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Discussing SOPA/PIPA Over At On The Media

from the have-fun-with-it dept

Been meaning to get to this for a few days now, but finally had the chance now. Last week the always excellent radio program On The Media from WNYC, I had a bit of a discussion on SOPA/PIPA (and the Megaupload shutdown). I was on the first segment discussing some of the problems with the bills. The actual interview happened Tuesday, before the big protest, before all the politicians dropped off, and before the Megaupload takedown occurred. Otherwise I might have had a few more comments about all of that. There’s probably not too much surprising in what I have to say if you’re a regular reader of my SOPA/PIPA coverage.

Right after me, however, they also talked to Steve Tepp from the US Chamber of Commerce. Tepp is the point person at the USCoC who has been more or less in charge of getting SOPA/PIPA passed. Amusingly, the segment that I recorded with OTM was recorded about half an hour after I got off stage at the Congressional Internet Caucus’ State of the Net event, where I debated Tepp on some of these issues (video from that is apparently forthcoming). If I’d known they were going to have both of us on, perhaps we could have both gone into the same empty ballroom at the hotel to record the session together. Either way, Tepp, says a bunch of things that I believe are simply not true.

“The legislation is, in fact, very narrowly targeted. The bill requires – for example, the Senate bill, the Protect IP Act, that the website in question be dedicated to infringing activities, that its primary design and primary use is counterfeiting or piracy.”

I know that SOPA/PIPA supporters love to say this, but they do so while ignoring what the specific definitions say. The problem is how broadly worded and open to interpretation the definitions actually are. While the most recent version of SOPA trimmed back some of the more ridiculous parts of the definition found in the original SOPA, I can’t think of anyone who’s looked at these laws objectively and seen them to be truly narrowly tailored. That may be the intention, but the language suggests otherwise.

Thankfully OTM host Bob Garfield calls Tepp out when Tepp tries to claim that all of the people protesting against the bill are doing so because of “misinformation online.” Garfield notes that Google is against the bill, and it’s not like it got its information via a Google search. Tepp’s response is misleading:

Well, the one provision that got all these folks excited was the requirement that after the Attorney General brings a case and after a Federal court finds that a site is dedicated to this criminal activity, that the site not be reachable from the United States, that the Internet companies would block access to that site. And that’s what a lot of folks said, oh, this is — this is a problem for the Internet, it’s gonna break the Internet.

Now, that seemed to me to be quite overblown but, in any event, in the spirit of compromise, sponsors of both the Senate bill and the House bill have said, we’re gonna roll that back. And yet, folks are moving the goalpost and saying, nope, still not good enough. So I don’t know what the concern is. To me if I get what I ask for, I stop complaining.

That was indeed one very big problem with the bill, but it was hardly the only problem. And Google and many others laid out a bunch of problems. The fact that DNS blocking was delayed (not removed, by the way) hardly fixed the problems. To pretend that that was all that Google wanted would be to ignore what Google has actually been saying. Either way, Tepp goes on to trot out the standard talking points:

But at the end of the day, we know that protecting American consumers and protecting American jobs from foreign criminals is in the best interest of this country. We know that members of Congress are gonna see that. And we are going to hold their feet to the fire and make sure that these criminals can’t continue to get away scott free.

Except, of course, as was shown the very next day after the interview took place, existing laws already have the power for the US to take down foreign websites and arrest foreign website owners. That certainly seems to deflate much of the argument that Tepp has been making. Furthermore, it’s worth noting that one of Tepp’s favorite talking points — about there being “53 billion visits” to these “foreign rogue websites,” involves a study that concluded that Megaupload supplies a rather large percentage of those 53 billion visits. So, why, again, do we need this new bill?

If anything, the Megaupload takedowns are showing exactly the fears that many people worried about with SOPA. That is, even if Megaupload execs were skirting the law, the takedown has caused tons of legitimate users of Megaupload to lose out on their own content and storage, disrupted businesses, and caused many other cyberlockers to have to remove useful features, or block access to US users. These are exactly the kinds of collateral damage that people were worried about in protesting SOPA/PIPA — and now they’re realizing that the US government already has that power, and Tepp’s insistence that there would be no real damage to anyone other than “foreign criminals” has been proven wrong.

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Comments on “Discussing SOPA/PIPA Over At On The Media”

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saulgoode (profile) says:

Does the U.S. have the power?

I would advise caution in overstating that “the US government already has that power [to take down foreign sites]”. Such will not be proven until the Megaupload arrests result in a conviction. Should those arrested eventually be acquitted owing to misapplication of law (a result I suspect is well within the realm of possibility), the pro-censorship lobbyists will no doubt say, “See! We told you new laws are needed.”

Yartrebo (profile) says:

Re: Does the U.S. have the power?

They’ve already destroyed Megaupload. That they haven’t convicted anybody yet doesn’t change the fact that Megaupload is gone, and will be even if everyone is found 100% innocent.

In short, there’s no need to wait for a conviction because the corporate death penalty has already been served.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Does the U.S. have the power?

and that is exactly why what has happened has been done and why it is wrong! it’s getting exactly what the entertainment industries wants, regardless of legal outcome. forget about whether there were illegal files available, that was just the excuse used to go after the site. the thing that couldn’t be allowed to take off was any music sharing that actually gave money to the artists!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Does the U.S. have the power?

Kim Dotcom will be extradited to the US. he will be convicted. not saying that i think he’s guilty, agree with it or that it will be legal, but do you or anyone really think that any US judge is gonna let him go? until there is massive changes to copyright law, massive changes to the powers US law enforcement seem to have, massive changes to where their powers end, anyone and everyone can be whisked away from anywhere to stand trial for something in the US that is perfectly legal in that person’s own country. THAT IS WRONG!!!

saulgoode (profile) says:

Re: Re: Does the U.S. have the power?

“Kim Dotcom will be extradited to the US.”

Not all extradition requests get granted.

“he will be convicted. not saying that i think he’s guilty, agree with it or that it will be legal, but do you or anyone really think that any US judge is gonna let him go?”

If the arrest is found to have been unlawful, or the subpoenas served on the Virginian webhost unwarranted, then yes, I would expect a US judge to dismiss the case; or at least disallow any evidence gathered from the defendents’ emails.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Does the U.S. have the power?

everyone can be whisked away from anywhere to stand trial for something in the US that is perfectly legal in that person’s own country. THAT IS WRONG!!!

Ummmm, where did this come from? That hasn’t been decided yet. That’ll be the focus of the extradition hearing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Does the U.S. have the power?

You do realize that under the UK/US extradition treaty, extradition is conditioned on an act also being illegal in the country extraditing an indivudual? Assuming that the UK is able to read both the treaty and its own laws, I fail to see a significant legal issue. Policy? Perhaps. Legal? No.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

Petitions, petitions, and more petitions

Ok so we have spoken up about SOPA/PIPA/ACTA and it seems that I am seeing TechDIrt quoted in a number of other articles. It’s impressive to see the petitions that have come out of all of this protesting and I can wait to see the official White House responses to some of them.

Now that we have all this “awareness”, it’s time to start attacking the roots of the problem.

There is a petition to reduce the term of copyright to 56 years maximum. Ok that’s still a long time but it’s a start.


Anonymous Coward says:

Credit for this comment goes to Andrew Dickson.
Found atop the comments here:


“If SOPA or PIPA had passed, the group After The Smoke could have shut down all of UMG’s web sites and had them black listed from the DNS and ISP’s simply because one of their signed artists stole a portion of a copyrighted song from an independant artist and the file was uploaded. UMG’s site would still be there, just no one could connect to it since all connections to it would be blocked on the ISP’s network, and for those that don’t understand how the internet works… even if you don’t use that ISP, you’re still sending the message through their network in order to get to the destination. If the ISP blocks that destination, you can’t reach it. If you can’t reach it because it’s been black listed on the connection that gets you there, that is called black listing! :O Amazing!

Of course UMG would have just bought whomever they needed to and it would have amounted to corporate scum getting away with whatever they wanted to (yet again in a loooong list of similar events). What a shock that (just like the internet said) corporate greed and strong arming stomps out those that are in the right if it happens to get in the way of their profits or interests.

If you want to know why millions of people hate hollywood and opposed the bill, READ THEIR CONCERNS. There was 0 effort from hollywood to listen. There was ample chance to play nicely. There were many efforts taken by the tech industry to negotiate and bring up the problems because almost every person in the tech industry that protested SOPA/PIPA and ACTA/TPP/PCIP/etc supports the fight against piracy. What we do not support is that the bills do absolutely nothing to stop the problem they claim to be targetting. They target every single last person in the hopes that nuking the entire world will kill off the relatively small number of really bad pirates. Not only that, but then hollywood thinks that they can simply throw more money at the politicians to get their way. Then they start making up dirty scathing lies and throwing false numbers and completely untrue rhetoric around, and raging like a spoiled child that can’t stand not getting their way every single time anything happens.

If you do not understand how the internet works, do not try to tell those of us in the tech industry how to make the tech industry function to serve your purposes. You need to work with the system in place.

We don’t tell you how to film, we don’t tell you how to act, we don’t tell you how to produce movies, we don’t tell you how to encode and format the files (although we clearly should since a vast majority of movies done in “HD” are done wrong), we don’t tell you what duration to make movies, we don’t tell you how many sequels to make, we don’t tell you how many frames per second you need to use (although again we probably should), we don’t tell you what to negotiate as your wages, we don’t tell you how to distribute the movies (although again we should since making your content unavailable for legitimate purchase encourages illegitimate means which you STILL don’t get…), we don’t tell you who to star in the movies, we don’t tell you how to do visual effects, we dont’ tell you how to set the ambiance of the scene, etc, etc, etc. We don’t make hollywood function to serve our purpose, we watch whats made and work with the system that is in place. The system is broken, and the content that is designed purely to be distributed and watched and listened to and enjoyed cannot be distributed because it’s not available, cannot be watched because it’s not available, cannot be listened to because it’s not available, and cannot be enjoyed because it’s not available. If it is not available, people will try to get it, and upon finding they can’t get it legally, they will turn towards piracy to get what you apparently do not want to make available. If this was not true, iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Netflix, and countless other digital options that are LEGAL and PAID for would not make it off the ground. If digital is all about stealing %&$# from you, why do we try to pay you while embracing better technologies if the option is available?

What the tech industry asks is that you not tell us how to make the internet work, not tell us how to make computers work, not tell us how to employ the communications protocols that have been in place for a LONG time and work exceptionally well, not tell us how to let you search what you want to search for, and not tell us how to control a means of communication that is designed to be completely open to all. So far, you are trying to impose onto every single aspect of our industry and force what works into something that you think is what you want, ignore every warning that is offered that what you are doing does not work, then complain that we must obviously be pirates because our jobs are to keep the IT world working 100% of the time, and we are acting in the interest of keeping it running 100% of the time.

You are complaining about the few people taking your intellectual property, we are complaining about you trying to take away our professions, our jobs, and in some cases, our life’s work. You don’t like it when pirates wrongly take transactions away from you, why should we like it if you’re trying to take away our entire livelihood?

That is what hollywood is missing, and it would be in your interest to respect that we are not mad about stopping piracy, but mad about everything else unnecesary in those bills. It is not wise to piss off the people that keep your communications running, your TV stations running, your radio stations running, your special effects running, your recording equipment running, your WORLD running, AND who also double as the very people that consume your product. You are targetting the wrong people, and despite the very numerous attempts at guiding your industry towards the guilty parties, you’ve basically declared war on the very people that have been trying to work with you. The gloves are OFF. We’ve played nicely, and you spit it back in our faces with your constant attacks, constant lies, and the MPAA trying to strong arm politicians into blindly voting with the biggest check book while completely ignoring and not hearing out anyone that does not agree.

No, hollywood is the one in the wrong, and the tech industry will not apologize for trying to work with your lobbyists while they arrogantly spat in our faces and openly mocked us with their corruption. You got a taste of just how many of us there are; be it the techies or the content consumers, and we are sick and tired of the crap. The protest was against “business as usual” where we get screwed. Get it right.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

what an excellent article. i bet that because the truth has been spoken, it sure as hell isn’t popular. only thing i disagree with is, yet again, ‘file sharers’ are referred to as ‘pirates’.

please correct me if i am wrong. i thought a pirate was a person that removed a physical object or person from a ship and put it/him/her on another ship, when that physical object or person didn’t belong to him in the first place.

i haven’t seen any digital content being removed to anywhere by anyone, only copies made

Paul Hobbs (profile) says:


“existing laws already have the power for the US to take down foreign websites and arrest foreign website owners”

I assume you mean that if a non-US citizen commits an act which is unlawful under US law, the US can issue an arrest warrant, and request that the authorities in the country where the non-US citizen resides take the person into custody pending extradition proceedings.

Because if you mean that US has the power to just walk in to another country and arrest someone, then I have a serious problem with that.

Rottweiler (profile) says:

Poland already signed ACTA

Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the government ?would not submit to blackmail? and that the treaty would be signed. He added, though, that ?only when the government is sure that Polish law guarantees freedom on the internet, will we send the bill for ratification to parliament.?

?ACTA was accepted by countries who, like it or not, are the backbone of freedom in the whole world, namely the EU, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Korea and Mexico.”

Sigh* I don’t want to live on this planet anymore…

Anonymous Coward says:

Photographers may be the first to jump ship and understand what a monopoly really means.


Photographers who compose a picture in a similar way to an existing image risk copyright infringement, lawyers have warned following the first court ruling of its kind.

amateurphotographer.co.uk: Photographers face copyright threat after shock ruling (update 26 Jan includes pic) by Chris Cheesman on 24th January 2012

A monopoly is no protection is an assault on freedom and democracy plus it greatly harms the economy.

abc gum says:

Re: Re:

Sounds more like a trademark dispute, but I see the concern. If taken to its (il)logical conclusion, this would be another shining example of human stupidity.

Does the London Bus Company need to obtain a license from Temple Island Collection in order to run advertisements which include pictures of their buses?


ChronoFish (profile) says:

How to outlaw numbers

I have an idea that I think would be fun to try. You see everything in digital form is nothing more than numbers. In fact the entire collection of all digital stuff can be boiled down to one single number (albeit a huge number).

But with a little math fun, you can make those number more accessible, and with a the right “player” you can turn those numbers into songs, videos, games, text, etc.

A sight can list Songs (or videos, or games, or stories, or PDF, or word docs or what-ever favorite content type is). And associated with that content will be number. That number can be a hash number.

So this is not linking to content. This is not holding content. This is not a copy of the content. It’s simply a hash number of the digital streams of 1 and 0 that make up that content. The thing about hash codes it’s that they are not unique. They are “unique enough” to verify content, but you can’t simple look at the hash and figure out what the content was….. Unless you know how many iterations to go through.

So beside the hash code is an iteration count. So with three pieces of information: The title, the hash code for the content, and the iteration number of the hash, you could devise a player that could expand a hash-code to it’s original content. The three pieces of information could even be spread out among 3 different servers.

My guess is that if this were to take off, new laws would eventually be created to prevent the hashing of copy-righted content. But in the meantime…..


Derek Kerton (profile) says:


Steve Tepp:

“And yet, folks are moving the goalpost and saying, nope, still not good enough. So I don’t know what the concern is. To me if I get what I ask for, I stop complaining.”

Steve. Newsflash. New copyright enhancement legislation has been passed 15 times in the past 30 years. You lie. If you get what you ask for, you do not stop complaining.

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