Copyright Protection vs Big Brother Howling at the Door

The United States Congress has been racking up historically low approval ratings, numbers bouncing from 3-9% over the last year.  Why?  Our legislative process has become paralyzed by partisan politics and perhaps, more importantly, the influence of massive amounts of money.  When lobbyists outnumber our representatives in the Halls of Congress by 5-1, the current inability and/or refusal to work in the interests of the American public is a given.

Money speaks.  Even the Supreme Court agreed in their disastrous Citizens United decision.  The more money, the bigger the noise.  The Do-Nothing Congress has earned its title.

Yet with all the pressing problems facing the Nation, one piece of legislation was kicked through the process and then flown, until recently, under the radar.  Specifically, that’s SOPA, Stop Online Piracy Act, and its kissing cousin IPPA, Protect IP Act.

Last October, I wrote about this legislation here.  With a quick followup here.

On the face of it, copyright concerns are absolutely legitimate.  Any artist, musician, writer, etc., wants and expects protection of his/her creative efforts from rip-off artists.  You create something, it takes off, you expect the financial and psychic reward from that success.  There have been [and probably will continue to be] amoral individuals who plagiarize [steal] with abandon.  Corporations–those that still develop ideas and products–are also open to thievery by competitors.  Governments are vulnerable as well, which if anything [at least in my pea brain] demands that security measures around highly sensitive material be strong and effective, including careful clearance of those working with said materials.  Regardless of where one falls on the Manning case [hero or villain], anyone ever wonder how Bradley Manning, a private first class, was able to so easily tap records for Wikileaks, particularly after several red flags were ignored by Army personnel?

Accountability for lousy security anyone?

However, are we as a population willing to accept the radical tradeoff that SOPA represents, a serious curtailment of free expression and innovation, a barrier in the exchange of information between individuals and groups around the world to protect the financial and security issues of other entities?  And if so, what will the Internet be reduced to?

Think about the information that has circulated on the Net, regarding corrupt practices on Wall St. that led to the financial meltdown, the collusion of political partners, the failure of government bodies to investigate and prosecute guilty parties.  Do you think this information would have been disseminated as widely without the Internet access? Have we heard much about it in the mainstream press/newscasts?  Beyond Dylan Ratigan, that is, a MSNBC commentator.  Or, the ongoing global protests—The Arab Spring, the European Summer, the American Autumn, the Russian Winter.  Do you think these Movements would have gotten off the ground without Facebook and other social media outlets? Do you imagine we would have known of subsequent police over reactions?

Here’s the scoop from Techdirt on the byproduct of this asinine proposal, which is now suppose to be cleaned up and improved—the 2.0 version:

End result: SOPA 2.0 contains a crazy scary clause that’s going to make it crazy easy to cut off websites with no recourse whatsoever. And this part isn’t just limited to payment providers/ad networks — but to service providers, search engines and domain registrars/registries as well. Yes. Search engines. So you can send a notice to a search engine, and if they want to keep their immunity, they have to take the actions in either Section 102(c)(2) or 103(c)(2), which are basically all of the “cut ’em off, block ’em” remedies. That’s crazy. This basically encourages search engines to disappear sites upon a single notice. It encourages domain registries to kill domains based on notices. With no recourse at all, because the providers have broad immunity.

Look, I’m all for protecting the copyright of artists and other creators.  But not at the expense of free speech, open channels of communication and political discourse.

Here’s another question—do you not find it odd that so little time [make that anytime at all] has been spent by the mainstream press to discuss the problems with this legislation?  This is the same mainstream press that is suppose to be ‘free’ but has been consistently found wanting in actual reporting the news or investigating much of anything.  Yes, there are exceptions [Dylan Ratigan and recently 60 Minutes].  But by and large, the press today is held captive by the very forces paralyzing the government and buying off politicians.  These forces are keenly aware that restriction of a free-information vehicle, the Internet, is in their best interests.  There’s no doubt major news outlets are concerned by online sources ripping off their reports word-for-word.  But as far as distribution, information sharing and dissemination?  They’ve lost that battle to the Electronic Age.  And frankly, if the MSM had been doing their jobs–speaking truth to power–instead of playing lapdogs, their market share would not be as dismal.

In addition to the music and movie industries supporting this legislation [which at least makes sense], the American Bankers Association is a sponsor as well.  In fact, here’s a list of sponsors [interested parties].

If that link turns to gobblety-gook on you, check here at Wikipedia:

The link turning to gibberish was pretty weird—maybe a sign of things to come.  It worked perfectly fine the first time I checked it.

We do not need a bazooka to bring down a mouse.  The collateral damage can be significant, sometimes worse than the original problem.  That’s what this legislation represents.  And by collateral damage, I mean you, me and anyone plugged in at moment.  Sorry, but there’s something very disturbing that a complaint against a website can result in that site being ‘disappeared’ without explanation or appeal.

Consider this the ‘indefinite detention’ for objectionable sites on the Internet.

For additional information on the legislation itself, go here, here, here, and here.  Note that numerous online bigwigs [Google, Facebook,  Amazon, etc.] strongly oppose SOPA and have threatened a boycott/blackout, most likely on January 23rd in opposition to the upcoming cloture vote on the 24th.  Yves Smith has a good essay on what we’re looking at in terms of implications.

This is an important issue.  Citizen/online pressure can bring results.  Paul Ryan, for instance, stepped back just this past Monday from his initial support.  Resistance is everywhere and comes in many forms.  Here’s a boycott of another flavor.

An informed public is the best weapon against Big Brother and the invisible supporters of authoritative repress-freedom-for-the-sake-of-security measures.  We need to protect access to information to protect the present and future. We need access to information to save and preserve the core of our freedoms.

6 Comments on “Copyright Protection vs Big Brother Howling at the Door”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    I saw that Ryan had backed down. It’s such great news that people working together can change the public conversation–just like OWS did.

    Thanks for covering this, Peg! Excellent post.

    • peggysue22 says:

      Thanks for reading, BB. I was immediately suspicious of this legislation in the way it was silently wending its way through the process. The more I read, the more disturbing the whole thing sounded. I think the step back by Ryan is a good sign. But there are 60+ Dems on board with this. Hopefully, the citizen pushback and the opposition of the online biggies will send this legislation back to the drawing boards.

      Copyright protection is important but not with the threat of sites disappearing willy-nilly when someone doesn’t like what they’re reading. It’s all about balance, something our legislators seem to have forgotten or put on a back burner for the extra jingle in their pockets.

      • northwestrain says:

        Radical right extremists could shut down any blog or website that didn’t support their warped view of the world.

        We got a view of what this looks like when 0bots tried to shut down websites and blogs 4 years ago.

      • quixote says:

        Copyright protection actually isn’t terribly important in a commercial sense or in a lives-to-be-saved sense. Somebody pointed out the entire “content” industry, movies & music I guess, is on the order of some billions of dollars. Google could buy the whole thing with their spare change. And if all copyright protections ended tomorrow, nobody would die.

        It’s only important as an issue of fairness, that people get rewarded for their creativity. But current copyright laws don’t actually do much of anything for the vast majority of artists, inventors, or writers. The whole current fight is about the “right” to profit for an industry.

        And that’s definitely not important enough to strangle the internet for it!

      • ralphb says:

        Yep, this has little to do with individual artists or inventors. It’s all about corporate profits and basically control of the flow of information. This needs to be defeated.

  2. Excellent work, Peg.

    do you not find it odd that so little time [make that anytime at all] has been spent by the mainstream press to discuss the problems with this legislation?

    No… not anymore. I find it odd/curious when they do spend time.

    (Just as an example… )

    What with all that time Anderson Cooper spends on his Ridiculist and planning for his talk show, I’m surprised he finds time anymore to ask any questions at all. (I like Anderson–he’s good in the field. But, the blurring between news and entertainment has just gone too far, imho.)