Joe Biden: SOPA is Un-American - but not when America does it

A reader writes, "A video made by TechDirt and Fight for the Future of a speech VP Biden gave on November 1st at the London Conference on Cyberspace. In the video VP Biden explains EXACTLY why the Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT-IP Act are both bad ideas and decidedly un-American."

A couple of weeks ago, Joe Biden gave a perfect, if unintended, explanation for why SOPA and PROTECT IP are such terrible ideas. Since his speech included a bunch of other things, we thought it would be good to highlight Biden's specific arguments that explain why SOPA and PROTECT IP are bad, and to give him kudos for making such statements, since they contradict the statements from Hollywood on this bill.

VP Joe Biden Explains Why SOPA & PROTECT IP Are Anti-American & A Bad Idea


    1. Ahem, it’s “[i]nternet.”  With a lowercase g.  And since when does anyone have to put words into Biden’s mouth?  He is gaffe-tastic.  He doesn’t need your help.  Remember when he called copyright infringement the same thing as theft?  Even copyright-wingers aren’t arguing that.  This is like quoting Steven Baldwin to disprove [g]od….

      [Edit] Apparently copyright-wingers do consist, in some part, of people who think copyright infringement is theft, as evidenced by this board. Judge me not by the dipping of their bags, but by the contents of my tea.

  1. As a prolific and longtime online pirate, I would like to say that I’m really not hurting anyone because I wouldn’t be buying the stuff I download. I can’t afford to spend that much on entertainment. It’s like listening to the radio, but full albums and episodes. 

    1. I hate that argument.  If you’re too cheap or too poor to consume a product, then you don’t get it.  Just because it’s a digital product doesn’t mean it’s ok, stealing is stealing.

      1. And infringement is infringement. And misuse of terminology is misuse of terminology. And east is east, and west is west, and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now, uh, now you tell me what you know.

      2. Except, you know, when you’re using the word “stealing” to mean “copying”. Then, well, it’s not really “stealing”, is it? It’s more like… what’s a good way to put this? Oh, right:

        Stealing is stealing and copying is copying.

        I know it’s a toughie since they both end in -ing, but everyone might do well to remember that just having the same suffix doesn’t mean they’re synonyms.

      3. Yeah. I was too poor to buy a car, so I took a bunch of photos of your car and built one just like it in my garage. Aren’t you pissed about how I stole your car?

        1. And I just made a copy of your car, then let twenty-three friends copy my copy of your copy of JJ’s car. Man is he gonna be irked.

        2. I spent hours of my life designing and building a car, then spent money marketing that car for purchase.  Then you just downloaded my car for free, with no effort on your part, and drive it wherever you want.  Yes, I’m pissed about how you stole my car.

          1. The human shield of ‘artists rights’ rears up to take shots fired at greedy corporations that hump designers for all they can get, then attenuate any attempt at innovating and sharing. Bravo!

      4. It’s not stealing. I refute the claim that information (replicated or otherwise) equals property. The premise of conflating thought with stuff is a nineteenth century lazy attempt at swiping cash for nothing. That’s why ‘artist’s rights’ are always held up like a human shield by large commerce/capital vacuums.
             Now if you want to go all panpsychist and claim ‘yeah man, mind is an a priori quality of stuff,’ then the notion of ownership becomes oppression and slavery. bwahahahaha!
        P.S. Panpsychism or BUST

      5. Is it really stealing?  Him making a copy does not deprive the owner of the original from using his  instance of the material.  And should we equate “copyright violation” with “stealing”, when corporations have basically written copyright  laws in their own interests?

      6. I hate that argument.  If you’re too cheap or too poor to consume a product, then you don’t get it.  Just because it’s a digital product doesn’t mean it’s ok, stealing is stealing.

        This may be true, but I’d like to point out that the arguments made by media for draconian enforcement legislation (as well as damages awarded in court) are usually economic arguments, so the point that the OP brings up — how much is infringement affecting the revenue of rights holders? — is a perfectly valid subject of discussion for the debate.

  2. The argument that digital theft isn’t really “stealing” since nothing disappears is disingenuous. The theft is not of an object, but of the revenue that object could generate.

    I made a modest income making videos, but since they’ve started appearing on sites like rapidshare my customers have all but disappeared. My videos are now available on literally thousands of sites, all claiming compliance with DMCA. I can’t afford a lawyer, and filing all the paperwork required by those thousands of sites before they’ll remove my videos would become my new fulltime job (and that’s assuming they’d actually follow through, which I personally doubt, and in the meantime I’ve had to provide them with all my personal contact info as part of the request).

    So no, not one object has been removed from my inventory. But I am the victim of theft.

    1. Exceptions test the rule, to be sure. Especially when approaching the synthesis of phenomena from a commercial model.

    2. Not that I fully disagree with you, but to play Devil’s Advocate:

      What, exactly, *entitles* you to make money from your videos?

      Just because you once were able to make a living at something doesn’t entitle you to continue to do so.  There are a lot of professions which have been obsoleted by advances in technology or culture.  Remember, the Luddites were weavers who went around destroying mechanical looms because they felt *entitled* to income that mechanization was making unavailable.

      Modern copyright crackdown laws feel just a bit like a well-funded Weaving Lobby using the government to outlaw all mechanical looms, as well as to fine or imprison anyone wearing fabric made on them.

      Times change.  Maybe musicians and artists will have to find new ways of making money. 

      1. That argument is ridiculous. You’re implying that like the weavers, content makers are being obsoleted by… what exactly? I don’t see robots making cool videos. And in the same vein, weavers weren’t in a bind because their IP was being copied. Try again.

        1. Agreed, the analogy makes no sense, he’s still doing the work but now not being paid for his own work. Not at all similar to something else taking over that work.

        2. No, that wasn’t my argument at all.  I said:  Just because you once were able to make a living at something doesn’t necessarily entitle you to continue to do so when times change. 

          I mentioned the Luddites only to show that this is not the first time in history that people have complained about shifts in technology threatening their livelihood.

          In modern times, what is being obsoleted is not the *making* of content (as with the weavers).  It is the ability to easily control *access* to the content — and hence, to *profit* by controlling access.

          The very nature of “copyright” is an acknowledgment that ideas have value to the creator of those ideas, and a large part of that value is the ability to profit off of one’s creation.  Copyright laws have existed for a while.  But recently, they seem to have gotten somewhat draconian.   If people are now worried about putting up a video of their daughter singing a Disney song because Disney lawyers might sue them, then something has seriously gone wrong.

      2. I think it’s interesting that you know how the Luddites, people who lived 200 years ago, *felt*. Please tell me more about how I, too, can acquire your amazing powers as a retroactive empath.

        I myself can barely use my psychic powers to divine the emotions of people who lived in the 60’s, to bolster my own arguments.

        1. I think it’s interesting that you know how the Luddites, people who lived 200 years ago, *felt*.

          You don’t every truly know how anyone feels. You can, however, read what they say about how they feel, whether it be from today or from two thousand years ago.

        2. In a funny twist, he is actually only quoting wikipedia:

          “The Luddites were a social movement of 19th-century English textile artisans who protested – often by destroying mechanised looms– against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution, which they felt were leaving them without work and changing their way of life.”

          Well, maybe not THAT funny or twisty, but I don’t think that part of the argument is worth pursuing anyhow. To further address yours, SavvyTennisBalls’ and Andrew Molloys concern: I think Eryq is correct. If I make a video, it has an exact value of zero money (in any currency). I have put time and effort into it, but it’s up to the people to value my time with their attention and maybe even their money.

          Now, you can argue that clothes have a more readily apparent value to people, but that is still not a fixed point to make (for starters, many of us COULD get clothes almost for free – or pay orders of magnitude a premium on “fashion”). Similarly, works of art can mean the world to people, making them basically invaluable. Again – this is why I think this line of argument isn’t really worth pursuing.

          The actual luddites here are the MPAA and RIAA: They were originally created because distribution of content before the Internet was hard. As it became more apparent that distribution of content would be very simple very soon, they quickly changed their message – suddenly, they were advocates of artists (that they squeezed money from over decades) or in general protectors of property (after some struggle, they somewhat succeeded in creating a new class of intangible goods, now known as intellectual property, which has been wittily claimed to be ‘neither’ by somebody smarter than me).

          The more appropriate wikipedia page to quote is this:

          “The Luddite fallacy is an opinion in development economics related to the belief that labour-saving technologies (i.e., technologies that increase output-per-worker) increase unemployment by reducing demand for labour.”

          There will always be willingness to create art as there will always be willingness to appreciate art. Whether or not that turns into an income for the artist is an unrelated subject and confusing the two into one is a fallacy that many try to profit from.

          Last week, a musician that I admire published a new piece of music. I willingly paid the amount that you would normally pay for a full album for an mp3 of that track (it was basically “pay what you want” – and I did want to pay). I didn’t need to do that, but I did.

          The problem in our society is indeed that we lack a proper understanding of what artists need because we have heard the same story over and over again. MTV has shown us that “real” artists can acquire luscious houses and the RIAA has reminded us that those artists fear for their money.

          I don’t buy it. I think we’re all just people and everybody tries to make as good a living as possible. The ‘industry’ has infected generations of artists with the idea that the world owes them money and some of them really see it as that – as making a living. If that is all that art is to you, then you are dead in side.

        3. It’s easy, EvilSpirit!  Just read a book.  All manner of interesting things may be found in them, including the thoughts of people who lived in times gone by and thought it worthwhile to record their innermost thoughts or the happenings around them.

          Or, you could just google “Luddite”. 

          Or read the first paragraph of this: .

    3. No, you’re not. You are the victim of IP infringement….which is not the same as theft. Unless you, or anyone else in the content and IP industry, can somehow invent a system or device that will accurately measure “potential loss” then you’re argument doesn’t hold water. You just cannot prove that people who are using your idea would have paid money for it in the first place, and therefore cannot prove that you lost a specific amount of income due to the availability of said idea.

      Here is an extremely simple illustration that you might understand outlining the difference between copying and theft:

      No matter your semantic or ideological leanings, there is just no way to combine the concepts of “copying” and “theft” together….they are two separate ideas. That’s why we use two different words to describe them.

  3. We’re on the cusp of a post-scarcity society: if literally everyone in the world — including you — could have literally any  material object they wanted, you’d stand athwart history, Bill Buckley style, yelling stop because you haven’t gotten paid?

    Christ. Y’all are either selfish or unimaginative, and I’m not sure which is worse.

  4. Do as we say, not as we do? 

    I’m staunchly opposed to this legislation, but I can’t help but feel both somewhat resigned to its passing, as well as comfortable with how toothless it will be.  Anti-piracy legislation has a historical track record of inefficacy.  Compared with the trading FTP accounts of pirate dumps back in the early 90s, it’s easier than ever today to find pirated content.

    Even if SOPA is hugely effective, what’s going to stop those really interested in piracy to fall back to a community based around those old operating procedures – sites that take no ad revenue, and referred to only by IP address?

    1. The problem with SOPA is not it’s effect on piracy, which will be none.  The problem is it’s hideous effect on everything else.

  5. I have given many ideas (IE art/design, academic) away to people for free. Over the years, the odd person finds out about one of these things, and has to point out that I could have all this cash if I ‘get it together’ and produce a particular thing in a commercial framework. At first I used to get annoyed. Now I always tell them that I really wish I could help them see why I do what I do, and how I do it. But they don’t seem able to understand why I share. So I don’t bother. However, I have noticed that I tend to avoid giving the aforementioned ‘critics’ ideas which I feel are interesting, wonderful, or useful. Having thought about it I realized that I avoid giving certain ideas to those humans who seem most likely to retard the development of the idea. Such retardation frequently occurs when one attempts to mediate the development of an idea through commodity. Thus when a person indicates to me they primarily choose to mediate experience itself through commodity, I tend to avoid telling them about all the potentially good bits. If the bits are that good, they will grow on their own — without the invisible shaping hands of spectacular recuperation. You don’t have to quote me, just call it palimpsest. If you claim you own this and try to make money off of it, go ahead — nature will flow around your retarded manner.
    Again… panpsychism or BUST. Trust the hylozoic, it loves you.

  6. While copyright arguments are always fun, it distracts from why SOPA is bad.  Which is that it empowers the wrong people to use it way too easily to do things it isnt designed to do.   Like the patriot act was.  And the patriot act was at least administered by the government.  SOPA puts the burden of administration on hosts, and it enforces a guilty-until-proven-innocent paradigm that would facilitate easy accusations for the MPAA/RIAA and expensive defense on the part of anyone accused.  And there’s no disincentive for false accusation.

    No matter where you stand on Piracy, SOPA is horrible engineering.

  7. So I download office. Never use it. Wouldn’t ever buy it. Never open the disk image. Just sits on a drive to someday be deleted.

    Stealing? Infringement? What revenue is lost? What rights are violated?

    It’s getting very Schrodinger in here….

  8. FYI guys there is NO piracy. That is, piracy begins at the studio, or more exactly- the Distribution company. (They guys who put it DVD’s).  I have PERSONAL experience finding my own IP pirated, and traced it back to Sony Home Entertainment  itself, no where else. I’m insulted when anyone talks to me about piracy, or doing my part to stop or not do it. When the Studios, or Distributors get their act together, we can talk. Until then, look at your own people guys- it’s not the consumers. We distribute it. You are the genesis so stop yelling at ME to change my ways, when it’s YOURS you should worry about.

  9. Time to break out the modems and start getting the BBS’s up and running.

    Sure it’s a low bandwidth solution, but like hell it can ever be shut down across the board.

    Problem is when you’re like me and live rural on finding one.

  10. Copyright infringement is already illegal. The film and music industries are profitable. I wish Congress would work on things to benefit the majority of their constituents, especially their constituents who are sick or unemployed or otherwise hurting. I guess sick, unemployed people don’t send enough money to the campaign.

  11. Depriving someone or a group of someones of revenue is not in itself theft. If I tell someone planning to upgrade to a new version of Windows about a free Linux distribution that fills their needs, I have not stolen from Microsoft. If I convince them that generic-brand breakfast cereal is just as good as what they’ve been eating, I have not stolen from Kellog. If I volunteer to fix their leaky faucet, I have not stolen from the plumber.
    Opposition to copyright infringement cannot be based primarily on a company making less revenue than they hypothetically would have otherwise, especially if the company’s profits don’t support the hypothesis.

  12. sh Congress would work on things to benefit the majority of their constituents, especially their constituents who are sick or unemployed or otherwise hurting. I guess sick, unemployed people don’t send enough money to the campaign. 

  13. To be sarcastically faux-fair, there is a certain logic to it. It’s American if America does it; it’s Unamerican if Unamerica does it.

  14. Just a small observation on this “theft” definition. People seem to be using “depriving the owner” as the actual definition of theft, but the owner in fact doesn’t need to be deprived of anything. Theft is the taking of property without the property owner’s permission. The key isn’t in the definition of theft but the definition of “property” and “property owner”. 

    Property is defined (both in English and legally in most jurisdictions) as covering both physical and intangible property. I’ve never seen a proper definition of theft/stealing that explicitly says anything of depriving the original owner. So as far as I can tell from the actual definitions of these words IP theft really can be called theft. Now whether you want to argue then that specifically certain things are “property” and whether they are owned by the creators/licensors then that’s a different argument. Lets face it people are only arguing the use of the words “theft”/”steal” to assign how justifiable or bad it is. This is about how much rights the “owners” have over distribution of their works. Loss of revenue etc are all red herrings. 

    Personally I’ve yet to come across any media I couldn’t afford that I deemed essential and not a luxury. If I can’t afford it then I don’t obtain it, I don’t see the problem with that. My life hasn’t been negatively impacted by the lack of luxuries I can’t afford. If the owners want to free their stuff like Cory does then I’ll happily take advantage and then pay in some way (e.g. buy his books in physical form), I’d rather respect the wishes of the people’s creations I’m using, I’d want the same of others for me.

  15. To me as an artist, the goal of art is to have something from within my head resonate in the heads of others. To say that you are displeased with not making enough money from every single head your art resonated in may superficially be a coherent statement, but it just happens to expose you as a massive douchebag.

    Being “compensated properly for your art” is a myth perpetuated by the people who rake in the highest profits on art. Of course, those are not the artists.

    If creating and enjoying your art is not the highest pleasure to you, you are not an artist, you are a salesman. That’s fine – we do need salesmen in this world. But they should not pretend to be able to speak for artists.

  16. One big problem I see with this legislation, and I should stress it isn’t the only one by any means, is that there is no way that I can see this law been applied fairly and consistently across the board. As has been pointed out, a strict interpretation of this legislation would see the potential for sites such as Youtube and Facebook being blocked from the internet, but I can’t see that happening. The furore surrounding a company such as Paramount or Universal causing Facebook to be removed from the web would be terribly negative publicity and I’m sure the media companies aren’t oblivious to this.

    When it comes to the big players, they are going to continue to wield the weapons they already have at their disposal such as DMCA take-down notices. Instead they are going to focus their efforts on smaller companies that relatively few people would miss, or start-ups. Of course, then they can pull these figures together and argue that the legislation works before attempting to get something even more stringent in place.

    Someone please correct me if I’m wrong on this point, but surely this law can only be realistically applied to DNS boxes located within US territories. Yes, it may limit the activities of those relatively clueless about computers, but surely it will utterly fail to thwart anyone who can change to use a “black” DNS in another country.

  17. To continue the stagnant and somewhat repetitive debate on piracy, let me tell you why I steal content from the internet. It’s rather simple actually. I have no delusions that what I do when I torrent something isn’t synonymous with stealing, what’s more, I embrace it. And why do I do this? Like I said, it’s simple: because piracy is never going to go away. So, the bigger of an impact internet piracy has on profiteers of digital goods, the sooner we shift the methods with which we market and sell said goods. Something needs to change, because whether you like it or not, people and piracy will always be the same.

  18. So if you truly think that these are horrible things, you have to vote for someone other than Obama in 2012.

  19. Personally I’ve yet to come across any media I couldn’t afford that I deemed essential and not a luxury. If I can’t afford it then I don’t obtain it, I don’t see the problem with that. My life hasn’t been negatively impacted by the lack of luxuries I can’t afford.

    You should try getting a library card sometime.

  20. I’m a content creator.  I’m working on a film that I hope to make money on.

    However, there is NO FUCKING WAY I would ask that the entire internet be broken so that I could make money on my film. 

    Instead, I will seek to use the internet to my advantage – for publicity, promotion, and – in the end – for dissemination.  If that means I make less money, so be it.  If I am clever, it might mean I make more.   But the point is: a free and open internet is way more important than my ability to make a few extra bux off my creation.  Anyone who says otherwise is a greedy fucking bastard or doesn’t understand the value of the internet.

    I swear – people have their heads way out of line.  Even if the internet breaks a few business models, can you not see that destroying it is far, far worse to humanity’s future development?  Can you not see that putting DNS under government/corporate control is a really big, bad deal?

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