More Collateral Damage From SOPA: People With Print Disabilities And Human Rights Groups

from the add-them-to-the-list dept

As people wake up to the full horror of what SOPA would do to the Internet and its users, an increasing number of organizations with very different backgrounds are coming out against it. Here's one more to add to that list, from the world of non-profit humanitarian groups.

As Jim Fruchterman, president of the Silicon Valley-based Benetech, explains in his post "Why I am Scared of the SOPA bill":
We write software for people with disabilities as well as human rights and environmental groups. We’re against piracy, and have made commitments to authors and publishers to encourage compliance with copyright law.

So, we shouldn’t have anything to fear from a bill entitled “Stop Online Piracy Act,” right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

We’re getting very worried that our organization and the people we serve: people with print disabilities (i.e., people who are blind or severely dyslexic), and human rights groups will be collateral damage in Hollywood’s attempt to break the Internet in their latest effort to squash “piracy.” And, if we’re worried, a lot of other good organizations should start getting worried!
Fruchterman goes on to explore two major areas of concern. The first is that Bookshare, an online library for people who can’t read standard print books, might lose the ability to raise funds or take subscriptions.

As he points out, Bookshare is legal in the US, but that doesn't stop authors, agents or publishers who don’t know much about people with disabilities or copyright law sending cease and desist letters. At present, Benetech has time to talk people through the law before anything drastic happens. Here's how SOPA would change all that:
SOPA apparently has shoot first, ask questions later provisions. If any single publisher or author of any one of the more than 130,000 accessible books in our library gets antsy, they can send a notice to VISA and MasterCard and say, stop money from going to Benetech and Bookshare. No more donations to our charity. No more subscriptions from individual adults with disabilities.

No need to send us a letter. Or file a DMCA notice. Or do any real research. Just send out a bunch of notices and get all those pirates! Except, we’re not pirates. But, now the burden of proof has shifted to us: we’re presumed guilty, and we have to spent time and money defending ourselves.
There are two major problems here. First, the money gets cuts off immediately, jeopardizing the entire Bookshare project. Secondly, Benetech has to spend its limited funds paying lawyers to get the financial blocks removed. That will not only take time, it will hamper other worthwhile projects that Benetech could have been working on instead of fighting to get its revenue sources turned back on again.

It's those other projects that Fruchterman worries about in his second concern. Benetech develops free software to help human rights activists around the world safely record stories of human rights abuse. As Fruchterman points out, if SOPA becomes law, his organization will find itself in an impossible position:
The problem is that we provide technology that allows for security, privacy and circumvention. We do it for human rights groups. But, when asked if we know whether or not there are “pirated” copyrighted materials, we can’t say. Because, if we make software that promises to keep your life or death sensitive information secret to the best of our abilities, we won’t build a back door in for Syria, or China, or the U.S. government or even (heavens!) Hollywood.
But SOPA will give the US Attorney General the power to shut down sites that can be used for evading controls on piracy, and Benetech's software could certainly be employed in just that way (even if that is not its purpose). To avoid that, Benetech would presumably have to stop writing and distributing its code - which would place human rights organizations and activists at risk.

What makes this situation particularly ridiculous is that the US government is itself encouraging the spread of just this kind of software, even going so far as to invest in companies producing it. Does that mean the US government will be giving out money to write such software, and then using SOPA to shut it down?

Fruchterman's comments are particularly valuable since they come from an organization that has a proven record of encouraging compliance with copyright law. This is no evil "friend of piracy", as opponents of SOPA are so often branded: this is just some people deeply concerned that two vulnerable groups – those with print disabilities and human rights activists – will be collateral damage if this ill thought-out bill is enacted.

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 3:47am

    "OPA apparently has shoot first, ask questions later provisions. If any single publisher or author of any one of the more than 130,000 accessible books in our library gets antsy, they can send a notice to VISA and MasterCard and say, stop money from going to Benetech and Bookshare. No more donations to our charity. No more subscriptions from individual adults with disabilities. "

    This is quite possibly one of the biggest lies told about SOPA. Visa and Mastercard would be absolutely taking huge legal risks if the cut off processing without some communication. Further, the ones making the claims to Visa and Mastercard would be risking criminal liablity by effectively interfering in the legal business by making false claims.

    It seems mostly like this guy got the EFF scare monger sheet, and is working from it. Want to bet there is a solid connection between those two groups?

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 3:55am

      Re:

      You obviously didn't read the bill, because if you did you would know there is a immunity clause stating exactly that no one would be responsible for cutting anybody by complying with SOPA or you are just a lying bastard.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 3:57am

        Re: Re:

        I read the bill (what has been around). It does not in any way take away criminal liability under existing fraud laws, nor does it suspend due diligence. Visa or Mastercard taking action without consulting with their clients would be certainly putting themselves in a difficult spot, especially if the claims are spurious.

         

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 3:59am

          Re: Re: Re:

          SEC. 104. IMMUNITY FOR TAKING VOLUNTARY ACTION AGAINST SITES DEDICATED TO THEFT OF U.S. PROPERTY.

          SEC. 105. IMMUNITY FOR TAKING VOLUNTARY ACTION AGAINST SITES THAT ENDANGER PUBLIC HEALTH.

          http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.R.3261:

          Will you continue to lie?

           

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 4:02am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Quote:
          SEC. 104. IMMUNITY FOR TAKING VOLUNTARY ACTION AGAINST SITES DEDICATED TO THEFT OF U.S. PROPERTY.

          No cause of action shall lie in any Federal or State court or administrative agency against, no person may rely in any claim or cause of action against, and no liability for damages to any person shall be granted against, a service provider, payment network provider, Internet advertising service, advertiser, Internet search engine, domain name registry, or domain name registrar for taking any action described in section 102(c)(2), section 103(d)(2), or section 103(b) with respect to an Internet site, or otherwise voluntarily blocking access to or ending financial affiliation with an Internet site, in the reasonable belief that--

          (1) the Internet site is a foreign infringing site or is an Internet site dedicated to theft of U.S. property; and

          (2) the action is consistent with the entity's terms of service or other contractual rights.


          Source: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.R.3261:

          Fucking liar.

           

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          • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
             
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 4:52am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            No link you provide makes you less of a piece of shit, fucking asshole.

             

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              identicon
              abc gum, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 5:21am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Pointing out a lie is a bad thing?

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 5:41am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                The original poster explained himself and his reason of thinking. The responder immediately attacked with unprovoked accusations. Is someone who "doesn't quite have all the facts" a liar? I think not.

                But the responder IS certainly a fucking asshole for the way he handled his responses.

                 

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                  harbingerofdoom (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 6:05am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  sooooooooo.... the message is then invalid cause he's an ass?

                   

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                  Jay (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 6:08am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  I find it questionable that someone can say they "read the bill" but ignore the 5 day turnaround clause of sopa/pipa from American processors or the immunity clause.

                   

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                    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 7:25am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    Perhaps it may be useful to consider this question. What liability, if any, is imposed if a payment or ad service provider simply does nothing in response to a notice under SOPA's Section 103(b)(4)? By my reading it appears to me that the answer is "nothing". What Section 103 does is set the stage for a rights holder to later initiate in rem or in personam action against others, but not the payment and ad providers.

                     

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                      The eejit (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 8:17am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      IT opens them up to criminal liability, as I understand it. Note, that that's not even CIVIL in nature, as copyright infringement is.

                       

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                      Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 3:17pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      It opens the service provider to criminal liability for no compliance.

                      Is right there in the bill.

                       

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                  Cixelsid (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 7:15am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  And the way you responded to his response makes you even more of an asshole.

                   

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                  Trails (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 7:46am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  "Doesn't quite have all the facts"?

                  For real, bro?

                  "This is quite possibly one of the biggest lies told about SOPA."

                  "I read the bill"

                  "It does not in any way take away criminal liability under existing fraud laws"

                  He accuses someone of lying for accurately portraying the bill, claims to know the bill, and then makes false claims about the bill.

                  That is lying, you disingenuous dingbat.

                   

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                  Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 3:16pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  I know what you mean that is exactly how I feel when someone that is just to stupid to do a simple search start calling others loonies and liars.

                  Hence the aggressive response he got.

                   

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                  Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2011 @ 1:29am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Every time an anti-Mike appears I say we cite him this response posted by one of his ilk at the slightest sign of demeaning demeanour.

                   

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                Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 7:30am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                My boss explained it to me this way....

                It's one thing to be the one shoveling the shit all day...

                It's another thing to point out, "Hey, he's shoveling shit."

                So in government at least, it's better to be a liar than to point out that someone is lying.

                I've also been told it's not fair to call someone a liar if they 'really really' believe what they are saying.... Seriously? So if they don't understand what they are saying, they are either totally incompetent or a bald faced liar.... Sometimes you just have to call em like you see em...

                 

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              FuzzyDuck, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 7:21am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              It really sucks to be caught lying doesn't it?

               

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            alastair, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 7:36am

            Read it properly

            Except that you didn't read it properly. It says quite specifically that they have to have a “reasonable belief that…the Internet site is…dedicated to theft of U.S. property”.

            Which means that the concerns about Bookshare are really somewhat excessive; it’s hard to imagine that Visa or MasterCard could claim to have a “reasonable belief” that Bookshare was “dedicated to theft of U.S. property”.

            SOPA may have problems, but IMO this particular one is being blown out of proportion by its detractors.

             

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              IronM@sk, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 1:31pm

              Re: Read it properly

              it’s hard to imagine that Visa or MasterCard could claim to have a “reasonable belief” that Bookshare was “dedicated to theft of U.S. property”.

              Except, from what I've heard and read about it so far, it's NOT Visa or MasterCard that need "reasonable belief." Somebody else has already made that determination, who then orders the payment providers to stop the funding channels, under the threat of litigation.

              Seriously, how the hell are Visa or MasterCard excpected to look at an entity and determine whether their content is infringing? Saying they are the ones who must determine "reasonable belief" is just being deliberately misleading.

               

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                Karl (profile), Dec 7th, 2011 @ 6:40am

                Re: Re: Read it properly

                Except, from what I've heard and read about it so far, it's NOT Visa or MasterCard that need "reasonable belief."

                Bingo.

                 

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              Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 3:31pm

              Re: Read it properly

              Are you braindead?

              The reasonable belief is in the data supplied to them by a douche that probably don't understand the law and can claim anything and get toasted in the end, it will not stop VISA or MASTERCARD from cutting anybody off though since they obeyed the law to the letter and are immune.

              No company will spend money to verify hundreds of thousands of claims because a) they don't have the money and b) even if they did have the money to do so it would be extremely expensive to do it in 5 days and c) the law doesn't require it to do so which is deliberately because if it they were obliged to do so this bill would never pass.

               

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          Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 5:40am

          Re: Re: Re:

          And again, why would Visa and Mastercard want to be responsible for unfounded claims by the RIAA? SOPA/PIPA pushers want everybody else to be liable except for the idiots who can't seem to figure out how to deal with people wanting their content and are unable to figure out how to deliver and monetize.

           

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            Hephaestus (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 6:54am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "idiots who can't seem to figure out how to deal with people wanting their content and are unable to figure out how to deliver and monetize."

            They know how to deliver content, hulu shows that they have the ability to make this work. The problem they face is the continuing downward pressure on the price of digital content. The phrase "Analog dollars and digital dimes" comes to mind, it is the thing they fear most. It is the thing that has them frozen like a deer in headlights.

             

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              Machin Shin, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 10:49am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Hulu shows how to be a pain in the ass. I tried to use it and gave up. Search for a show and it gives you links to short clips of the show on a different site. I paid to watch shows. If you have the show then let me watch it, if not then don't send me on a wild goose chase on some other site. Hulu is perfect example why they have such issues. Pirate sites are more user friendly and FREE. If I'm going to pay for a service I expect SERVICE. Make it easy to use and don't waste my time and I will pay for it. If you expect me to pay for you shoving adds at me and having content impossible to find then your sadly mistaken.

               

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 4:03am

      Re:

      "Further, the ones making the claims to Visa and Mastercard would be risking criminal liablity by effectively interfering in the legal business by making false claims."

      You're right! It's just like those people who send DMCA takedown requests for stuff they don't even have the rights to! They get severely punished and...

      Oh, wait. They don't get punished at all. So much for that logic...

       

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      Spaceboy (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 4:42am

      Re:

      Did you not read the article here on Techdirt regarding the ABA and SOPA?

      "But... then the copyright lawyers flipped out. Despite this and other suggestions already being agreed to, the copyright folks proposed a bunch of changes -- including deleting the "penalty of perjury" inclusion. "

      Hollywood doesn't want there to be any penalties for submitting a false claim.

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 7:17am

        Re: Re:

        ABA committees and sub-committees formalize their legislative recommendations in detailed proposals to the Sections of which they are a part.

        Unfortunately, here neither of these proposals are presented here in their entirety. One is selectively quoted, and the other is not quoted, selectively or otherwise.

        In their absence, it is impossible to secure an accurate understanding of the respective positions and the analysis leading to such positions.

         

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          Trails (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 7:34am

          Re: Re: Re:

          But we should just take your assertions at face value, in spite of direct quotes demonstrating your deceit elsewhere in these comments?

          Disingenuous shill.

           

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 4:22pm

      Re:

      "Visa and Mastercard would be absolutely taking huge legal risks if the cut off processing without some communication"

      Bull they have no problem cutting a card off been there done that and suck when you find out while trying to pay for something 300 miles from home then to get it active they had to send a new card been there

       

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      Karl (profile), Dec 7th, 2011 @ 6:38am

      Re:

      This is quite possibly one of the biggest lies told about SOPA.

      It's not a lie at all. It's all in Sec. 103(b). Any rights holder can simply fire off a notice to the designated agents of financial services providers and/or advertisers, and those entities must stop doing business with the website in the notice. This applies to foreign and domestic websites [see 103(a)(1)]; and it all happens without any party ever seeing the inside of a courtroom.

      It is possible to file a counter-notification. But there is nothing in the bill that requires the advertisers or payment processors to actually stop the blacklist once they receive a counter-notice. If they do not comply with the blacklist, they can get sued themselves [see 103(d)(4)(B)]; but if they maintain the blacklist, they are absolved of any liability [see 103(d)(5)(B)].

      It seems mostly like you got the RIAA talking points memo, and are working from it. Want to bet there is a solid connection between you two?

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 4:13am

    SEC. 202. TRAFFICKING IN INHERENTLY DANGEROUS GOODS OR SERVICES.

    Also that is a problem in a country that defines everything as dangerous. Encryption is or was considered a munition and it is therefore falls under this BS.

    But it would be good if it was only encryption, the US government has a bad habit of putting a lot of stuff under that classification, so people developing drones, jet engines, foundries could all become targets for this BS law.

     

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      Machin Shin, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 10:58am

      Re:

      Oh, well lets not forget other dangerous things our government has to protect us from. Like Kinder eggs! Those evil chocolates!

      Seriously though, those are illegal here in the US because they are dangerous. Our government is made up of a bunch of idiots to make laws like this. Any kid stupid and greedy enough to swallow one of those whole deserves to choke.

      These kinds of things really should make people stop and wonder though. If a chocolate candy sold around the world is labeled as too dangerous for us stupid Americans then what else does our "wise" government think we need protecting from?

       

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      zcat, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 12:24pm

      Re:

      "inherently dangerous .. services"

      Goodbye, wikileaks.

       

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    Tor (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 4:36am

    I hope you read the comment thread at the Benetech blog. I know many journalists who would have something to learn from the way Fruchterman responds to the comments by Copyright Alliance.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 5:43am

    Let me link the comments section of Benetech blog:
    http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=5979923&postID=2668582767203941823

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 6:22am

    "Does that mean the US government will be giving out money to write such software, and then using SOPA to shut it down? "\

    It wouldn't be the first time the US government has done something like that. The US government has already spent millions on anti-smoking campaigns, while at the same time giving millions in subsidies to American cigarette manufacturers who were suffering from decreasing cigarette sales due to all the anti-smoking campaigns the government was funding.

     

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    DJ, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 7:14am

    Saw that coming.

    Ironically, my friends and I were talking about SOPA, on how the U.S. would literally never get away with it without going dictatorial. It violates the constitution on quite a few levels but, beyond that, there would(or will) be quite a few uprisings if it occurs. It's not as though they would attempt to pass a bill or law allowing the Military to do whatever the hell it wants on U.S. soil, though, right?

    Wait...
    They better break out the flamethrowers against 4chan.

     

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      The eejit (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 8:22am

      Re: Saw that coming.

      Hang on a second...at the same time as SOPA, there's a Bill in the works allowing the US Government, in times of War and Emergency, to treat all citizens as combatants...

      ABANDON SHIP!!!

       

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    EagleDelta, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 12:43pm

    I think supporters of SOPA/PIPA are still missing some key hurdles in their proposed bills that ultimately will do more harm than good

    1. The current language of the bill essentially holds everyone accountable for a few people's actions. Never should an ISP be held accountable for a website's/user's action, unless there is CLEAR EVIDENCE that they knew about it. The bill as it stands puts forth such vague wording that, even if it isn't intended to, companies can use it to shutdown and ask questions later - a system that is in direct contradiction to Due Process in that a law MUST be declared fair to all parties involved.

    2. A large amount of the people against SOPA/PIPA are the very people that understand how the internet functions and keep it running. As such, these same people have the knowledge to create alternatives that circumvent ANY law created and it is already being done. Look at Tor.

    3. Pirates may just start trafficking in SSL, IPSec, or some other encrypted protocol that ISPs, Companies, and Lawmakers would only be able to view the information by getting the encryption key or by cracking the encryption (which would be illegal since the same protocols are used to send legally protected information across the internet).

    4. Block DNS won't do any good. Assuming that at least 75-80% of people involved in piracy are tech saavy, then all they would have to do is set up a proxy (which is legal) to a non-US DNS server to regain access to a website or server hosting pirated material.

    Simply put, SOPA/PIPA are trying to attack the piracy problem in the wrong way. Yes, DMCA as it stands isn't doing enough, but most of the ways people are getting pirated material wouldn't really be affected by the bills. They'd find a way around it - LIKE THEY ALWAYS DO. Congress needs to create a much more narrow bill that targets specific entities rather than holding every person on the planet that uses the internet responsible for the actions of a few.

     

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    Mr Big Content, Dec 7th, 2011 @ 12:10am

    Of Course, The Old “They Won’t Kill Our Human Shields” Ploy

    Shame on the copyright pirates for trying to use helpless handicapped people as a shield to hide behind while perpetrating their nefarious activites. Did we let the Palestinians get away with that? No, we bombed the shit out of them irregardless. And we blamed them for the deaths. So why should we let the pirates get away with it? I say bomb ’em irregardless.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 7th, 2011 @ 11:10am

      Re: Of Course, The Old “They Won’t Kill Our Human Shields” Ploy

      The Sarcasm is strong with this one...

       

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    identicon
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    www.twitter.com/BuySellPrint
    http://www.linkedin.com/company/2640359?trk=tyah

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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