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SOPA

If this was an American blog, it would be going dark for 24 hours tomorrow in sympathy with the strike against the Stop Online Piracy Act currently before Congress — which might more accurately be named the Rent-Seeking Plutocrats Enabling Act.

But this is not an American blog, I don't get to vote in those elections (not being American), and meddling in other folks' internal politics is rarely sensible. So I'm simply going to note my sympathy for the strikers at this point, and suggest that if you're American and don't want your internet future to be dominated by centralized media entities stamping down on anything resembling satire or remix culture or independent thought, you might want to learn about SOPA and get campaigning.

Ahem.

Meanwhile, in France, where President Sarkozy's government passed the draconian HADOPI anti-downloading law a couple of years back, it appears that the Elysee Palace is a hive of law-breaking online pirates ...

(PS: Many of the links in this blog entry will fail if you click on them on January 18th, the day of the anti-SOPA internet strike. They should be back by the 19th.)

160 Comments

1:

The report of the Elysee Palace hardly surprises me, along these lines though I'm slightly confused about the people pushing SOPA. If part of SOPA is the shutting down of websites with any links to copyrighted material (including comments posted by random Joe internet user) then surely if it passes people can en mass post comments with links to copyrighted material onto the blogs and websites of the groups pushing SOPA (lobbying companies, supportive senators etc) and then report them.

Have those who are advocating SOPA not thought through that the very system they are advocating could be used against them or do I just have a misunderstanding?

2:

Obama has already pretty much announced he'll veto it, thus giving his younger voters the circensis they need to forget his other minor pecadilloes.

Piracy is not derivative work, it's unauthorized publishing. I really hate that they can get a free pass by hiding behind legitimate work that can already be protected under existing copyright law.

:-/

3:

I am also given to understand that SOPA is contra to the US Constittution.
But to prove this, and get their Supreme COurt to strike it down, could be a liile expensive and time consuming.
Wasn't there another USSA bill/act falling under this category, to do with unlawful imprisonment, recently?

Oh, and one little dead give-away: Rupert Murdoch is wholly in favour of SOPA.
Should tell you something.

4:

You do have a misunderstanding.

The whole thing is designed so that MAFIAA can sic the government at anyone they don't like but, quite undestandably, they won't report themselves.
In case someone reports them, they have a big supply of lawyers and money to pay them. So whether you abuse their copyright or they abuse yours, they are going to crush you in court.

5:

It's more PIPA than SOPA at this point, given that the House says they'll stop action on it. Of course, they could change their minds again. And PIPA (the Senate version) is evil, too.

6:

The point of the entire game is to create a new judicial cost to amateur work, work that hasn't bought "insurance" from a major player.

It's like the patent mess the world is in -- it's just a barrier to entry market trick. The big players don't need to worry overmuch, given that in the end they can buy "insurance" in the form of massive patent portfolios, while small players simply can't afford to pay legal mercenaries to protect them.

It's the game of "privatization", where privatization means ownership by large-scale players, and the elimination of new players.

This is why legalism, the "rule of law" and such sops can be just as much a system of centralized control as the lack of legal standards and process. You can use a hammer to build houses or break heads -- but the world seems to be full of folks who seem to think that hammers in themselves are ends and not means.

7:

Bit of a correction: saying that SOPA shuts down websites mischaracterizes its efficacy. It allows the government to blacklist domains from DNS on flimsy, evidence-free pretext -- but as xkcd once put it, removing a site from DNS makes it go away in the same way that taking the numbers off the front of a house makes it go away.

SOPA will, like all overbearing Big Content legislation, do fuck-all to actually deter anybody from sharing whatever the hell they want on the Internet. For anyone savvy enough to use BitTorrent, it'll be a speed bump -- install a browser extension or change your DNS settings.

None of which makes it any less offensive or outrageous a piece of legislation. If it passes it IS going to ruin some people's lives and chill both free speech and technical innovation.

The blackout is a good thing; Wikipedia's going down and that's going to be a big damn deal. The House is already starting to back off SOPA, and it looks like the Senate is going to remove the DNS-blacklisting language from PIPA.

Which is a victory, but even less-terrible alternatives like the OPEN Act are still pretty terrible. (Hell, the status quo is pretty terrible. The government's already doing a perfectly good job of seizing domains without due process.)

8:

"I am also given to understand that SOPA is contra to the US Constittution."

That's like saying it's against the British Constitution -- the US Constitution is only nominally a written document with an explicit meaning. In practice the US works under common law -- the Constitution is a body of judicial precedents that reference that document, and especially the current consensus about that body of judicial findings. In other words, it's an elite agreement, a political position, put into legal language.

So depending on the US Constitution for anything than a paycheck is crazy -- it will be understood to mean whatever is the current opinion that it should mean, among folks who are on the current courts and their bodies on the cocktail party circuit.

It's just another political discussion -- like a legislature or an executive.

9:

Counterpoint: DMCA gives low budget amateurs content creators a way to protect their work without high cost measures such as actually taking someone to court. SOPA would allow them to do this with foreign sites who at this point can and do ignore DMCAs

10:

but as xkcd once put it, removing a site from DNS makes it go away in the same way that taking the numbers off the front of a house makes it go away.

Correct me if I am wrong, but won't Google have to remove search links to blacklisted sites? If so, a better metaphor is removing place names from maps. This does have a huge effect on access to sites.

11:

Google already does this. And records it at chilling effects dot org.

12:

I was wondering the same thing. Aren't dirty tricks going to be a problem? Suppose commenters on say the WSJ just posted infringing material that was then reported wouldn't this allow blacklisting the journal?

At the very least the news would have to spend money to police content.

The WSJ would no doubt shut down comments, making it even less of a desirable read than it already is.

[AFAIK the WSJ is not hosted outside the US, so maybe they won't be subject to this?]

13:

It's only the English Wikipedia that's going down. It's time to brush up on your foreign language skills.

Start here:

http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Stross

Bonne lecture!

14:

As others have pointed out, Obama also promised to shut down Guantanamo Bay.

15:

Je pense que cette page peut bénéficier du contenu additionnel.

16:

Is that the effect? Does anyone have research on to what extent amateurs get DMCA'd, versus how often amateurs get to DMCA? And to what extent amateurs actually want to DMCA -- given that the greatest challenge to a small operation isn't monetizing, but getting a big enough bullhorn in the first place.

The only case I can think of would be an ad-click situation where someone could use DMCA to redirect the clicks; but in those cases, there are probably better methods than DMCA to respond (or courts).

I'm not talking theoretical possibilities here -- I'm talking about common practice.

How often has DMCA been used to protect GPL or creative commons cases -- the classic "amateur trying to get exposure"? I'm willing to bet that the ratio of GPL/Big Media quickly approaches zero.

17:

In other circumstances I would say that taking down your website is a pointless gesture protest, ineffective and probably counterproductive.

I respect your decision not to do so.

But Wikipedia? They are going down, permanently, if SOPA or a similar piece of legislation is enacted. It's user-generated content, anyone can post, some of it probably does have copyright impediments, and *anything* can be declared 'infringing', legitimately or not, shutting down the site without recourse to a timely and effective appeal.

They don't have the money to mount an effective appeal, or to survive repeated blackouts and stoppage orders on the owners of their server farms. Not even Google can stop that happening to Wikipedia - and why would a manifestly evil company want to?

What they *do* have is powerful enemies who do not like impartial sources of information. I do not doubt that a substantial payment will be available to anyone prepared to edit a disagreeably-accurate article about a major studio's early business practices; efiting, that is, with favourable copy and a copyright-infringing image from the latest blockbuster movie.

Worse, I fear that there are people who would happily do it for free, and phone the toll-free legal hotline in the morning.

18:

"As others have pointed out, Obama also promised to shut down Guantanamo Bay."

Important distinction -- the administrations major complaint on SOPA was the technical danger of DNS redirect, and how it would kill DNSSEC. That was the bulk of the first statement I saw coming out of the administration.

The Obama administration takes technical correctness -- policy competence -- very seriously. They are hard-core technocrats. You can believe them when they tell you they're committed to fighting an issue over technical implementation.

Just don't believe technocrats when they tell you something that is a question of principle, and not competence. Their real principles begin and end with technical correctness given the current framework.

19:
How often has DMCA been used to protect GPL or creative commons cases -- the classic "amateur trying to get exposure"? I'm willing to bet that the ratio of GPL/Big Media quickly approaches zero.

There are more things in heaven and earth than GPL/CC and big media.

The adult industry uses the DMCA a lot. Comic book companies do it too (If you think Comic books are big media you're living in the 50s, btw). A quick google search finds a deviantart fan artist using one to defend an original my little pony design. Small artists get their designs ripped off and sold on t-shirts all the time, and DMCAS usually are used.

20:

While the SOPA and PIPA acts are very much a US-centric thing, the potential effects of them are much more global. Whether we like it or not, the US is still the main content host for a lot of the more "central" services online (Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc) and these acts have the potential to be used by the Media, Arts and Entertainment enforcement types as a last-ditch strike against their lost audiences. (Just from my own experience, when I started using the internet, my consumption of Hollywood/televisual/general media product went right down, due to the very simple heuristic of "only so many hours in a day" - and I doubt I'm the only person who cut back on watching TV, listening to the radio, reading the newspaper, or going to films after discovering the 'net[1]). It's worth noting: I strongly suspect it's not really the content they're worried about. It's the loss of audience, and thus the loss of advertisers.

Like it or not, the internet is a threat to the very existence of the media establishment. They're going to try and claw back what they're in the rather proprietary habit of regarding as
"their" audience from this latest interloper into "their" territory. After all, if amateurs start creating entertainment, rather than seasoned professionals, who knows where it might all end!

[1] My other reason for cutting back was that the content I found online was much more to my taste than the mass-produced stuff I was offered through the general media. I don't share that many tastes with Mr Murdoch's editorial staff, and here in Australia, it's pretty much that or nothing.

21:
if amateurs start creating entertainment, rather than seasoned professionals, who knows where it might all end!

If an amateur creates entertainment he'll find he's having to compete with clever "entrepeneurs" who build entertainment sites out of "found" content.

Try updating a webcomic 3 times a week and compare with mangafox and tell me where it ends.

22:

I mean, if I was a BIG MEDIA bad guy who felt threatened by some indy internet project in my medium, wouldn't I do better by drowning it in my product, much like adobe maintains photoshop as the defacto standard thanks to piracy making everyone familiar with it.

How does copyright legislation allow you to suppress an original project?

23:

SOPA's dead, it's just the most people don't realize it yet - even the folks pushing it.

It was badly-written and vague - to the point that a big media company that accidentally posted a competitor's work could be in trouble. As in "lose the corporation" trouble. After the technical people explained how it works to various corporate lawyers, the lawyers did their own research, figured out just how bad it was, and started writing memos.

Those memos are finally being read by the guys in charge - and they're freaking out (I've talked to a couple of them, and saw one presentation at a big corporate meeting - one comment was "we cannot let this stupid thing pass").

It only took a few "we changed our mind about SOPA" examples for Congress to bail on passing it on a fast track, and once the rest of the big corporations figure out what it will really do, it's gone.

The media companies have a lot of power - but entities like GE and the oil companies have a lot more. They're figuring out that they can be exposed to huge problems (and larger legal bills), with no actual upside for all but a few corporations.

As a footnote: the Congresscritters who were pushing this thing are starting to realize just how badly they screwed the pooch, and some of them are looking at losing their next election campaign because of it.

24:

This new corporation I've been hearing about, Google, I hear has a little bit of clout too.

25:

I'm ambivalent.

While the idea of big media beating up some spotty kids for downloading a song from a multi-million dollar manufactured act is pretty abhorrent, as a tiny little indie artist, making a few quid here and there from physical sales and online sales, every illegal download of my tunage hurts. Directly.

Go figure.

26:

To everyone saying "let's post links to copyright-infringing material on top tier websites and get them shut down", don't be daft.

This legislative thrust is bought and paid for by the content industry. It doesn't apply to people in their club. If you have to ask if you're in the club, you're not in the club.

Aside: Was SOPA just a decoy bill? Has it come to this; will the same provisions get quietly passed as an amendment to the Cabbage Weevil Inspection and Eradication Bill 2012?

27:

Hardly. SOPA is a red herring, the anti SOPA crowd will claim a 'victory' and instead the government will pass a slightly modified Protect IP act (like they wanted to do in 2010, but determined was politically unfeasible). Obama will claim he's met his promise, because even though the new piece of legislation allows for websites to be shutdown without judicial review, it won't be quite as horrible as SOPA is.

28:

And when a little indy artist tries to object to all the "free exposure" s/he gets treated like the RIAA incarnate, I've seen it happen. Not pretty.

29:

The comments about little artists trying to make some money but having to rely on peoples honest/ sense of obligation makes me think there's a lot of phsychology and sociology research to be done on how people interact with strangers over the internet and how obligated they feel to others, and how different cultures affect it.

30:

When it was .xxx sites and Dubya in the past, the talk was of removing control for international domains from US control and making sure root nameservers were similarly free of US interference. Why isn't that been talked about now?

Haven't they shown that they are not fit to hold such power, or has big media got its grip on international agencies as well?

31:

German Green Party has blacked it's website in solidarity (while the German Pirate Party promised to do this and failed ironically ...) - not only because of SOPA/PIPA, but especially because of ACTA; taken together, ACTA seems to be the groundwork for a policy where SOPA/PIPA demands can be handed down to "foreign governments". There exists already a bit of a movement to bring the EU parliament to a "no" vote on ACTA. So it's not an US thing, only.

32:

Given the history of the legislative processes, SOPA will not be limited to the USA at all. So far, any copyright/patent legislation has made it across the atlantic sooner or later.

After a couple of centuries, perhaps, on more piece could make it across the pond, perhaps a bit mangled by history. "No legislation without representation!"

33:

The real way to get both SOPA and PIPA and anything like them killed - if they get passed, that is ...
Is to complain, 24/7/365 about Google (& the other search engines) for infringement of whatever-it-is .....

A couple of DAYS, never mind weeks without those, and the whole thing will be trashed, along with the greedy morons who started all this.

Get your (genuine-in-law) complains lined up in a row, now folks!

34:

How often has DMCA been used to protect GPL or creative commons cases -- the classic "amateur trying to get exposure"? I'm willing to bet that the ratio of GPL/Big Media quickly approaches zero.

Ahem: I have used the DMCA to defend Creative Commons materials.

Specifically: I have only released material under a restrictive CC license -- allowing free redistribution, but not commercial re-use. There have been a handful of times when some bottom-feeder has picked up my work, reformatted it into an ebook, and uploaded it to Amazon's Kindle store or the Apple App store (as a standalone book).

I don't care if they do that as a free download, because that's within the spirit of the license. But they only ever seem to do it to charge money for the work, undercutting my own publisher-issued commercial ebook editions at the same time. Therefore I go after them with a pointy stick.

Note: Amazon ignores DMCA takedowns from anyone other than a major publisher, a law firm, or the President of SFWA. On a couple of occasions, if I was willing to lawyer up, I could have sued them and they wouldn't have had a safe harbour defence. On the other hand, an author suing Amazon would be a really stupid idea, barely one degree more sensible than trying to sue the Mafia. ("Oops, your books appear to have disappeared from our searchable database of products. So sorry!") So I have to run and fetch my big brother (SFWA or Ace or Tor or Orbit, respectively).

Apple, in contrast, are the Mafia, as far as their App Store vendors are concerned, judging from the grovelling apology I received within 72 hours of submitting a takedown request. (There were definite overtones of "we're sorry! Please don't hurt us! If we say we're very sorry and won't do it again, will you ask the nasty men to take their baseball bats and go away?")

35:

I feel some of your pain. However, books are a bit different ...

Whenever I see a bittorrent tracker file announcing "4000 Science Fiction Ebooks!!!11!" I just shrug. Because they may fit in 1-2Gb of disk space, but who's going to read 4000 books?

Reading time is rivalrous -- you can't do anything else productive while you're reading. At a fast 400 words/minute, a typical 100,000 word novel takes just over 4 hours to read. So those 4000 ebooks would take a whopping 1.9 years to read, at 168 hours per week with no down-time! Realistically, you could read them as a full-time job and spend a decade on the project.

So it's not about reading, it's about stamp collecting. With a statistically insignificant bit of piracy embedded in it insofar as they might read a couple, or even ten, of those books, making 0.25% of the download an act that deprives someone of a sale.

Meanwhile, in the real world, before ebooks and the internet, it was common wisdom in publishing circles that each book sold had an average of 4 readers over its lifespan. In effect, a 75% piracy rate.

36:

hands up who can still se wikipedia articles.

I think using javascript as a blackout measure is silly. Those who routinely use noscript are fine, and they can tell their mates about the 'get around'.

Couldn't they just do a redirect to a page about what they are doing for the day?

37:

Suggest you try actually reading http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:SOPA_initiative/Learn_more . They actually include a link that tells you how to impliment the work around.

38:

The "not interfere in another country politics" bit is sensible, most of the time. But as in, well, everything, but even more here, the US has the Internet on its hands, so their internal politics become world-wide problems.

See the RojaDirecta stuff. I'm not sure I side with the RojaDirecta guys, but when the US DoS takes the liberty to kick out of the internet an Spanish site without as much as "shouldnt a judge look at this stuff first?" I think is perfectly clear that the issue is not longer US internal politics.

Not to mention how their politics end up being exported in the sensible, democratic, whole international way of "Implement this or I'll go to commercial war with you. And I have all the guns"

39:

Most of the protesting sites allow us to find our representative's phone number on a search by postal code. And there is a great offering on LOLCATS: The Day The Internet Died. We have been signing petitions and calling our congressperson (a total waste of time because his staff just go on and on about Jesus) and Senators, but this is one time when living in the beauty that is rural Georgia reminds me of the freedom and true representation I had in California; so, I call my old rep/senators and ask them to remember the poor souls who could no longer afford to live in civilization.

40:

In addition, our inestimable host has used DMCA, against illicit distribution of his work both on Amazon and iTunes. Amazon have a policy which may not strictly be in compliance with that law.

41:

I have some minor sympathy for Amazon -- they're the biggest target in the ebook/DMCA shooting gallery, so they must get tons of DMCA takedowns every day, including many written in green crayon on both sides of the toilet paper alleging that "The Bible" is violating their copyright (signed, God).

However, that's no excuse for not having a process to weed out the lunatics from the genuine complaints.

42:

I don't know the detailed specifics of SOPA and or PIPA but do they propose anyone can make a complaint about alleged copryright violation? i.e. not restricted to the rights holder or someone acting officially on their behalf.

The whole thing's quite insane anyway.

43:

> While the SOPA and PIPA acts are very much a US-centric thing,
> the potential effects of them are much more global. Whether
> we like it or not, the US is still the main content host for a lot
> of the more "central" services online

They won't be if SOPA passes. I'd invest in non-US hosting firms if this passes, because they're going to get a whole bunch of business.

Even better, it'll be fun to get DNS declared as an infringing tool.

44:

"Rent-Seeking Plutocrats Enabling Act"

That's kinda ambiguous, innit?

45:

Posting infringing content to e.g. the Wall Street Journal will do fuck all because they're a powerful corporation with many high-powered lawyers and who's owner has made many campaign contributions.

As to whether this will affect you johnny foreigners, you seem to have forgotten that the USA's law doesn't stop at our borders any longer.

46:

No legislation without representation!!

47:
quietly passed as an amendment to the Cabbage Weevil Inspection and Eradication Bill 2012?
When I see this, I get an enormous smile on my face.

You see, even if my country passed some evil stuff, we don't have to worry about this kind of antics.

The Conseil Constitutionnel (the "supreme court" in France) strikes down as unconstitutional any form of riders in law. Any element that does not pertain to the explicitly stated topic of the law "warrants its own, separate, visible law".

As an illustration, one of the latest bills on the "normalization on post-operative acts", which pertains on the appropriate designation of a certain category of medical bills had a provision about minimum revenue of one category of the above practitioners struck down. Because the regulation of revenues had no bearing on the proper designation of medical acts (even if the stuff was aimed at exactly the same profession).

The kind of 300-pages rider-ladden legislation you pass? It would get torn before it left the Congress hall...

48:

I assure you that the irony is lost on our leaders and the great unwashed.

There's a large voting bloc here who want their government to leave them alone while simultaneously telling their neighbors and the dirty foreigners what to do.

49:

Well, if you see the Megaupload "case", you get a preview of how things will work under those schemes.

(Various artist make a video in support of Megaupload, Universal calls Youtube to put down the video because they have the "copyright" of ... something, YouTube does as Universal says, oh, really, they dont have the copyright? Well... who could have thought a big company like them would lie to us...)

Its going to be "fire and forget, I'm the MPAA/RIAA you are nobody" and well, if you can get somebody to actually go an check and sue them (HAH, how many millions do you have) and get it solved... it will be after months of having your site/content/whatever down.

50:

AlexB, the real point of this is not to deny service, it's to highlight the issues. A significant number of people who use noscript, or know how to disable scripting or CSS (which also works) are already probably reasonably tech savvy and likely aware of the issues, so this seems like a nice way to do it.

Having said that, I've tried not to use Wikipedia today just as an interesting experiment in how much I rely on it without realising, already I've found myself on their blacked out page 4 times following links or search results without even thinking about it.

I also like Google's approach of using their doodle (I think this only works if your browser is reporting your location as in the US) - instead of driving all their traffic to a competitor, where they wouldn't see the protest, they're making a prominent statement in a kind of tongue-in-cheek way.

51:

They have taken the keys to . away from the US government - look up the root signing ceremony; the TCRs are real, and will keep . secure.

But that doesn't help much with .com. - Verisign could be forced to do anything with it, and already is; the US government will pursue US-based registries so they change the authoritative DNS records for a domain to place it under the control of the US DOJ.

But they don't have the power to do that for non-US domains, like .uk. for instance. . is international and the US government can't control it and .uk. belongs to Nominet, in Oxford.

So what they want is to be able to require US-based ISPs to block .uk. domains, if those .uk. domains have content that the US doesn't like.

They want to do that by mucking about with recursive DNS, which is stupid. Just null-route the damned IP address. We all have bogon lists already, just get the US to produce a public bogon-routing list and require anyone in the US running BGP to apply it.

Of course, you can still get around that by using TOR or even just a standard proxy, but that would reduce it to the technically competent.

52:

Exactly. See Richard O'dwyer's case, for anyone who's missed it. Articles here.
http://www.techdirt.com/blog/?tag=richard+o'dwyer

53:

This may sound a bit ruthless but I really hope that opponents of the Content Orgs can use the public opinion to their advantage and trivialize their foes. It's a war, if more people realized this it could be won a lot sooner methinks.

54:

Sure. But I wasn't sure if Joe Public can complain about copyright infringing material as a sort of DoS protest, as was being suggested.

55:

Eric @ 43
SOPA/PIPA are as insane as the EU commission's so-called "Tobin" (Transaction) Tax.
All the business - internet in SOPA/PIPA, banking, investment & finance [And I do not just mean crooks - I mean EVERYTHING]
Will just eff off elsewhere, and not come back.
And neither the SOPA/PIPA proposers, nor the EUCom are intelligent enough to see this.
[Actually in the latter case, they have been warned by their own people, that they will lose LOTS of business, but their blind hatred of London's financial sucess has blinded them. Fortunately, it's a "tax" - so the UK guvmint will tell them to eff off - I hope]

NOTE:
Google will be putting up an anti-SOPA message on their HOME page !!
May not be visible outside USSA, though ??

56:

As usual Charlie, you hit the nail on the head, this is all about rent taking by the by the.1% That said, I would like to comment on what others are saying about this.


* One can use a forign DNS service / VPN to get around SOPA/ProtectIP.

Sure, until reverse DNS look-ups are done on every packet on the trunks. This is trivially easy to implement using the Deep Packet Inspection technology already in place used for traffic shaping. Also, these tools can right now detect encrypted streams, and some
ISPs purposely degrade these encrypted steams
. Again, it would be trivial to block these streams if desired. [sorry if the links are blocked due to the black-out]

* Its a US only problem.

Notwithstanding the fact that most of the World's Internet traffic travels through US networks; the US government is engaged in a aggressive diplomatic push to get other countries to enact similar legislation, recent examples are Spain and Singapore. The Spanish one in interesting because of a
Wikileaks memo showing the pressure (threats) used by the US government to get the legislation passed.

* OK I will protest by boycotting big media and only use creative commons/ open source stuff.

Let me introduce the next bit thing coming up, the Broadcasting Treaty. Basically it adds a level or rights management on top of and overriding copyright (If you have enough money that is). This treaty is so bad that the first time they tried to introduce it, their tame legislators bocked due to the blatant unconstitutionality of it.

In conclusion. what is happening here is an attempt to move us away from a rights based society to a privilege based society, where privileges are bought. OK, that's enough of a rant for now.

57:

As others have pointed out, Obama also promised to shut down Guantanamo Bay.

But that was different. The Guantonamo bay thing was a publicity stunt done to make his supporters happy. Either he knew it could not happen or he was given some incredibly bad advice from his new over confident staff. Basically he cannot shut it down unless he wants to move some of the prisoners to naval ship brigs for the rest of their lives. Congress and the states have said no way in hell will they come here and there are some that no foreign governments will take either.

But with these new laws he does have the power to Veto them. His decision to make. Now Congress, if they really want this to pass, can do their standard trick of making this law a part of other legislation that he would be very reluctant to Veto. But that doesn't look likely just now.

58:
* One can use a forign DNS service / VPN to get around SOPA/ProtectIP.

Sure, until reverse DNS look-ups are done on every packet on the trunks. This is trivially easy to implement using the Deep Packet Inspection technology already in place used for traffic shaping. Also, these tools can right now detect encrypted streams, and some
ISPs purposely degrade these encrypted steams.

At which point there's going to be another workaround. Because this is an arms race and the hackers are ALWAYS faster than the ISP's and the legislators. Technical and legislative measures to prevent piracy never work; the only proper solution is to provide a quality product at a reasonable price.

Which, again, isn't to say SOPA is benign, or that your slippery-slope point is a bad one. SOPA IS bad, and it IS the latest in a series of increasingly invasive laws that don't actually work. And whether it passes or fails, come next year we'll be talking about the NEXT piece of "antipiracy" legislation that pushes things even farther.

59:

Some of my reading also indicates that the major banks/MC/Visa/etc... started looking close and quietly told Congress to forget about it. The provisions of the laws could be read to mean that the entire Visa network could potentially be shut down by someone buying access to a link to a "bad thing" using a Visa card.

60:

SOPA appears to be just another legislative train wreck, having built momentum (and mass) with decades of unparalleled internet freedoms. Why not go the Spotify way for all creative consumable content - tax the user (spend their time) through sporadic ad delivery, and/or monetize unlimited content through various paid upgrade packages? The cross town bus was meant designed to be slow for a reason.

61:

Even better, it'll be fun to get DNS declared as an infringing tool.

The smart money is on some kind of distributed peer-to-peer database that dereferences some sort of hierarchical naming convention to return IP addresses, and that isn't called DNS and doesn't run on the same port and that doesn't have a single root that provides a point of control.

Ahem.

62:

...and Usenet rides again. ",)
Well, ish.

63:

<nostalgia>I'm thinking bang-paths and UUCP might make a come back, myself. </nostalgia>

64:

One of the Senate sponsors of the PIPA bill, Marco Rubio, just changed his mind very publicly.

http://www.facebook.com/SenatorMarcoRubio

Therefore, I have decided to withdraw my support for the Protect IP Act. Furthermore, I encourage Senator Reid to abandon his plan to rush the bill to the floor. Instead, we should take more time to address the concerns raised by all sides, and come up with new legislation that addresses Internet piracy while protecting free and open access to the Internet.”

This usually means death to a bill. At least in its current form.

65:

Would this legislation have any impact on cloud-computing?

66:

Because this is an arms race and the hackers are ALWAYS faster than the ISP's and the legislators. Technical and legislative measures to prevent piracy never work; the only proper solution is to provide a quality product at a reasonable price.

Here's the tricky bit: What is the reasonable price that competes with free?

As long as the internet exists, anything that can be turned into data is free. Legislation, lawsuits, and debate about IP are all just hand-wringing over that fact.

I have a nasty suspicion that SOPA's destructive effect on the internet is not an accident of bad legislation, it's the goal. Because as long as the internet exists in its current form, copyright is an unenforceable joke. The content providers are all finally twigging to this face:

You can have the internet, or you can have intellectual property. Pick one.

67:

I came across the last CD I bothered to buy, a couple of weeks ago, it's a collection of Fred Astaire recordings. And the current popular music is just worthless in comparison. You get what they call the Great American Songbook, and he seems to have sung most of it.

On the other hand I sometimes listen to an Internet Radio Station that covers the period, and there was plenty of rubbish then. We just don't recall it.

Still, the music industry seems to have forgotten how little of their stuff lasts. Does anyone listen to the Bay City Rollers any more? What made Abba into something that lasted as long as they have?

Listen to the radio, and you might hear House of the Rising Sun, but what else from that group?

The last time I heard "Anarchy in the UK" live, it was a one-man band.

A lot of these people think everyone is like Fred Astaire, and that just ain't true.

68:

Well, that's if you consider lending a hard copy to friends or family or borrowing from a library, or even buying from a used book store to constitute piracy, which I hope you don't in fact believe.

69:

"Here's the tricky bit: What is the reasonable price that competes with free?"

Netflix at $8 a month seems to be doing ok (I'm a customer, my parents are, etc.). But they have a strong value add in the form of a selection algorithm that tells me what I probably want to watch (and it's pretty good at showing me new and interesting things).

Red Hat (disclaimer: I work for them) is also doing well, sales keep growing, steady hiring, etc. Heck you don't even have to try: ftp.redhat.com has the source code. But we have a strong value add in the form of subscriptions (timely updates, support, enhancements, etc.).

Figure out a good value add and you'll be fine. Books are a good example: I like the physical form factor of books, and physical books are DRM free (well.. so far). So there's the value add for me.

Personally I think Charles Stross should sign a few thousand of his books and sell them at double the price (and pocket the difference), I'd buy them. Or make a collectors edition, maybe include some of the original notes, or whatever.


70:

The broadcast model has existed since the early days of radio. I'm sure the "broadcast without paying fees" didn't take long to appear.

For all the talk about politicians not understanding the law, the proposal makes sense on several levels: Target the sites, the ones making money, by blocking their access to audience which is where they get money from.

71:

> Does anyone have research on to what extent
> amateurs get DMCA'd, versus how often amateurs
> get to DMCA?

I have no research but I have anecdote. I see quite a few copyright violation complaints against people using computer systems I'm paid to help manage. Probably more than one a week but less than one a day over some years.

Almost but not quite all of them are from California

Almost but not quite all of them are signed as from a law firm you have never heard of saying they are acting on behalf of someone you have heard of.

The people you have heard of are US companies who own copyrights to films, TV shows, games, or music, in about that order. I haven't counted but I have a vague feeling that Paramount is perhps the organisation most often mentioned.

The people you haven't heard of are, as often as not, baytsp.com

Absolutely all of the emails show every sign of being automatically generated. I have a strong suspicion that the supposed human senders don't exist, or at least the names on the mail are not the ones their mothers know them by. I have a weak one that they have no actual permanent relationship with the companies they say they are agents for, but scan the Net looking for things they can sell on to the big boys.

There is a whiff of the Nigerian about the boilerplate language, and the whole tactic feels something like Serdar Argic has got middle-aged and bought a suit. This stuff has the look and feel of spambot.

And none of it that I have seen has ever been from an individual or even a small creative company. Just law firms you haven't heard of claiming to be actng for big Hollywood or New York companies you have heard of.

(OK I have heard of baytsp.com and iredeto and some of the others but then I get paid money for doing this stuff, and I am a looney sf-reading conspiracy theorist, and I have been hanging around the dodgier bits of the Net for the last twenty-five years or more)

72:

Netflix is an interesting example - because the content providers are currently working nearly as hard to kill it as they are free online access to everything. There have been a number of interviews over the past year where heads of a variety of movie and television companies have been surprisingly open about the fact that they didn't think streaming video would be a big deal, so they agreed to let Netflix show their content for a tiny fraction of what customers have to pay to see the same content through the usual channels. And they all pretty much conclude the same way, which is that when the current terms of their contracts are up, they plan to either increase the licensing fees so high that Netflix streaming no longer has a cost advantage over Cable+Pay Per View/DVD purchasing, or else simply refuse to allow their content to be shown on Netflix.

It's another manifestation of the same phenomena, though. The internet has reduced the monetary value of basically all IP to virtually nil; all of this that's playing out now is the panic setting in as both consumers and industries really start to grasp what that means.

73:

The issue with music that you mention is down to the big studios deciding cold-bloodedly (back in the 1990s) to cut the 80% of their acts that brought in 20% of the money and focus on the 20% who bought in the 80%. So they slaughtered a bunch of otherwise-profitable middle-range acts that were creative and interesting to focus on focus-group optimized pabulum.

File under "own throat, cutting thereof".

(The business-minded mid-range acts then went indie and survived, but you don't hear them on the mass radio or TV channels so they don't get global coverage.)

Book publishing ... if book publishing went that way, I would be one of the acts to get the chop. I mean, I'm front-of-list these days, and the lead title in a launch month at Ace, but I am not a New York Times bestseller, and probably never will be -- I don't think my chosen sector of the genre category has a big enough market to generate new NYTimes bestsellers any more, frankly. (There are a handful of big names who can do it -- William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, maybe Cory Doctorow -- but I'm too outré. Unless I change genre.)

74:

I don't believe that. In fact, I don't think the vast majority of downloads are "piracy" in any meaningful sense of the term, and I don't lose sleep over them.

I prefer to reserve "piracy" as a term for for people who directly cost me money by siphoning off revenue from paying customers: for example, by uploading a copy of one of my books to Amazon's Kindle store at a price lower than my publisher's, and then pocketing the proceeds, or by publishing a translation of one of my books in another country without bothering to ask permission or offering to pay royalties. In other words, I worry about people who inflict a quantifiable loss on my revenue stream by taking my work and selling it for profit without permission.

Yes, it happens.

75:

You worry about the same kind of piracy Chanel and Gucci does, in a way, then?

76:
Netflix is an interesting example - because the content providers are currently working nearly as hard to kill it as they are free online access to everything.

And they created Hulu and then, when it became popular, proceeded to deliberately make it less appealing. Fox has started waiting a week to post its shows -- and there's been an overnight increase in piracy, if TorrentFreak is to be believed.

They've framed the issue incorrectly. They think that if people can't get content on Netflix or Hulu, they'll watch broadcast TV, or pay for cable TV, or buy it on DVD or Blu-Ray. In actuality, of course, if people can't get content on Netflix or Hulu, they'll get it on YouTube or Pirate Bay. And if you shut those channels down, they'll find other ones.

It's not so much that the Internet has reduced the monetary value of these things, it's that it's given people an opportunity to demand the REAL value instead of an artificially-inflated one set by cartels. Cable TV is a damn ripoff and everybody knows it, it's just that until recently there was no alternative.

77:

Does anyone know when the blackout ends? I'm hoping midnight New York time, but expecting midnight Los Angeles. I'll settle for somewhere in the middle.

I hadn't realised how much time I spend on websites who are taking part.

I'd hate a world where this happens all the time, so I will definitely write to my US senator in opposition to SOPA, as soon as Sussex gets a senator.

78:

Was that 4 readers per book sold figure including library readers? I've always wondered just what the rate on that is.

79:

The answer to piracy of TV programmes is obvious - put them online as streams and include the ads, targeted by nationality of receiving IP address.

80:

I'm a natural born American citizen chiming in.

I consider myself an expat still living in the States. I called the offices of my Senators and Representative and said my piece. After that, I spent a while drafting a letter:
(some redaction)

Dear congresscritters,

I phoned your offices earlier this morning to show my dissent against SOPA/PIPA and all censorship of the internet instigated by the US. I figure a handwritten letter may carry more weight.

I am a child of the internet. I was born on x/x/83 and had my first computer when I was 4. My first access to the internet was through CompuServe. I was on the web almost as soon as it was given birth to by Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee.

We the people are guaranteed freedom of speech through the First Amendment. To quote: "Congress shall make no law .. abridging the freedom of speech". SOPA/PIPA would deny my freedom of speech. All censorship is wrong. It is bad. It is evil.

The Constitution has been corrupted enough. Do not vote yes on SOPA/PIPA or any other derivative bills.

Thank you for your time,

Sincerely,

the undersigned


I think the language is clear, but my grammar might be off.

Also, echoing 52: We're all god damn criminals.

81:

There's a technical competence issue there, my experience watching legitimate streams online has been *awful*. I suspect this is a result of DRM+the need to serve ads, but they have inadequate buffer, skip constantly and atrocious video quality. Part of that is a result of where I live (I'm limited to a 1.5 Mb downstream unless I want to do business with Comcast again) but I have no problem with Youtube (where I can wait an hour for the download if I have to).

82:

Well my congress critter was one one the co sponsors of this bill. Called them today and emailed. We are going to try to primary him out over this. He is Bob Goodlatte and
his opponent is KAREN KWIATKOWSKI she is totally against this bill. I have voted for this guy for 20 years but he seems believe he works for Hollywood instead of the people of his district.

83:

Here's the tricky bit: What is the reasonable price that competes with free?

There are also other costs to things than just money. Other comments here have mentioned the service, which seems to be doing pretty well for music - I understand iTunes and Spotify seem to have a lot of customers, even though there's a lot of music for free.

For books, as Charlie mentioned, the time is a limiting factor.

Time is a constrait here in other ways, too. Even though finding torrents is quite easy, and even downloading them is not that hard, not everybody has this kind of knowledge. I think my parents would be able to do that, but they just don't want to learn, because there are much better things to do with their time, and I don't think they're the only ones.

One thing that I haven't seen mentioned here are computer programs. I can only speak for myself, but I have many reasons to buy the legitimate versions of computer programs. I don't even want to get no-cd hacks for my (admittely old) games which need to have the cd in the drive while playing, because I just don't trust random programs from the internet.

This is obviously very hard nowadays - I try not to run too many scripts in my browser, but a sand-boxed browser doesn't sound that bad an idea, though that's somewhat difficult to arrange.

Of course this is what Apple seems to be getting at. Running everything in its own sandbox has its merits.

So, there are lots of ways to compete with free as people do "pay" with other things than just money.

84:

I don't have a reference as such, but I keep hearing this through independant word of mouth - The people who download most music are the same ones who buy most music.

I've downloaded ~nothing, bar a few YouTube videos of groups friends mentioned I might enjoy. In the last year I've bought 4 albums (include DVDs), 1 from the 1970s, one a compilation of a group's 1970s recordings, and two by new artists. The basic reason for this is that I'm just not interested in whiney "pretty boy bands", or Autotuned pop tarts.

85:

Actually in the [case of the Tobin Tax], they have been warned by their own people, that they will lose LOTS of business, but their blind hatred of London's financial success has blinded them.

Speaking as a UK citizen, I reckon that this itself would be a huge win. The financial sector employs half the people and pays half the tax of the manufacturing sector (and investment banking is at most 20% of the financial sector) and yet it receives an extraordinary amount of legislative mollycoddling, and far too many smart graduates go into the City to juggle numbers rather than actually doing something of social value. Losing the whole sick mess to Hong Kong or New York or wherever would be the best thing that could happen to us, long-term.

Back on-topic...

Reading the comments on Clay Shirky's TED talk on SOPA/PIPA depresses the hell out of me. It seems that lots of creatives are so invested in the "copying == THEFT" idea that they won't even consider any other business model.

On movie streaming, I want four things:

1. Access to the long tail - I want not finding the thing I'm looking for to be an exceptional event.
2. Reasonable quality (smoothness is much more important than resolution).
3. Predictable download times (I don't mind waiting a day or two, but a month of "downloading at 0B/s from 0 peers" sucks).
4. Some guarantee that my money's mostly going to (a) the original creators, (b) operations costs.

I'd be happy to pay for a service that provides all four. BitTorrent provides 1 and 2; YouTube provides 2 and 3 and a fair dash of 1 (anyone know how successful Google's monetization tools have been?); video shops provide 2 and 3 and a dash of 4 but require you to go out into the rain; iPlayer provides none of the above, but get_iplayer provides 2 and 3. I tried out LoveFiLM for a while and it provides all four to some extent, but I found the restrictions on numbers of discs you could have at one time and the business of sticking discs through the post was far too much hassle. Has anyone tried their streaming service?

86:

One thing which we have been reminded of is that the companies which have been pushing the new laws are using discredited lies to do so.

Either the figures they claim for losses are unsubstantiated, or they are so old that they apply to foreign-manufactured fake goods in the days before the internet.

Here, a report on the US government discovering some of their own figures have no source.

And this is the Cato Institute, where somebody actually found sources for some of the figures. (Assume a Libertatian bias, which implies rapacious big business. One of the Koch brothers is a co-founder.)

87:

Not to put atoo big splash here, but I trust it most of you noticed the article on Slashdot on what US Supreme Court did pretty quietly? Slashdot article and commentary on the decision.

Yup, Public Domain is no longer necessarily Public Domain, it might be retroactively copyrighted.

88:

Decentralizing a name service as a technical feat: trivially easy. The social/political/safe-business-environment side of the problem: gnarly as hell. Resolving naming disputes requires some real government. Laws and courts. It's important that when grandma types in a name that she trusts she is not instantly eaten by a grue.

Look at how Google+ crashed and burned on naming issues -- Google was too heavily biassed toward technical to comprehend the problem.

I would love to see efforts to solve this problem of government in a decentralized way. I don't think it will happen overnight.

89:

I'm going to guess that you, and most of the respondents to the cite, were unaware that this already happened in Europe when copywrong laws were extended from life+50 years to life+70 years?

90:

You worry about the same kind of piracy Chanel and Gucci does, in a way, then?

Not exactly.

The goods counterfeiters sell are not the real thing. A customer who buys goods for the brand name (which adds intangible value -- social status signalling, basically) may well, having bought a counterfeit by mistake, curse and go and buy a real one to replace it with.

Whereas a pirate copy of one of my novels is the real thing, and there is no direct advantage to a reader who has read it in going out and buying a real one to replace it with.

The "Charlie Stross" brand name doesn't confer social cachet or snob appeal; it's merely a label that identifies the type of goods on offer.

Whereas Chanel and Gucci are not only about the type of goods, they are social signals that the person wearing/using those products has wealth and taste, and these signals are fundamentally undermined if the products are counterfeit.

Those types of pirates are arguably much more damaging to intellectual property creators than counterfeiters are to the brand names they masquerade as. (Unless they flood the market so widely as to devalue the brand name.)

91:

The owners of the Spanish download portal seriesyonkis just sold their remaining participation in their site for ten million Euros.

The report was eye opening news for many people who thought the sites they download content from don't make any money.

Just because they're not charging you it doesn't mean they're not profiting. Remember, if you're not paying for the service you are the product.

92:

Moderator note: content elided for ad hominem, and low level racism

93:

Would you care to explain to me what is so "Scottish" about the Halifax?

Or, since we're cherry-picking, why you didn't mention that the Clydesdale avoided trouble, the Dunfermline likewise?

94:

Greg, calling someone stupid because they point out that the finance sector employs fewer people, pays less tax and so on is pretty rich, don't you think? Especially when the everyday retail banking part of it all isn't going to dissappear abroad because people need face to face contact with people who speak their own language.
So what it boils down to is that the government skims off some tax from the small percentage of finance and banking people who take part in the risky business. Is the few billion a year worth what damage these parts of the finance system do to the rest of us? Have you done any sums on that? Please get back to us when you have.

95:

All that lovely proffit the UK government can tax from financial services. There are externalities in the creation of those vast sums. (Excluding bail outs.) Rationalising profitable businesses, house price bubbles, lay offs, hosteile takeovers.

Just saying.

96:

PZ Myers has noticed something the scientific publishers have been working on for a while, trying to get a final lock onto their content so they have the final say so on everything, including publicly funded work:

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/01/elsevier_evil.php

97:

Just to toss a brief analogy into the mix, it seemed to me that enacting SOPA employs a somewhat similar logic to the old idea: Make fire arms illegal, and all gun crime will stop.

98:

Can you say "18th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America"?

DOZ NAWT WANTZ!!!

99:

I look away for an hour, and someone uses racial abuse on me? Damn, I'd have loved to see that. Oh well.

100:

The RWA is actually scarier than SOPA/PIPA because it is another sign that the USA is stepping away from science. Along with the YECcies and climate-blindness and fake vaccination scares and crap pop psychology and crude genetic determinism.

OK, the rest of us are afflicted by the fake vaccination scares and crap pop psychology as well. But for over thirty years US research has been at the heart of the huge explosion of knowledge in molecular genetics, structural biology, genomics, bioinformatics, and related fields. And most of it is publically funded through the NIH and NCBI.

And effectively *all* of it is freely available to everybody in the world lucky enough to be able to afford a decent Internet connection. And because of that, almost everyone in the world countries who researches this stuff puts it on the web too because that's where it has to be to be seen. Bioinformatics is the largest scientific field that has emerged since computer networking was invented and basically it lives online. That's its home place. Online Open Access is where this kind of science is done.And the proposed laws cut it off at the knees.

So a big thanks to America for helping get the bioinformatic revolution onto its feet, but if you are going to go back to your tent and sulk we can finish the job without you.

101:

The RWA is actually scarier than SOPA/PIPA because it is another sign that the USA is stepping away from science.

The Romance Writers of America are scary?

Please explain.

(Hint: TLAs are in scarce supply -- there are only 17,576 of them in English -- and so some duplication may apply. So please expand TLAs when using them, m'kay?)

102:

Smouldering looks accounted for over 25,000 serious domestic fires in the years 2006-2009 on the mainland US alone.

Romantic novels cost lives.

103:

For those that haven't followed the link given by guthrie:

Research Works Act. This is a bill to, it says, "ensure the continued publication and integrity of peer-reviewed research works by the private sector", where the important phrase is "private sector" — it's purpose is to guarantee that for-profit corporations retain control over the publication of scientific information

104:

To further make it clear how the research works act is dangerous, it says that research which is published in a private journal (like most is these days, did we mention the sponsors are Elsevier and another publishing company) is no longer free to access, you have to speak to the private company first, i.e. Elsevier et al will have another way of making more obscene profits from you, and this time they will get it from publicly funded research.

Apart from preventing the bill from passing, this sort of thing suggests that either more open access journals are started or we take over Elsevier and turn it non-profit, thus allowing fees to drop by a third (Yes, they made about 36% profit last time I read about it) which may have a positive effect on widespread availability of information through journal subscriptions. I only write 'may' because a lot of libraries are under intense pressure to spend as little as possible, so the managers may well see it as an opportunity to save money rather than broaden services by subscribing to more journals.

105:

"Ahem: I have used the DMCA to defend Creative Commons materials."

What is it about anecdotes and data? I'm not asking whether it has been used -- I'm asking about the statistics regarding how it drives the market.

The rest of your tale about how it's impractical to use against Amazon if you're not a big player is responsive to my question -- as well as Apple's small player responsiveness. The question is how that plays out in the market over the long term statistically.

Does -- in statistical fact, and not anecdote -- the DMCA get used more often by individual players to protect themselves in ways they couldn't under older copyright law, or is it -- in statistical fact, in total cash outlayed -- used to advantage big players?

All the ahems in the world, or examples of some guy using DMCA to get a t-shirt manufacturers to stop using his logo on the shirt and switch over to another, doesn't tell me a lick about how the DMCA has changed the market.

106:

Is para 4 actually an either/or scenario? Does the use of the DCMA by $Megacorp inhibit its use by $Onemanband?

107:

"Is para 4 actually an either/or scenario? "

I'm talking statistically. I don't care about either/or -- I'm talking about who gets advantaged in the marketplace on a macro scale.

Ensemble behavior -- if $Megacorp gets to use it "more" than $onemanband, since they are in fact in competition for your eyeballs, then yes -- $Megacorp-$onemanband is what matters, not d$Megacorp and d$onemanband.

Even if the entire market is expanding, $Megacorp's interest is in forming $Cartel and eliminating $onemanband -- even if it means slowing the growth of the market, as long as that's conceivably made up by the monopoly/monopsony rent.

108:

Charlie - please e-mail me privately (if you have time) I'm shocked that you thought I was being racist, and even more worried that you might be right!

Trying to put it more politely, and replying to paws4thot ...
The Halifax had been taken over by Bank of Scotland, hadn't they? Err ....
Correct about the Clydesdale, though.
My other comments were based on the open cynicism of someone we've referred to here before, one A. Salmond, who was very "proud" of Scottish banks before the crash (same as he wanted into the Euro) but now is claiming that it is the Westminster guvmint's problem, and nothing to do with me, guv!
Even for a politician, that takes some chutzpah.

Going back to Miles @ 85
Sorry, but you really are wrong here.
Even if the "Banks" are paying supposedly different taxes to the rest of business (I don't think they are - Corporation Tax is "Income Tax for companies", after all) that is nothing new.
There are special tax rates for Agriculture, and relief for R&D and ... lots of other examples.
But you are WANTING to remove an income-source to the guvmint of many £billions per year, by effing the banks off to HK.
So the rest of us will then have to find that tax to make up the guvmint's shortfall. Which is really, really not clever.
Think it through?
& @ 99
I don't know, either - I think Charlie was unhappy about my English/Scottish comparisons.
But it's OK for Alex Salmond to do it (the other way around), after all, he's the leader of the Holyrood Parliament, so it must be all right! [/snark

guthrie @ 94
You may have a point.
I should explain, that I have a very unpleasant (US-funded) extreme evangelical "church" around the corner.
Their main "Minister" is a really nasty manipulative piece of work, but, take it from me, 99% of his congregation really are f-wits. And I have to put up with these zombies between 5 & 7 days out of every 7, so I tend to be a little strident.

Ken Brown/Charlie @ 100/101
RWA stands for Research Works Act and is an attempt by (among others) Elsevier to appropriate all publicly-funded research results for their own private profit.
They bought a politico or three to get the bill put up ....
Ah - bellighman & guthrie have also come back - just sayin'

109:

If $Onemanband now has recourse to the law in a way that they didn't before (I'd submit that anecdotal evidence says yes they do) and gains revenue from taking that recourse then the playing field has been leveled even if $Megacorp has gained a greater percentage income.

110:

"If $Onemanband now has recourse to the law in a way that they didn't before (I'd submit that anecdotal evidence says yes they do) and gains revenue from taking that recourse then the playing field has been leveled even if $Megacorp has gained a greater percentage income."

Are you actually arguing that if the law changes so that my lemonade stand's profits go up by a dollar, while Walmart's lemonade sales profits go up by $5 million, that the playing field has been "leveled" in a real, market way, rather than a purely ideological way?

What keeps Walmart from spending $10 to increase their advertising budget against me and eliminate me from the market all together?

The market game is iterative. The differences matter more than the absolute values exactly because of that. In fact -- it's worse than that, because markets adapt to each other, so the iterative effects are magnified by forcing changes in other players.

111:

By that argument, we should be having this discussion on "Steven King's Place" (if exists) because of the margin that he outsells Charlie by. Soda (beyond individual recipes) isn't something that you sell in the same way as IP.

112:

I think I've thought it through one step further than you. Yes, we'd potentially take a big tax hit short-term, but note that I said it would be the best thing for us long-term. Currently, government policy is set in disproportionate measure to benefit the City. But (as seen above), manufacturing employs ten times as many people as investment banking. I don't know the corresponding factor for tax revenues, but from the link above we know it's at least 2x. Hence, setting policy to benefit manufacturing (or, in general, sectors that employ lots of people and pay lots of tax) rather than finance has potentially 10x the impact. So if the investment banks eff off and hence lose their hold over our governments, we are more likely to pursue policies that enrich the 99% rather than the 1%, and that more than cancel out the loss of tax revenues.

That's before you consider all the positive impacts on a society of reducing its overall level of inequality.

I'm not totally convinced we would take a huge tax hit short-term: I'd expect the banks to wind down their presence rather than stealing away overnight. But I could be wrong on that.

113:

"By that argument, we should be having this discussion on "Steven King's Place" (if exists) because of the margin that he outsells Charlie by. Soda (beyond individual recipes) isn't something that you sell in the same way as IP."

Why? How does the fact that you can leverage current advantage to future advantage mean that there exists no niches for other players. Of course there are limits to that leveraging. Biology shows it all the time.

Why does almost any legal or economic discussion quickly start to sound like it's 1820? A thermodynamic mean, for example, still produces thermal noise. No particular single arrangement means anything -- it's the ensemble of arrangements that mean something.

It's not the selling of IP that makes it different from soda -- the paradigm of selling is precisely one of scarcity. Selling demands that the object being sold be thought of as "soda-like". The difference lies precisely in the poorness of that model for the behavior of "IP" -- the extent that IP fails to fit.

114:

Does -- in statistical fact, and not anecdote -- the DMCA get used more often by individual players to protect themselves in ways they couldn't under older copyright law, or is it -- in statistical fact, in total cash outlayed -- used to advantage big players?

No idea.

There's no central registration of DMCA takedown notices, after all.

Also, the "big guys" are in many cases the little guys kicking their publisher's shins to do something. Mine wrt. Amazon, for example.

The picture is, at best, blurry.

115:

Greg, there are multiple moderators. I didn't see your comment before it was spiked.

116:

The worry hanging over that scenario is that although the financial sector would relocate and we'd focus more on industry, we'd still be at the financial sector's mercy, and with less leverage: capital is globalized, after all, and speculative bubbles routinely originate in countries other than the ones that experience their damaging effects.

117:

Other way round Greg. Halifax bought bank of Scotland and then the whole mess was handed off to LTSB.

Disclaimer : I work for them.

118:

"The picture is, at best, blurry."

Indeed. And political and legal decisions tend to be made not only with blurry pictures -- but with a radical disregard for evidence and the level of uncertainty.

Just open any legal journal and compare it with a scientific journal. The ratio of words to numbers is incredibly high for the former.

119:

"meddling in other folks' internal politics is rarely sensible."

Our Nobel Peace prize winning president doesn't have those scruples. And I am not sure that a nation with the global reach and claims of America has internal politics.

In some alternate quantum universe, there is an AI created based on me but lacking my exquisite understanding of human sensitivities. That AI would make some comparison between the situation of a German Jew circa 1930 and that of a Polish Jew on the one hand, and Americans and Britons nowadays.

But I am even more afraid of violating Godwin's Law than the laws of our drone-wielding leader, so I won't.

In plain English: defenders of sanity in America need all the help we can get. Please don't hold back.

120:

The point about a DMCA is that it can be sent in an e-mail, by people anywhere in the world, it's a very egalitarian recourse in that respect as it's available to the t-shirt designer as well as the big media CEO. The latter probably uses a physical letter mailed by his lawyers with an impressive letterhead but in principle both are supposed to be equally effective.

Actual copyright lawsuits are prohibitively expensive to undertake for most.

I don't have statistics comparing public transport vs. using private airplanes, but I can kind of hazard a guess as to which is more common.

Latest news: Big time pirate operation, sorry "file locker" megaupload (And associated sites, megaporn, megavideo, etc...) have been taken down by the DOJ. Looks like SOPA wasn't necessary after all...

121:

@Nestor "...it's available to the t-shirt designer as well as the big media CEO. The latter probably uses a physical letter mailed by his lawyers with an impressive letterhead..."

Except they don't. The CEOs and the lawyers don't send us paper letters. I've possibly seen hundreds of the things, certainly many dozens. And they are automated emails from dodgy-sounding law firms, computer-generated boilerplate. Spambot technology.

122:

There are outfits that specialize in fighting piracy, yes, so some companies do outsource the DMCA to them. I know I'd resent every penny I'd be forced to spend on policing my own content, so I'm sorry if the formatting is not harmonious, but as long as the DMCA is not spurious, then it's a valid DMCA.

Except for google, who requires a hardcopy, apparently.

123:

...and in retort, Anonymous just took down the DOJ...

124:

Not only that, but they took down the DOJ in part with a new kind of browser-based DDOS-attack software that uses the browser of anyone who clicks the link to attack the target site, including random bystanders who don't know what they just clicked on.

Yes: Anonymous has just weaponized the rickroll.

125:

Cheers Frank; I'd always understood that to be the case.

126:

You're talking nonsense. Kindly stop it.

You may assert that "Anonymous took down the DOJ" when it becomes impossible to contact their phone switchboard, visit their offices, or meet in person with one of their officials.

Until then, please use "Anonymous inconvenienced the guy who operates the DOJ's public web server". The organization itself is, I feel, quite capable of continuing to operate in the absence of that facility ...

127:

F Burns @ 117
My confusion - thanks.
Off-topic slightly, I always liked Clydesdale Bank, because they (used to) have the prettiest bank-notes!

Those of you who want the "bankers" to eff off to HK are slavishly emulating the Madwoman from Grantham, did you know that?
Back in the day, there was still some shipbuilding and other "heavy" industries, that needed a little help, and better regulation. MT deliberately obstructed this, and made sure that they closed, because we "didn't need them", and they were all labour voters, thus increasing unemployment, lowering production and the guvmint's tax take.
You now want to replicate this exact same mistake.
Definitely NOT a clever move, huh?

128:

You seem to be suggesting that unwinding the 'free' market changes made in the 80's and 90's by politicians of all colours is the same as shutting down the mines etc. I don't think so.
What most people mean by get rid of the bankers, absent any declaration of being a communist who thinks the means of production should be owned in common, is that the style of banking and financial manipulations which have brought us the last 3 crashes should be legislated out of existence as much as possible.
Whether that means a tobin tax, or separation of gambling joints from retail, is worth a thread by itself, but most people don't actually want to spend a minute or two typing out the extra caveat sentences required to explain all this.

129:

I sometimes get the feeling that British corporate management has been not entirely competent for most of the last century, whether it is in banking or in manufacturing. To the outsider, some of the investment banking of the last few decades has been teetering on the boundaries of criminality. Transaction taxes--we used to have stamp duty levies on cheques--are nothing new. Their abolition in the financial markets was not, it appears, entirely a good thing.

But that may be correlation rather than causation.

The thing is, I was taught that speculators were a necessary part of a market. Being able to go short or long were tools that helped ensure that there was always somebody to make a deal. And things such as stamp-duty encouraged the speculators to look for real shifts.

I'm goiing to hopelessly mix metaphors, but the noise in a modern market, the tiny variations, is the froth being skimmed off by speculators taking advantage of the minuscule transaction costs. It is largely independent of determining a true market value. And the turnover of some business based on this speculation is largely meaningless.

And because of the way that modern speculation works, it cannot beat the market.

If you want to see investment, go watch Dragon's Den.

If you want to see a strong economy, pandering to so-called investment bankers is not the way to go.

If you want to solve unemployment, you need to take on the elephant in the room, the lack of jobs.

If you want to witter about migrant workers, have a look at the language teaching in our schools.

There are so many answers which are being ignored.

130:

guthrie @ 128
Still (partially) wrong, and (partially) correct.
1]More regulation, and better enforced.
YES - yesterday at the latest - really good idea.
This would be an unwinding, and is urgently necessary.
2]A "Tobin tax" - which is an entirely separate issue, please note, is a very very bad idea. For reasons explained.

Please do not conflate the two.

Your last point about "separating out the parts into (my words)
{a} "ordinary" banking
{b} true investment banking
and
{c} the rest
- is also valid.
It really looks as if we are going to get that, anyway, and is probably a good idea, if only to be able to see more clearly where the money-flows are.

Dave Bell @ 129
You might be suprised to hear that I agree with every word you've just written
Does anyone remember how awful the British motor industry was, and how it was all the "unions" fault?
Yet the BMI is still in suprisingly thriving condition, with the same workers, and largely the sanme unions - but the top bosses are, erm, German and Japanese and Indian.
Should tell you something.
I used to work for a major multinational who have just filed for Ch 11 - read the comments by "rockdrive" and "fledermaus" (me) - and we were telling "management", back in the mid-80's. Did they listen? Nah.
As for "education", well, I've also been a (science) teacher, and I can tell you the English ed-system is terminally broken.

131:

Point taken, but there ought to be a Thatcher equivalent of Godwin's Law...

More seriously, the big problem with Thatcher shutting down entire industries was that she destroyed the economic base of whole communities. I seriously doubt that a 40yo laid-off banker in London now would have the same trouble finding a new job as a 40yo laid-off shipworker in Glasgow thirty years ago. Again, perhaps I'm wrong; I'd welcome arguments/evidence to the contrary.

Guthrie @128: yep, that's pretty much what I believe. Plus, if we can't legislate it out of existence, we should at least not have it here. Though I'll have to consider OGH's point @116 more carefully.

132:

Good, I'm glad we agree on the most sensible things to do, although I note the government seems to want to put them off as long as possible, I wonder why...

The blame it all on the unions meme is still popular, although the more I have read about the last century or so of British industry the more I see that the problem was the management. I don't think it is an idea orignial to me, but the problem was that in a class based society with the most important thing being to own land and be part of the nobility, money which would have been re-invested was spent on climbing into the nobility. Later on owners used their business less like a cut throat competitice operation and more like a farm, nursing it along, taking out what they needed to fund their upper class lifestyle. If this meant compromising with the unions, so what, as long as the business chuntered on regularly.
This is of course something of a simplification. I doubt the press barons were very nice to each other, and there was cutthroat comepetition at a variety of levels and industries. Nevertheless the post war consensus had its roots in older forms of behaviour.
The problem we face now is naked capitalism with a government dedicated to permit it free reign. THe USA is a perfect example of what happens when you do so.

133:

I used to work for a major multinational who have just filed for Ch 11 - read the comments by "rockdrive" and "fledermaus" (me) - and we were telling "management", back in the mid-80's.

Your analysis misses something which was also bad news for Kodak. This was also when Fuji and Konica films which were cheaper, and better daylight balanced than Kodak products first became widely available in English-speaking markets/

134:

paws4thot
Must disagree completely there.
I worked in the research labs, in sucessively, Phot-physics and then colour.
K's films were the best, for colour, especially slides. I have a large "kodachrome" collection!
Their standard B&W maybe not so - "Ilford" made better for a long time.

135:

You might have worked in EK's R&D lab, but just about everyone I know switched from EKC to FC or KC reversal films, except the 2 people who did mostly portrait and/or model work, all citing the warmness of KC reversal film as a reason. Most of the magazines said similar things in period doing comparitive reviews of both reversal and slide stock.

136:

This is of course true in reality. (Cue the XKCD about how Anonymous just took down a poster the DOJ put up.)

On the other hand, from a PR angle it has a much bigger impact, and they know it. The important bit isn't how much damage they did, it's that everyone in America who doesn't know any better heard, "Oh my God, Anonymous took down the government's internets!"

137:
THe USA is a perfect example of what happens when you do so.

Oh, we're not perfect yet, but our Galtian Overlords are working hard to correct that. After all, they're still paying their slavesworkers a wage.

138:

I have to agree with Greg on this one. In the 40 or so years that I used film, before I went completely digital, I only used Fuji color film a couple of times, for special effects, because the colors were so over saturated and leaning towards blue and green (yellows were awful and reds were downright violent). They were good for night time city shots with lots of neon and fluorescent lights, but crap for sunlight natural shots. For a couple of decades my favorite color film was Kodachrome X, which had the nice colors and, reasonable speed (100 ASA) and good contrast in slides. Then they stopped making it.

And I really liked Ilford B&W paper; it had a lot of dynamic range, leading to lovely gray gradients.

139:

Mr. Stross,

I do hope I'm misunderstanding you.
If you speak in jest then I'm in full agreement.
If on the other hand you're being serious, then I've sorrily misjudged you. I would have thought it obvious that the implication wasn't that the US DOJ was effectively neutered. The "taking down" mentioned was a symbolic gesture at best, and should be understood as such.

sigh..
People need to lighten up.

140:

Please do not pick pointless fights with people. Since you just ended up agreeing with him, insulting him in the same breath indicates you are trying to pick a fight.

(In other words, you were wrong, he correctly called you on it, and you seem to be unwilling to accept that even as you agree with him. So... please don't do that.)

141:

I remember the Kodachrome recommendations from Practical Photography, which was prone to articles and copiously illustrated "supplements" on "glamour photography". And I don't think they were wrong about the bias working out for that. The Agfa reversal film of the time was better for landscapes. Ektachrome, also from Kodak, tended to enphasise the blue slightly.

Negative film, you can do that sort of biasing at the printing stage.

Digital, I don't think tweaking the RGB data has quiet the same effect.

142:

Re.
Galtian over-lords, the top 0.1%
When the Daily Torygraph starts complaining that something has gorn worng, then you know it must be serious ......

143:

@Nestor: "There are outfits that specialize in fighting piracy, yes, so some companies do outsource the DMCA to them. I know I'd resent every penny I'd be forced to spend on policing my own content, so I'm sorry if the formatting is not harmonious, but as long as the DMCA is not spurious, then it's a valid DMCA."

Except that, as I said, its computer-generated by web-crawlers and they often get it wrong. No human being looks at this stuff. They basically grep websites for stuff that reminds them some big name company's films or games and then send out threatening emails on spec. I have to read it, you don't. Trust me, its more-or-less spam. Look at Warner Brothers vs Hotfile.

Actually some of it really is spam. We're now begining to see fake complaints under DMCA, and fake accusations of spam, which contain links to dodgy websites. I dealt with one just today. I suppose the spammers reckon its a good way to get their phishing past our spam detectors on the principle that we won't automatically block legal complaints, or things that look like them.

I guess arms races that don't kill anybody are a lot less unpleasant than those that do. Though nuclear subs and ironclad battleships are a lot prettier than email full of legalese.

144:

Yes, but it is a similar sort of complaint to that from a century ago that the poor people were too unfit to serve in the army to defend their country. Of course that doesn't mean we can't work with them on some issues, but I'm afraid passages like this:

"Meanwhile, like the United States, Britain also has to live with a dependent and sometimes criminal class of welfare claimants. The perverse tax system sculpted by former chancellor Gordon Brown has sent out the message that work does not pay, condemning millions to a life of idleness and low self-esteem. Last year’s riots were one consequence of this immoral system."

Indicate their biased and erroneous thinking. (Who was it who dealt with unemployed people by sticking them on incapacity type benefit? Under whose government was there first widespread closure of jobs and lack of effort into getting people into new ones? Certainly not new labour, although they deserve some censure for their inability to deal with the problem. But then the problem is a difficult one)

145:

Glaucon, the problem is that far too many people -- shallow, or slow, or ill-educated, or just plain in a hurry -- take news headlines at face value. And the logical response to "OMG! Anonymous just took down the DOJ!" is, "where are the arrests and detentions? We can't let this continue!"

Put it another way, to many people a symbol is interchangeable with the thing it represents, and a picture of a raised fist is to be responded to with a real raised fist.

Polarisation -- even symbolic polarisation -- is a very dangerous lever to push on.

146:

I guess that's why google only accepts hardcopy DMCAs. So what's your company, a webhost or a file host? If it's the latter I have limited sympathy. If you're a webhost or something similar another possibility is a competitor trying to knock customers away from you "You took my site down over a bogus DMCA?! I'm moving my site to hostwonderful!".

Regarding hotfile, the megaupload case has revealed stuff like they had a cap* on file removals, 5000 a day from paramount iirc. That requires a significant staff, on the part of paramount, just to send removal requests of their content from just one site. And then if one is wrong the file host turns around and loudly trumpets how unfair and spurious the whole process is.

Anyway there are provisions for legal action when the DMCA is sent in bad faith, aren't there?

* Meaning they'd only honor 5000 requests, not that there were that only many files or even requests.

147:

guthrie @ 144
That's ritual flag-waving by both sides of an "argument" where both are wrong, actually.
Doesn't help real debate on the subject, of course.

148:

Well, maybe you can explain how the tax system persaudes benefits claimants that they should stay at home, rather than, say, the low rates of pay available to them.

149:

Guthrie
Short answer
Our social security "system" is borked
Now, everyone, plese don't go off pop, and I am certain that some of my answers will also be wrong...
If you are simply "unemployed" you only get benefits for a limited period (a year, now, I think)
BUT
If you have children, or in danger of being made homeless, there are allowances for the children (not their fault, after all) and for housing benefit, and some sort of subsistence allownce(s) - it is very complicated.
Now if you have 6 children by 4 fathers, and are living in poverty, the state will pay, and the total of the allowances will be more than the minimum wage, sometimes by quite a "lot"
There are a few, very extreme cases, where families have worked (gamed) the system to get "housing-benefit" allowances of over £300 per week - the guvmint is proposing to cap it at £100.
And, of course, they will get other benefits also.
National minimum wage here is: £6.08 per hour for adults .....
I should add that, in spite of having an engineering M.Sc I was unemployed for quite long periods 1995-2010, because I was over 45, and I only got UB40 for a very ,limited amount of that time.
So I can see both sides of the argument.
The system demeans, though, I'm sure of that, and there are also a minority, who, as I've said, "game" the system, getting ALL unemployed the workshy scroungers label.
Not a good scenario, I assure you.

The system desperately needs scrapping completely, and starting again.
But, if you do that, there will be winners and losers. And of course there are huge vested interests in keeping the present failed set-up on the go.
Sound familiar?

150:

You just have a misunderstanding. Pretty much anything online about SOPA is BS. It's never been about freedom versus anything. The MPAA and RIAA want to delist out of Google (and Bing) the piracy sites. The Google (and Microsoft) doesn't want to have to work on delisting them.

With regards to remix culture and such, firstly, all remixes on the normal sites like youtube or normal ISPs can already be easily taken down with DMCA request, and absent some spamming activity, will not reappear, and SOPA changes absolutely nothing about this. Secondly, SOPA does not redefine what constitutes a copyright violation (contrary to what you hear being claimed everywhere by people repeating unreliable sources).

151:

Oh dear. What nastiness is this? The truth is that tennants don't get housing benefits. Their landlords do. here's no incentive for poor people to game that system, but there is a real level of fraud from landlords. This doesn't fit in with thinking the govt' is wanting to cap it because they have a rabid hatred of single mums.

152:

Just want to make clear I don't think that Greg is the one being nasty. The ones making the torygraph article posted are, tho.

153:

This seems like the most appropriate to put this, unless/until someone writes a relevant blog entry.

That file-sharing site that was recently closed by the US Department of (in)Justice (used advisedly) did contain legally held material. The DoInj have announced that they are going to start deleting material from the relevant servers, regardless of its legality.

154:

It wasn't the Dept. It was the CDN guys; Mega*'s assets have been seized, so no-one's paying them, so they let it be known they'd be deleting everything in a week's time. As it would possibly count as "destruction of evidence" and possibly cause a collapse of the trial (or at least give significant grounds for appeal) there was some swift negotiation. No idea what the current state is, but there's been a reprieve.
All under the "as far as I know" disclaimer, of course.

155:

Blame it on bad radio reporting.

156:

Happens. ",) I live in a country that's just had a minor outbreak of xenophobia caused by a newspaper article including some maliciously mistranslated quotes, I sympathise.

157:

As a content creator myself, I can see why it would be difficult for some people to understand the issue and why it causes so much confusion.

I am a consultant and work off of my intellectual property, my knowledge. In other words, everything I write is a creation for my patron(s).

Let me give you an example. When I answer a phone call from a potential 'patron', and I do it on average 10 times for every 'commission' I actually get, I let them 'download' my intellectual property, namely my expertise, I don't get to see a penny either. And on top of that, I have spend my actual time doing it, whereas a passive download only costs minimal bandwidth on a website, or nothing if it is hosted on a file sharing site such as the 'Big Bad' Megaupload the US Government and its cronies took down (where I had some of my stuff hosted, BTW).

But I don't complain about it. It's a simple fact of life. As a matter of fact, I embrace it. Downloading may cost potential revenue, but not nearly as much as Big Entertainment claims it costs in reality: as ask yourself how many of these 'downloads' would actually occur if every one had to pay for it, and what it would do to your exposure!

In other words, my free 'downloads' assure me of sufficient exposure to sustain the demand for my 'concerts'. As simple as that, really.

158:

Charlie Stoss said:
"The Romance Writers of America are scary?"

Charlie, I think he meant the fundamental problem we have been facing on and off in history of human civilization, Right Wing Authoritarianism.

In other words, reactionism, or fundamental mental constructs borne from shock from life threatening situations. A relic from our origins as prey and the struggle for survival.

159:

I totally agree. When was the fundamental right to protest on a street in front of the DOJ and inconvenience those who have business there any different from a DDOS attack.

Those who tout that DDOS attacks are criminals seriously need to have their heads examined, or at least to be given a refresher course in basic history about the Constitution of the United States of America and realize it is not only a right, but a duty for citizens to denounce tyranny.

160:

No, you've failed to follow - it was the Research Works Act. See my previous comment at #103

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on January 17, 2012 6:07 PM.

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