Wikipedia Explains, In Great Detail, How Even An Updated SOPA Hurts The Web & Wikipedia

from the is-this-what-we-really-want? dept

While SOPA supporters are running around pretending that the minor fixes that Lamar Smith has proposed have made the bill perfectly acceptable, lots of people who understand this stuff are still pointing out that the bill is a horrific abomination that will have serious negative consequences. We’d already mentioned that Wikipedia was considering a blackout to protest SOPA. Now, Wikimedia’s General Counsel, Geoff Brigham, has written a thorough, detailed, and thoughtful explanation for why SOPA is still terrible. There’s a lot more at the link, but a few points:

I?ve been asked for a legal opinion. And I will tell you, in my view, the new version of SOPA remains a serious threat to freedom of expression on the Internet.

  • The new version continues to undermine the DMCA and federal jurisprudence that have promoted the Internet as well as cooperation between copyright holders and service providers. In doing so, SOPA creates a regime where the first step is federal litigation to block an entire site wholesale: it is a far cry from a less costly legal notice under the DMCA protocol to selectively take down specified infringing material. The crime is the link, not the copyright violation. The cost is litigation, not a simple notice.
  • The expenses of such litigation could well force non-profit or low-budget sites, such as those in our free knowledge movement, to simply give up on contesting orders to remove their links. (Secs. 102(c)(3); 103(c)(2)) The international sites under attack may not have the resources to challenge extra-territorial judicial proceedings in the United States, even if the charges are false.
  • Although rendering it discretionary (Secs.102(c)(2)(A-E); 103(c)(2)(A-B)), the new bill would still allow for serious security risks to our communications and national infrastructure. The bill no longer mandates DNS blocking but still allows it as an option. As Sherwin Siy, deputy legal director of Public Knowledge, explained: ?The amendment continues to encourage DNS blocking and filtering, which should be concerning for Internet security experts . . . .?

As I said, there’s much more at the link, but this is pretty thorough and explains why SOPA, even in its changed form, is a huge threat and a bad idea — especially if you believe in internet freedom.

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Comments on “Wikipedia Explains, In Great Detail, How Even An Updated SOPA Hurts The Web & Wikipedia”

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Anonymous Coward says:


That’s because Wikipedia is in no danger at all of being blocked, except by themselves, apparently.

That lawyer’s rebuttal is weak sauce. Not like the lies Masnick throws around here, but still shameful.

He’s complaining that there will now be more redress for victims than simply filing DMCA claims (a well known joke against pirate sites).


He needs to worry about things other than SOPA; this has nothing to do with Wikipedia. It’s about internet companies that have bad business models based on piracy.

Yondee says:

Re: Re: Re:4 ARGH

Are you kidding? There is a huge news story going on RIGHT NOW about Universal filing a false DMCA to take down Megaupload’s video from Youtube. Luckily Megaupload has the funds to bring the matter to court and contest the video that they made, own, and chose to distribute for free. Most individuals (and even other companies) would not have the time or capital to fight a similar DMCA request.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 ARGH

Do you have any examples of anyone who was reasonably and proportionately punished for filing bogus DMCA takedowns. Or collection societies who were reasonably and proportionately punished for deterring restaurants and other venues from hosting independent performers without paying them royalty fees under the pretext that someone ‘might’ infringe?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 ARGH

The point is that in order to prove fraud one must prove intent and intent is very difficult to prove. and even then the punishment for infringement wrongfully outweighs the punishment for delivering false takedowns. The opposite should be true, the person delivering a takedown is

A: Exercising a privilege against the rights of others

B: Is in a better position to know if they hold the copy protections on the content than the defendants

C: Bogus takedowns and takedown requests are likely far more socially harmful and more harmful to the defendant than infringement is to the plaintiff, especially given that infringement really isn’t socially harmful and there really isn’t anything wrong with it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 ARGH

“certainly some cases will be fraudulent and with intent”

At least you admit that some sites will be potentially removed without good cause before any due process occurs. and (just to enforce overreaching copy protection laws and protect corporate profits) this prior restraint is unacceptable. Copy protection laws are not important enough to justify any sites being subject to prior restraint before having the opportunity to an adversarial hearing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 ARGH

Democracy functions better with open communication. Prior restraint impedes on the open communication required for a functioning democracy. This will enable governments and courts to better make bad decisions and bad rulings without public scrutiny.

It was the government establishment of broadcasting and cableco monopolies and cartels that have resulted in so many other bad, anti-competitive, laws being passed (ie: 95+ year copy protection laws, perpetual copy protection extensions, taxi cab monopolies, along with many other anti-competitive laws). These media cartels wrongfully abuse the power of the state to keep the public ignorant and to only expose them to their one sided position and, as a result, over the years the government has been able to pass very socially detrimental laws due to a lack of public scrutiny. Prior restraint curtails public scrutiny and when there is a lack of public scrutiny it enables the government to better pass bad laws, make bad decisions, and it better enables courts to make bad rulings (like the ruling that 95+ year copy protection lengths and perpetual copy protection extensions doesn’t violate the limited time clause in the constitution).

Many sites that get taken down for no good reason may have the government simply ignore them without the opportunity for an adversarial hearing (Dajaz1). Without public scrutiny the government and courts are far more likely to make bad decisions. Many sites won’t have the resources to fight a legal battle against bogus takedowns and hence won’t bother. The (intended) result of such prior restraint will be a loss in many legitimate sites and a loss in competition. It’s the same (intended) result that has occurred against restaurants and other venues that wish to host independent performers. Collection societies have deterred them from doing so, demanding huge fees and delivering expensive lawsuit threats, under the pretext that someone ‘might’ infringe. The (intended) result has been a socially damaging reduction in competition. SOPA is no different.

rubberpants says:

Re: Re: ARGH


That isn’t very persuasive. Of course, you’re not here to persuade.

Pretenting you’re doing anything other than cashing a paycheck from some rich executives to try and buy favors from the American government is laughable.

You know I was thinking that If SOPA passes and you get a big lobbying bonus you might try buying your integrity back from Satan. I hear he can be quite reasonable.

S (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: ARGH

Noooo! Satan!

Forgive me, Jeebus, I done wrong, I done sinned!

I done fornicated! I done covetin’ my neighbor’s titties! I done drinkin’ and gamblin’ and forgettin’ to say my evenin’ prayers!

Forgive me, Lord! I repent, I repent! I gots the faith, I gots the holy spirit! Can ye forgive me? Oh, lord, forgive me my evil ways!

. . . Wait, I forgot this was a conversation about the infringement upon freedom and rights by unconstitutional and destructive laws, not a discussion of Yahweh-derived metaphysics.

Man, almost got me there — I guess that whole “Satan” thing just got me so nerved up I completely forgot myself.

That being said, do you have any rational contribution to make, or do you enjoy pretending internet column comments are a pulpit?

S (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 ARGH

I didn’t really care either way; given the relative impossibility of determining identity by name (or icon whatever-it’s-called thingy), I just take the cheap shots wherever it amuses me to.

I guess I should mention I actually agree with your comment, though; if I believed in hell, I would certainly think anyone who supported SOPA belonged there.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: ARGH

Are you suggesting that one of those is Google but lack the guts and conviction to actually say it. Or the courage of those convictions to face them in court should that be the case with evidence that their business model is, in fact based on piracy, either encouraging, promoting or enabling of it?

As Google is a favourite target of folks like you I presume that’s it. But then MS and Yahoo show links to such sites too and MS profits from ad revenue, notably Doubleclick as well.

You keep talking about these sites, so time to put up or shut up. Who are they? Domestic or off shore. You’re ohhhhh so free with accusations when you don’t need to say what they are merely generalize about a fictitious “them”.

Both Mike and Wikipedia have the courage of their convictions to state them clearly and plainly risking that those convictions on that subject are wrong.

You on the other hand toss accusations hither and yon, in this case about internet companies that have bad business models based on piracy, though that one’s getting more and more common from you.

OK, then, time to pay the piper or be forever known here as a coward. Who are these companies and how do you come to that conclusion. No hedging, no saying I or we can find that elsewhere. From your brain, to your fingers and right here after composing the message and clicking submit.

If you don’t your a very particular brand of coward.

Jeff McHugh says:

Re: Re: ARGH

I need to correct you here. First, it has everything to do with Wikipedia and other sites like it. Sites like Wikipedia rely on user submitted content. Second, SOPA may be intended solely for “companies that have bad business models based on piracy,” but THAT’S NOT THE REASON PEOPLE ARE OPPOSED TO SOPA. People are worried about the potential for collateral damage (e.g. censorship, hindrance of innovation, and damage to the Internet’s infrastructure).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: ARGH

“He needs to worry about things other than SOPA; this has nothing to do with Wikipedia. It’s about internet companies that have bad business models based on piracy.”

No, son, it’s about studios mis-using power they already have, which would be taken to the Nth level with SOPA.

“Boo-hoo” to you, boy.

Anonymous Coward says:

What’s really stupid about all this is that Lamar Smith has heavily criticized Eric Holder in the past for stuff like his role in Fast & Furious, yet he’s willing to give Holder unprecedented new powers with SOPA, and let him pick and choose which ‘rogue sites’ to go after.

If you hate Holder and think he’s incompetent then why are you giving him so much more power and opportunities to screw up then Lamar Smith?

Anonymous Coward says:

“The new version continues to undermine the DMCA and federal jurisprudence that have promoted the Internet as well as cooperation between copyright holders and service providers.”

See, this is the bullshit that the content borrowers would like you to fall for. DMCA was intended to make things easier, to eliminate much of the legal risk in content, and to save both sides time and money. Instead, it has become a hiding hole for all sorts of business models that are predicated on “borrowing” content for as long as nobody notices. It’s pretty much content squatting, if you like.

So clearly, while the idea of DMCA safe harbors are nice (so hosts and ISPs don’t get in trouble for copyright violations), it has turned into a free for all that cannot be easily tolerated.

Because Wikipedia sometimes uses safe harbors of DMCA, they are under the same tent as the sites that profit from DMCA to use copyrighted material to build and maintain their businesses. That safe harbor has become a dragons den of thieves and ne’er do wells who are too willing to abuse the system for money.

Perhaps Wiki’s people would be wiser to propose changes that would tighten and limit the safe harbors in a manner that doesn’t harm them, but tosses the bad players out of the “harbor”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“abuse the system for money.”

Infringement doesn’t require a ‘system’, copy protection laws are what requires a system. It’s copy protection laws that require government to enact and enforce and hence a ‘system’ in place. A lack of copy protection laws is a lack of a ‘system’ that can be abused.

The problem is that copy protection laws have gotten abused.

“under the same tent as the sites that profit from DMCA to use copyrighted material to build and maintain their businesses.”

Copy protection laws shouldn’t be about directing ‘profits’ towards some businesses and away from others. They should be about promoting the progress of the sciences and useful arts. That IP extremists have perverted them into something else, into something where profits are the end, is one reason I want these laws abolished. ABOLISH COPY PROTECTION LAWS. I CAN CARE LESS ABOUT YOUR STUPID PROFITS!!!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Move to China.”

I want copy protection laws abolished worldwide. Moving to China won’t help accomplish that.

An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Copy protection laws are an injustice.

What, is moving also the solution to slavery? Is it the solution to oppressive authoritarian governments? Just move? No, I have just as much a natural right to this land and its natural resources as you or anyone else and I don’t want anyone using monopoly privileges to deprive me of my rights on it.

“that was really easy”

2 + 2 = 5. That was really easy too. Typing nonsensical statements on my keyboard is always easy. 098qw4rkadwfaf, la la la, blah blah blah, easy easy easy 98q345rkjadsfsaq.

That was easy, see.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

and if ‘moving’ is such a solution then why do politicians always try to pretend to persuade other countries to adopt democratic policies? Those politicians don’t have to live in China or any other allegedly oppressive country. No one is forcing them to move there. They can stay here. and those who don’t like their government can simply move out. Why do we always try to tell other countries to adopt copy protection laws and we always try to influence what policies other countries adopt? We don’t have to move there.

We do it allegedly because we want those countries to adopt socially beneficial laws for their people.

I believe copy protection laws are socially detrimental. Therefore, I do not want any country to adopt them. Simply moving doesn’t contribute towards that end.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

And it has been pointed out to you dozens of times, Crosbie, no one gives a fuck that you think IP protections should be done away with world wide.

Nobody cares about you tilting at windmills. Nobody cares that you are a zealot. Nobody cares that you live in an economic fantasy world.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

“Nobody cares about you tilting at windmills. Nobody cares that you are a zealot. Nobody cares that you live in an economic fantasy world.”

Yes, simply label those who disagree with you as ‘extremists’ or a ‘zealot’ and proclaim, without evidence or logic or argumentation, that they live in an economic fantisy world and that automatically merits you to avoid discussing the matter. Pretend that this doesn’t support the fact that you and your opinions are intellectually bankrupt.

Anonymous Coward says:

Oh, but what about [anecdotal fallacy]? Mike is just a [strawman][appeal to wealth], and [ad hominem]. [no true scotsman fallacy], as [appeal to tradition] and [digital piracy is bad] Wikipedia and Google [slippery slope]. Perhaps Mike can [shifting the burden of proof], like [anecdotal fallacy combined with moving the goal-posts]? [blatant lies]! [reverse appeal to popularity] [appeal to wealth]. [appeal to ridicule][digital piracy is bad], no matter how much [reverse appeal to authority].

Face it, Mike, [appeal to authority], and when SOPA passes, they’re going to [appeal to force][appeal to fear][digital piracy is evil].

Therefore, [non-sequitur fallacy]. [moving the goal-posts]? Well, Mike “[strawman]” Masnick? Maybe [reverse moving the goal-posts].

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“In a few weeks time one answer may be UMG”

Ironically, this actually proves the point being made. Despite widespread abuse of DMCA takedowns and many examples of it being used by people who are guilty of perjury under the text of the law itself, it’s taken over a decade to get said penalty applied in any significant way? Yeah, that fills me with comfort at the supposed protections in SOPA…

Mojo says:

How about just ONCE in a story like this you tell readers what SOPA stands for? Or offer one link?

It’s still a relatively new concept and I don’t think it’s fair to expect every person on the web to be saavy to every new acronym thrown at us (especially at the rate we’re getting them).

You could argue that “readers of this site should know…” but perhaps some people (like myself) actually get educated about these things FROM your site.

Anyway, just keep it in mind, especially when an understanding of what the acronym means is essential to understanding the story.

How about just spell it out for its first use and abbreviate from there? I think that’s generally the way it’s done…

impilcature (profile) says:

Possible intent...

I hope a few of you more knowledgeable about the SOPA will weigh in on this…

I think the intent of SOPA is that the large coporations that want to be on the black list will have to pay the US govt not to go on it. This surge of income will start paying off the deficit and eventually help us overcome the “slump” of the economy. Think of all the jobs it will create “to maintain the infrastructure” and keep the government contracted “custom” software up and running.

If you really set back and look at it this SOPA thing might not be so bad. I mean think about it, with SOPA you get the following:

1. No one will be offended on the internet (stop bullying – Check)
2. No one can “steal” anything online EVER again. (stop copyright infringement – Check
3. Only wholesome material will be viewed on the internet. (stop porn and gambling – check and check)
4. This will ensure the internet is “streamlined” (stop the freemarket and overcharging of ISPs – check may come later)
5. Someone in govt will have an internet switch (on/off) in the interest of the Nation. (Stop Terrorism – Check)
6. No more DMCA takedown notices. (less paper – Check – however mailing a DMCA TD does help out the US Postal service which isn’t doing well right now.)

All in all a good plan at the end of the day!!! Something we can all stand up for and believe that our government has the best intentions at heart for its people and not something cynical like a lobbying party or big businesses buying changes for themselves with our honest and upstanding elected officials.

When you see SOPA… say thank you!!!

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