Senator Franken Defends Censoring The Internet Because He Doesn't Think Hollywood Should Have To Change Biz Models?

from the really? dept

We were a bit surprised late last year to see that Senator Al Franken was supporting censoring the internet via COICA (which, yes, is about censoring the internet). After all, Franken has positioned himself as the “internet freedom” politician, and has spoken out repeatedly against attempts to limit speech on the internet. Ars Technica has an interview with Franken, where he delves into his support for COICA, noting that he’s heard from those who worry about censoring the internet, but in the end, he thinks it’s okay, because he’s from the movie/entertainment world, and he doesn’t seem to think they should have to adapt to the changing internet:

The other side of this, of course, is that this is about, essentially, stealing copyrighted material and selling counterfeit goods. This goes to tens of billions of dollars in theft. Some of the supporters of this were after the American Federation of TV and Radio Artists, the Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild… I happen to belong to all three of those unions. This doesn’t just affect the jobs of writers and directors and producers; when they’re free to steal all this intellectual material, it changes the business model of a movie. So it really costs the jobs of the technicians and the crew and the craft services people. It changes the entire business model for the industry. It’s not just movies and TV, it’s everything.

This is pretty disappointing, on any number of levels. First of all, his repeated use of the technically and legally incorrect words “stealing” and “theft” are troubling. Second, his repeating the totally debunked claims that this is somehow costing “tens of billions of dollars.” The GAO has already debunked those numbers as having little to no basis, and it’s disappointing that Franken would repeat them. But the key point is that yes, of course it changes the entire business model for the industry. But that’s what new technologies do. They change the business models for legacy companies and it’s not our government’s job to protect those legacy companies and their business models, even if our elected officials used to work for those companies.

That said, Franken does suggest that he’s heard many of the concerns about COICA and is focused on narrowing its focus significantly, saying that he has “tried to tighten the definition of who could be targeted under the bill” and in the recent hearing on COICA asked a series of questions to make sure that the bill “is narrowly tailored and will not unwittingly lead to the blocking of legitimate speech that is protected by the First Amendment.” The problem is that I’m not really sure there’s a way to do that effectively — especially when, prior to COICA passing, Homeland Security already seems to think it can seize domains without any First Amendment considerations, leading to plenty of perfectly legal speech being suppressed. Franken should know better than to think that a bill allowing internet censorship can be crafted to only take down speech of one kind.

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Comments on “Senator Franken Defends Censoring The Internet Because He Doesn't Think Hollywood Should Have To Change Biz Models?”

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Marcus Carab (profile) says:

It’s a little funny and a little depressing: for ages, industry insiders have been claiming piracy is “destroying” the industry, and smarter folks have been pointing out that it’s actually just changing the business model. Now, apparently, insiders are adopting it and saying “piracy is changing the business model!” as if that alone is a bad thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

I agree with Franken on the basic concept: You shouldn’t have to change business models because of unchecked illegal activity. Yes, they will likely have to change models, or more likely go out of business because there are no supportable models for business of this type anymore.

It would be a huge loss to the economy.

Ron Rezendes (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Why are you asking for stats that should show the demise of an industry that is perfectly healthy and reaping record profits in the midst of all this “piracy” that someone, somewhere is claiming destroys this same industry.

See, you can’t be continuously more profitable each year AND claim piracy is destroying the industry. One of those conditions has published numbers that show the profit is still there and not even necessarily getting smaller, the “piracy killing machine” is simply the monster in your closet when you go to bed at night and leave the door open.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

I blame recorded video game sales. This is anecdotal but my brother used to spend money purchasing shiny plastic discs to listen to. Then he stopped listening to music and started purchasing shiny plastic discs to play to.

It also didn’t help that he was/is slightly computer illiterate and couldn’t figure out the whole iTunes/iPod combo.

It was just ridiculously easier for him to spend his time and money playing video games.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Re:

Haven’t you heard, people don’t download illegal music anymore, they found legal alternatives, that was the conclusion of a lot of studies done over years.

Online Music Piracy Falls 27% (Rafat Ali, Jun 8, 2004 10:06 PM ET 2004)

Streaming Rises, Music Piracy Falls (2009)

Study shows music piracy on the decline, porn the most popular of it all (By Thorin Klosowski, Tue., Feb. 8 2011 @ 10:40AM)

Music Execs Stressed Over Free Streaming ? PCWorld (By Joab Jackson, IDG News, 2011)

There happy now?
Now can you please STFU!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Also, the trend is downwards and you can’t blame piracy alone when the game industry suffers from the same thing and is having record profits or when the movie industry is having also record profits, that just points to something else besides piracy that is driving CD sales down.

Have you ever considered that free legal alternatives are cutting down on spending? have you considered that people don’t want to buy a CD that they will rip to a MP3, have you considered that others competitors(i.e. Jamendo) are taking market share from those sales?

Now even if that is true, what are you going to do about it?

There are no laws capable of stopping that and there are no technological solutions either at some point you people will need to come to terms with that simple fact. NON-COMMERCIAL PIRACY IS NEVER GOING AWAY AND IT WON’T BE REDUCED pronto, that is the elephant in the room that some think they can’t just ignore.

MrWilson says:

Re: Re:

What if your business model involves illegal activity such as payola or price fixing or government corruption or RICO activity? Should you have change your business model then?

It would be a huge loss to the economies of private transnational economic elites.

Meanwhile consumers get to give their money to an entirely different set of transnational economic elites.

Jay says:

Re: Re:

I really hope that’s sarcasm because that’s been debunked 20 ways from Sunday…

Regarding Al, he’s a huge hypocrite that I just ignore from now on. His support of the COICA hurts his stance that net neutrality is an issue to take him seriously on. What I am disappointed with Ars about is that they didn’t talk to him about the actual question of having broadband compete. It seems all around there’s a lot of things that could have been done to improve the experience for consumers but Franken doesn’t think about it.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Specifics? You’re one to talk. All you do is speak in ambiguity. You never cite any factual evidence because you just pull your stuff out of thin air and pretend it’s fact all the while demand that we all prove you wrong. Start backing your own arguments with real evidence and maybe we’ll be inclined to stop seeing you as a bad joke that has been going on far too long.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Oh please. #1 – you’ve never said anything specific in your life, you just bark pro-IP slogans and #2 – You’ve been here long enough to know exactly what arguments I am referring to. Of course, you’ll probably deny that, since you refuse to put a name to your comments so you never have to be held accountable for anything, and so you can just keep using the same debunked arguments over and over again instead of either coming up with new ideas or admitting you might not be 100% right.

Everyone here, including you, knows what I meant by that: that the number one driver of piracy is a lack of legal services which fully leverage modern technology. If you want to deny that, then YOU be more specific.


Re: Re: Re: You need to sell it for it to be bought.

> This just sounds like boilerplate freetard entitlement
> mentality.
> You need to be more specific.

Pirating is easier than being a legitimate paying customer. If I want to take advantage of the state of the art in multi-media I basically have the choice of buying into a single vendor monopoly, pirating, or going to a lot of work.

The problem with option #1 is that it is still somewhat incomplete when compared to either option #2 or #3.

Option #3 is cool in many respects but is well… a bother. I can see why most people wouldn’t do it. Plus you’re still likely running afoul of the law anyways.

So that leaves piracy as the best option available even ignoring price. It’s the easiest, least trouble free, and most complete option.

There are a number of nice infographics that capture all of this.

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

On second thought–I agree!!

Somebody paid good money to get those copyright laws in place, and science damn-it those laws need to be enforced!

And damn the expense! Who cares how much it damages our culture, hinders our future, slows the economy, or takes law enforcement away from eating donuts, handing out traffic tickets, investigating murders, or finding rapists, tracking down terrorists… None of that matters if people can get “free” copies of 1’s and 0’s over the internet.

AC, you’re absolutely correct. If purchased laws aren’t worth the money, then the average worth of senators and congressman may fall below the millionaire level and lobbyists might stop getting billions of dollars to sway the lawmakers of this country.

AC, you’re right. WE ABSOLUTELY MUST ENFORCE THOSE COPYRIGHT LAWS! If we do not, the entire lobbyist/lawmaker economy might fall apart, and that dog don’t hunt monsieur.

Kevin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You not really giving us much else to tear apart here. You make these claims (already proven false btw), and then you come back with comments like:

“God you are such an anti-ip drone, it’s almost impossible to read your stuff.”


“How can I shill when I am not in the industry?

Try harder, you usually do better than that.”

So I guess my comment for you should be:

You are such a Pro-IP coward who cannot even put a name to his/her rhetoric. You just regurgitate whatever lame incorrect study “the industry” has fabricated and fill the comments of these posts with inane commentary that does nothing to further the conversation. Good Day Sir!

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You shouldn’t have to change business models because of unchecked illegal activity.

Unchecked illegal activity means there is something wrong with the law. Most people are moral and ethical. If there is widespread disobedience to a particular law, then that law is immoral and unethical.

It would be a huge loss to the economy.

I think you missed a story today, where using the content industry’s own methodology, ~12 jobs are created for every 1 lost to infringement. So, which is true, the methodology for both studies is correct (and therefore copyright is the loss to the economy), or both are incorrect (and therefore the content industry is lying again)?

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:


Are you sure you want to take the position that all laws are moral an ethical, and therefore?

The protests in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya were illegal. Helping an escaped slave was illegal. Leaking classified documents (even if they show gross negligence and mismanagement of a war) is illegal.

So, you’ll say those are different situations. Ok.

The Boston Tea party was illegal.

Not paying the stamp tax was illegal – and that’s what the Boston Tea party was about.

Why didn’t people want to pay the stamp tax?

No representation in their government.

Can you really say that the government of this country represents the people, when all our elected seem to listen to are corporations and special interest groups? Both of the major political parties are saying ‘more copyright good’ where the evidence suggests the opposite.

So why should I pay the copyright tax if I’m not being represented in my government?

Find me even a single Senator or Congressman attempting to scale back or abolish copyright and I’ll concede the point that there’s someone with my interests trying to make a difference even if they get out voted.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The fact you can’t present a contemporary US law sorta says it all, doesn’t it?

Here, I’ll help you: weed. The criminality of weed has slowly been addressed by various state legislatures.

The problem for you is that you’d still find more people that would say weed should be legal, than people saying ripping off music should be legal.

Of the people that rip off music, most know its illegal and wrong. They freely admit they do it because at the moment it’s easy.

But they’re not lobbying their congressmen to make it legal; they know that’s ridiculous. And so should you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Piracy OK in the minds of most Americans (January 28, 2007 / Mike Panic)

ps: hahaha! WTF!

Poll: Americans think downloading no big deal

Air Force cracks software, carpet bombs DMCA (By John Timmer | Last updated August 4, 2008 2:02 PM. The government will enforce copyright on others but not on itself)

70% of public find piracy OK (by Editor on Mar 1 2011.)


piracy is ok
is piracy ok
piracy is fun
piracy who cares

The eejit (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Bull and Shit. Frontier One, the VODO-only show, has a viable funding model. More and more indie movie-=makers are embracing Bittorrent as an alternative distribution service. Musicians, as a class of people, are making more money. Box office records gross, year-on-year, is increasing.

But no, “it’s all the pirates’ fault the sky is falling. It’s all the pirates’ fault we’re bribing your elected representatives in order to keep our role as gatekeepers.”

And you wonder why the public would rather break the law than conform to these bullshit laws.

The eejit (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I would have done, but there were no stores locally.[/sarc]

IS that the best you can do? Seriously? I offer examples of the business model being adapted, and you call us all thieves. Good to know where your priorities are. Clearly you’ve never truly loved content or culture – just raped it like the Goths did the Romans.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The distro methods you guys bring up are strawmen. Everytime.

I have news for you: The internet isn’t everything. It isn’t the end-all, be-all of everything. I realize that for many pathetic and worthless geeks it might be, but they don’t represent the masses.

None of you ever discuss the cost of production, human and monetary, because you’re completely clueless about what it takes to create a professional entertainment product; one that is desired and appealing to many. There are large costs. You can keep pretending that’s not the case, but the fact is you can’t demonstrate otherwise on a mass level. All you guys ever come up with are incidental outliers.

The fact is you don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s why no one listens to you, and your hare-brained ideas about things are ignored.

TDR says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Except that the cost of production is continually going down vastly, something you refuse to admit or accept. Another thing – once something is digital, it is everywhere. Which means it is infinite. Which means it cannot be contained. Try to actually think about that for a minute.

Anonymous: “I am a lying industry shill with no sense of morality or even the pretext of a point. I fear change like nothing else and cannot comprehend living without extorting as much as I can from my clients and blaming the ‘losses’ on a nonexistent problem. I do not know how to address an argument or even present one. I just flame because I know I’m wrong and unable to prove a single thing I’ve said, and I’m terrified to admit it.”

The eejit (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

OH, really?

An approximate breakdown of the cost of, say, a major label UK-sold album:

20% VAT
2% Production of disc (may not always be applicable)
3% Transport (may not always be applicable
1-6% ‘artist’ royalty
5% Producer
25% Sound staff
43-49% Label.

That’s a preetty big share of the pie, don’t you think?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Almost as hilarious as the fact that there are no expenses listed for:

1. Radio servicing
2. Tour support
3. Management
4. Store promotion
5. Advertising
etc, etc.
I could go on and on.

Now, if you actually knew anything about the music business, instead of being a raging asshat, you would have noticed that too.

coldbrew says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I can’t figure our for the life of me why I should care what the cost of production is? I simply do not care, and that is not how economics works. That you don’t understand that is really telling.

Coal Company: “It cost us $300/ ton to get that coal to you.”
Steel Mfg: “I don’t care, I can buy on the spot market for $200/ ton.”
Coal Company: “Senator!!!!!”

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Sorry, but you are seriously stupid.

Dude. When someone accurately states economics to you and you call him “seriously stupid,” the only one that makes look stupid is you.

It’s a *fact* that pricing is not based on fixed costs, but on marginal costs. Your desire to ignore that doesn’t change it, nor does your desire to call someone who schools you in basic economics “seriously stupid” make you look knowledgeable. It makes you look clueless, though it explains why you’re failing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

oal Company: “It cost us $300/ ton to get that coal to you.”
Steel Mfg: “I don’t care, I can buy on the spot market for $200/ ton.”

It’s okay, I can sell it to you for $100 a ton because I steal it out of the other company’s supply, you know, the people who actually pay the money to dig it up.

No problem, they appear to have an infinite supply.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

The fact is you don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s why no one listens to you, and your hare-brained ideas about things are ignored.

I love ignorant claims like this.

I think you’d shut up if you could see my email box from just this week alone. It’s pretty funny, but I can tell you that content creators way more famous than you are very clearly listening to what I have to say. Ditto with some politicians.

But you know what everyone thinks, so go with that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Yes, the internet is awash with stories about Mike Masnick’s successes in music…

This sounds like more of Masnick’s secret evidence. Kinda like all those “1st Amendment lawyers” that supposedly agreed with him.

Btw, where’s the seizure appeals, Masnick, hmmm?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Yes, the internet is awash with stories about Mike Masnick’s successes in music…

Never been about *my* successes, kiddo. It’s about the people who learn how to succeed.

This sounds like more of Masnick’s secret evidence. Kinda like all those “1st Amendment lawyers” that supposedly agreed with him.

Heh. They do agree with me. That’s why they’re working on lawsuits.

Btw, where’s the seizure appeals, Masnick, hmmm?

Will you admit you were wrong when the details come out? Of course not.

You seem to open your mouth an awful lot from a position of total ignorance, and even worse, accuse folks who know what they’re talking about of being ignorant. You may know something about music, but you have demonstrated you have no knowledge of economics, business or the law.

Will you admit you were wrong? Of course not. But it’s okay, because I know when I’m proven right, yet again, that you’ll know how foolish you look.

By the way, my offer to help you for free goes away the day we publish the story about an appeal of a seizure. So, hurry up. You’re about to lose out on a good chance to stop failing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

I’m waiting for the seizure appeals; I’ll be happy to see the issue addressed in court.

You, on other hand, are hoping that once the court does address it, that they’ll reverse the original judge’s warrant, and rule them unlawful.

Because you’ve got $500 riding on it.

vivaelamor (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“The distro methods you guys bring up are strawmen.”

Uh, could you be specific please. Otherwise I’m worried that you have no idea what a strawman is.

“None of you ever discuss the cost of production”

You mean, except when we discuss it. Is there a specific point you would like us to address on the subject? I’d offer some examples to get us started, but you’ve already rejected any I might bring up as “incidental outliers”.

“The fact is you don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s why no one listens to you, and your hare-brained ideas about things are ignored.”

Come on, you can do better than that with the personal attacks. Perhaps an upgrade to pea-brained, at least.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

BS coming from a liar.

Show me what costs and I show you how to do it for next to nothing.

Here have a look at how to smash an iPhone without spending money.

Or make some music on the cheap.

Damn you don’t even need a singer anymore with Vocaloid that last year alone had several top charts music in Japan alone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 @ other Anonymous Coward who dissed geeks

you know, i’m one of those geeks you mentioned. the only difference is, I DO know what is put in to making large scale films or albums, or shitty, over priced software. it’s just so damned hard2find or so expensive to get that i resort to riping a cd or pirate sites. some software, for example: Adobe Dreamweaver, $399 for their “base line” web page editing program. the companies could find such simple ways to make them less expensive, like open source code, or focusing less on how big their own bank accounts are getting, and how small their customers’ are getting. (this goes for this subject and what was said about weed) greed is one of the most powerful forces known to man. it makes people do dumb things (raise prices through the roof/shoot someone for trying to rip you off). (onto the weed now) all i have to say about weed is that the same thing happened durring the prohibition, except weed does more good than harm, more than anyone can say for alcohol. (back to piracy) criticize me all you want, but piracy wouldnt be a problem if it wasnt a necessity.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

If it was really a bullshit law then all of you would’ve been shoplifting CDs back in the day. Or DVDs a few years back

Physical scarce good does not equal free to replicate data.

I would not have shoplifted a CD or DVD because I would be depriving the store of the physical object. If I stole it, they would no longer have it.

Would I have borrowed a CD or DVD from someone, ripped the track, and then given it back?

Yep, I would have. I did. I still would.

Ccomp5950 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Shoplifting isn’t the same as piracy.

The fact you can’t wrap your head around the common idea that copying isn’t theft leads me to believe you are incapable of doing anything other than parroting slogans.

“You wouldn’t steal a car?”

Hell no, but if I could make an exact copy of it without costing me a dime more than the electricity cost of running the copy machine, I sure would.

Sharing is human nature.

Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

That’s what you’re missing. People bought CDs back in the day because it was the most viable, easy method to get music. Today, it’s not. The consumers have changed the way they listen/obtain music, but the music industry had to be brought kicking and screaming into the new era and they’re still fighting to keep the CD model alive, even though it’s no longer the most viable, easy way for consumers to get their music.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Is a BS law, I know that since the 70’s when everyone was making mix-tapes LoL

I bet even you did some, didn’t you?
Have you never recorded a TV show? have you never made a mix-tape or a mix-CDR?

No one cares about copyright, no one cares specially about YOUR COPYRIGHT CLAIMS, people just ignore you and that is what makes you jump up and down all day screaming PIRATES! PIRATES!.

I hope the government passes all those ridiculous laws and you get what you want and realizes then that they will do nothing to reduce piracy or PIRATES! LoL

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

…or it could be a net gain somewhere else.

Mr. Franken admitted it changes the dynamic he is just ignorant of the fact that nobody knows where this could lead.

Further “piracy” have been in non-commercial circles for as long as there was copyrights and it didn’t seem to do any harm.

Radio didn’t destroy musicians and composers income, TV didn’t destroy Hollywood, VHS didn’t destroy TV and Hollywood.

There will be change and non-commercial piracy will be there and long after, there are no technologies or laws able to stop it and worst yet there are solutions to circumvent those laws using stringent copyright laws to achieve the same end result for free content that is sharable and freely legally distributable by anyone.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Copyright vs Counterfeit

To me it seems that the new found constant need to always say copyright infringement alongside counterfeit only means that copyright doesn’t have a solid leg to stand on and harms nobody. They need to create this link to actual harm that just isn’t there. If there was actual harm, they would respond to the debunkings of their studies, do some good studies, or perhaps stop trying to conflate copyright infringement with everything evil under the sun.

Even if I was completely new to the idea of copyright, that is the impression I would get. The same idea behind whenever you hear a politician wanting to pass a law “for the children”. You know it isn’t actually needed and will only have bad side effects.

When all of the IP gang stops trying to conflate IP with actual counterfeit goods, then I will have a little respect for them.


Re: Copyright vs Counterfeit

…not to mention the real victim in the case of counterfeiting is not the corporations. It’s the individual that manages to buy something that’s not what they expected it to be. Of course this is not the Senate’s perspective on counterfeiting.

That’s another element of the real problem.

FormerAC (profile) says:

Why is anyone surprised?

Why is anyone surprised that a politician is parroting his patron’s positions? What a politician says during the campaign bears little to no resemblance to what they do in office. Words are cheap, and often believed. Actions cost money, and the voters don’t have enough.

Big businesses and the big unions give big money to their front men to conduct their business in Congress. Despite everything he said when running for office, Frankel is not a politician and is doing his master’s bidding.

Anonymous Coward says:

People were complaining they couldn’t watch sports online, well search for TVANTS and you will find what you are looking for.


Although lacking some of the channels that other P2P streaming programs have the fact that TVAnts has a high quality ESPN channel with full English commentary makes TVAnts an essential piece of software for those wanting to watch live streaming football on their PC.

Damn those Chinese from Zhejiang University.

-Silicon Valley Is Gonna Burn- says:

Enlighten Me

You all seem to know so much about this supposed “new business model”. So, what is it? Seriously I’d like to know what all you brilliant minds have come up with over the past 10 years. Come on Mike, spit it out…what “business model” are you referring to? Enlighten me…If you’ve got a specific idea that might actually work, let’s hear it. I know you’re not talking about ‘Add-supported’ or ‘Free’, are you!? Are you guys really still trying to keep that pipe dream alive?

Silicon Valley and the collective Internet syndicate willingly offering up free access to all digital content without authorization from the copyright holders does not qualify as a ?new business model?, there’s actually a name for that and it’s called “copyright infringement”.

It’s very easy to be successful when you don’t follow any of the rules.

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