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Ridiculous: Lamar Smith Basing His Plan To Massively Regulate The Internet On False Or Misleading Research

from the that's-just-scary dept

Well, this is unfortunate. As the House Judiciary Committee’s “markup” process is underway for SOPA, chair (and sponsor of the bill) Lamar Smith has sent around a memo concerning the markup and defending the bill against widespread criticism. The memo is embedded below. It gives you some of the reasons why he’s supporting the bill… and it’s absolutely ridiculous. Much of the “evidence” he uses to defend the bill is clearly false or misleading, some of which was debunked ages ago. This is not how legislation should be put in place. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of how legislation should be put in place. I’m against faith-based legislating where people decide to create legislation based on a belief, but perhaps it’s even worse when the legislation is given the appearance of being supported by facts, but the reality is that those facts are either falsified or misleading.

It is estimated that intellectual property (IP) intensive industries provide jobs to more than 19-million Americans and account for more than 60 percent of US exports. Despite this enormous positive impact, these industries endure tremendous losses at the hands of increasingly organized and sophisticated foreign-based counterfeiters and pirates.

Oh goodness. Not the bogus “19-million” jobs in “IP-intensive industries” again. That data point is so misleading and so downright stupid that anyone quoting it shouldn’t be allowed within 100 feet of the legislation making mechanism. The clear implication made by those who used this stat is that all of those jobs (1) need intellectual property protection for those jobs to exist and (2) that those jobs would be better or there would be more of them if IP law was stricter. Unfortunately, neither of those key assumptions holds up to any scrutiny. First, the “job count” is based on very, very, very loose classifications, and assumes that anyone and everyone who has a job in any industry that IP covers has a job because of IP laws. That’s ridiculous. Technically it would mean that me and my staff are all included in that 19-million, yet we reject copyright on our content. It would also mean the entire tech industry, almost all of whom are totally against this law, are included in those 19-million. When huge parts of the people you claim to be protecting are telling you you’re not helping at all, perhaps it’s time to dump this bogus statistic.

More to the point, since that stat says absolutely nothing about the need for stricter IP laws, CCIA conducted a study using the exact same methodology and found that exceptions to copyright law contributed significantly more to the economy than copyright law. So, as we’ve said before, if you’re going to pull out this ridiculous number and insist it’s accurate, in order to be intellectually honest and consistent, then you have to also admit that those 19 million would be better off with less copyright law, not more. After all, this is using the same methodology.

But, of course, that would require intellectual honesty.

A February 2011 Frontier Economics report[1] estimates the total value of counterfeit and pirated goods in 2008 and projects the impact in 2015. In 2008, the report concludes the total global economic value of counterfeit and pirated products to the G20 economies alone ranged from $455 to $650 billion annually. The report notes this estimate was likely to be ?conservative? for years beyond 2008 ?given the rapid increase in counterfeiting and piracy observed between 2005 and 2008.? The report projects the impact could rise to $1,220 to $1,770 billion in 2015.

Damn. $1.2 trillion in possible losses by 2015? That sure sounds high. Too bad the actual evidence says this is all a ton of hooey. I mean, total and complete garbage.

Let’s dig in. First of all, I was a bit surprised to see a quote from “Frontier Economics,” since there are tons of other, much more credible, research on issues of counterfeiting. I was unaware of this Frontier Economics report until I read about it here. The footnote, however, notes that this report was “Commissioned by the Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP).” And who is BASCAP? Why they’re yet another front group set up by the US Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business lobbying group, who has put tremendous resources into getting this bill passed. You would think (wouldn’t you?) that an intellectually honest politician wouldn’t rely on stats written by the lobbyists trying to pass the bill. You would think. And while we’re talking about intellectual honesty, why not just say upfront that the report was by the US Chamber of Commerce, rather than naming its front group, BASCAP?

And, really, if you’re going to look at claims regarding counterfeiting, why not use the government’s own Government Accountability Office (GAO)? Wouldn’t that be just slightly more credible than using the lobbyists who want the bill passed? Well, the GAO has noted that claims of how much counterfeiting is going on has been totally and completely overblown by trademark holders, and there’s no evidence to support those numbers. The same GAO put out a report last year that debunked industry reports on “piracy” and noted that none of those studies stood up to any scrutiny at all.

If the GAO isn’t good enough, how about the OECD? The OECD studied international counterfeiting rates and simply could not match the industry’s favorite number of $200 billion (note: significantly lower than the Frontier Economics report above). In order to appease the US Chamber of Commerce, which was flipping out about this, the OECD put out a report that included some random “multipliers” based on guesses to suggest that the problem could be worth $200 billion, but noted that the actual evidence didn’t support this at all. What did the actual evidence show? Well, an independent analysis of the OECD’s own research suggested that it massively exaggerated what the numbers showed, and the real value of counterfeit products was more like $5 billion. Okay, so one pretty detailed analysis by independent parties shows $5 billion… and one report from a ridiculously biased party claims $455 to $650 billion and rising to $1.22 to $1.77 trillion.

Who in their right mind would cite the obviously bogus, ridiculously high numbers, other than someone who is not legislating based on reality?

So how did Frontier come up with their crazy estimates? Astoundingly, they relied on the OECD report as well. But rather than question the assumptions, Frontier took OECD as fact, decided that it didn’t actually count enough stuff… and added even more multipliers to generate even larger numbers. Tellingly, the Frontier report explicitly warns users of the report not to assume that these values are losses, since it does not explore the substitution effect. And yet, it’s clear by the implication in Smith’s memo that he’s doing exactly that, and expecting others in Congress to do the same.

On the subject of digital piracy, Frontier found digitally pirated music, movies and software accounted for between $30 billion and $75 billion in value in 2008 and estimated an impact of between $80 billion and $240 billion in 2015.

We’ve already discussed the questionable ancestry of this report, so no need to point out that the credibility here is entirely missing. But, again, the stats here simply don’t add up to anything approaching reality, at all. Again, we’ll point to the (credible, respected) GAO, which suggested numbers like this simply didn’t pass the laugh test. Also, it’s worth noting the other bit of sleight of hand here: using “the value” of these works. That lets you imply that these numbers represent losses. But anyone who is intellectually honest (there it is again!) has to admit that most of the people getting these works for free wouldn’t be buyers anyway. So that number is essentially meaningless in actually determining the size of the problem.

An earlier Frontier study entitled ?The Impact of Counterfeiting on Governments and Consumers? concludes that ?approximately 2.5 million jobs have been destroyed by counterfeiting and piracy?[3] across the G20 economies. The report adds that no attempt was made to measure the secondary impacts of employment in G20 economies (i.e., suppliers, retailers and other sectors in the supply chain) or the impact on non-G20 economies.

I went through the “earlier study” (pdf) and how they calculate this 2.5 million number appears to be something of a joke. At best, it looks like they picked a few small industries, then “decided” how many jobs were lost due to counterfeiting, and then did massive extrapolation. I’m not joking. This is not credible research. At all. To rely on this to make massive regulatory changes to the internet is downright scary.

Two other recent studies provide new insight into the scope of infringing traffic on the global Internet as well as the scale and complexity of the online counterfeiting and piracy problem. In the first, a report[4] finds that nearly one quarter (23.8%) of global Internet traffic infringes on the trademark or copyrights of intellectual property right holders. The report also estimates that approximately two-thirds of BitTorrent traffic was illegitimately shared content.

This is the infamous Envision study — commissioned by NBC Universal, whose claim to fame is that the company likes to completely hide its methodology, so people can’t check to see if it’s even remotely accurate. Of course, even if we assume that the Envision report is accurate, once again, that makes no statement on how much of that traffic is a substitution for people who will actually buy the products. At the same time, it’s worth pointing out that another report has highlighted how Netflix takes up more traffic than BitTorrent (showing that the best way to “beat” piracy is to get more legitimate services going — but that’s made impossible by the ridiculous licensing demands of the folks lobbying for this bill. Furthermore, a separate report that compared Netflix traffic to Bittorrent traffic noted that if you converted everyone downloading BitTorrented films into Netflix customers… it would bring a grand total of $60 million more to the industry. In other words, while throwing out claims of large percentages of traffic sound impressive, when you look at the actual impact on revenue, it’s minimal, at best.

The second report[5] surveyed 22 legitimate trademarked brands revealing that sites offering pirated content and counterfeit goods generated 53-billion visits a year. In a release, the study‟s authors note that ?[g]iven the large number of popular brands, it is reasonable to assume that hundreds of thousands of other rights-holders, brands and content creators are suffering the same damage.?

That’s the infamous MarkMonitor report. We debunked that one a few weeks ago, so I’ll just do a little cut & paste of the next two paragraphs from the original.

Let’s start with the 53 billion claim. Guess what? It’s from a US Chamber of Commerce-funded study by an anti-piracy monitoring company called MarkMonitor. And the details suggest serious problems with the study. First, the study itself was based on Alexa, widely considered the least accurate web traffic measuring tool out there. Second, the number of “visits” to any site is an especially meaningless number — especially when trying to discuss the actual economic impact of such visits. Who cares how many visits there are if we don’t know anything about what people do on those sites?

Third, a large percentage of those visits all come from three sites: RapidShare, Megavideo and Megaupload. These are three cyberlockers that the industry has declared as “rogue,” but which have significant legitimate purposes. Rapidshare, in particular, has been repeatedly ruled to be perfectly legal, both in Europe and in the US. The company follows DMCA takedown rules and has plenty of legitimate uses. Including Rapidshare in these calculations makes the whole thing a joke. And none of those sites are involved in “selling” counterfeit goods that put US citizens in harm’s way.

According to the report, ?domains classified as ?digital piracy‟ attracted the highest levels of traffic with a high in excess of 32-million daily visits on average for the most trafficked domain ? rapidshare.com. On an annual basis, that traffic equates to more than 11.8 billion visits per year for that site.? The report further states that the ?three [most-trafficked] digital piracy sites generate more than 21-billion visits per year.?

Once again: Rapidshare has been ruled legal in the US (and elsewhere). Pretty freaking scary when US politicians are simply assuming the criminal nature of a company that has been judged legal.

As damaging and extensive as digital piracy is to IP right holders, the harm is not confined to companies. The ?2010 Digital Music and Movies Report: The True Cost of Free Entertainment?, which was conducted by security technology company, McAfee, reveals a growing number of cyber threats associated with ?free? online music and videos. For instance, the researchers determined that searches for free music ringtones resulted in a 300-percent increase in the riskiness[6] of sites returned by major search engines. Searches for ?MP3s? and ?free MP3s? resulted in even greater risks.

You know how you beat that? By getting companies to offer legit services. You know how you make it worse? By driving infringement further underground with poorly thought out laws, like SOPA. Congrats, Lamar Smith, you’re making the problem worse.

The harms caused by digital piracy don’t take into account the human suffering inflicted by dangerous counterfeit goods sold over the Internet. A March 2011 report by the US Government‟s Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Inter-Agency Working Group warned of the increasing challenges posed by thousands of websites that peddle harmful and/or counterfeit drugs or drug without a valid prescription in violation of federal law.

Um, the “harms” caused by digital infringement don’t take into account the issue of counterfeit drugs, because they’re two totally different things. You know what else doesn’t take into account the human suffering inflicted by dangerous counterfeit goods? Nearly everything. Weather reports don’t. Traffic. The time of day. Perhaps we should regulate them all with this bill too. Sheesh.

Smith ignores the fact that the bill does not distinguish between truly counterfeit products that are dangerous, and legitimate grey market imports that tons of people, including huge numbers of senior citizens, rely on so they can afford the drugs they need to stay alive. The “problem” of counterfeit drugs is blamed for a ton, and is used as the key driver by supporters of SOPA. If they wrote a bill that just focused on that narrow problem, we’d be all for it. But don’t use fear-mongering of fake drugs to regulate the entire internet.

In addition to the obvious harms to consumers posed by criminals who traffic in counterfeit pharmaceuticals, health and safety concerns also negatively affect our men and women who serve in uniform as well. A 2010 GAO study revealed an alarming risk of counterfeit products entering the military supply chain and creating substantial danger to service-members

Oh hey, Lamar Smith does know about the GAO when they release reports that are useful to him rushing through bad legislation. Perhaps someone can explain to me why the military is buying counterfeit military equipment from “rogue websites”? Answer is… they’re not. The counterfeit military supplies stuff has nothing to do with rogue websites whatsoever. Again, I have no problem with going after counterfeit military equipment suppliers. Just don’t use that narrow problem to regulate the entire internet… especially when this has absolutely nothing to do with the internet. At all.

Director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) John Morton said ?counterfeit and pirated goods present a triple threat to America. They rob Americans of jobs and their innovative ideas; fuel organized crime; and create a serious public safety risk. Counterfeiting has evolved to such a great extent that intellectual property thieves will sell just about anything that will make them a buck, with no regard for the integrity of the federal supply chain or the safety of our war fighters.?

Ah, Smith would quote Morton, the man who proudly censors the internet already. Note the massive conflation of a variety of different issues. And, really, the whole “organized crime” thing has been debunked so many times already, it’s just sad to bring it up. Remember, it’s based on “decades-old” anecdotes, not credible research, and does not take into account the fact that the internet has basically made it so such businesses are not particularly lucrative. That is, internet infringement actually cut out the bottom of the organized crime infringement business years and years ago. Bringing it up as if it’s still true is just ridiculous, and certainly no basis for regulating the internet.

A January 2010 study by the U.S. Department of Commerce estimated that counterfeit aircraft parts were ?leading to a 5 to 15 percent annual decrease in weapons systems reliability.? The Commerce Department study, which surveyed military manufacturers, contractors, and distributors, reported approximately two and a half times as many incidents of counterfeit electronics in 2008 as in 2005. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported in March 2010 that a supplier who sold a package containing a personal computer circuit as a $7,000 counterfeit circuit for a missile guidance system had been paid $3 million as part of contracts worth a total of $8 million.

Again, what does that have to do with rogue websites? Seriously. Someone provide an answer.

Based on existing civil and criminal authorities, ICE has seized 350 U.S.-based[10] domain names that were investigated by ICE and ordered by federal judges to be seized after a showing the site is operating[11] in violation of criminal copyright or trademark laws. At least 86 of the domain names seized by ICE have been forfeited to the U.S. government. One foreign-owned site, Rojadirecta.com, which streams unlicensed and unauthorized sports programming over the Internet, has challenged the seizure of its domain name in federal district court.

It seems worth noting that multiple other sites have challenged the seizures, but the US government has denied them their day in court by filing secret extensions that they won’t let anyone see, including the domain owners. Furthermore, Rojadirecta does not stream the content. They embed or link to the content. If Lamar Smith can’t understand the difference between hosting and embedding, that should disqualify him from regulating the technology. I mean, come on, this is basic stuff.

These operations are not without critics. Some maintain ICE has overreached in this and related enforcement actions that involve child pornography investigations.

Yeah, those are the only two sentences devoted to the backlash. Um, it’s not just that there are “critics” or that they “overreached.” It’s that they took down 84,000 websites “accidentally” and they’ve been totally censoring other websites for over a year with no due process. That’s not “overreach,” that’s called being totally unconstitutional.

From there, the memo goes on to defend SOPA and totally downplay criticism.

In response to concerns that H.R. 3261 may violate the First Amendment, the first provision in the bill, Section 2(a)(1), guarantees that the Act shall be applied in a manner that does not impose a prior restraint on free speech or the press. Constitutional scholar Floyd Abrams has also provided a detailed analysis of the free speech and due process implications of the bill and found it to be in complete accord with the Constitution and the rules that govern all civil litigation in US federal district court. A copy of his November 7, 2011, letter is on file with the Committee

Okay, but is the letter from equally well-respected Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe, which goes into great detail why Floyd Abrams’ (who wrote not on his own behalf, but for the movie studios who employed him) analysis is lacking, on file? Or how about the letter from over 100 legal scholars, all noting that SOPA appears to violate the First Amendment? Just putting one paid-for representative of the movie studios’ letter on file is no “response” to the criticisms. It’s ignoring them.

In response to arguments that protecting American consumers and the US market from counterfeit and pirated goods delivered via the Internet establishes a dangerous precedent for repressive foreign regimes, the sponsors note that there is no moral equivalence between a US court issuing an order to enjoin continuing criminal activity and protect private property rights in full accord with the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution and a foreign regime that denies fundamental human rights to its citizens.

That’s just silly. There’s plenty of moral equivalence, and just because Smith wants to put his head in the sand over this, it doesn’t mean that foreign countries aren’t already using this system to mock our attempts to tell them that they need to keep the internet free. Furthermore, we’ve already seen how Russia has used claims of “copyright infringement” to stifle political speech criticizing the government. Do we really want to suggest more countries do the same? Smith is basically telling China that all it needs to do to keep censoring the internet is to declare anything it doesn’t like as “infringing.” What a legacy.

Finally, in response to assertions that permitting a federal district judge to authorize a service provider to apply the DNS solution to not deliver users to criminally-infringing websites, the sponsors note that Internet Service Providers already use this technique to ensure that subscribers do not gain access to websites that are associated with malware, spyware, viruses, child pornography or other unsafe or undesirable material.

It’s one thing for a service provider to make a voluntary decision on how it runs its network. It’s an entirely different thing for the government to get into the network management business.

It seems clear that Lamar Smith is not troubled by facts or intellectual honesty. He’s going to push this bill through using whatever trick he can come up with. It’s a really sad statement on the state of politics in the US today. Lamar Smith’s name should forever be branded with the fact that he tried to mislead his way into setting up America’s first internet blacklist.

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Comments on “Ridiculous: Lamar Smith Basing His Plan To Massively Regulate The Internet On False Or Misleading Research”

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Djibouti says:

Re: Response to: The eejit on Dec 15th, 2011 @ 7:16am

Is it a surprise that a guy that lives in Massachusetts and claims to live in & represent Texas who is an avowed Christian Scientist and doesnt believe in medicine, scientific method or technology would single handedly try to railroad an inane law like this after a totally unremarkable political career? How can Lamar Smith claim to have any basis for intellectual integrity let alone even participation in the debate?

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

Watch and learn

“On the subject of digital piracy, Frontier found digitally pirated music, movies and software accounted for between $30 billion and $75 billion in value in 2008 and estimated an impact of between $80 billion and $240 billion in 2015.”

I guess the Movie and Music industries need to hire more pirates, because it seems that according to those stats, that the pirates are doing equal to or BETTER than than the industries themselves. Who knew?

Anonymous Coward says:

WSJ/NBC Poll: This Congress Is 'One of the Worst'

?WSJ/NBC Poll: This Congress Is ‘One of the Worst’? by Patrick O’Connor, Wall Street Journal, Dec 13, 2011:

It?s hard to find an institution in American life less popular than Congress.

This particular Congress ranks as one of the worst ? ever.

In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 42% of those polled judged the first session of the 112th Congress ?one of the worst? in the 222-year history of the institution. Another 33% said it was ?below average.?


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: WSJ/NBC Poll: This Congress Is 'One of the Worst'

Yet, congress is elected by the people, who seem bent on stupidly re-electing the same bunch of bad people over and over again. Go look at the house and senate – the vast majority of the members are on at least their second term, and in many cases, they are on a “life long” plan, re-elected every term by landslides in their districts.

We the people have failed. In computer terms, it’s like DMOZ: humans do it better, including screwing themselves over for every last dollar on the table.

Planespotter (profile) says:

Re: Re: WSJ/NBC Poll: This Congress Is 'One of the Worst'

Exactly the point Larry Lessig makes… the people have allowed this to happen through inaction and apathy. The Senate and Congress are now unable to make changes as their whole lives depend on the system that is in place, they suck up to industry to ensure contributions whilst elected and also to provide employment after their stint in government. Look at the figures for politicians who become lobbyists! It’s a lovely graph that just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

abc gum says:

Re: Re: Re: WSJ/NBC Poll: This Congress Is 'One of the Worst'

“the people have allowed this to happen”

I doubt it is that simple.

Throughout history the struggle between government and the governed is filled with atrocities perpetrated by the government and those who control it. For the people to actually effect change there is much suffering to be endured. Possibly, the people do not want the crap beat out of them, their family targeted or be incarcerated indefinitely on trumped up charges.

One needs look no further than the ’60s to see what a tipping point looks like. Are we witness to one today? Maybe – it really depends upon the government reaction to the unrest. So far the government has, seemingly, done everything it can in order to exasperate the situation rather than address the issues and calm the masses. Why is this one may ask …. is this intentional? Do they want this to escalate so that they can feel better about declaring martial law?

Blaming the victim is so much easier than actually looking at the problem and realizing what drives society, what course of action is most efficient and beneficial for everyone.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 WSJ/NBC Poll: This Congress Is 'One of the Worst'

It’s much simpler than that. Our republic is being usurped by bureaucracy. When that occurs, you have a government that is mired more in procedures than civil rights. To change the system, you have to make it smaller and more responsive. Only then can democratic principles, once again, reign supreme once more.

Mike42 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 WSJ/NBC Poll: This Congress Is 'One of the Worst'

Great. Now define, “smaller.” So far, the only definition I’ve seen is, “underfunded.” I think the government size is fine, but it needs to be open. Wide open. “Small but behind closed doors” just sets the machine back a few years.

We need public officials and agencies accountable to the public. Size doesn’t matter. (That’s what she said… then snickered.)

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 WSJ/NBC Poll: This Congress Is 'One of the Worst'

Smaller –

Less bureaucracy. Less overlap of duties which confuses exactly who is responsible for certain duties. FBI versus ICE in regards to DHS penalties is a certain example.

Removing departments.
This assists in having less governmental irresponsibility. We really don’t need the EPA, nor the DHS if you ask me. The TSA could then become a private contractor not affiliated with governmental oversight.

I could go on, but the best thing is to stop and prevent the government from hiding behind bureaucracy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 WSJ/NBC Poll: This Congress Is 'One of the Worst'

Further, you have to remember that the government sometimes does things which are not popular, but are generally good for the country. As an example, a tax cut is popular, a tax increase generally is not. Yet sometimes they have to raise taxes in order to meet the demands of the people. Is it right or wrong?

The real issue of the US is that senators and house members don’t face term limits, which means that some of them can hang around like dinosaurs, and as a result our system moved forward much more slowly than it should.

“One needs look no further than the ’60s to see what a tipping point looks like. Are we witness to one today? Maybe”

I don’t think so. The current situation in the US (and world) economy has created strife, yet there are few alternatives being put out there that add up to much. Government mostly is doing Titanic deck chair duty, and most of the protests (including the Occupy nonsense) are complaining about the color of the chairs. It’s not very easy to change the course of things right now, it is more of a slow turn left or right.

The unrest goes away slowly as people get jobs, get new cars, and get all comfortable again in their lives. The time for change was when Obama came in, and that chance has passed. Now with the Republicans putting up pretty poor “more of the same” candidates to run against Obama, we are likely to see 4 more years. That means 4 more years of slowly but surely pulling out of the nose dive, but no fast revolution.

If someone had an actual good idea what else to do, they would get plenty of attention. But even wingnuts like Ron Paul don’t really have enough new to say to really capture enough attention to move forward (and he is going to get swallowed up by the Republican conservative wing soon enough and spit out like week old toast).

abc gum says:

Re: Re: Re:3 WSJ/NBC Poll: This Congress Is 'One of the Worst'

No good ideas? … There are ideas a plenty, many would actually be beneficial. Problem is, the establishment does not like being told it is wrong, they simply desire to remain at the trough and will squeal when disturbed.

Occupy nonsense? Would that be similar to the antiwar movement of the sixties, perpetrated by dirty commie hippies?
Yes, it is all nonsense until you read something other than the hand fed media BS. Education is your friend, it is their enemy.

Most of the political BS coming out of partisan mouths is designed around their talking points prepared by political action committees in anticipation of the coming election cycle. They do not give a rats ass about you or anyone else but themselves, and you will continually be deceived until you realize this basic fact.

Vincent Clement (profile) says:

After watching the Lessig @Google video, this all makes sense. You have a bunch of tech companies that are opposed to SOPA/PIPA buying, er, lobbying politicians. Supporters of SOPA/PIPA then spend even more money to buy, er, lobby politicians. Throw in something about reviewing this in 5 or so years and the ‘lobbying’ cycle continues ad nauseum until the Republic completely falls apart.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

” You have a bunch of tech companies that are opposed to SOPA/PIPA buying, er, lobbying politicians. “

Mostly, it appears to be Google and a very few other companies piling the cash in, and even with that (and some interesting front groups that do look pretty much like astroturfing), they cannot get very much of the public’s support. It’s hard to say “we are against stopping piracy, counterfeiting, and other illegal acts” with a straight face.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Mostly, it appears to be Google and a very few other companies piling the cash in, and even with that (and some interesting front groups that do look pretty much like astroturfing), they cannot get very much of the public’s support.
Oh come on – you’ve seen the numbers of ordinary people who’ve some out in opposition and you just bury your head in the sand and try to pretend it’s not real.

We’ve seen the same thing over the DEA in the UK – massive public opposition which is genuine being stymied by a few wealthy interest groups.
It’s hard to say “we are against stopping piracy, counterfeiting, and other illegal acts” with a straight face.

Isn’t it equally hard to say “we oppose free speech and fair trials” with a straight face.

Anonymous Coward says:

Meanwhile, let’s play with Mike’s outrage:

“Not the bogus “19-million” jobs in “IP-intensive industries” again. That data point is so misleading and so downright stupid that anyone quoting it shouldn’t be allowed within 100 feet of the legislation making mechanism.”

IP intensive industries is a pretty wide open concept, that could include everything from music and movies to all the people who work at Redhat. That could also include newspapers, books, and software. The 19 million number isn’t out of line, it’s just rather inclusive, beyond your acceptance.

Yet it has some validity to it. The US is more and more an economy of ideas, IP, and the resulting applications thereof. We don’t have that many steel mills, we get all our cheap and plastic stuff from China, we drive cars designed in Germany and Japan assembled all over the place (mostly it seems Mexico and Canada these days). We are not the hardgoods makers anymore, we are the smarter idea guys. Protecting those ideas, and allowing the US companies that create them to profit from them (and in turn put more people to work) seems like a noble goal, at least on the surface.

Remember, like it or not, the largest companies in the marketplace these days, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and newcomers like Zynga and Groupon are all IP companies.

So you may feel you have “debunked” the numbers, but really it just depends what you are measuring. You are trying to measure tightly the direct jobs of the MPAA, example, where they look at everyone involved in IP in any manner. Can you perhaps agree that your way of looking at things doesn’t match the way the report measured stuff?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

lots? Mostly the companies I saw listed are the ones that are dependant on safe harbors staying in place, so they can keep turning a blind eye to infringement, just saying “oops” when someone points it out.

Do you have any actual content producers against the bill? You know, movie studios, software companies, record labels?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Microsoft is more and more aiming at the Google model, getting in the middle of things. They fear that their “user generated content” sites and projects may suffer as a result of SOPA.

Remember, they are one of the leaders is suing rogue websites. Their actions speak louder than words.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

When the “stars align” for those opposed to bills such as these it suggests to me that a nerve has been struck, and that nerve directs itself to virtually anything saying that patent, copyright, trademark, unfair competition and other related laws serve a useful and laudable societal purpose.

Of course, this is anathema to those dead set against “monopolies” (as they define that term), and they become virtually apoplectic when legislation is proferred that is predicated upon such laws and the importance they serve in our society. They simply cannot conceive of any circumstances where “progress” (again, as they define that term) is enhanced consistent with the Article 1 powers associated with patents/copyrights and the regulation of intestate and international commerce.

Are SOPA and Protect-IP the answers? Maybe, maybe not. Is OPEN the answer? Definitely not. What is clear to me is that advocating a continuation of the status quo is nothing more than sticking one’s head in the sand to the realities of what is actually going on.

Here is a suggestion. If these are not the answers, then what would be an appropriate approach to address these real life problems without doing violence to the rule of law?

Critics are quite proficient at criticizing. This is the easy part. How about them rolling up their sleeves and offering detailed, alternate approaches that address these issues in a manner that is both effective and supportive of the rule of law under which any ordered society is governed. Sitting on the sidelines and taking pot shots at those attempting to do something makes me wonder if any of them even have any constructive ideas and the means to implement such ideas.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I have not seen any detailed suggestions, much less any such suggestion presented in the form of proposed legislative language.

Proposed legislative language? You want someone on Techdirt to draft a law that would be ready to send to Congress? What a joke. Clearly you’re just setting yourself up to dismiss whatever ideas anyone might waste time presenting to you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The only thing I have seen from critics is criticism of whatever issue concerns them.

For example:

It will break the internet.

OK, what can be done to try and accomplish some measure of our objectives without breaking the internet?

Leave everything alone.

But that does nothing to try ane alleviate legitimate concerns.

That is someone else’s problem. Leave everything alone.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

OK, what can be done to try and accomplish some measure of our objectives without breaking the internet?

I think you’re missing the point. Many people object to the objectives of the bill, not merely the tactics. And by objectives I don’t mean the “save jobs, hunt down poisonous drugs, and protect the troops” horse shit, I mean the real objectives: “stamp out competition and regain control of distribution channels”. These objectives are fundamentally at odds with an open internet, so there’s the conflict.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“…stamp out competition and regain control of distribution channels”.

I see no evidence of this, only the musings of conspiracy theorists.

It is not stamping out competition when the one who is competing with you has taken your work product illegally.

It is not attempting to regain control of distribution channels to enforce one’s legal rights against those who break the law.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

So why talk about this 19 million number when it obviously has nothing to do with the issue of SOPA. It’s a count of people who may or may-not be affected by the bill. Why not just count the number of people who have jobs, population of Alaska? He is obviously using his number to indicate that these people will be benefit from this bill, but thats just plain false.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“We are not the hardgoods makers anymore, we are the smarter idea guys”

This is terrible. What good is protecting ideas if your ideas are going to generate wealth for some other country? This is a problem that many developed countries are suffering today: they let their largest industries drain the “home country” of money, manpower and resources, only to invest these on some far away country that happens to have cheap labour.

Your over-protectionism of ideas is have the exact opposite effect: money is “escaping” your economy and heading straight into other countries. You also have fewer jobs because “IP intensive” industries tend to generate fewer jobs than, say, a factory.

But don’t take my word for it. Just look at China. You owe money to China, not the other way around.

Michael says:


It really is, but perhaps the most potentially damaging thing was the last sentence about the first internet blacklist. That we actually have people in Washington proposing such draconian measures sets a scary precedent for the future. If they could push stuff like this and SOPA/Protect IP through, what’s to stop them from blacklisting individuals from internet access in the future? They could effectively squash any and all dissident viewpoints using whatever jargon they can conjure. As bad as SOPA/Protect IP would be, it’s certainly not going to be the last attempt to regulate the internet, free speech and an open, competitive market.

If SOPA/Protect IP pass through without significant amendments, we’re all going to feel the (negative) effects. New upstarts will fall under corporate suppression, independent artists will be denied exposure, innovative techs will be shut down, competitive markets will all but vanish, and even major websites will not be immune to its effects. I for one will actively boycott any company which wields their copyright like a sword to ruin the integrity of the internet, including game companies like Nintendo and movie/music corps. They won’t see a dime.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Mind-boggling

“If SOPA/Protect IP pass through without significant amendments, we’re all going to feel the (negative) effects. New upstarts will fall under corporate suppression, independent artists will be denied exposure, innovative techs will be shut down, “

Bullshit up and down the line.

Independent artists can put their material anywhere they like. Their websites will not be shut down, their videos not removed. However, if they use rogue or illegal sites to promote themselves, they may find that some of their ways to expose themselves will be lost in the short run.

However, in the longer run, there will be much more support out there for sites that are reliable, have the desired content, and can unite users.

The “innovative techs” actually will do better to focus on things that actually add value in legal manner, rather than mooching and scraping other people’s content. Again, short term you may lose some sites that you like, but in the long run, the focus will be on delivering products that actually advance things and move forward with legal and legit content, and that will be better for all of us.

Sorry, but the “independent artist” thing is such a crock of shit, it’s hard to take anything else seriously.

Anonymous Coward says:

Unfortunately citing outright lies to justify legislation is a common thing among politicians.

One politician who was against government funding for planned parenthood once stood on the senate floor and said we should cut off all funding for Planned Parenthood because 97% of their budget is spent on providing abortions. The actual figure is less then 3% of their budget, most of their budget is spent on women’s health care for other stuff like breast cancer.

When confronted about the lie the senator’s office put out a statement that the senator’s claim “wasn’t intended to be a factual statement”, I kid you not.

anonymous says:

so why hasn’t someone put out a report stating figures that are completely opposite to Lamar Smith’s? i suppose there would be some sort of copyright infringement claim made so no one could read the truth. he is showing just how desperate he is now. probably not because of what he has been paid to push this Bill through but more likely for the amount he has to give back to the entertainment industries if he isn’t successful!
why should the US stop everywhere else getting their stuff but still expect everywhere else to give their stuff to the US? there will be some serious shit come out of this for the US if it goes through!

N2iT (profile) says:

big content companys are loosing control

It seems to me that the people who are going to benefit the most from SOPA are big content the same people who prior to the Internet decided who what and when the majority of the public would listen to or watch on television. And since the Internet have watch their power of influence over the public diminish steadily. so isn’t the SOPA bill nothing more than their latest attempt to regain that power of influence

Toot Rue says:

The numbers seem reasonable to me

I’m guessing all the folks who benefit from this legislation – lawyers, accountants, and politicians – may very well number in the multiple millions, maybe even 19 million.

And as to the amount of money they stand to gain if this legislation passes? I’m guessing the numbers quoted are probably low, given the going rate for billable hours these days.

techflaws.org (profile) says:

Constitutional scholar Floyd Abrams has also provided a detailed analysis of the free speech and due process implications of the bill and found it to be in complete accord with the Constitution and the rules that govern all civil litigation in US federal district court.

Wait? Didn’t even Floyd admit that free speech would be censored? How is that in complete accord with the Constitution?

Anonymous Coward says:

New upstarts will fall under corporate suppression while the major players just get bigger. I definitely agree with that. I also believe that is the purpose of this legislation. I think the lobbyists and the lawmakers are fully aware of what is at stake. This is simply a matter of setting up all the pieces so certain companies cannot lose. This is why Washington is a malfunctioning mechanism. Congress wants to get paid. If they get their money, the business that lined there pocket gets rich. More money for the business means more money for them. One hand feeds the other. Perhaps, you disagree and think Jack Abramoff is nothing but a liar. But, hey, I believe him when talks about how k street works.

The bill is disguised so well it implies the purpose is to protect our troops!!! Good grief. Oh and let?s not forget those counterfeit pharmaceuticals! They seek to destroy the men and women in uniform. BLEEHHHHHH!!! Ask someone you know who has recently served in the military just how much of a problem counterfeit pharmaceuticals were for them while they served. They will probably look at you like you are 3 cans short of a six pack.

crade (profile) says:

Maybe the actual legislation would be of some benefit to China and others in legitimizing their actions, but
the manner in which the legislation gets started, pushed and eventually put in place, complete with fake grassroots movements, crafted stats, false associations, etc should be standard reading when training anyone to be responsible for organizing mass deceptions for the purpose of controlling people.

Prashanth (profile) says:


It’s an estimate, right? It’s about as good of an estimate as those “up to X hours” battery life figures quoted for laptops; those figures are meaningless because when only an upper bound is defined, the lower bound could potentially be 0.
I’m going to estimate there are between negative infinity and positive infinity stupid people in Congress today.

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