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SOPA 'shelved' until consensus is found (washingtonmonthly.com)
389 points by Geep 1188 days ago | 96 comments



Isn't this the point where 'the people' should not sit on their laurels, and launch a proposal to make a law that does exactly the opposite: protecting the digital rights of citizens?

I am asking because (also in the EU) we are usually happy when some draconian law does not make it, but there's rarely an attempt to push for legislation that secures the rights of internet users.

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Reframe the blackout on the 18th into another blackout with a curated message calling for anti-censorship laws and asking the government to protect its citizen's freedom.

Use strike-out lines on a concise, readable version of SOPA and below each line print the respective anti-censorship law which you wish to be created. This way you draw attention to how draconian SOPA was not by comparing it to similar laws in dictatorships but by creating a message which harnesses American ideals of freedom, entrepreneurship, and anti-censorship.

If you do this right and get enough eyeballs you will make it very difficult for them to reposition the bill without appearing aggressively against the american dream.

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Do you mean a 'curated' message as opposed to a computer-generated one?

I upvoted you because it's a good point but... beware the buzzwords.

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What would your proposed law say? Congress can't make a law that says that it can't make a SOPA-like law in the future (or, at least, it would be meaningless, since future legislation could repeal it).

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There should be a way for the people to veto a law in a referendum, like in Switzerland. That way politicians would be more cautious passing laws which they know that the public probably won't like and probably will veto.

The current US system only provides "checks and balances" between political parties, so when one party cracks up (meaning, gets bought by special interests and turns against the people) we only can pray that the other party will come to the rescue. But when both parties agree and team up against the people, i.e. when there is a political market failure like in the case of SOPA (or ACTA), theres no way for the voters to defend themselves.

It is not another law that is needed, but a general possibility to override unpopular laws.

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> a general possibility to override unpopular laws.

We have to be very careful with this. Sometimes a very popular law is exactly what you don't want. There are vast areas where a law mandating the teaching of creationist superstition in science classes would be immensely popular while a law forbidding it would be very unpopular.

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> superstition popular while a law forbidding it would be very unpopular

Having a legal way for the population to defend themselves against bad (purchased) laws does not in any way imply that you would immediately turn into a theocracy. Switzerland has had them for hundreds of years and is still sane.

On the other hand, having a opaque 2-party dictatorship like the US has no does not somehow prevent religion to have a major influence on politics and laws. You have it on your money (in god we trust), you have it in your schools (one nation united under god), you have it in your courtrooms and presidential inaugurations (so help me god), etc.

Introducting a switzerland-like mechanism for more checks and balances wouldnt change much, it would just make it easier to prevent autocratic decisions like SOPA, Iraq war, etc.

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Such is democracy, the least bad system we have. Overall it would probably lead to laws that are more in your interest, as opposed to in the interest of people who lobby for laws.

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Democracy is not simply "the rule of majority".

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Democracy is exactly that. Which is why our Founders gave us a democratic republic instead.

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Nope. It is not exactly „the rule of the majority“. It is the rule of the majority with respect to the interests of minority.

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That hasn't worked super well in California, from many accounts.

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> That hasn't worked super well in California, from many accounts.

Most of those accounts assert that a significant fraction of CA's spending is mandated by referendum and that CA legislature shouldn't take referendums into account when it does a budget. (The latter is how you get to "referendums are responsible for CA's deficit.")

Both of those assertions are wrong, no matter how often they're stated.

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Having referendums only to reject laws would fix many of the difficulties. No new spending should come from referendum.

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Perhaps "Whereas Congress finds the right to free speech includes the ability to discuss unpopular and disagreeable subjects, no person shall be prohibited by law from referencing objectionable/illegal material, including by providing mechanisms for automatic retrieval thereof."

At least a repeal would entail the difficulty of repealing opposing & established legislation. There are a lot of laws which would be enacted save for the outcry of repealing what is considered an established explicit right. This in contrast to an inability to reference an explicit manifestation of a claimed right in opposition to a trampling thereof. "You can't prohibit that!" is often overridden by "there's nothing that says we can't."

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>At least a repeal would entail the difficulty of repealing opposing & established legislation.

Nonsense, they do that all the time. A large part of Obamacare and most other large bills modify existing law. New laws simply over-write previous laws.

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I'm not saying it can't/doesn't happen. I'm saying it hinders such laws, if not stops them. Obamacare was achieved only after an ENORMOUS fight, at tremendous cost (politically and financially), and is still embattled upon the verge of being overturned. Point is that filling a void is easier than having to empty one first.

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I've been wondering about this, but I don't have a good answer. What about (1) Laws that get money out of politics, like campaign finance and the work being done by organizations like United re:public and Rootstrikers (originally founded by Lawrence Lessig under the name Fix Congress First.) Make it harder to support SOPA-like laws in the future. or (2) Repeal the most recent copyright extension act.

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They're certainly trying to get in front of this story before the 18th. I hope none of the sites planning to protest drop those plans.

Politicians and lobbyists know well that the public has a short attention span -- a few weeks of quiet and most of the discussion will have died down. When's the last time you read about protesting the full body scanners and patdowns of children at airports?

Even if these bills are shelved now, they'll be back later this year.

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There's so much crappy IP legislation right now, we could easily switch to, say the Research Works Act https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research_Works_Act which would put some taxpayer-funded research results behind paywalls. [edit] It's effectively double-dipping, getting paid once to do the research and then again if you want to actually read the results.

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Wrong, we researchers are not double-dipping, just because the publishers are charging exorbitant sums doesn't mean we see a dime of it.

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The risk there is that the media just ignores it (or worse, casts the internet as "failing to understand Congress, because it is shelved", or something like that).

Which leaves the big protest flopped - and after the election fracas no one will remember it.

I think this was a very smart move by the bill proponents. And, unfortunately, a protest now risks playing into their hands.

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It'll be a tough call for those sites.

"Internet sites go dark for a bill that was canceled 2 days ago."

Sites planning a blackout better reframe quickly and make the blackout about internet censorship (in general) instead of SOPA in particular.

IMO they put in too long of a lead time from announcement to implementation. Google has not said anything, and now will not have to backtrack, but other sites will.

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Easy! :s/SOPA/PIPA/g

PIPA, the sister bill coming through Senate, is still there and needs to be squashed as well.

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Once it's been canceled in either branch it's dead.

They both need to pass it for it to become law so PIPA doesn't matter anymore except maybe symbolically.

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Technically a bill originating in any branch can be approved and then sent to the other branch for debate, amendment and approval, followed by reconciliation if it now differs from the version originally approved.

I don't see why you couldn't have a situation where PIPA supporters lay low for a news cycle or two, then get PIPA approved and sent to the House when nobody is watching. PIPA is even more generically-worded than SOPA, so it will be more difficult to fight it on the basis that "it will break the internet".

There is clearly a lot of money riding on this bill, and it's election year.

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While watching the MSNBC video yesterday, Cotton's repeated assertions that this only applied to 'foreign sites' bugged me. From the SOPA text:

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    (a) Definition- For purposes of this section, a foreign Internet site or portion thereof is a `foreign infringing site' if--

        (1) the Internet site or portion thereof is a U.S.-directed site and is used by users in the United States;

        (2) the owner or operator of such Internet site is committing or facilitating the commission of criminal violations punishable under section 2318, 2319, 2319A, 2319B, or 2320, or chapter 90, of title 18, United States Code; and

        (3) the Internet site would, by reason of acts described in paragraph (1), be subject to seizure in the United States in an action brought by the Attorney General if such site were a domestic Internet site.
--------------

So, a foreign site can be 'u.s.-directed' and used by users in the US. Doesn't sound very 'foreign' to me at all. Sounds an awful lot like 'domestic'.

Yes, I'm sure there's legal interpretations of these words that I'm not aware of, but it sure as hell reads to me like when they say "foreign sites" they're not meaning 'foreign' in the sense that anyone in the US would reasonably understand.

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The Manager's Amendment clarifies that language. [http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/pdf/HR%203261%20Managers...

Since it is still all legalese, I'll paraphrase (IANAL): a site who's domain name is registered by a registrar outside of US jurisdiction, OR if there is no associated domain name: an IP address of a server outside of US jurisdiction.

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Excerpts from Rupert Murdoch's reaction https://twitter.com/Rupertmurdoch

"So Obama has thrown in his lot withSilicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery."

"Piracy leader is Google who streams movies free, sells advts around them. No wonder pouring millions into lobbying."

"Sure misunderstand many things, but not plain stealing. Incidentally google blocks many other undesirable things."

"Seems like universal anger with [POTUS] from all sorts of normal supporters. Maybe backing pirates a rare miscalculation by friend Axelrod."

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"Incidentally google blocks many other undesirable things."

That statement really pisses me off. It also really pissed me off when some politician was like "Google has the technology". Presumably both were referring to SafeSearch and related technologies.

These people have no idea what they are talking about. Blocking porn is an entirely different problem than blocking copyright infringement. Identifying an image as nudity is a task that software can do effectively and that can be crowd sourced in a straight forward manner. Anyone could, without consulting any external source, classify pornography.

However, the same is not true for infringement. The same companies who want their content off of YouTube are publishing free content on YouTube. Google has bent over backwards to block as much infringement as they can and to provide copyright holders the tools they need to manage their intellectual property rights. But the fact remains: you must consult an external source to classify infringing video. Furthermore, fair use is has complex and subtle requirements which are impractical to police using software, crowd sourcing, or enforcement staff.

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As I would say if I got 5 min to testify before a congressional committee:

"Gentlemen, it has been suggested that, since Google and others have built technology to detect and block pornographically explicit pictures and videos, that they could build technology to block copyrighted pictures. This is simply not true. Please bear with me and I can demonstrate this. [show two pictures] Can you tell which of these is pornography? It's like Justice Stewart said: 'I know it when I see it'. [show two identical pictures] Can you tell which of these is a copyright violation. [pause] You don't have to peer TOO closely, they are absolutely identical. But the author signed contract allowing me to duplicate and display copies of the one on the left, and did NOT allow me to duplicate and display copies of the one on the right. Determining whether something is a violation of copyright requires one to know details how a court would evaluate fair use exceptions, as well as knowing the details of contracts between two third-parties you may not even know. This is not difficult, it is impossible."

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Well you would hope most people would take whatever Rupert Murdoch says with a grain of salt considering the sort of publications his company runs. A man like him doesn't care about the truth.

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Isn't it ironic that the owner of hundreds of newspapers, magazines and TV channels decides to express his frustration over the "Silicon Valley paymasters" by posting his thoughts on... Twitter?

This guy can't recognize the value of freedom of expression on the internet when it is literally slapping him in the face.

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Look how cute he is, trying to reframe it as "universal anger" against Obama, when ordinary people are really experiencing relief. And how he berates Google for playing the game, when he's been doing that openly for decades. Or how he directs fire at Axelrod, threatening the less powerful element of the administration.

He's like Mr. Cotton yesterday: an old man lying through his teeth in order to maintain his power and privileges, proud to be evil.

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Says the guy who bought a social network where practically every profile had a pirated mp3 autoplaying, and pirated profile decorations.

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Good point. MySpace couldn't have happened with SOPA in place - perhaps that would have been a good thing overall. :)

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What a scum bag, especially after the phone hacking scandal and having a newspaper close down here in the UK and no doubt countless other invasions of privacy. I'd say that is much more serious than piracy!

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"Piracy leader is Google who streams movies free, sells advts around them. No wonder pouring millions into lobbying."

I thought the technology sector spend peanuts on lobbying compared to the entertainment industry?

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Ok fellas, we still have some serious work to do.

If it's not already painfully apparent, our current batch of representatives are completely ineligible to pass modern legislation. They're not idiots, they're not morons, they just don't have the relevant backgrounds to represent us anymore. The times have changed around them, and their skills and background are no longer effective or relevant enough.

We need to work hard to get new representatives on the hill that understand and respect technology. The only way non oppressive legislation even stands a chance is if we have representatives that understand the workings of the internet and don't say things like "let google just hire some 16 year old wiz-kid to fix it".

Seriously. It's no longer ok to be a representative and not understand the internet. It is a fundamental part of commerce, free speech, assembly, religion, education, etc. and it's outright dangerous to have people in office who don't understand it attempting to control it.

It's up to us to get relevant, modern representatives in office. We just need to work together and do it.

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I would urge extreme caution about reading too much into this article.

I (I'm a political junkie) saw Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) on TV yesterday. The message I got from his body language, nuance, and phrasing was something like "Obviously people who are elected from heavy technology areas are feeling a lot of heat. There's still a lot of support, though. Let's see if we can tweak this in such a way as to pass some kind of compromise."

Maybe that's just Reid trying to keep the RIAA cash cow alive, not sure. But I was fairly certain that what I was hearing was a tactical retreat, not a strategic surrender. Not by any means. My money says next time they'll have some language in there that could be interpreted a bunch of different ways (to prevent informed debate), and they'll wait until the last minute and sneak it into some other bill that is a "must-pass."

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Someone on HN posted a link to "Century of the Self" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Century_of_the_Self

Basic takeaway for me was dictatorships control by abject force, democracies keep things in check by pandering to irrationalism (ie. consumerism and mass media).

My take on this whole matter is perhaps framing this as a desire to protect Hollywood is a bit of a ruse. Wikileaks, the Middle East uprisings, Occupy Wallstreet, etc, are beginning to send a message.

Let's face it, the issues raised by SOPA and Protect IP have been a 'problem' for quite a while now. So why now exactly? And why has the public been almost completely unaware of this legislation? Technology is too enabling and things are happening too quickly. The US government is fearing a threat that things are about to run off the tracks. I consider this bill just one of many that will be coming down the pike in various forms - the meta message simply being a war against technology, or trying to contain it to keep the concept of American life in check. Now that the word is getting out about this a retreat and rethink is in order to figure out how to broach legislation that moves toward this goal. All the other side has to do is frame this as "we're moving toward being like China" and the propaganda machine is thrown for a loop, because clearly, that is the idea to be avoided. Our US concept of prosperity is defined by that contrast. It's the new Cold War. But China isn't the adversary. We are.

Apologies for the conspiracy theorist tone. But yeah, we're just getting started.

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I don't know why you'd apologize for putting this in a larger context; not doing that risks making the win Pyrrhic.

SOPA and PIPA aren't end-game plays, they're simply tactics in the ongoing culture war. Recent events, from Wikileaks to Anonymous and Occupy Wall Street, have put the spot-light on the internet crowd. Now, SOPA has flushed them out into the open.

If you win the battle, look to lose the backlash. Imagine how successful they'll be portraying the 'net crowd as disrespectful of property, lawless, elitist, anti-American and all that. This will become yet another one of these issues that shave off and mobilize some fraction of the electorate and get them to vote against their own best interests. Not only that, it will marginalize movements coming out of the internet; even if they just start that trend, this will all have been a huge success.

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Well if you're right, that just means EVERYONE needs to speak out against legislation like this, otherwise who knows where the government is going to lead this nation.

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What scares me most is the fact that everyone knows this tactic. Write an absurd policy, debate it, offer an alternative and jam it down citizens throats.

We know this, yet there is not much that can be done about it. Aside from the obvious, running for Senate and using your vote, what can be done to stop it? Someone with the right amount of money and enough motivation can pass just about anything, given enough time.

I think, instead of protesting SOPA (or the next bill), people need to devise a method or position themselves so that they're in the right places to protect the average Citizen from such policies. These bills will just keep coming. Screaming from the side line is no longer effective.

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Write an absurd policy, debate it, offer an alternative and jam it down citizens throats

I don't think that was their tactic. I believe they intended to get the bills passed pretty much the way they wrote them (with, of course, the canonical juggling that goes on in these things). "Screaming from the sideline" was, in fact, effective. I'm just not comfortable using it as a long-term strategy.

We do need strong organizations in support of net freedom and neutrality. I would very much favor an organization whose only focus was on the 'net, and didn't also try to be anti-software-copyright/anti-software-patent or take on some other personality as well. It's easy to dilute your support when you try to take on too many causes that most folks don't really understand. Thost that may be inclined to give to one cause may shy away from a group that supports several.

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I don't think that was their tactic.

Sure, they (Hollywood) would be happy if SOPA passed unaltered, but that's always the tactic: propose a door-in-the-face bill, shift the Overton window a bit, pass a foot-in-the-door law. It happens over and over.

Example: Do you think they could have passed a 40 year copyright extension in the 1970s? Instead, they passed two ~20 year extensions, one in 1976, one in 1998.

Example 2: SOPA and PIPA would have been unimaginable in 1998. Instead, they got the DMCA, which was merely unacceptable. Now, they push SOPA and PIPA hard, expecting to pass some watered-down version, and driving web site owners to extol the DMCA they vociferously opposed in 1998.

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I suspect in many cases it's a "Plan B" rather than a first-shot strategy. It is, of course, hard to know for sure, but as a counter-example, look how they de-fanged the FDA for regulating nutritional supplements (this goes back to the '90s). The first thing the industry did was to get every sympathetic (or buyable) politician and talking head to start talking about how Americans were hurt by the stupid FDA, using the usual hyperbole and emotion-stirring anecdotes, so that people had the FDA, out of the blue, on the tip of their tongues and "knowing" it was bad. Newt Gingrich was a point-man for this effort. (Once it was passed people started dying from ephedra-based nutritional supplements.)

Then when the legislation was produced a support-base had already been formed. They expected a very public fight and prepared for it.

In this case they were very quiet. The first thing I heard at all in the normal media was on the radio driving to work this morning. The news guy on the Boston station mentioned Wikipedia's blackout tomorrow and mentioned SOPA as the reason. The who bit was about 3 sentences. As I said, I'm not privy to insider strategy, but it was definitely a different tack.

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If the president were to have the line-item veto, where he could approve of certain parts of a bill and veto others, we could hold him personally responsible whenever bills get loaded up like this. As it is, they can pass what they want and nobody is responsible. That's clearly not the way the system was designed to work. The entire purpose of representative democracies is that while representatives can freely vote against their constituents, the constituents also can throw them out of office based on the representative's decisions.

I've seen this same problem play out in a variety of contexts, and it looks to me like the line-item veto is the only thing that will prevent this corruption of the system we're seeing. While this idea has been a pet cause of conservatives for some time, it looks like supporters of liberty have just as much or more skin in the game as fiscal hawks.

Play out the following scenario in your head: it's late in the year, no budget has been passed by Congress (again), and suddenly some third-rail social program is running out of money. Congress passes a law to help the orphans and grandmothers, everybody climbs on-board with huge majority votes, and way in the back section is another version of SOPA.

If you're the president, what do you do? Note this is a much different political scenario than just threatening a veto -- this is asking if you're willing to risk pissing off huge special interests groups just to make a much smaller number of nerds happy. It's political math, and it works quite simply. You sign the bill, make a public speech about how bad the new SOPA is, and life goes on. If you're smart you send out mailers asking people to donate so you can get rid of the thing you just signed! One party will pick the "side" of SOPA, the other party will pick the other "side". In fact it doesn't matter whether you really support or oppose the bill, whoever paid for it got it passed, huge numbers of politicians got to oppose it, and the public can't point the finger at anybody. There's nobody to throw out of office. There's no feedback loop. The system is broken.

In my mind the only thing that is going to fix that is the line-item veto. A lot of state governors have it. I think it's about time POTUS got it also.

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That's actually laid out quite nicely. And in theory, I really like it.

However, it's kind of like a last line of defense, where the rest of the defense is entirely broken. It's putting all your faith in that last line of defense, and hoping that the right scenario will play out. Eventually, it too, will fail. Still, the first line of defense has to be fixed. With that being said, it's a step in the right direction.

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Wasn't the line item veto passed into law but ruled unconstitutional during the Clinton administration? In any case, this argument is predicated on the idea that we can trust the president, which is an idea the most recent couple of presidencies should have disabused us of.

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In effect, doesn't the President already have line item veto? If there are items he doesn't agree with, he should signal that he will veto until they are removed.

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That requires a lot from the President and oftentimes they'll be on the losing end of that political battle. On the recently-passed NDAA for example (which explicitly made it legal to detain people without trial, and hopefully will be struck down by the courts), it was passed as part of funding the military, sending out soldier paychecks, etc. Fox News is already (wrongly) accusing Obama of wanting to undermine our troops all the time, and people are already sick of pointless squabbling over routine funding matters in DC. Obama would have been the political loser from vetoing the bill, the Republicans would have known it, and they probably would have just kept passing the bill and forcing him to veto it until he caved.

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Obama originally objected to the NDAA because it limited his powers too much, not because of the indefinite detention clause.

The Administration strongly objects to the military custody provision of section 1032, which would appear to mandate military custody for a certain class of terrorism suspects. This unnecessary, untested, and legally controversial restriction of the President's authority to defend the Nation from terrorist threats would tie the hands of our intelligence and law enforcement professionals. Moreover, applying this military custody requirement to individuals inside the United States, as some Members of Congress have suggested is their intention, would raise serious and unsettled legal questions and would be inconsistent with the fundamental American principle that our military does not patrol our streets. We have spent ten years since September 11, 2001, breaking down the walls between intelligence, military, and law enforcement professionals; Congress should not now rebuild those walls and unnecessarily make the job of preventing terrorist attacks more difficult. Specifically, the provision would limit the flexibility of our national security professionals to choose, based on the evidence and the facts and circumstances of each case, which tool for incapacitating dangerous terrorists best serves our national security interests. The waiver provision fails to address these concerns, particularly in time-sensitive operations in which law enforcement personnel have traditionally played the leading role. These problems are all the more acute because the section defines the category of individuals who would be subject to mandatory military custody by substituting new and untested legislative criteria for the criteria the Executive and Judicial branches are currently using for detention under the AUMF in both habeas litigation and military operations. Such confusion threatens our ability to act swiftly and decisively to capture, detain, and interrogate terrorism suspects, and could disrupt the collection of vital intelligence about threats to the American people.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislativ...

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What? Break it down for me here, in what way is he arguing for more quote "powers"? The power to not indefinitely detain people? That's a really brutal one, favorite of dictators everywhere. I shudder at the thought of someday being not-detained.

I mean, I really don't want to carry Obama's water on this one given that he did sign the bill, but you're just engaged in some sort of silly deliberate misinterpretation of the paragraph you quoted.

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My understanding, and I could be wrong, is that the military detention provision would stop the rendition program because "terrorists" would be in military custody instead of allowing the flexibility that they currently have:

"Specifically, the provision would limit the flexibility of our national security professionals to choose, based on the evidence and the facts and circumstances of each case, which tool for incapacitating dangerous terrorists best serves our national security interests. "

I think this entire law is bad, but I'd prefer a well defined bad law than one that allows lots of discretion.

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You're making the assumption that the president is against this legislation aren't you?

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The way to stop it is to create and fund long term organizations devoted to stopping it. We have Greenpeace and PITA we need Net Freedom.

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We already have the EFF[1]. Maybe we should consider donating to it.

[1]: https://www.eff.org/helpout

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Thanks for that, I just gave them 100$ because you mentioned it.

PS: They require an email address on their donation page, but you can get away with junk data.

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I donate $20/month. And they're a US 501(c)(3) organization so my donation comes off my taxes. Win win.

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I've been meaning to ask someone this: do you mean that your return (if you receive a return) would be an additional $20, or that you are taxed as though you made $20 less? Sorry if this is elementary or too off-topic.

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I'm pretty sure that $20 is not taxed. So, you're taxed as through you made $20 less.

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Correct, it is an "above the line" deduction from your gross income, not a "below the line" tax credit. The net effect is that if you are in the 25% marginal tax bracket it reduced your tax liability by $5.

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But only if you have enough other deductions that you itemize your tax return. Basically everyone gets a standard deduction (i.e., 5,800 if you are single). You can either take that, or you can deduct a list of qualified expenses (for most people, this is mortgage income, property tax, and state tax). If that puts you over the standard deduction, then you deduct this amount instead. Then you can start adding on things like charitable contributions. Otherwise, if you don't have enough deductions, and you take the standard one, then you can't add anything else to it. (Some exceptions apply, consult your tax professional for advice, the above is personal commentary only and not intended to be legal tax advice).

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Well, I kind of think this is playing right into the problem at hand. I mean, I believe what got us into this problem in the first place is an organization with motivations. Playing the same game is not what needs to be done, something else needs to be done. What that is? I don't know. But THIS game is not working, there are too many citizens getting hurt/left behind as a result. Think different. Hackers may not be the brightest in the world, but they sure are some of the most creative.

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EFF?

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First hit on google.

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Do we need a constitutional amendment guaranteeing uncensored internet access?

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We already had one, I thought.

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This has been the standard practice for quite awhile. Special interests always have the incentive to get legislation that favors them, this was pointed out in Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson (1946):

Special interests, as the history of tariffs reminds us, can think of the most ingenious reasons why they should be the objects of special solicitude. Their spokesmen present a plan in their favor; and it seems at first so absurd that disinterested writers do not trouble to expose it. But the special interests keep on insisting on the scheme. Its enactment would make so much difference to their own immediate welfare that they can afford to hire trained economists and "public relations experts" to propagate it in their behalf. The public hears the argument so often repeated, and accompanied by such a wealth of imposing statistics, charts, curves and pie-slices, that it is soon taken in. When at last disinterested writers recognize that the danger of the scheme's enactment is real, they are usually too late. They cannot in a few weeks acquaint themselves with the subject as thoroughly as the hired brains who have been devoting their full time to it for years; they are accused of being uniformed ,and they have the air of men who presume to dispute axioms.

http://www.fee.org/library/books/economics-in-one-lesson/#0....

The whole book is available at the URL, it's quite a good read.

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I think you hit the nail squarely on the head, Mr. Markham. I too sense this is not going away soon. I don't even trust my own reps in the long term, and they are supposedly opposing.

I think this issue will be to the RIAA what abortion is to fundamentalist Christians: they intend to fight this fight until they win it.

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This "sneak it into some other bill that is a 'must-pass'" is BS too. What efforts have been made to reform the bill system?

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I didn't see Reid, but I agree. Amongst other things, the last 15+ years have shown us there will be no strategic surrender.

I need to dig into more detail, but everything leading up to this leads me to believe it's just a new round of hand waving, or "duck and cover", until they can find e.g. the eve of another holiday recess to try to ram it through.

And notice, please, that in the midst of this "retreat", they never did present and listen to the technical experts. Do you thing that this is entirely by accident?

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Caution is warranted: "shelved" bills all too often are left there untouched until circumstances warrant slipping them, or a palatable functional equivalent, through unnoticed. It's not dead, it's resting.

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As they say ... "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty" - Wendell Phillips

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Heh, first post here. Hi.

Although I'm from the UK, I have been following this with keen interest,particularly as US authorities are able to pluck our citizens from our country on mere suspicion.

Just to say, and Im sure you all know it already, you have not won, keep pushing and pushing until there is a law, but a fair just one. I don't want such laws, but there are inevitable. Just be sure they are laws that work fairly and properly.

I think the thing to do now is for the community to create and propose its own law(s) and push that on the politicians. Present a credible alternative. Get the legislation we want, not what they want. Perhaps some one needs to set up a site where the on line community can collaborate in putting together a workable solution.

Any way, congratulations for winning the battle, just remember that we still have the war to win.

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Welcome to HN!

The problem is that US legislation can be changed in lot of weird ways between the time its introduced and when it's passed. For example, there could be popular support for a "Protecting Net Freedoms" act and something good could be introduced. But the special interest lobbyists would likely get a large amount of edits in, and the "provisions" added for "protecting (children|national security|the environment)" and "creating jobs".

So at the end of the day, passing a "Protecting Net Freedoms" act would likely be worse than the status quo (which in the US is still quite good IMHO).

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Sure. I just mostly think that net folk should lead the debate and and offer something positive. Something that the general public can understand and support. That has to be the way forward.

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Good. This is an important victory but the people behind SOPA won't go away so easily. I've always viewed SOPA as more of a litmus test to gauge where Americans stood on copyright enforcement. The next bill the industry tries to get passed(and there will be another) will likely be much more subtle than SOPA was. So let's celebrate, but we must remain diligent. This was only the first round.

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You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it. - Margaret Thatcher

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I applaud the US political system for being better than the UK counterpart in this instance.

The copyright mafia tried the exact same trick in the UK two years ago: a bill was pushed through Parliament on election year, when MPs had to make their funding rounds and so were more amenable to being bribed... and it passed.

Nice to see US representatives still have a bit more decency (either that, or Google's chequebook is now much lighter than it was three month ago).

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Awesome, so politians now have two large constituencies to milk: big media and internet-savvy technology companies/the general tech-savvy public.

See, the only one profiting from this ordeal irrelevant of how it plays out are politicians. They get to enlarge their power and money base whenever anyone thinks an issue best be regulated by law.

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This is just a leadership commitment in the Republican House, the U.S. Senate (controlled by Democrats, and where overall support for SOPA/PIPA seems stronger) could still take up the bill. There are ways to pass legislation that circumvent a direct House vote.

It is good news, but I'd wait to see what Senators say this week.

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I like the idea that there should be an active push to reduce the term of copyright. There's certainly a case to be made that it's unreasonably long, and that the length does not benefit the public.

Take the fight to their turf or always be fighting a defensive war.

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Did they really have any choice? After the statement from the White House, they had to put it on hold because they do not want it to be vetoed. They will still come back, but they will either wait until they can make the President happy (which might be hard if he is in his second year and does not have to run again) or wait to see if Mitt Romney wins.

I just hope that PIPA is put on hold as well and hopefully after the election things will be better (depending on what types are voted in) and not worse.

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Now we need a way to get rid of Lamar Smith (R-TX). That SOB is just an idiot waiting to happen. Again.

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Really the most powerful signal that could come out of this whole debacle is to see just one congressperson lose their seat unambiguously because of their support for net censorship.

I say, regardless of whether or not anything passes this year, we find one of the weaker sponsors of SOPA/PIPA who's up for re-election this year and make them pay.

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I can't believe this guy is representing part of Austin, where many web-based companies are located. I have to wonder why he authored the bill.

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Lamar Smith is a grade-A Republican shitheel who just worries about who or what has contributed to his campaign slush fund. It would appear that freedom of speech, to him, is something that should be paid for by the highest bidder. The level of ignorance this man has shown by authoring this bill and the amount of selling out he's done to corporate interests, rather than the people he ostensibly represents, is staggering.

Unfortunately, the Texas Legislature has gerrymandered the state so badly that he's dug in like tick and will be difficult to remove.

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> Though the administration's chief technology officials officials acknowledged the problem of online privacy

Funny that this Freudian slip has shown up in more than one SOPA article.

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Congress will simply throw SOPA in as an amendment to some completely unrelated bill that people will have a hard time saying no to such as such as funding for puppies. Then if somebody opposes they can say "what about the puppies!"

Certainly my example is silly yet unrelated amendments are made to bills all the time to push one agenda or another.

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So they're battling online privacy?

Say no to privacy! (or maybe yes to proof reading)

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Convenient this happens right before a bunch of sites go dark in protest.

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It just means the congressmen involved are going to go back and get another hit of money from the copyright industry and then run this through attached to some other bill.

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We need right to connectivity to internet right up there with the right to vibrate your vocal chords in public and use your ears to detect vibrations in air. To take away a human's access to these basic things because they are criminals is unacceptable.

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Now they will find a way to tack it on to any budget bill they can to hide it..as this how Congress really passes laws be very wary

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