The Lies Of NBCUniversal's Rick Cotton About SOPA/PIPA

from the how-are-those-corn-farmers,-rick? dept

Chris Hayes, over on MSNBC, decided to be the first to seriously break the mainstream cable news’ boycott over SOPA/PIPA with a big debate on the bill — mainly between NBCUniversal’s top lawyer, Rick Cotton, and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. Chris’s opening discussion is quite good, and suggests he’s certainly sympathetic to all of us who are vehemently opposed to the bill. You can watch it below:

Alexis does an excellent job in the brief time he’s given to speak (though Cotton gets probably four times the amount of time to speak), but what I wanted to focus on, are the lies of Rick Cotton, because it’s simply despicable. He flat-out lies about the bills — and, even worse — does so in a manner that implies that it’s everyone else who’s lying about the bills. He kicks it off by insisting that the bills only apply to sites that are “wholesale devoted to theft.” That’s simply not true. He actually uses the word “wholesale” maybe two dozen times (at least). The text of PIPA — the key bill at this point — says that a site is considered “dedicated to infringing activities” if it “has no significant use other than engaging in, enabling, or facilitating” infringement. That does not mean that the site is “wholesale devoted to theft.” Under this definition, of course, a site like a YouTube (if it were based on a foreign domain) would be questionable, given that it has no significant use other than enabling infringement. That doesn’t mean that it’s always used to infringe, but it’s main use absolutely enables or facilitates infringement. Cotton may want to believe the language says otherwise, but it does not.

Second, Cotton gets pretty angry about the “disinformation” around the bills, and insists that the bills “would not effect a single site in the United States.” This is false. As we’ve explained repeatedly, while the targets of the legislation are sites with foreign domain names, the entire remedies section is about US sites — meaning that they will have significant compliance costs, and potential liability under these laws. Furthermore, the anti-circumvention provisions of the bill are not limited to just foreign sites. Alexis pushed back on the anti-circumvention point, and Cotton claimed that Alexis was “simply wrong.” But he’s not. Cotton is “simply wrong” here again. Cotton claims that we should debate what’s in the bill, and he should try reading the bill. In fact, Alexis has said that Cotton admitted after they were off the air that he was correct that the anti-circumvention provisions were not limited to just foreign sites. But that doesn’t do any good for those who saw the segment but don’t know the specifics.

Next, he claims it’s totally wrong that a small amount of “legitimate activity would be threatened by this legislation.” To be fair, Cotton and his buddies already got the power to take down tons of “legitimate activity” with the last copyright expansion bill they passed a few years ago, the ProIP bill. Either way, he’s still wrong. Tons of legitimate content can and will be put at risk under these bills. We’ve already seen that companies — including NBCUniversal — have wrongly declared publicly that certain sites are “rogue” sites, despite the fact that they have tons of legitimate content. If you believe that Cotton and NBCUniversal will suddenly get better at finding sites that really only deal in infringement going forward, you haven’t paid much attention over the last decade or so. Under existing law, we’re already seeing legitimate websites taken down, and legitimate speech infringed upon. Hell, even the one prominent legal scholar who agrees with Cotton, Floyd Abrams, has admitted that protected speech would be censored under the bill.

Next, Cotton claims that the internet is “lawless” and that this whole thing is really a policy debate about how we finally put laws on the internet. This is, to put it mildly, insane. As Alexis points out in response, there are tons of laws that apply to the internet, and directly apply and are used every day to deal with infringing activity. To pretend otherwise is ridiculous. In fact, as Alexis notes, the DMCA is regularly abused by copyright holders to go way beyond what the law is supposed to allow.

Towards the end, Cotton claims that when a court in the Netherlands ordered The Pirate Bay blocked in that country, traffic to the site dropped by 80%. That’s a flat out lie. I mean, ridiculously false. First off, considering that the legal fight over that has continued for years, and the court only ordered ISPs in the Netherlands to actually block The Pirate Bay… five days ago — and gave them 10 days to comply — I’m curious as to how he knows how much impact such a court order has had (er… will have) on traffic to The Pirate Bay. Separately, in every other place that has ordered such a block, traffic to TPB has actually gone up, not down, because the court order to block tends to give the site more attention. Just to make sure, I asked someone in the Netherlands if TPB was blocked for them, and he sent me the following screenshot showing that it’s totally accessible (though, they’re warning about the new ruling!). Either way, Cotton was flat out, 100%, totally lying about these “stats” from the Netherlands. No such block has occurred.

All in all, this is the same duplicity that we’ve been seeing from SOPA/PIPA supporters for the last few months. They attack those of us with facts on our side as spreading disinformation, but when you look at the details you realize that it is, in fact, they who are flat out “wholesale” lying. Rick Cotton should be ashamed, and NBCUniversal should admit to its errors. Chris Hayes promises to cover the topic in more detail again in the future, and he should challenge Cotton on the multiple false statements he made.

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Comments on “The Lies Of NBCUniversal's Rick Cotton About SOPA/PIPA”

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98 Comments
Loki says:

Re: Re: Re: Teh Script:

Actually according to the definition of the bill, Youtube cannot be declared that:

TedTalk – Youtube

However, given how the content industry doesn’t know how to read, and intentionally misrepresents statements to say things they do not (the recent White House statement and the MPAA response being a perfect example), they would clearly say that it does.

What YouTube is, is a broadcast medium and distribution channel all rolled into one, just one from of corporate control/censorship and therefore their ability to extort/blackmail content creators to relinquish controls of their copyright

anon says:

Re: Re: Re: Teh Script:

Mike, Youtube is already subject to the “no significant use” language under existing US copyright law. It’s an inversion of language from Sony-Betamax (“Indeed, it need merely be capable of substantial noninfringing uses.”). You are incorrect and Cotton is correct on that one – the definitions do only capture sites that are dedicated to infringement.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Teh Script:

YouTube does not fall under that provision, unless, of course, it has recently changed its business plan.

False. The site’s main purpose (uploading and showing videos) clearly enables and facilitates infringement. While it is not covered under PIPA’s restriction to foreign sites, the definition absolutely could (and without a doubt, would) be used against YouTube-like sites starting up elsewhere.

Pretending otherwise is folly. Just look at Viacom’s claims about YouTube.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Teh Script:

I hope for your sake that you critically examine what these bills actually say, lest you find yourself in a debate with persons who (hopefully) know them backward and forward.

I also hope that you do not fall prey to repeating the “they won’t stop piracy” meme. That is a loser argument because the bills are not intended to “stop piracy”, but to make it harder for various websites to continue pursing what they are presently doing.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Teh Script:

I hope for your sake that you critically examine what these bills actually say, lest you find yourself in a debate with persons who (hopefully) know them backward and forward.

I am — as mentioned — debating an MPAA official and a US CoC official on these bills in a few hours.

I have read the bills many times over. The fact that you deny what they actually say does not change any of that.

I also hope that you do not fall prey to repeating the “they won’t stop piracy” meme. That is a loser argument because the bills are not intended to “stop piracy”, but to make it harder for various websites to continue pursing what they are presently doing.

Um. But they don’t even do that. Which is the point. That you can’t see. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out why you’re in such denial over reality. It’s really scary. You seem to have total blinders to anything having to do with reality, so long as you might be able to score brownie points with the copyright maximalists.

Are you looking for a new job?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Teh Script:

I almost forgot. “False” is incorrect, but to understand this you have to read and outline all of the provisions associated conduct that fall within the ambit of the proposed legislation.

Could some foolish plaintiff try and use a bill like SOPA against YouTube? Of course…just look at some of the legal luminaries like counsel for Righthaven. That plaintiff would, of course, have to explain away the fact that the DMCA continues to provide safe harbor unabated. Hence, this is why I made a tongue in cheek statement that YouTube would have to proceed on an entirely new path for it to even begin to have any concern, something that it certainly has no plan to do.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Please don't Torrent over Tor

There are plenty of quite legal uses for Tor. People who don’t want to be tracked, or their IP associated with core political expression they’ve made. I’ve used it for such numerous times. The courts have held that included in the right to free speech is the right to speak anonymously.

A few deviants may use it for illegal purposes, just as robbers can use the roads to drive a getaway car. But the vast majority of folks who use it are law-abiding.

In fact, I’m using it to submit this comment right now, which is the definition of protected speech.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Please don't Torrent over Tor

You don’t need to torrent over Tor. The only part thepiratebay.org is involved in is giving you the .torrent file. Once you have that, it’s up to you what to do with it and how. The court order to block thepiratebay.org won’t stop any of the torrents or even slow them down a bit. It will only slightly impede the acquiring of .torrent files. So you can use Tor to get the .torrent file and then stop using Tor after that.

Note that to my knowledge there is nothing illegal in downloading, sharing, having, or opening a .torrent file. There is nothing that is copyrighted in that file, though I am not a lawyer.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Please don't Torrent over Tor

And recently, TPB has announced its going to stop offering torrent files. It’s going to just give magnet links.
So imagine if they’re continued to be hounded after this. They’ll be hounded for literally giving out a string of letters and numbers e.g.
magnet:?xt=urn:sha1:YNCKHTQCWBTRNJIV4WNAE52SJUQCZO5C

Saying that you can’t share something like that would be a definitive attack on free speech, just like when the cryptographic key for Blu-ray DRM was cracked and everybody had the key on their website.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Please don't Torrent over Tor

No need to use TOR for torrenting. It’s not being blocked in the Netherlands. They are telling the users to use TOR to access the site itself.

I’m not even amused Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2012 @ 11:26am as the comment is just flat out trolling. Stop using encryption to make place for the terrorists plots over the internet. Stop using the roads so they’ll have less traffic so the drug dealers will transport their drugs more efficiently. [and so on…]

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Personally I was happy to hear arguments from the other side, since all I can find on the internet is anti-SOPA arguments.

That doesn’t mean he was convincing in anyway. It felt more like whoever was yelling the loudest was lying the most.

We live in a world where copyright infringement is as easy as pressing CTRL-C. The law makes pirates of everyone. It’s time to relax the law.

Trollholio says:

Re:

We need to fight this wholesale free-market communism where the consumer is given an actual choice in service providers.

These pirates are wholesale broad brushing us into a negative light by reading the bill and honestly telling others about it.

We should thank and respect the brave industry leaders whom are willing to wholesale give up their self respect, dignity, and any claim to moral superiority by lying to the American people about this bill and its authors intentions.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Amen to that. Netflix just started here in Ireland and I thought I’d give them a try. To my horror, they had only on average, 18 titles per genre (and even had the gall to list anime as a genre, when its not a genre like horror or romance).
I watched one episode on their crappy, limited browser-based media player (1 audio track, no advanced controls like in VLC/Media Player Classic…hell, it made Windows Media Player look good) and then went straight back to my favourite copyright infringing sites.
I know, I can expect Netflix to increase their catalogue in the future, but as of right now, the legit service doesn’t meet a single one of my demands as a customer. Every single one of those demands has been met by the copyright infringing sites and they get my traffic.

Kevin H (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Okay let me make myself a little clearer. I KNOW why they have not. What I would have liked to see is those reasons being discussed. They skirted around the issue when talking about them being underserved customers who are trying to get around the artificial walls which the content companies erect in the name of more profit.

Tor (profile) says:

Verdict in the Netherlands claims blocks are effective

“Towards the end, Cotton claims that when a court in the Netherlands ordered The Pirate Bay blocked in that country, traffic to the site dropped by 80%. That’s a flat out lie. I mean, ridiculously false.”

People may perhaps find it interesting that in the recent Netherlands court case BREIN claimed (see section 4.35 in the linked document) that countries blocking The Pirate Bay typically create a 92% drop in visitors from that country (citing Italy and Denmark as examples). Since the ISPs didn’t object the court used this in its argument that the blocking measures were effective.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Verdict in the Netherlands claims blocks are effective

…typically create a 92% drop in visitors from that country…

Is it better to point out inadequacies in Internet GeoLocation tools? Or is it better to relax in the confidence that many minds cannot come to grips with the concept that ?Network Topology is not Topography??

Toxic Reverend (profile) says:

SOPA and The Fountain of Evil

*SOPA was spawned and nourished by The Fountain Of Evil*
aka the trillions of dollars that the Federal Reserve gave the Banksters
*First, Turn off the Fountain of Evil*, then unclog the drains of justice and mop up the mess
*How 2 turn it off is explained in a 3 minute video by Congressman Dennis Kucinich*
http://youtu.be/oUpXDZFtEHw
H.R.2990 — National Emergency Employment Defense Act aka *The NEED Act*
Get up to date information about this at
*Congressman Dennis Kucinich* > http://kucinich.house.gov/

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: SOPA and The Fountain of Evil

I fail to see how SOPA was spawned because of the trillions of dollars that went into the banks. Yes, both the banks and Hollywood have been shown to be incredibly corrupt, but they’re two separate entities.
Now instead of spouting random nonsense sentences you could TELL us what your links are all about. I’m wary of clicking on a link from someone I don’t know.

Lord Binky says:

You know how interesting a show would be if they would run a fact checked recap of those live debates. You could do like a pop-up video type of thing just pointing out correct facts in statements. I think it’d be interesting, but I know news networks are no place for such uninspired and uncreative dialogues containing facts (haha, nerds! wanting facts, hahahahaha).

Rick Cotton should be disbarred & thrown in pr says:

As an attorney, he knows better than to lie like that.

But we shouldn’t be surprised.

There is a cabal of old school media men desperate to keep content under their control. They are the gatekeepers of propaganda that Cotton plays golf with. He and the other general counsels of the network & cable news stations are hand in hand with the evils of the world.

Keep exposing him & the others so their lies become meaningless.

Rick Cotton should be disbarred & thrown in pr says:

As an attorney, he knows better than to lie like that.

But we shouldn’t be surprised.

There is a cabal of old school media men desperate to keep content under their control. They are the gatekeepers of propaganda that Cotton plays golf with. He and the other general counsels of the network & cable news stations are hand in hand with the evils of the world.

Keep exposing him & the others so their lies become meaningless.

Kenneth Michaels (profile) says:

NBC Universal Threatens more Legislation

Cotton of NBCUniversal threatens more anti-piracy legislation after SOPA and PIPA. Cotton has said: ?It?s a first step. It?s not a silver bullet,? said Mr Cotton at NBCUniversal. ?Piracy is never going to go away. But right now it is rampant, it is out of control.? A first step? The content industry considers SOPA/PIPA just the beginning of the censorship!!

Quote sourced from http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6162237a-402b-11e1-82f6-00144feab49a.html#ixzz1jemGzcjL

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: NBC Universal Threatens more Legislation

Tbh, i’m leaning more and more towards Creative Commons beeing the best defense against this.
Just picture this, a false takedown notice, wich is essentially a company saying ‘we own this, and you cant show it’ and a followup lawsuit using all theese laws the media industry have paid for.
Then repeat, over and over, with a strong financial backer, or even make a fund out of the ‘damages’ awarded to finance the continuation.
Repeat Ad Nauseum.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: NBC Universal Threatens more Legislation

They won’t stop until all content on the internet is properly licensed and paid for. After all, they’re not allowed to put anything on the internet without paying for it, so why should anyone else get to. That’s their definition of a lawless internet. Nobody uploads anything without passing it through a legal team first.

tsavory (profile) says:

Happy Birthday

Hmm weird he mentioned the Happy birthday song it was created based off the good morning song written in 1896 and uses the same melody. Infringe much? Anyway the first remembered in print of the happy birthday song was in 1912 and it was not till 1935 a company (not the creators) copyrighted it. It is debatable on who really wrote it. Copyright on Happy Birthday is not up in the US till 2030 that’s 95 years from the copyright and 123 years since it first appeared in print Now since it was released without notice of copyright under the Copyright Act of 1909 should the 1935 registration be not invalid? Some guy two or three times removed from the creators is making the royalties. How does this help the creator or their families?
Hmm and they wonder why people tend think this copyright system is in desperate need to be fixed.

Now on to TPB and the Netherlands umm ok he can’t really say it dropped off that much but even he could support that and the traffic show that TPB recieved 80% less from there that might be because hey people decided to use proxies and vnc’s and where the traffic came from or is going is hidden. TPB would have to report an 80% decrease in traffic on there end. But I guess if I was TPB I would say oh no it dropped 80% so the Netherlands would think they solved their problem and shut up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Not so fast Mikey

“Separately, in every other place that has ordered such a block, traffic to TPB has actually gone up, not down, because the court order to block tends to give the site more attention.”

Not true. Traffic and site popularity went down in Italy after the block. Check Alexa. The added attention only lasts for a few days.

http://www.futureofcopyright.com/home/blog-post/2011/01/05/italian-isp-blocking-of-pirate-bay-leads-to-significantly-fewer-visitors.html

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not so fast Mikey

Quote:

In a sense, ZeroPaid is right: file sharing generally won?t be reduced by the blockade of The Pirate Bay in Italy and there are still plenty of alternatives and rerouting techniques available. Other BitTorrent sites are or have indeed become much more popular in Italy, for instance BtJunkie.org (No. 165), KickAssTorrents (No. 166), Isohunt (No. 223) and Torrentz (No. 262).

Source: Future of Copyright: Italian ISP blocking of Pirate Bay leads to significantly fewer visitors

Do you even read the news you posted?

Quote:

However, it was an arguably fruitless victory for the FIMI for a number of reasons.

First, because of the fact that former users have simply switched to alternative torrent tracker sites like BTJunkie, which in it?s case have caused Italian visitor traffic to jump by 50%.

Second, because users can use VPNs, proxies, or any of the hundred of other ways perfected over the years to evade similar censorship restrictions in totalitarian countries like China.

Third, because it won?t improve the business model of the FIMI that has been so apparently weak at convincing music fans to buy their product. Trying to remove choices doesn?t make the reaming ones look anymore attractive.

The game of whac-a-mole continues.

Source: Zeropaid: Italian Cops Close Pirate Bay Mirror Site

So there you have it, it reduced the traffic authorities can see and it increased the traffic that authorities cannot making Alexa references useless since Alexa cannot measure it either, because proxies in other countries would count as other countries traffic and not Italy’s.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Not so fast Mikey

Not true. Traffic and site popularity went down in Italy after the block. Check Alexa. The added attention only lasts for a few days.

Please be clear. Traffic to TPB.org went down. Have you checked the traffic to the alternate domains they set up? Or, as others have pointed out, have you checked traffic to other sites?

Aaron Martin-Colby (profile) says:

Master Debaters

I hate people like Cotton.

He’s very skilled in the ways of direct debate. That is how people who are absolutely wrong can still win an argument.

People disagree with you? Tell them that they are wrong because you know that proving otherwise would take up more time than the debate allows.

One key point in the debate? Rapid-fire lots of other points, thus forcing the opponent to either ignore them, and appear to admit their validity, or charge off-track in an attempt to counter each individual point.

People like cotton disgust me, not because I disagree with him, but because he is intellectual corrupt.

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