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.
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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.
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.
Thank You, Internet! And the Fight Continues
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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... Read the rest
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!) Read the rest
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.
Hollywood bought its politicians, and it expects them to stay bought
(Thanks, PNH) Read the rest
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!) Read the rest
William Gibson weighs in on SOPA/PIPA: "I think that SOPA as it stands now, or as it stood before they paused to think about it, is extremely ill thought out, and a basically crazily Draconian piece of legislation." Read the rest
has come out against SOPA. He previously had no public position on it. Read the rest
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).
PIPA Supporters Violate Copyright Laws, Too Read the rest
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."
Stop Sopa or the web really will go dark Read the rest
PIPA sponsor Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) can't figure out why people don't like it: "Hiding behind the black box of self-censorship does not resolve the problem that is plaguing American business and hurting American consumers." (Thanks, decius!) Read the rest
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) Read the rest
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.
SOPA and PIPA
(via Waxy) Read the rest
House Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) has vowed to resume his markup hearings in February. (Thanks, Adam!) Read the rest
Yesterday, literally millions of Americans contacted their senators and congressional reps to ask them to withdraw their support for SOPA and PIPA. The result? A massive withdrawal of support from elected lawmakers for the bills. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and John Boozman (R-AR) all vowed to oppose PIPA (all were co-sponsors of the bill). On the SOPA side, Ben Quayle (R-AZ) and Lee Terry (R-NE) voiced their opposition to the bill, and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) blacked out his own site in protest (!).
Remember, this is what happened on the day. The momentum is breaking, and I predict more defections in the days to come.
Update: More defections abound: Ars Technica lists a total of 18 new senators opposed to PIPA.
SOPA / PIPA Co-Sponsors Drop Like Flies As Millions Protest Read the rest
Michael Geist sez,
While there is little that people living outside the U.S. can do to influence SOPA and PIPA, there are many reasons why it is important for everyone to participate in tomorrow's SOPA protest.
First, the SOPA provisions are designed to have an extra-territorial effect in countries around the world.
Second, non-U.S. businesses and websites could easily find themselves targeted by SOPA. The bill grants the U.S. "in rem" jurisdiction over any website that does not have a domestic jurisdictional connection.
Third, millions rely on the legitimate sites that are affected by the legislation. Whether creating a Wikipedia entry, posting a comment on Reddit, running a WordPress blog, participating in an open source software project, or reading a posting on Boing Boing, the lifeblood of the Internet is a direct target of SOPA. If non-Americans remain silent, they may ultimately find the sites and services they rely upon silenced by this legislation.
Fourth, the U.S. intellectual property strategy has long been premised on exporting its rules to other countries. SOPA virtually guarantees that this will continue.
Why Canadians Should Participate in the SOPA/PIPA Protest Read the rest
Jonathan from Hackers and Founders sez, "We're planning SOPA/PIPA protests in SF, NYC, DC and Seattle on Wednesday the 18th to coincide with the blackouts." Read the rest