Internet Voter Registration Day: pledge to vote, and get your friends to pledge, and scare the piss out of SOPA-loving DC insiders
Tiffiniy from the SOPA-killing activist group Fight for the Future sez,
Remember when we worked together and beat back internet censorship and SOPA, and changed the world earlier this year? 2012 is a historic year for our basic rights on the web - the year the internet came alive and fought for free speech and freedom. Sites like Boing Boing depend on an open and free web, and so doesn't much of what you love and do on the web.
Unfortunately, Congress still only cares about the opinions of likely voters. If everyone who cares about internet freedom stays at home this election, Congress will bring back SOPA. That's why we've been working on a campaign to turn out a massive number of internet users at the polls, and we're asking people to join us tomorrow for Internet Voter Registration Day, right before a bunch of state deadlines, by pledging that you'll vote, and register if you need to: internetvotes.org.
Washington insiders thought SOPA, PIPA, and CISPA were all 'certain to pass.' How did the internet win against those bills? Because people stood up to protect free speech and the transformative power of the internet in their lives.
Let's dramatically increase the number of people egging each other on to vote, which has shown to get people to the polls. The first thing we're asking people to do is to get our friends to pledge and register to vote starting Tuesday, National Voter Registration Day (right before a bunch of state deadlines with time to send in your forms). Then we'll work together to mobilize millions of internet users to get to the polls. People can use our tools to see which of their friends are voting and registered, mobilize their audiences into voting blocks for their cause, site, or group, get important voting information, and make sure their friends go vote.
James from the New America Foundation sez, "I wanted to share this blog post on why civil society voice is essential in Internet governance and some efforts shift control to government-only entities:"
While Indian courts are attempting to control content domestically, a simultaneous effort from Indiaâ€™s national government is focused on increasing governmental control of the global Internet. Last October, India submitted a proposal to the United Nations for the creation of a UN Committee for Internet-related policies (CIRP). CIRP would be a government-only body tasked with overseeing Internet governance and standards setting.
This would alter the current landscape of international Internet governance, which is a multi-stakeholder process including civil society as well as government actors. The US-based public policy organization Center for Democracy and Technology describes the current model as "bottom-up, decentralized, consensus-driven approach in which governments, industry, engineers, and civil society" contribute to policy outcomes. The distribution of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and top level domains, for example, is managed by Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit organization. Organizations like Internet Engineering Task Force and the World Wide Web Consortium work together with engineers to develop standards.
Constitutional law expert Marvin Ammori, one of the First Amendment scholars along with Larry Tribe who explained how SOPA would violate the First Amendment, shares a wonderful story with Boing Boing. Snip from his blog post:
When I was quite young, I saw the first Star Wars movie and believed that, if I took part in a great cause, it would end with a medal ceremony and a princess conferring the medal. It has finally happened.
Last night, I received a medal from Princess Tiffiniy Ying Cheng of Fight for the Future, representing the “committee for the Defenders of the Internet.” Bestowed upon me was the Nyan Cat Medal of Internet Awesomeness, the “highest honor known to Internet Defenders.” I could not be more honored.
Princess Tiffiniy’s organization was one of the leaders in the Battle of SOPA. She and her partner Holmes Wilson are pretty amazingly brilliant–they were the people who organized the Free Justin Bieber campaign, led American Censorship Day on November 16, and were among the leaders organizing the January 18 Blackout. Many people pulled together from an array of communities to fight SOPA–Redditers, Wikipedians, civil libertarians, entrepreneurs, artists, venture capitalists, tech executives, consumer electronics makers, tech bloggers–alongside millions of people who just love the Internet and hate Internet censorship, from technologically advanced Wookiies to technologically challenged Ewoks. Many awesome people were involved in leading, coordinating, and taking the time to fight SOPA.
Read the rest of his story, and see a larger version of the pic: "Medal Ceremony in Real Life: for Internet Awesomeness." [ammori.org] Fast Company also gave him props.
Swartz: I first heard of the bill shortly after it was introduced in September 2010—back then it was called something else. They kept changing the name. I heard about it and quickly put together a website, which ended up becoming Demand Progress, to try to make people aware of the issues. Their plan was to rush it through a vote before anyone could have a chance to raise any objections.
Very quickly our protest started going viral. Several hundred thousand people signed the petition, and the vote was delayed. And that began this long fight. Since then, my engagement has been on and off. I've had other things to do but have tried to be a catalyst at key moments. The main thing was the incredible community building. That was basically what stopped it in the end.
Aaron Swartz Hacks the Attention Economy (Thanks, Brian!)
Michael Geist sez, "I've posted a video version of a recent talk on SOPA activism and what it means for the next generation of global copyright agreements such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement and the Trans Pacific Partnership. The talk is about an hour as it also assesses the global strategies employed by the U.S. and copyright lobby groups of shifting away from WIPO toward closed negotiations (like ACTA) and domestic copyright pressure (like the Canada's Bill C-11, which is a combination of DMCA + potentially SOPA)."
Beyond SOPA: ACTA, WIPO, and the Global Copyfight (Thanks, Michael!)
EMI's VP of Urban Promotions Craig Davis opposes SOPA and legislation like it, and thinks the solution to piracy is better products at formats and prices that customers like. TorrentFreak's Ernesto writes:
“Personally, I feel that the method they’re using is incorrect. All it will do is cause headaches and issues for everyone,” Davis noted.
While the EMI VP opposes PIPA and SOPA, he does admit that piracy is a problem. However, Davis thinks that the problem can be better solved from within the music industry itself. In other words, the key to solving piracy isn’t legislation, but innovation.
“I do believe that a person should be compensated for their work. I feel that piracy is a big issue, and things like Spotify will assist in combating this problem,” he said.
There's an old joke. Heavy rains start and a neighbour pulls up in his truck. "Hey Bob, I'm leaving for high ground. Want a lift?" Bob says, "No, I'm putting my faith in God." Well, waters rise and pretty soon the bottom floor of his house is under water. Bob looks out the second story window as a boat comes by and offers him a lift. "No, I'm putting my faith in God." The rain intensifies and floodwaters rise and Bob's forced onto the roof. A helicopter comes, lowers a line, and Bob yells "No, I'm putting my faith in God."
Well, Bob drowns. He goes to Heaven and finally gets to meet God. "God, what was that about? I prayed and put my faith in you, and I drowned!"
God says, "I sent you a truck, a boat, and a helicopter! What the hell more did you want from me?"
As SOPA looked shakier, the President handed a challenge to the technical community:
"Washington needs to hear your best ideas about how to clamp down on rogue Web sites and other criminals who make money off the creative efforts of American artists and rights holders," reads Saturday's statement. "We should all be committed to working with all interested constituencies to develop new legal tools to protect global intellectual property rights without jeopardizing the openness of the Internet. Our hope is that you will bring enthusiasm and know-how to this important challenge."
All I can think is: we gave you the Internet. We gave you the Web. We gave you MP3 and MP4. We gave you e-commerce, micropayments, PayPal, Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, the iPad, the iPhone, the laptop, 3G, wifi--hell, you can even get online while you're on an AIRPLANE. What the hell more do you want from us?
Take the truck, the boat, the helicopter, that we've sent you. Don't wait for the time machine, because we're never going to invent something that returns you to 1965 when copying was hard and you could treat the customer's convenience with contempt.
Republished with permission from O'Reilly Radar
Carl Franzen's history of the SOPA/PIPA fight on Talking Points Memo is a fascinating account of the behind-the-scenes stuff that created the series of ever-larger protests that resulted in the bills' demise. Of particular note is his credit to Tiffiniy Cheng, who, along with Nicholas Reville, and Holmes Wilson, forms a trio of Boston-bred activists who are three of the most creative, passionate, skilled and engaged shit-disturbers I know. You may remember them as Downhill Battle, but they're also the folks behind Universal Subtitles, Miro, FreeBieber, and many other interesting and noteworthy campaigns and projects.
“There was sustained effort for the past three months,” said Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight For the Future, an online advocacy non-profit that was founded in mid-2011 with a grant from the Media Democracy Fund, itself a fund-raising and distribution organization founded in 2006 “on the belief that freedom of expression and access to information are basic human rights.”
Fight for the Future played an early leading role in coordinating the various websites and groups opposed to SOPA and PIPA into a cohesive coalition.
That coalition, which ended up including upwards of 70 different companies and advocacy groups — From Tumblr to Demand Progress to Don’t Censor the Net — first took shape as a coalition in November 2011 under the banner “American Censorship,” just in time to rally opponents ahead of the House Judiciary Committee’s first hearing on SOPA.
Michael Geist sez,
The Internet battle against SOPA and PIPA generated huge interest in Canada with many Canadians turning their sites dark (including Blogging Tories, Project Gutenberg Canada, and CIPPIC) in support of the protest. While SOPA may be dead (for now) in the U.S., lobby groups are likely to intensify their efforts to export SOPA-like rules to other countries. With Bill C-11 back on the legislative agenda at the end of the month, Canada will be a prime target for SOPA style rules.
In fact, a close review of the unpublished submissions to the Bill C-32 legislative committee reveals that several groups have laid the groundwork to add SOPA-like rules into Bill C-11, including blocking websites and expanding the "enabler provision"to target a wider range of websites. Given the reaction to SOPA in the U.S., where millions contacted their elected representatives to object to rules that threatened their Internet and digital rights, the political risks inherent in embracing SOPA-like rules are significant.
The music industry is unsurprisingly leading the way, demanding a series of changes that would make Bill C-11 look much more like SOPA. For example, the industry wants language to similar to that found in SOPA on blocking access to websites, demanding new provisions that would "permit a court to make an order blocking a pirate site such as The Pirate Bay to protect the Canadian marketplace from foreign pirate sites."
A petition to the White House asks for an official investigation of former senator and now-MPAA CEO Chris Dodd, who strongly implied that he believes his members' contributions to election campaigns are bribes.
“This is an open admission of bribery and a threat designed to provoke a specific policy goal. This is a brazen flouting of the ‘above the law’ status people of Dodd’s position and wealth enjoy,” the petition reads.
“We demand justice. Investigate this blatant bribery and indict every person, especially government officials and lawmakers, who is involved.”
In just a few hours the petition amassed more than 5,000 [ed: now 6,000] votes and this number is increasing rapidly. As a former Senator, Chris Dodd has many friends in Washington so it’s unclear whether the petition will accomplish anything, but if the numbers grow big enough the White House won’t be able to ignore it either.
Julian Sanchez is on fire in this Ars Technica article on the funny accountancy and outright lies that underlie the harms-from-piracy stats cited in policy debates about Internet censorship and surveillance proposals like SOPA and PIPA:
As a rough analogy, since antipiracy crusaders are fond of equating filesharing with shoplifting: suppose the CEO of Wal-Mart came to Congress demanding a $50 million program to deploy FBI agents to frisk suspicious-looking teens in towns near Wal-Marts. A lawmaker might, without for one instant doubting that shoplifting is a bad thing, question whether this is really the optimal use of federal law enforcement resources. The CEO indignantly points out that shoplifting kills one million adorable towheaded orphans each year. The proof is right here in this study by the Wal-Mart Institute for Anti-Shoplifting Studies. The study sources this dramatic claim to a newspaper article, which quotes the CEO of Wal-Mart asserting (on the basis of private data you can't see) that shoplifting kills hundreds of orphans annually. And as a footnote explains, it seemed prudent to round up to a million. I wish this were just a joke, but as readers of my previous post will recognize, that's literally about the level of evidence we're dealing with here.
In short, piracy is certainly one problem in a world filled with problems. But politicians and journalists seem to have been persuaded to take it largely on faith that it's a uniquely dire and pressing problem that demands dramatic remedies with little time for deliberation. On the data available so far, though, reports of the death of the industry seem much exaggerated.
Former Senator Chris Dodd, now head of the MPAA, is pissed at Obama. He's threatened to withhold entertainment lobbyist money from Obama's upcoming re-election war chest over the administration's lack of support for SOPA and PIPA. As an ex-Senator, Dodd is prohibited from directly lobbying Congress for a couple more years, and some insiders tell me he feels that this hamstrung his efforts because he couldn't sit down over lunch with lawmakers who directly owed him personal favors and demand that they stay firm on SOPA and PIPA.
"Candidly, those who count on quote 'Hollywood' for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who's going to stand up for them when their job is at stake," Dodd told Fox News. "Don't ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don't pay any attention to me when my job is at stake."
EXCLUSIVE: Chris Dodd warns of Hollywood backlash against Obama over anti-piracy bill (Thanks, mindofbryan!)
SOPA/PIPA mashup: how much Hollywood money did your lawmaker take? Name and shame with fellow voters
With PIPA off the legislative calendar and SOPA paused, this tool may seem a bit redundant, but it's a nice piece of advocacy work. Creator Jonathan Vanasco sez, "I tossed together a mashup over a few hours while sick on the couch. It uses the data from Propublica and SunlightLabs to create very-shareable profile pages for every Senator and Representative that were geared for 'viral': - language is designed to motivate people to read and share - leverages all the Facebook and Twitter tools to increase ranking - text and graphics are optimized for Facebook sharing, educating users about the issue and how much lobbyist money may be influencing things - automatic twitter suggestions for tweets with likely-to-share language ie: - challenge a senator to give back $x in media contributions - notes if a senator has received more media contributions than 50% of other senators - asks a senator how much money is needed for them to represent people, not lobbyists."
Hi. My name is Dianne Feinstein. (Thanks, Jonathan!)
James Losey from the New America Foundation sez, "Great news, the PROTECT-IP Senate vote scheduled for Tuesday has been postponed!"
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid [ed: D-NV, Senate Majority Leader] released the following statement today on the Senate’s PROTECT I.P. Act: "In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT I.P. Act..."
Writing for Cato At Liberty, Ars Technica alum Julian Sanchez has a timely redux of the research he did on how the made-up piracy numbers quoted during debates about SOPA and PIPA come from, and how little relation they bear to reality. It seems like every discussion of SOPA/PIPA includes a phrase like "Everyone agrees that piracy is huge problem," but in fact, the "huge problem" they're agreeing on has been inflated to farcical proportions through the most transparent financial funny business.
Siwek takes an estimate of $6.1 billion in piracy losses to the U.S. movie industry, and through the magic of multipliers gets us to a more impressive sounding $20.5 billion. That original $6.1 billion figure, by the way, was produced by a study commissioned from LEK Consulting by the Motion Picture Association of America. Since even the GAO was unable to get at the underlying research or evaluate its methodology, it’s impossible to know how reliable that figure is, but given that MPAA has already had to admit significant errors in the numbers LEK generated, I’d take it with a grain of salt.
Believe it or not, though, it’s actually even worse than that. SOPA, recall, does not actually shut down foreign sites. It only requires (ineffective) blocking of foreign “rogue sites” for U.S. Internet users. It doesn’t do anything to prevent users in (say) China from downloading illicit content on a Chinese site. If we’re interested in the magnitude of the piracy harm that SOPA is aimed at addressing, then, the only relevant number is the loss attributable specifically to Internet piracy by U.S. users.
Again, we don’t have the full LEK study, but one of Siwek’s early papers does conveniently reproduce some of LEK’s PowerPoint slides, which attempt to break the data down a bit. Of the total $6.1 billion in annual losses LEK estimated to MPAA studios, the amount attributable to online piracy by users in the United States was $446 million—which, by coincidence, is roughly the amount grossed globally by Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.
Here's a great photo of the beaming staff of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, posed with their laptops showing the sites that were blacked out yesterday. Visitors to EFF's site sent over one million emails to Congress yesterday.
Stephen Colbert provides some perspective on the net-wide blackouts yesterday, as well as some alternatives in case the Internet needs to stand up for itself again. Now I've got to find that video of Vader eating cheesy bread...
Joey Sellers sez, "I know you've been covering PIPA-SOPA and wanted to share a large flowcart I just completed on the subject. It brings together a slew of material to get folks new to the subject up to speed and fill in the blanks for those who have been following it."
Super PIPA-SOPA Flowchart (Thanks, Joey!)
Markos of DailyKos tears into Democrats who lack the fortitude and intellectual honesty to oppose SOPA, and continue to back it because they fear losing the campaign funding that comes from Hollywood. PNH sez, "Markos highlights a couple of paragraphs from a Politico story assessing the landscape following the SOPA/PIPA protests:"
Leo Hindery, a major Democratic donor whose New York media private equity firm owns cable channels, said Obama might have reason to worry about his entertainment industry fundraising base. “[The bill] is an issue that has no business being decided politically – by anybody on one side or the other – and the fact that it might be becoming a political issue is unfair to the content producers,” said Hindery, who’s contributed more than $3 million to Democratic candidates and groups.
"An issue that has no business being decided politically." I can't recall seeing a purer expression of the idea that certain decisions ought to simply be reserved for whoever shows up with the largest bag of cash. Not that the world is like this, but that it's right and just that it should be like this.
It's very illuminating to hear people like this speak frankly.
Writing in Mother Jones, Siddhartha Mahanta and Nick Baumann describe the unprecedented legislative difficulty that the entertainment lobby faces today in Congress. The MPAA was able to win a legislative battle with Wall Street's over "movie futures," but they're losing the fight to pass SOPA and PIPA, and they're losing to people, not lobbyists.
Minds changed. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), the chair of the powerful House budget committee announced on January 9 that he would oppose the bill (after taking nearly $300,000 from pro-SOPA donors). Ryan's aspiring 2012 opponent, Rob Zerban, had raised tens of thousands of dollars through a Reddit campaign denouncing Ryan's position on the legislation.
Late Thursday, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the lead sponsor of the House bill, announced that he would consider dropping the DNS-blocking provisions from the bill. Late on Friday, Smith, SOPA's sponsor, did Leahy one better, removing the provision altogether. Not long after, six Republican senators—including two co-sponsors—released a letter they wrote to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), asking him to hold off on a January 24th vote to end debate on PIPA and move to passage.
Big Hollywood's Big Copyright Defeat (Thanks, Mike!)
Vice's Jamie Lee Curtis Taete continues to investigate the copyright shenanigans that SOPA and PIPA's authors get up to (see the saga of how SOPA author Lamar Smith (R-TX) ripped off the photo on the front page of his website).
Now Taete is digging into PIPA supporters, having a quick look at their Twitter profile photos and websites, and yup, the Senators backing PIPA are a bunch of depraved pirates.
This is a screencap of PIPA co-sponsor Roy Blunt's Twitter page from a couple of days ago. The background image is by photographer Walter Rowland. I spoke to his wife Linny, and she told me: "Wow, I'm so surprised to see that someone would do this. Especially a senator! It's even more of a violation because I'm actually in the photo so it's as if I'm supporting his beliefs. Yes, that's one of my husband's photos who is actually a semi-professional photographer, and no, they weren't given permission." Roy has since changed the background on his Twitter in an attempt to cover his tracks.
Other offenders: Claire McCaskill (D-MO) (who ineptly swapped out her infringing Twitter profile image for another infringing image -- nice one!); Dennis Ross (R-FL) (technically a SOPA supporter, as he's in the House), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).
SOPA/PIPA aren't a failure to understand the Internet; they arise from self-interested fear of free speech
Writing in the Guardian, Dan Gillmor argues that SOPA and PIPA aren't foolishly extreme because their proponents don't understand the net; rather, they are extreme because their proponents understand that the net breaks the monopoly of the powerful over communications and organizing.
So, why do they make unsupportable statements?
Because they don't dare make an honest argument. If they were saying what they believe, it would go roughly this way: "The internet threatens our longstanding control of information and communications, and that is simply unacceptable. Therefore, it is essential to curb the utility of the internet for everyone else."
As Xeni wrote on Tuesday, the MPAA isn't pleased about sites like this one going dark to protest SOPA and PIPA. Former Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America called it "an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today."
Well, he should know.
After all, he is the CEO of the organization responsible for inserting those unskippable FBI warnings (which are highly prejudiced and factually incorrect, advising, for example, that DVDs can't be rented, even though the law says they can) before every commercial DVD. He's the CEO of the organization that inserts those insulting PSAs in front of every movie chiding those of us who buy our DVDs because someone else decided to download the same movie for free.
And he's the CEO of the organization responsible for the section of the DMCA that makes it illegal to build a DVD player that can skip these mandatory, partisan, commercially advantageous messages.
So he knows a thing or two about "abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today."
(Image: Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick)
The globally praised Khan Academy comes out against SOPA and PIPA in this explainer video, which does a really excellent job of digging into the implications for legitimate sites (like Khan Academy) in a world where SOPA/PIPA become law. This is a great explanation of what SOPA and PIPA means for people trying to communicate with a broader public, but one thing to keep in mind as you watch is that there's another constituency that's missing: all the people who are using the net for other reasons: people who want to post videos of human rights abuses, who want to talk with other sufferers from a rare disease, who want to privately share private family moments with distant relatives. All these constituencies depend on services like YouTube and Twitter as a platform for communications, too.