by Mike Masnick
Tue, Sep 18th 2012 12:07am
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Aug 29th 2012 8:17am
us chamber of commerce
from the of-course-they-are dept
In other words: get ready for "son of SOPA."
The powerful business lobby, perhaps the biggest supporter of controversial legislation intended to stem online piracy, is at it again. The group is up with a billboard advertisement in Manhattan's Times Square and an online video series urging Congress to "protect America's IP rights."The Chamber is claiming that "this is an awareness campaign.... not political," but no one believes that. They've also set up a "website" at DangerousFakes.com, which includes a silly video and more debunked stats.
World-wide cross border trade in physical counterfeits alone costs the global economy $250 billion a year.This number is so bogus that it's been debunked through and through over and over again through the years. As we have explained, the real number may be closer to about $5 billion (still decently large, but nowhere near $250 billion) and that $250 billion is based on a single unsourced claim in an article in Forbes from 20 years ago. In other words: bogus.
96% of all online pharmacies are operating illegally, many out of compliance with international IP laws that protect the public health and safety.Of course, this depends on how you define "illegally." Many are merely gray market re-importers, helping people get more affordable, and perfectly legitimate drugs. But the big pharma companies (USCoC members, of course) don't like the competition and efforts to drive down their insane margins.
In the United States, the domestic value of counterfeit pharmaceutical seizures in FY 2011 rose by more than $11 million, an increase of almost 200%.And, again, how much of that was gray market, legitimate drugs that were just being re-imported? And how much of it were true "fakes"? Also, if the problem is really $250 billion, doesn't it seem to highlight how small a problem fake drugs are if the US seized just
Counterfeits also have the potential to put our military at risk and jeopardize our national security missions, according to two recent reports by the Department of Commerce and the Government Accountability Office.More fear mongering. And of course, if the military is buying counterfeit parts, shouldn't the focus be on the military's procurement process? Why is the military buying from shady equipment dealers in the first place?
The thing is, there is a risk from fake drugs and military equipment, but it's a really, really, really small problem. Barely noticeable. That's why the Chamber likes to lump those in with other things, like copyright infringement, because then they can pretend that the "risk" is really big. But it's not. I'm all for focusing in on stopping those who actually sell truly fake drugs and fake military parts, but there really aren't that many of those out there, and they can be targeted specifically, rather than passing broad legislation with massive consequences for the rest of the internet.
But that's not how the Chamber works.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jul 17th 2012 7:14am
from the good-for-him dept
It is legal in New Zealand to use methods to get around these regional codes and make the DVDs watchable but Judge Harvey said the TPP would change this.His point is that the US is trying to expand copyright protectionism and curtail current rights of New Zealanders, blocking them from doing something that is currently legal and seems perfectly reasonable (getting around regional restrictions to watch legally purchased DVDs from other regions). It's a good thing that more people are seeing the problems of American extremism on copyright law, but I wonder if this will be used (as it appears to be in the press) to hit back on him for his role in the Dotcom case.
"Under TPP and the American Digital Millennium copyright provisions you will not be able to do that, that will be prohibited... if you do you will be a criminal - that's what will happen. Even before the 2008 amendments it wasn't criminalised. There are all sorts of ways this whole thing is being ramped up and if I could use Russell [Brown's] tweet from earlier on: we have met the enemy and he is [the] U.S."
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jun 26th 2012 7:06am
The White House Wants To Hear From You Concerning Its Strategy For Intellectual Property Enforcement
from the take-this-seriously dept
I believe that essential to the development of an effective enforcement strategy, is ensuring that any approaches that are considered to be particularly effective as well as any concerns with the present approach to intellectual property enforcement are understood by policymakers.I will be submitting my own thoughts, which I will also publish here, but for those thinking about what to say, I would focus on this sentence above. Historically, many of the government's approaches have not been at all effective, and have created a number of significant problems -- most of which have been ignored by the government (either willfully or through ignorance). This really is a chance to provide examples of why the current policy is not effective (and will never be effective if it keeps on the current path) as well as the "concerns" with the current approach, such as the criminalization of expressive behavior and the outright censorship of media publications.
As always, if you are filing comments with the government, make sure to proofread them carefully, and make your arguments clear and persuasive. The details of how to submit can be found here. Submissions are due by July 25th at 5pm ET.
by Michael Ho
Mon, Apr 9th 2012 5:00pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
- A full calendar of events is available at nationalroboticsweek.org. There's something going on in every state, and you can keep up with some of the activity via Facebook. [url]
- The iRobot Corp, famous for its line of robot vacuum cleaners, is sponsoring some public awareness projects for students to get kids interested in robots and science/technology subjects. FYI, iRobot products are also serving in the military to help clear out explosives from the battlefield, so its robots don't just clean up dirt. [url]
- If you're in Florida, the University of Miami School of Law will be discussing legal and policy issues relating to robotics at its inaugural 'We Robot' conference, April 21-22. The future of lawsuits against robots covers some things you might not expect. [url]
- To discover more interesting robotics-related content, check out what's currently floating around the StumbleUpon universe. [url]
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Mar 16th 2012 5:31pm
from the get-your-thoughts-in dept
1) What should the objective of IP policy be?If you do decide to respond, obviously take time to carefully detail your position and back it up with facts and analysis, rather than any sort of emotional response. The details of how to respond to the request can be found in the official announcement (pdf) of this inquiry. It's worth noting that the group organizing this does appear to come at these questions from an already biased position -- in that the person collecting these responses works for "the Alliance Against IP Theft." So, you're already dealing with someone who falsely defines infringement as theft. That's all the more reason to be careful, thorough and detailed in any response.
2) How well co-ordinated is the development of IP policy across government? Is IP policy functioning effectively on a cross-departmental basis? What changes to the machinery of government do you believe would deliver better IP policy outcomes?
3) There have been numerous attempts to update the IP framework in the light of changes brought about by the digital environment. How successful have these been and what lessons can be learnt from these for policy developments?
4) How effective is the Intellectual Property Office and what should its priorities be?
5) UK IP policy sits within European and supranational agreements. How should the UK government co-ordinate its policy at an international level and what should it do to promote IP abroad to encourage economic growth? Do you have examples of good and poor practice in this area?
6) Protecting, and enforcement of, the IP framework often sits in very different departments to those that develop IP policy and those that have responsibility for the industries most affected. What impact does this have and how can it be improved?
by Glyn Moody
Wed, Feb 15th 2012 4:02pm
from the lizard-wrangler-speaks dept
One telling sign of the widespread concern about SOPA/PIPA was that the non-profit Mozilla Foundation, which oversees the open source Firefox and Thunderbird projects, abandoned its non-interventionist policy, and came out strongly against the bills. It first signed a joint letter sent to the key sponsors of both bills, and then modified its home page, pointing to further information about SOPA. That, in its turn, linked to a post entitled "PIPA/SOPA and Why You Should Care," written by Mitchell Baker, the Chair of the Mozilla Foundation.
Baker has now written another, entitled "ACTA is a Bad Way To Develop Internet Policy", which explicitly links ACTA and SOPA/PIPA:
One aspect of the controversy about ACTA is the closed process where only a tiny subset of people affected by the law were allowed to participate. Another great controversy is about the actual content of ACTA. We know that the goal of stopping unauthorized access to digital content can lead to very dangerous results. The proposed SOPA and PIPA legislation in the U.S made this abundantly clear. This is an area where even good intentions can lead to imbalanced and dangerous results.
The post is fairly restrained, and basically recommends that people should find out more about ACTA and "make their voice heard." But it's a further indication that people from all sectors are waking up to the problems with ACTA, just as they did with SOPA/PIPA.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 24th 2012 8:20am
from the use-'em-in-good-health dept
- This was an astounding demonstration of what the internet can do in the policy space, and we should not let it die, but leverage what came together for more.
- This shouldn't just be reactive to things like SOPA/PIPA, but it should be a positive, proactive, long-term force for good going forward.
- We should start discussing what kinds of positive goals we can reach for immediately.
- Joel Spolsky, with some policy ideas and a suggestion for getting around Congressional corruption by having internet companies give free online ad space to politicians who run "respectable" campaigns.
- Fred Wilson, suggesting we need an entirely new framework for thinking about copyright issues.
- Smari McCarthy, worrying that the response to SOPA/PIPA was too strong (I disagree), but also noting the need to be much more proactive going forward.
- Rick Falkvinge, also talking about going on the offensive for freedom of speech online.
- Mark McKenna, also pointing out that it's time to revisit existing copyright law and raise questions about whether it needs to be ratcheted back, rather than forward.
- Reddit user ColtonProvias tries to create organization out of chaos.
- Reddit user birdomics looks at creating a new political party for the internet -- called the Internet Party (which others suggest already exists in the form of the Pirate Party).
I've also seen a number of discussions about people trying to set up an "internet super PAC" or something similar. For what it's worth on that, apparently one already exists, and I know of at least two other attempts currently underway to create similar super PACs. I'm also pretty sure that the folks over at Demand Progress already have a super PAC.
Tons of people don't want to let this feeling go, and very much want to push forward. That's really exciting. I'm especially thrilled about the unbridled optimism seen at community sites like Reddit -- even if it's sometimes misguided (and a little too frequently, misinformed) -- because it's going to take a kind of unbridled optimism to overcome the forces that are working against such things. I know lots of people have mocked the Reddit community for jumping into things headfirst without getting its facts straight, but it's that same sort of optimistic spirit that lets the community jump into projects that otherwise objective people would claim are "impossible." Hell, getting GoDaddy to change its position, and even the big internet blackout (which really started on Reddit), were two ideas that most folks would have insisted would have never worked just two months ago. And yet they did.
On top of that, I'm thrilled to see most of this all bubbling up publicly and online -- rather than being sorted out secretly in backrooms. This should be a public discussion. And while -- as with any public discussion -- it leads to a few cringeworthy moments where people who don't know what they're talking about run wild with ideas that don't make sense, that's part of where good ideas come from. The fact that lots of people are chiming in and sharing their thoughts may seem chaotic to an outside world, but out of it, I expect to see some amazing things come together. That, by itself, really is part of the power of the internet -- the fact that this doesn't need to be top-down and organized, but can build itself organically. It may be messy, but I expect we'll see some impressive things come out of it.
I will have lots more to say about all of this going forward, but for those who are jumping into these discussions here and elsewhere, I have three suggested points that I think should drive these discussions, though I have no idea if others will agree:
- Any regulation that impacts the internet needs to be data driven rather than faith-based. I've been banging this drum for ages. The evidence used to support copyright expansionism for centuries has been suspect. Yet, when one industry makes claims, politicians seem to take them at face value. That needs to stop. A key guiding point for those driving any kind of "internet agenda" going forward should be a reliance on actual, credible data. James Boyle and William Patry have both written books that highlight this, and if you haven't read them, you should.
Thankfully, the UK is actually leading the way (somewhat) here, thanks to the mostly good Hargreaves report (which Boyle worked on), which the UK government has said it intends to follow. Unfortunately, while it says that, so far the actual actions when it comes to laws have remained faith-based.
Some will claim that you can come up with data to support just about anything -- and to some extent that's true. But I think that it's possible for rational people to look closely at research and data and come to reasonable conclusions -- while figuring out when to dismiss conclusions that are clearly bunk or created through pure extrapolation or bad assumptions. Either way, the fact that plenty of legislation gets proposed and passed without any real evidence of a need is a huge problem.
- We need to recognize that the internet, free speech and copyright are all connected. One of the tricks for trying to pass SOPA/PIPA (and successfully passing previous bills like the ProIP Act) was to pretend that these were just laws about "arcane" legal issues like copyright -- something that "no one cares about." But in an age where (thanks to bad copyright law changes) everything you create is pretty much subject to copyright, combined with computers and networks whose main job is copying works -- we've reached a point where it's ridiculous to think that you can regulate copyright or the internet without impacting free speech.
There has been a growing recognition of this, including an excellent book by Neil Netanel, and another by David Lange & Jefferson Powell, in which the conflict between copyright and free speech is discussed at length. Unfortunately, the courts have yet to really recognize this issue. The Supreme Court's ruling in Eldred nearly a decade ago is a pretty big problem here, not recognizing how the expansion of copyright law, combined with the internet, really has made copyright law and the First Amendment much more entwined. The Supreme Court completely ignores that based on some very silly reasoning -- and that ruling has lived on to haunt us until today -- such as with the Golan ruling, which came out the exact same day as the internet SOPA/PIPA protests.
People who live online recognize the inherent conflict between today's copyright laws and free speech -- and recognize the risks of harming free speech through copyright expansionism. But because the two laws barely conflicted for quite some time, those who don't understand the internet pretend that there's no conflict at all. That's a problem. Part of the reason why the SOPA/PIPA efforts worked was because people inherently recognized an attack on their free speech rights. Keeping the focus on such rights is the only way efforts to be proactive and move forward will work.
- Don't be confined by what's been done or how others do things. While I'm not against the idea of these sorts of "internet super PACs," something about them feels very... old school. Similarly, I've heard talk of efforts to "hire a lobbyist" for "the internet." Perhaps these things need to be done, but I worry if those become the sole focus of the strategy, because it seems to be playing into the thinking of "the way things are done" in DC today. It's way too easy to be co-opted into the system if you play by their rules.
The reason that the protests worked (so far) was because we didn't "play by the rules." We came together incredibly organically (and chaotically at times -- and sometimes didn't come together at all, as different people and groups just did different things). If this effort is going to turn into something more powerful going forward, it needs to keep some of that same spirit and thinking. It can't just squeeze itself into the way things are done in DC today, or it will become "just another super PAC" or "just another lobbyist." That's not useful or productive.
I'd really like to see a lot more out-of-the-box thinking, about how we can actually use the tools of the internet to make a difference, rather than looking at how we can use the tools of DC to join the crowd.
Either way, it really was just only a few weeks ago that I talked about the amazing power of people speaking up and actually making a difference. I didn't realize we'd see it show up in such a large scale and with such effectiveness so quickly, however. The trick now is to keep it going.
There's obviously much more that can and should be done (and can and should be talked about), and I'll certainly be talking about much more. But with so many different ideas flowing around, I thought it would be best to start with a few key principles, and then move on from there.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 12th 2012 3:50pm
from the let-the-geeks-be-geeks-please dept
So far, the "pro-SOPA/PIPA" folks haven't been able to find a legitimate working technologist who says that these plans make sense. Instead, they've brought out some "policy analysts" who have some basic technology background, but not a deep understanding of DNS. But, because they can toss around some tech terms, SOPA/PIPA supporters think they sound credible. However, in his latest post on the subject, Vixie walks through a step-by-step explanation for why each suggested method of DNS blocking won't work and/or breaks DNSSEC. Basically, these "policy analysts" keep suggesting different ways that they think DNS blocking could work, and Vixie explains why they're wrong each time, and points out the importance of actually having DNS engineers do DNS engineering -- not policy analysts.
For example an early draft of this legislative package called for DNS redirection of malicious domain names in conflict with the end-to-end DNS Security system (DNSSEC). Any such redirection would be trivially detected as a man in the middle attack by secure clients and would thus be indistinguishable from the kind of malevolent attacks that DNSSEC is designed to prevent. After the impossibility of redirection was shown supporters of PIPA and SOPA admitted that a redirection (for example, showing an "FBI Warning" page when an American consumer tried to access a web site dedicated to piracy or infringement) was not actually necessary. Their next idea was no better: to return a false No Such Domain (NXDOMAIN) signal. When the DNS technical community pointed out that NXDOMAIN had the same end-to-end security as a normal DNS answer and that false NXDOMAIN would be detected and rejected by secure clients the supporters SOPA and PIPA changed their proposal once again.And yet... it's not being designed by DNS engineers at all. It's being designed by policy people, with a smattering of help from some former technologists who don't really understand DNS. That seems like a pretty big problem.
The second to latest idea for some technologically noninvasive way to respond to a DNS lookup request for a pirate or infringing domain name was "just don't answer". That is, simulate network loss and let the question "time out". When the DNS technical community explained that this would lead to long and mysterious delays in web browser behavior as well as an increased traffic load on ISP name servers due to the built in "retry logic" of all DNS clients in all consumer facing devices, we were ignored. However when we also observed that a DNSSEC client would treat this kind of "time out" as evidence of damage by the local hotel or coffee shop wireless gateway and could reasonably respond by trying alternative servers or proxies or even VPN paths in order to get a secure answer, the supporters of SOPA and PIPA agreed with this and moved right along.
The latest idea is to use the Administrative Denial (REFUSED) response code, which as originally defined seemed perfect for this situation. To me this latest proposal as well as the road we've travelled getting to this point seems like an excellent example of why network protocols should be designed by engineers....
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jan 6th 2012 5:28pm
Has Hollywood Hubris Awakened Silicon Valley To The Importance Of Telling DC To Knock It Off On Bad Laws?
from the it's-possible dept
Larry Downes, over at News.com, has written up a great article highlighting how SOPA/PIPAhave awakened Silicon Valley to the importance of engaging in policy -- and comparing it to previous battles, like the infamous Clipper Chip fight, which brought us EFF, among other things. It seems that, when clueless bureaucrats push techies too far, they respond in a big way. The real question is whether or not this becomes a sustained thing. Disclaimer: I make a brief appearance in the article, in part because of my involvement with Engine Advocacy, a group which is helping to educate both sides -- entrepreneurs and politicians -- on these issues (and not just about SOPA, but a wide variety of such issues).
Downes asks the right question in wondering if we can keep this up, so it's not just in emergency situations. I sure hope so, and that's definitely part of the thinking behind Engine:
Establishing a permanent counterbalance to old economy interests won't be easy. Engine Advocacy's McGeary acknowledges that incumbent industries who want to reign in technological change are better organized and know every corridor and office on Capitol Hill by heart. So using social media and other technical advantages will be critical to even the odds. "We can't line up soldiers on an open field," McGeary said. "We need to be rangers and use the tools we have to fight a guerrilla war. The facts are on our side; not that that always wins."Facts win in the long run... but we're hoping to make that long run a lot shorter, and we're hoping we can do it by using the very tools that Congress seems intent on hindering. But, in the end, for any of this to work, it's still going to take a lot of motivated people. Hopefully, the fight against SOPA/PIPA has shown what can be done when enough people do get involved and speak out.
Even more important, however, for the long run, is getting ahead of these issues. We shouldn't just be responding to ridiculous attempts by legacy industries to hold back innovation. We should be proactive in explaining to Congress why innovation is important for the economy and jobs, and why passing bad laws to protect legacy industries at the expense of job creating innovation is a dangerous idea for the economy. It can be done, but, again, it's going to take a lot of people being willing to take part.