of the work simply isn't very good by professional standards."

Ah, an ad-hominem of your own, most self-righteously disguised. I am writing this comment entirely using tools that are covered under OSS licenses. I earn my living using the same tools, and my work is also covered under an OSS license. You'll note that I said "earn", and from that you might deduce that commerce and OSS are not mutually exclusive. You might also observe a counter-point to your rather haughty categorizations of "professional" and "hobbyist" creation. I even have hope that you may perceive the irony of accusing your opponents of being "black-and-white". Speaking of which...

> But as long as we confine the debate to a black-and-white "Big Media Bad, Cheap Freeloading Good" or "Cheap Freeloading Bad, Big Media Good"

You seem to have created your own personal straw-man using the most radical contingent of anti-IP viewpoints. I'm surprised you didn't call them freetards. Your post consists almost entirely of shallow, difficult-to-argue-with assertions seemingly aimed at thick-headed techno-communists. Do you honestly expect many folks here to recognize only the marginal cost of content production? Any answer other than "no" will tell me that you haven't been paying much attention. So long as you only hear what you want to hear, you won't be able to intelligently converse with the many folks here who are somewhere in between the extremes. Folks like me, who might say things like...

- I highly value content and the minds that produce it. Perhaps more than anything else, art is what makes life worth living for me. I require it, and I thus require content producers to produce it. I am willing to pay for it, but like everything else that I buy, the cost must be sustainable.

- Technology has long been at point where content is presented and used in its purest form: a totally non-rivalrous and totally non-excludable commodity. The carriers required in earlier times, e.g. books, CDs, etc., are no longer required. Any piece of content is now exactly equivalent to any other piece of information -- the words of a book, a song, a picture, an idea, a rumor, a number. There is nothing novel to me about the idea of copyright, or in its value as a temporary monopoly on the distribution of information intended to incentivize the creation of said information. Again, if you pay attention, I think you'll find this to be a commonly accepted notion around here.

- When non-rivalrous and non-excludable goods are treated like rivalrous and/or excludable goods for the purposes of regulation, bad things generally happen. The methods by which this must be done are obtuse, ineffective, and in my opinion, often unethical. Think censorship, DRM, security-through-obscurity, etc.

- It seems to me that if someone wants to make money from a completely non-rivalrous and non-excludable product, the onus is very much on them to distribute their product in a commercially viable way. Some artists are embracing the inevitable challenges of making money from information in today's market. The large distribution cartels (e.d. RIAA) have completely rejected them, and expect governments to maintain the old business models for them using force.

There is indeed much room for compromise, but be not mislead about the depth of the convictions of those who disagree with you, nor of the scope of their knowledge and experience.


You seem to have spectacularly misunderstood my position, and even reading back over the earlier posts in this thread, I honestly can't see why. I am in favour of balance, recognising that there is a genuine problem with piracy and real economic damage being done to creative industries, but also recognising that ill-conceived legislation like SOPA is not the way to fix it. I want to see a balanced legislative approach that restores copyright to something respectable and faithful to the basic idea without the excessive protections and penalties that have been developing in various jurisdictions today. But I also have no sympathy with the "information wants to be free crowd", because I think they are at best economically naive and at worst selfish freeloaders. I genuinely can't understand how my comments in the grandparent post seem to have convinced you that I am some sort of evil copyright zealot.

To address your specific points:

> Please do break this down with some stats and examples.

OK, Open Source first:

Linux vs. Windows/MacOS (on the desktop)

OpenOffice vs. MS Office or Apple iWork

GIMP/Inkscape/Scribus vs. Adobe Creative Suite

Blender and related tools vs. Autodesk suite and related tools

??? vs. Exchange Server

??? vs. Skyrim/Battlefield 3/any other AAA game you like

??? vs. any serious CAD package

??? vs. any serious business admin suite

And those are all big name products, the kind of thing where there is critical mass for developers to build and sustain a serious OSS project, and where there are plausible alternative revenue streams available via selling support, commercial sponsorship by a company that wants to software to exist for other reasons than selling it directly, etc. Generally, OSS does best in those sorts of areas: system/server software, programming software, geek toys, mass-market content production/consumption tools, basically anything a lot of geeks are going to be interested in. There are very few OSS success stories in more specialist niches or in building the kinds of professional software that keep businesses running.

As for self-published books, I'll give you the challenge on that one: please name one textbook that you would want your kids' school to use that was self-published by the author(s) without any sort of copyright-based incentive scheme but is as good or better in quality than textbooks produced following the traditional publishing route.

> Ah, an ad-hominem of your own, most self-righteously disguised.

You need to look up what ad hominem means. I am not attacking the creators of the work. I am attacking the quality of the work. There is no logical fallacy there.

> You seem to have created your own personal straw-man using the most radical contingent of anti-IP viewpoints.

The trouble is, they aren't particularly radical viewpoints among the anti-IP crowd. Read any debate on tech-heavy forums like this one or Slashdot, and you'll find plenty of people who really believe we should abolish penalties for any non-commercial copying of works under copyright. Plenty of people really do quote the "information wants to be free" line and use the near-zero marginal cost to justify rampant piracy while totally disregarding the fixed up-front costs of development. Plenty of people really do claim that piracy isn't costing copyright holders anything because there's no guarantee that anyone ripping a copy without paying would have paid for a legal copy anyway, a position about as plausible as the movie industry claiming that their actual losses due to infringement are greater than the global GDP. This is not some extreme caricature I've conjured up to make an argument. These are views publicly expressed by large numbers of anti-copyright advocates all the time. When faced with this sort of advocacy, often by people who are essentially defending breaking the law by claiming it's bad law, it's hardly surprising that politicians who aren't particularly technically literate are sceptical.

> Do you honestly expect many folks here to recognize only the marginal cost of content production?

Based on the overwhelming consensus of the comments that had been made when I wrote my first post to this thread -- not to mention the common groupthink on various other forums with an ongoing interest in this subject -- I not only expect it, I think it is pretty much proven beyond any doubt. A few more reasonable people have posted to this particular discussion since, fortunately.

> It seems to me that if someone wants to make money from a completely non-rivalrous and non-excludable product, the onus is very much on them to distribute their product in a commercially viable way.

And what way is that, exactly, if we don't enforce copyrights?

> Some artists are embracing the inevitable challenges of making money from information in today's market.

And they represent a tiny fraction of the content consumed today.

Indeed, one of the strongest arguments for the effectiveness of copyright as an economic tool and against the effectiveness of various oft-proposed alternative incentive schemes is that typically today's copyright laws don't prevent anyone from adopting one of the alternatives if it really does provide a better incentive. However, almost no-one has done so successfully.

> The large distribution cartels (e.d. RIAA) have completely rejected them, and expect governments to maintain the old business models for them using force.

That is how laws work. But bizarrely, a lot of people seem to think it's entirely reasonable for the law to prohibit copyright infringement, yet for the entire burden of finding infringers and bringing them to justice to fall on the copyright holder. I wonder how those people would feel if their houses were burgled and the police told them to do their own forensic work, arrest the burglers when they found them, and take them to court personally? Or, to give a more directly comparable scenario to avoid any concerns about comparing physical and intellectual property, how would those people feel if they were tricked out of a normal return on their retirement savings by professional fraudsters, and the police gave a similar response?

> There is indeed much room for compromise, but be not mislead about the depth of the convictions of those who disagree with you, nor of the scope of their knowledge and experience.

The scale of global piracy makes the convictions of those who disagree with me (or just don't care) quite clear.


While I think we agree, I don't think cynicism is the way to go about it.

"Information wants to be free" is real, and passing laws to stop it is a fool's errand.

We should be working to harness this new distribution network, and build content businesses that work with piracy, not against it.


Additionally the timing is very "suspicious". When already a co-sponsor of the bill announces that some re-drafting is necessary it seems like a very convenient timing to join the train.


One of the authors, Victoria Espinel, made these suggestions to Congress last year (http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/03/15/concrete-steps-con...):

* Ensure that, in appropriate circumstances, infringement by streaming, or by means of other similar new technology, is a felony;

* Authorize DHS (including its component CBP) to share pre-seizure information about, and samples of, products and devices with rightholders to help DHS to determine whether the products are infringing or the devices are circumvention devices; and

* Give law enforcement wiretap authority for criminal copyright and trademark offenses.

Doesn't look like a "soft" position to me.


I think the response to this letter represents everything that's wrong with the tech community's approach to SOPA, etc.

You can't pretend the political process doesn't exist. We live in a country of 300 million people, each other their own interests, and this is the ugly way they all get hashed out.

At it's core, the White House's response to this petition is both reasonable and an opportunity. Basically they say: 1) we don't want to shut down Google, reddit, etc 2) we can't ignore the grievances of copyright holders, and asks the internet community for help reconciling (1) and (2).

Some of the things facilitated through places like thepiratebay.org are completely illegal, and I don't think anyone is trying to justify those activities. What people are doing, rather, is creating this extreme dichotomy: either thepiratebay.org exists completely in its current form, or you have to censor the entire internet. That is not the dichotomy you want to create, because losing that battle would be of course disastrous.

Given the current climate, and the status of Google, Apple, et al as the only bright part of a dismal economy, the tech industry is uniquely positioned to help pass an extremely narrow law that does little more than give people the political ammo to tell the MPAA/RIAA "hey you already got what you want!" But that'll require a willingness to participate in the political process that I don't think these companies have.


They did already get what they wanted. It was called the DMCA. I don't think your plan will do much more to stop them. They won't be satisfied until they completely eliminate piracy, and that won't happen without horrible measures (completely stamping out almost any crime is the same way)


The DMCA, for all its warts, was a pretty decent solution. The DMCA safe harbor provisions, and the body of precedent that has been built up around it, has been crucial in allowing the growth of sites like Youtube.

The problem now is foreign sites that host copyrighted material, which the DMCA doesn't help with much. This is not an imaginary problem. Over Thanksgiving, my mom was showing my aunt how to download movies from these sites.

I'm not sure what the solution is, but "don't legislate the internet" won't be part of that solution. The world has laws, and the internet is just a way for real-world people to communicate. It will be subject to law. They can either be good laws protective of peoples' rights or they can be bad ones. If the technology community takes its marbles and goes home, it will be the latter.


> Over Thanksgiving, my mom was showing my aunt how to download movies from these sites.

I am Chinese, I play tons of pirated games, over thanksgiving, I bought my favorite ones on Steam at a discount price, even thought I have done playing it.

The funny thing is, to pay for those games, I have to fake my country code and get an American IP address using a VPN. Is it pirating if stuff are not even available on my local market?


You guys do know Victoria Espinel right? Her position as "Copyright Czar" was created by Obama's government.

From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria_Espinel:

Espinel received eleven letters of in support of the nomination from related organizations including the MPAA, the Copyright Alliance, and the United States Chamber of Commerce.[7] As the IPEC, Espinel has stated she has a singular objective: develop and implement a comprehensive, unified approach to IP enforcement for the U.S. government.[1]

So if the response reads a little suspicious, it's because she (and presumably the administration) has a side on the issue.


Why is it "suspicious?" Yes, the administration has a stance on this issue, one that is not popular amongst the readers of this site. But I don't think they are denying that stance or pretending to believe anything else.


Suspicious was the wrong word. It reads to me like a lot of agreeing with SOPA opposition: "We must avoid creating new cybersecurity risks or disrupting the underlying architecture of the Internet."

But then tries to jam in:

"That is why the Administration calls on all sides to work together to pass sound legislation this year that provides prosecutors and rights holders new legal tools to combat online piracy originating beyond U.S. borders"

No! The internet has no borders. American laws and "rights" don't apply outside of the United States. That's why the United States tortures people outside of the US. You can't say that US law applies to copying MP3s, but not torture.

That's why if you read between the lines, the response is not saying "We agree with you.", it's saying "I'll get you next time, Gadget, next time."


Words are very very cheap, especially in an election year.

If SOPA passes, the only way to fight it is to make sure it's reverse abused - if a fortune 500 posts a copyrighted image onto their site, get the entire website blocked. If a media outlet uses your youtube video inside their own video broadcast without permission, get their entire website blocked.

Pretty sure all the major news outlet websites could be taken offline at least once a month.


Do you honestly think you can take down a fotrune 500 company's website because they infrige a single image's copyright?

Of course they can do it to people, though.


If it works like the DMCA system I am positive you could do that.

Even if the corporation owns their own servers the connectivity provider would be required to obey your demand to disconnect them.

Just make sure you aren't doing false claims because that would certainly end up with prison time.

This is exactly how the DMCA works now.


No, the DMCA doesn't work like that. It doesn't require any action by the site owner at all. It simply says that if you demand removal in the proper manner and the content is removed from the site promptly, then the site owner cannot be held liable for any infringement. In practice, site owners are very responsive to DMCA demands from "big content" and pretty much ignore them from everyone else.


> In practice, site owners are very responsive to DMCA demands from "big content" and pretty much ignore them from everyone else.

That isn't even FUD, it's an outright lie. Please take your unfounded allegations and conspiracy theories elsewhere.

(I work with/know personally several people/small organisations who are content producers, whose work has been widely ripped off, but who have been quite successful at limiting their unwanted exposure on the big name content sharing sites because of DMCA takedown notices and similar provisions elsewhere in the world.)


Granted, the plural of anecdote is not data, but I've filed six DMCA takedown notices for photographs I've placed under Creative Commons licenses but were not used according to the terms of those licenses. Every company I dealt with took swift action to take down the infringing material.


I am sure those were reasonable demands but the proposition here is for a nuisance "work to rule" campaign. Understanding the political motivation, the big companies could call your bluff and wait for a court order, expensive to obtain.

Not a real downside risk, but my point is that the circumstances are not directly comparable once the intention is to kick the hornet's nest.


Ha-ha. Let's take Google's current approach to DMCA for instance. You are a small guy. A big guy sends a completely baseless DMCA complain. Google takes down the URL. Well, that’s the policy blah-blah; everything is according DMCA. You send a contra-down notice. According to DMCA you don’t need to explain anything. However Google sends you an email (I’m quoting) “We would like to help you, but we require more information. Please provide additional details clarifying the reason for your reinstatement request.” That put you in an awkward position. Since the initial take-down notice was completely baseless – you simply has nothing to provide. So this time Google doesn’t react with the same speed. Their email reads “We have received your DMCA counter notification dated XX/XX/XXXX. As described in 17 U.S.C. 512(g), we will forward the counter notification to the complainant. If we do not receive notice that the complainant has brought a court action within 10 to 14 days, we will reinstate the material in question.” As you can see – immediate respond just disappeared. Google wants to wait 10-14 days despite of direct and explicit SOPA text that allows (requires actually) reinstatement of the content. Just read it. Google is going to keep your content banned based on a started court action(!) - not the court verdict. Well, you might think it works both ways. If that’s the case – try to send a semi-baseless complain about a big guy page. Somehow it will not work the same way.

That's what happens right now. And that's Google. no-shmno evel - but Google does try to be neutral. That's as much as they could go.

And now SOPA/PIPA is about to create the situation when the same will happen with entire websites. Heh…


Copyright law requires Google to wait at least 10 and at most 14 days before reinstating access to the content:

"replaces the removed material and ceases disabling access to it not less than 10, nor more than 14, business days following receipt of the counter notice" 512(g)(2)(C)


Sure, with a cooperative judge. Which is why this made-up problem of judicial activism is such a huge threat to democracy. As a highly distributed system, the judiciary is the hardest thing for corporate interests to corrupt.


I'm pretty sure discretion will be used to determine which websites will get forcibly removed.

The real danger is this allows big and powerful interests to kill sites that they don't agree with, without any reasonable investigation or judicial oversight.


"discretion" isn't actually called for in the statute.

The only real "discretion" that should come into play here is the due process imposed by a court (which also unfortunately is not called for in the statute).


"If a media outlet uses your youtube video inside their own video broadcast without permission, get their entire website blocked."

Will YouTube be around if SOPA passes?


"We should never let criminals hide behind a hollow embrace of legitimate American values."

Wrong. We do this every single time we instruct a jury that the accused must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, when we advise a drug dealer he needn't co-operate in his own prosecution. Our system explicitly agrees that the liberties it recognizes will be abused by some bad actors.

Failing on that principle, it fails on the less important ones. It doesn't support DNS filtering, but it doesn't reject it either. The implication is that it just might be okay if targeted with sufficient precision, and never mind the precedent set. Without recognizing the technical and civil rights principles that make DNS filtering unacceptable on principle, it goes on to place responsibility for piracy prevention on everyone -- "Washington needs to hear your best ideas".

In short, the statement accepts the MPAA's bottom line as an absolute requirement -- something must be done about piracy! -- without recognizing the tech community's as such. That, my friends, is how you lay the groundwork for a "compromise" in the eyes of well-meaning moderates who don't really understand the issue. If I were trying to set someone up as an unrealistic radical, I'd do so just like this.

Does the WH care about getting the fundamentals right in the eyes of those who really understand them? Or does it want to position those fundamentals as the excess demands of unreasonable people who just won't compromise constructively? A great deal could ride on the answer. And remember, the question is being put here by some White House staffer who doesn't seem to grasp the implications of the 5th Amendment.


This was a good response. It obviously doesn't solve the issue, but I wouldn't expect it to do so from a simple internet petition. What this does is block support for one of the more egregious parts of the bill and invites internet engineers to the table to craft a better bill.

The technology industry can't simply be reactive to bad laws. It has to be proactive in promoting the passage of good laws.

Get the signatories to this letter[1] and have them come up with a law, independent of SOPA, that defines protections for internet freedom.

After that's done (or in parallel), go back to the table with the MPAA and other SOPA sponsors to see how online piracy can be addressed in a way that does not conflict with the previous law.

1. https://www.eff.org/sites/default/files/Internet-Engineers-L...


What this does is block support

What it does is make you happy, at the expense of some nice, non-binding rhetoric that Obama will happily violate as soon as he finds it expedient. Just like every other rhetoric he's ever emitted - all of which gives me warm fuzzies, too; I'd pay to listen to him talk all day. But Guantánamo is still in business, and so would SOPA be if he had an iota of political hay to make from it.


> But Guantánamo is still in business,

You can't extoll the virtues of a distributed, decentralized government then sweep its implications under the rug when you want to criticize a particular person.


I've been thinking about your response for most of the day. A rant follows.

I'm having real troubles seeing how torture is the direct result of a distributed, decentralized government based on the Magna Carta and the rule of law, and even greater difficulties with the idea that one man who happens to be the fucking President of the United States and a Constitutional scholar who promised to make America live up to its honor can't somehow induce the fucking military of which he is the Commander in Chief to shut down an illegal torture facility that is in blatant violation of our treaty obligations. That's not sweeping the implications under the rug, that's what I consider to be, you know, kind of the point of having a government. Or America, really. You want to call Nazi-lite a natural outcome of a distributed decentralized government, you just go right ahead, but we might as well just ask the last American out to turn off the lights on democracy if that's so.

</rant> God, I hate politics.


> But Guantánamo is still in business

What could Obama have done about that? He tried within a week of taking office to shut it down, but was blocked by Congress, the States, and various foreign governments.


Veto fucking everything until it gets shut down. That place is such a gross violation of human rights and everything the country once stood for, it is disgusting. Getting Gitmo shut down is without a reasonable doubt more important than getting anything else done.

Instead he just said, "Lets shut this down, mmkay?". Congress responded, "Nah..", and he said "Right then, next order of business."

Then he does a u-turn and starts supporting the damn place when he thinks nobody is paying attention: http://www.salon.com/2011/04/25/obama_guantanamo_rhetoric/si...


The fuzzies com from people just assuming he shares their viewpoints because he is on the "left," "progressive" side of politics. But if you look at what he actually said during his campaign, versus what people read into what he was saying, it predicted the way he actually governs fairly well. Sure, he has not followed up on all of his campaign promises, but they were a pretty good indicator for what he has actually done since taking office.


I don't know about that.

The "most transparent Administration in history" becomes the same administration that prosecutes more whistleblower cases than every other administration combined?

That's a lot more than a "broken promise" - especially when it goes had in hand with a flagrant violation of the Oath of Office ("Do you Solemnly swear to protect and defend the Constitution?") which is 100% counter to lobbying for then authorizing indefinite detention of Americans without trial.

The point is that this Administration harbors something deeply cancerous. Bad in the most absolute sense of the word. Maybe the tumor won't metastasize until Obama is out of office, kind of like the way that Clinton's repeal of Glass-Stegall didn't deliver a financial implosion until the end of Bush's second term. But make no mistake - within a decade, we're going to see something truly monstrous emerge from his baffling disdain for core civil liberties.

Nothing in his campaign suggested that this was coming, nor can anyone say "this is just a different viewpoint on civil liberties, and it just has to be accepted." Yes, it's different - in the same way that the Pope's tolerance of those who sexually abuse children is different from most people's. But that does not make it even remotely acceptable.

Remember the whole "Constitutional Scholar" thing? That was held up as part of a promise to reverse the damage done under Bush. That's like promising to mend a broken leg, then putting a bullet in both kneecaps. Anybody who tries to spin this by saying "Sure, he has not followed up on all of his campaign promises" is...well, there's no civil way of putting it.

Seriously, think about what you're defending here. Just take a minute and THINK about it.


Incompetence is not "evil in the most absolute sense of the word". The recently passed century has given us glimpses into what evil may look like, and it does not resemble the current US administration.

I think injecting politics with heated emotion is often confusing and counterproductive.


Your ignorance was excusable a decade ago, @cema, but we are waaaaay past that point today. At this stage, it's just trolling.

Seriously, just consider the following rundown of powers acquired by the U.S. government since 9/11, prepared by By Jonathan Turley. And remember, I said the full bloom of the evil is, perhaps, a decade away. These are merely the seeds, which Obama is watering with deeply unsettling regularity.

1. Assassination of U.S. citizens

President Obama has claimed, as President George W. Bush did before him, the right to order the killing of any citizen considered a terrorist or an abettor of terrorism. Last year, he approved the killing of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaqi and another citizen under this claimed inherent authority. Last month, administration officials affirmed that power, stating that the president can order the assassination of any citizen whom he considers allied with terrorists. (Nations such as Nigeria, Iran and Syria have been routinely criticized for extrajudicial killings of enemies of the state.)

2. Indefinite detention

Under the law signed last month, terrorism suspects are to be held by the military; the president also has the authority to indefinitely detain citizens accused of terrorism. While the administration claims that this provision only codified existing law, experts widely contest this view, and the administration has opposed efforts to challenge such authority in federal courts. The government continues to claim the right to strip citizens of legal protections based on its sole discretion. (China recently codified a more limited detention law for its citizens, while countries such as Cambodia have been singled out by the United States for “prolonged detention.”)

3. Arbitrary justice

The president now decides whether a person will receive a trial in the federal courts or in a military tribunal, a system that has been ridiculed around the world for lacking basic due process protections. Bush claimed this authority in 2001, and Obama has continued the practice. (Egypt and China have been denounced for maintaining separate military justice systems for selected defendants, including civilians.)

4. Warrantless searches

The president may now order warrantless surveillance, including a new capability to force companies and organizations to turn over information on citizens’ finances, communications and associations. Bush acquired this sweeping power under the Patriot Act in 2001, and in 2011, Obama extended the power, including searches of everything from business documents to library records. The government can use “national security letters” to demand, without probable cause, that organizations turn over information on citizens — and order them not to reveal the disclosure to the affected party. (Saudi Arabia and Pakistan operate under laws that allow the government to engage in widespread discretionary surveillance.)

5. Secret evidence

The government now routinely uses secret evidence to detain individuals and employs secret evidence in federal and military courts. It also forces the dismissal of cases against the United States by simply filing declarations that the cases would make the government reveal classified information that would harm national security — a claim made in a variety of privacy lawsuits and largely accepted by federal judges without question. Even legal opinions, cited as the basis for the government’s actions under the Bush and Obama administrations, have been classified. This allows the government to claim secret legal arguments to support secret proceedings using secret evidence. In addition, some cases never make it to court at all. The federal courts routinely deny constitutional challenges to policies and programs under a narrow definition of standing to bring a case.

6. War crimes

The world clamored for prosecutions of those responsible for waterboarding terrorism suspects during the Bush administration, but the Obama administration said in 2009 that it would not allow CIA employees to be investigated or prosecuted for such actions. This gutted not just treaty obligations but the Nuremberg principles of international law. When courts in countries such as Spain moved to investigate Bush officials for war crimes, the Obama administration reportedly urged foreign officials not to allow such cases to proceed, despite the fact that the United States has long claimed the same authority with regard to alleged war criminals in other countries. (Various nations have resisted investigations of officials accused of war crimes and torture. Some, such as Serbia and Chile, eventually relented to comply with international law; countries that have denied independent investigations include Iran, Syria and China.)

7. Secret court

The government has increased its use of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has expanded its secret warrants to include individuals deemed to be aiding or abetting hostile foreign governments or organizations. In 2011, Obama renewed these powers, including allowing secret searches of individuals who are not part of an identifiable terrorist group. The administration has asserted the right to ignore congressional limits on such surveillance. (Pakistan places national security surveillance under the unchecked powers of the military or intelligence services.)

8. Immunity from judicial review

Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has successfully pushed for immunity for companies that assist in warrantless surveillance of citizens, blocking the ability of citizens to challenge the violation of privacy. (Similarly, China has maintained sweeping immunity claims both inside and outside the country and routinely blocks lawsuits against private companies.)

9. Continual monitoring of citizens

The Obama administration has successfully defended its claim that it can use GPS devices to monitor every move of targeted citizens without securing any court order or review. (Saudi Arabia has installed massive public surveillance systems, while Cuba is notorious for active monitoring of selected citizens.)

10. Extraordinary renditions

The government now has the ability to transfer both citizens and noncitizens to another country under a system known as extraordinary rendition, which has been denounced as using other countries, such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan, to torture suspects. The Obama administration says it is not continuing the abuses of this practice under Bush, but it insists on the unfettered right to order such transfers — including the possible transfer of U.S. citizens.

So know that you know what people are actually concerned about, are you still so cavalier? If you need to read a bit more before making up your mind, you can get additional detail from the original article, which is here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/is-the-united-states-...


  Your ignorance was excusable a decade ago
How about you think about words you are using? They have meanings, you know.


What makes you think those words weren't carefully chosen?

And while we're on the topic of words and their meanings, what caused you to downplay Obama's actions by chalking them up to "incompetence"?

More to the point, now that you've been given a (ridiculously long) list of bad things that have gotten worse - not better - under his watch, do you think that, maybe, you had no idea what you're talking about, and that 'ignorant' was an entirely accurate description of your views?

Uncharitable, perhaps. But inaccurate? Hardly.


  What makes you think those words weren't carefully chosen?
The words you chose were "ignorance" and "trolling". This was name calling and an ad hominem attack, not a mutually respectful discussion. Moreover, it is apparent to me that you were trying to argue with me without a clear understanding of my position.

I am sure there is more to Obama than just incompetence, and it has been painful to me to watch Americans fall for him so thoroughly in the recent years. But when you use the word "evil", you are in danger of losing the sight of the political landscape in the country. And, at the same time, losing the perspective on what the true evil is.

Example from my personal biography. I now live in the United States, came here 20 years ago from Russia, so before then I lived in the Soviet Union. USSR during the time of Brezhnev (which is the USSR I remember) was certainly worse in the aspects that were mentioned (liberties, personal rights, and so on; plus a totalitarian ideology, which is non-existent in the US). Even so, it was not an embodiment of evil. Before that, Stalin's times were much worse, and certainly closer to the absolute evil, but even that pales in comparison to Nazi Germany. Which, luckily, was destroyed well before I was born, so no personal memories. Was it evil? Perhaps, but it's a long way from Brezhnev's USSR which is a long way from the modern USA.

You, if you are a native born American, could go back to your (or your parents') history, comparing the USA of 2011 with the USA of 1960s, 1950s, WWII, and so on. Those were not evil times, and still the situation has noticeably improved since then.

I am not saying we should not be vigilant. I am saying we should not make every political disagreement into a battle field. People with whom we disagree are not necessarily monsters, maybe they simply have a different opinion or calculate odds differently. There is often, more often than not, room for compromises. They are people too.

Edit: I apologize for verbosity. Just thought you deserved an honest explanation.


You're right about Germany and Russia of the 1940's being different from the USA of today. And we'd like to keep it that way. Ergo, the very low tolerance for the kind of constitutional disregard that's going on.

Something else to keep in mind; unlike nearly every other country in the world, the US does not have a single, coherent, cultural, ethnic, or religious identity. There are dominant groups, to be sure, but none entirely so. This is a pluralistic country. There's an inherent fragility to that which demands increased respect for the law, given the absence of deep unifying tradition.

And when it comes to cancer, a tumor is deadly from the moment it appears. The sooner it's removed the better, otherwise it really will get out of hand. By American standards, what's happening is bad. Those standards may be tighter than standards elsewhere, but relative to the country it's a real shock. Plenty of intelligent people are really taken aback by the response to 9/11, which, in retrospect, has been vastly more damaging to the country than anything Bin Laden did directly.

Unlike Bin Laden, the people who are pushing for a total surveillance state are not dead. Nor are they retreating. And yes, what they are building is evil. Not because of anything that it's being used for presently, but for what it represents, in that it marks a shift from a government that is bound by the law to one that isn't, and simply asks that you trust it not to abuse its now-unchecked liberty. That is the precise opposite of what our Framers intended. To date, respect for that principle has spared us from a great deal of misery.

On this, we may disagree. But I appreciate your thoughtful reply. And I apologize for my personal remarks.


What makes you think that any remotely-electable presidential candidate would do much different once in office?

Hate the game, not the player.


I posted this in the comments on the FastCompany article, but it applies here too.

"the Administration calls on all sides to work together to pass sound legislation this year that provides prosecutors and rights holders new legal tools to combat online piracy originating beyond U.S. borders"

New legal tools aren't needed in the US. If you're going to stop international piracy, you need to encourage other countries to pass DMCA style laws, not anything more draconian like 3-strikes laws. The DMCA has allowed innovation in technology to happen while still providing a method for take-down that results in a judge seeing it if it is contested.

I understand they're trying to find middle ground, but there really is no middle ground to be had. I also contest the idea that it's actually harming jobs. During the economic downturn the media industries have been doing just fine, much better than the rest of the economy. Combating piracy with SOPA and PIPA style laws will not result in an increase in revenue and will almost certainly result in a decrease. It shows a lack of understanding on the part of the White House.


So, rather than just look at how legislation can be stopped, ask yourself: Where do we go from here?

I want you to go home, and stop legislating the Internet.


This is what jumped out at me. It's a disgusting attempt to reframe the discussion, which is exactly what SOPA/PIPA proponents want. We can discuss where we go from here after we destroy the horrific pending legislation.


The Internet will not remain the Wild West of the world forever.


Why shouldn't it?


Let us be clear—online piracy is a real problem that harms the American economy

I don't believe this.

provides prosecutors and rights holders new legal tools to combat online piracy originating beyond U.S. borders

Here we go being policemen of the world.


That's in regards to US companies having their content/good pirated overseas, for example a fake pair of Levis being sold online. I don't get the sense that they want to (or think they can) control the internet outside the US, where it has nothing to do with US interests.


There are two separate issues with a fake pair of Levis. Does the customer know they are fake? And do the friends of the customer know they are fake?

The first is an easily solvable problem - Levis Corp could create a registry of verified vendors, which customers could check before buying.

The second one is the problem the law is trying to solve. People often buy a bag with a G written on it that they know doesn't come from Gucci. They get the status benefit of Gucci without actually paying $1000/bag.

I.e., it's basically a back door way of bringing back sumptuary laws: it's illegal to display status unless you have status.


You can't put a value on status. How do you propose they enforce it?

Furthermore, what's to stop me from sewing a Levi's tag on a pair of Wal-Mart jeans?

There are bigger fish to fry, let the free market run its course.


I propose they enforce it selectively, because everybody knows that a certain class of people is entitled to show status, and that certain other classes of people are not entitled to it. "Sumptuary laws". I like that term. It lets The Police take a few people down a notch or two when they're getting too big for their britches. Yeah!


We are way down the rabbit hole here: from outlawing the sale of jeans labeled "Levi's" produced by some Chinese company without an arrangement with Levi's, to evil classist laws against wearing Levi's unless you're part of the upper crust (wut?) and now all the way down to saying that the point is to let the police abuse people.

No, seriously, this part REALLY IS about selling goods with misleading labels... Levi's are not especially expensive, you can buy them easily at the thrift store, and none of this has anything to do with letting the police abuse people.


In NY, counterfeit goods are often sold in the following way. You buy a bag that looks like a Hermes bag, but the label is blank. You get to choose your own monogram for it for $20 extra. I.e., you go to chinatown and pay a guy to write "Hermes" on an unlabeled bag. Such operations are often shut down by undercover cops.

Are you really going to argue that this is about misleading labels, when the customer deliberately chose the misleading label?

If it were about misleading labels, it would be legal to sell fake Levi's as long as you post a sign saying "Attn Customer: This is NOT real Levi's". It's not about misleading customers. It's about protecting the profits of status sellers.


Maybe part of SOPA has the effect you desire. Nevertheless, you've missed the part of the policy argument where you show that the proposed solution does not cause more problems than it solves, and the part where you do a cost/benefit analysis. These two parts often go together, as a huge cost is often often one of the problems of a proposed solution.

But, seriously: if it's all about trademark protection, why not call it "Stop Online Trademark Infringement"? Why bother to conflate it with copyright infringement (a.k.a. "piracy", arrr, mate!), even in the title of the bill?

Either SOPA is a mess because the concept of "IP" has led to conflating trademark problems with copyright infringement, OR it's a deliberately bad piece of legislation, introduced under one name in order to get it passed, but intended to be used for entirely different purposes. I know, false dichotomy fallacy, but still...


My point is that a fake pair of Levis being sold online isn't going to harm anyone aside from the people foolish enough to buy them from the wrong source.


To all those downvoting...perhaps one of you could offer a counterpoint. Surely there aren't this many people being scammed out of good coin buying fake Levis?


I'm not downvoting. Selling "counterfeit" clothes, handbags, electronics, etc. is a huge business.

Why not just sell under the name of the actual company producing the item? I don't put any stock in Levi's as such, so I would be happy enough to buy Lucky Dragon 888 jeans if I were in the market for Chinese stuff.

I don't consider it onerous or awful to require Lucky Dragon 888 to put its own brand on things. What if you start a website which offers a product or subscription service and someone else begins taking people's money while representing that they are you? Doesn't that strike you as a little scummy?


The stated focus of SOPA reminds me a lot of the Patriot Act in that it's initial intent is focused on "foreign websites". The Patriot Act was defined as a tool to be used to monitor foreign communications but has gradually expanded to cover more domestic matters. Make the public accept something they're less likely to oppose by making it "not about them" ... then turn around and tweak a few provisions to expand the scope once all the pieces are in place.


new legislation must be narrowly targeted only at sites beyond the reach of current U.S. law, cover activity clearly prohibited under existing U.S. laws, and be effectively tailored, with strong due process and focused on criminal activity.

In short, reserving the right to build a Great Firewall around the US.


What am I missing here? This statement and your response seem utterly unrelated. This is what I read:

targeted only at sites beyond the reach of current U.S. law

A gap exists in current law, and new laws should be aimed at that gap instead of at increasing penalties for existing law.

cover activity clearly prohibited under existing U.S. laws

The new law should not criminalize things that are not already illegal.

with strong due process

It shouldn't give the government the right to take away property without trial.

focused on criminal activity

Rather than, for instance, speech the government doesn't like.

You can disbelieve the statement, but I don't see a way to read this as an implicit reservation of the right to China-style censorship. It is in fact claiming exactly the opposite.

I'm not saying that I totally trust the Administration's motives, or that I believe they will necessarily do the right thing, but I don't think this sentence has any sinister undertones. What do you see in here that says otherwise?


Everything that China blocks with their national firewall is considered "illegal" in China. That is, in fact, the exact same justification, even the same wording, that was used to build the Great Firewall of China.

It's true, in many ways US law is much more just than Chinese law. But that doesn't mean that walling off US citizens from the rest of the Internet in any way is a good idea.


Everything that China blocks with their national firewall is considered "illegal" in China.

Yes, but the statement refers to existing US law, not Chinese law. In the US, speech is protected.


The "gap" existing in current laws hasn't been demonstrated. That's one of the real issues here. How much harm does counterfeit drugs do? How much harm does "stolen" "IP" do?

Once we establish harm, then we can propose solutions. Once we propose solutions, we can see if any solution actually cures the problem, and doesn't cause more problems than it solves.

That's basic policy making 101. Don't make everyone look at your Beautiful Assistant while you shove the problems induced by the solution behind the black curtain.


> How much harm does counterfeit drugs do?

My dad works in public health, and counterfeit drugs do a lot of harm.

I think SOPA, etc, is bad, but I also think the reaction of the geek crowd has been monumentally ineffective. These laws are all ultimately drafted by policy wonks. They actually do have the statistics on the prevalence of counterfeit drugs if you take the time to do the research. You can't oppose bad laws by pretending the political process doesn't exist, by dismissing off-hand what other people consider to be legitimate grievances, especially without having studied the subject.


Then go after counterfeit drugs specifically. SOPA casts far too wide a net, conflating counterfeit drugs, counterfeit/unauthorized fashion and copyright infringement. This conflation may be part of calling it all "IP" (a falsehood in fact, I believe), or it may be part of some effort to slip the mechanism of censorship in, but it's still a bad law, and "IP" is still a messy, confusing concept.


Foreign sites are outside of the "current US law". The only way you can influence them would be to either "convince" the foreign nation to follow the US law, unlikely for most countries, or somehow block the site and hence the great US firewall.


Completely false dichotomy. There is a whole field of law studying extra-territorial application of domestic law in certain circumstances.


How can there ever be a legislative tool to fight foreign pirates? By definition, national laws only ever work within one's own border.

Isn't it sad to see how hard a time governments have with coping with internationalization?


I don't know that they are focusing outside their borders. They are acknowledging that they understand the challenges of internationalization. Copyright laws are not equal internationally, and of course you can host your servers everywhere, but what they can do, which is the scary part, is block the infringing domain within their borders which would cut the infringing company out of the US market, and if other countries followed suit, you've essentially got an active international domain filtering system which is very threatening to free speach. This is how I see the problem.

It is a small step to filtering the internet, first because of piracy, but the same system once in place, could be used to block other content the gov't views as not for consumption by it's citizens.

I think much of the concern over SOPA is not the fear that the government would actually do that, but why take that risk and head down that road.


A fantastic and eloquent display of saying virtually nothing at all.


Yes, but some of those nothings are important. It doesn't say "the whitehouse supports SOPA as-is", it doesn't say the president will sign it. It doesn't attack the opponents of the bill, instead embracing lots of their language.

(It also has some real meat too: like "We must avoid legislation that drives users to dangerous, unreliable DNS servers and puts next-generation security policies, such as the deployment of DNSSEC, at risk.")

What this is, is a cave. SOPA lost, and the Whitehouse is cutting bait. Maybe there will be another bill, maybe not. But SOPA has gone from being a cheery bipartisan bill that "everyone" supports to a controversial bill that no politician in their right mind will get behind.

So they'll all say something like this: we need to honor the interests of party A in a way that doesn't infringe the interests of party B because this is very very important yada yada yada. And then they'll do nothing.

We won. Pop the cork. Just don't expect profuse apologies coming from the folks in Washington.


Starts with them being strongly against SOPA/PIPA. Ends with them effectively being for SOPA/PIPA. Hmm…


Well.. no.

They specifically say Proposed laws must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet through manipulation of the Domain Name System (DNS), a foundation of Internet security.... We must avoid legislation that drives users to dangerous, unreliable DNS servers and puts next-generation security policies, such as the deployment of DNSSEC, at risk.

There may well be some future form of legislation that has some of the same goals of SOPA, but if it leaves that out then it isn't the same legislation that has everyone so upset.

Any new legislation should be treated on its merits. Be cynical, sure, but give them some credit for that statement - it is quite significant.


Sounds like politics to me...


How is cyber security risk related to online piracy? I dont get it.


Its not. But a lobbyist said so at some point and it gets repeated as truth.


I seem to recall I read somewhere here that SOPA would actually threaten DNSSEC. Can't find it again. Maybe I misread.


The idea was that DNSSEC would make SOPA impossible -- proper implementation of the standard would mean that if the US legislated a 'blackout' of a particular name within the US, then clients would just naturally seek out other trusted servers which would return the correct addresses.

Based on this, the assumption seemed to be that SOPA passing would render DNSSEC effectively illegal within the US. Even if not actually illegal, it would be perceived as too-risky-to-implement by large corporations; effectively killing it.


I guess it reads so topsy turny because it was written by three different people; a legal expert, a security expert and a health care expert.

I'm with Neil deGrasse Tyson.. More engineers should get into politics.


A lot filler with no definitive position, for or against. You can't write a response that everyone in the country will approve of. Take a stance, please.


I'm not quite clear on how large-scale piracy has anything to do with security (cyber or otherwise).


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act#Negative...

Apparently, DNSSEC would not be able to distinguish between malicious redirection and US DNS blocking. If it treated them both the same way it might be regarded as circumventing the DNS block which would, naturally, be illegal.


Sites like wiki-leaks and people who use PTP protocols to expose and make transparent the slimy deals and long term political agendas of the rulers, congress and the federal reserve.

The "censor the internet" functionality will increase security by providing congress a big red button in the whitehouse: "erase_this_file_all_over_the_world_and_block_access_to_it_and_everything_like_it(int threat_level);"


"I guarantee that I will add a strongly worded signing statement that will indicate that I do not wholly approve SOPA when I sign it."

Sorry, but I have little faith that this administration will do the right thing. If Obama said what he will specifically not sign off on, then I might be a bit more optimistic.


+ we don't have a king, what one administration does, won't mean jack when another administration takes reigns. These guys want these tools so they can use them eventually.


He said he wouldn't sign the NDAA, then he did. The only thing worse would be a President who won't even say he won't sign bad laws.


He said he wouldn't sign NDAA until certain provisions were removed and they were.


I can see it now: "I don't agree with everything in this bill, but I'm going to sign it."

I just don't believe them anymore.


Oh, wait, didn't Obama claim similar concerns over NDAA? Good that he vetoed that bill.


NDAA = National Defense Authorization Act. It's the legislation that's passed every year to basically keep the Department of Defense in existence.

This is, of course, why we really need a line-item veto amendment. Because Congress can basically make a provision "un-vetoable" by including it in some giant appropriations bill.


Because it would obviously make sense to cut off funding for Veteran's health and ongoing security operations just to head off anyone telling outrageous stretchers about how it creates "martial law".

Either way, the GOP wins


As someone who has watched the US from outside, I find it difficult to understand how Obama has become the biggest sell out in history ever. This man is now seems the slave of the corporates that run the American congress. He seemed to represent hope, a new page and so many other things, and here we are in 2012, with the US wanting to gag the internet with despots and dictators from around the world waiting on the sidelines for these tools to be available.

How did this happen?


> He seemed to represent hope

> How did this happen?

The word that you're looking for is "rube", as in "he played you for a sucker". Or rather, you played yourself for a sucker.

Obama has behaved as expected by anyone who actually paid attention.


I didn't vote for him in 2008 because despite his speaking ability and his lofty pretenses, I knew we'd be back to business as usual. We have a two-party system in which the biggest difference is who takes money from whom.


As someone who voted for him, it is beyond frustrating to feel the same way. I'd vote for Santorum before Oboma (not that I would ever vote for Santorum).


SOPA is bad.

Personally I do not understand why this gets so much more attention than the military spending act, which allows for indefinite detention on terrorist suspicion. And that includes US citizens.


Well, Barry, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

To quote a well known band, "We won't get fooled again."


"Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small."

Online censorship is anti constitution, whether the activity is lawful or not. This whole thing is a mess.


Is there really a piracy problem? Is there not enough entertainment being produced?


tl;dr In this election year, we can't afford to anger either party.




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