70 Groups Tell Congress To Put The Brakes On Any Further Efforts To Expand Intellectual Property

from the time-for-a-rethink dept

Over 70 different groups, including many who were central to the January 18th online protests against SOPA, have put together a letter asking Congress to put a halt to any attempts to further expand intellectual property laws. The key point:

Now is the time for Congress to take a breath, step back, and approach the issues from a fresh perspective. A wide variety of important concerns have been expressed – including views from technologists, law professors, international human rights groups, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and above all, individual Internet users. The concerns are too fundamental and too numerous to be fully addressed through hasty revisions to these bills. Nor can they be addressed by closed door negotiations among a small set of inside the-beltway stakeholders.

The letter goes on to point out that Congress cannot and should not continue only taking one industry’s point of view into account — and most certainly should not ignore how existing law is already being abused. Historically, this is exactly the kind of letter that Congress would ignore, but after the events of January 18th, perhaps it’ll start paying attention.

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Comments on “70 Groups Tell Congress To Put The Brakes On Any Further Efforts To Expand Intellectual Property”

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62 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

History dictates, that they will either ignore or wave the issue away, stating that this is a legal matter and that we as a people have no say in legal matters

thus continuing its trend, in igniting and stoking the fire

please do continue to ignore us, while some of us still have a civil tongue, then proceed to be gobsmacked when shit finally hits the fan

or prove us wrong?…………. its that simple, be the government your people want you to be, or not

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

While I wait for the usual AC’s to show up to accuse the signatories of the letter to be pirates or wanting piracy to explode across the Web.

There’s not a signatory to the letter who approves of things like piracy just as there’s not a signatory to the letter who approves of the way in which SOPA and PIPA showed how so-called intellectual property (copyright and patents) are legislated and who actually gets involved in the early stages of legislation, usually the entertainment industry and them alone.

As for some of the unions in the entertainment industry they come so close at times to being yellow dog unions that I just don’t listen to them anymore.

(And I’m a committed trade unionist, by the way. 🙂

Anonymous Coward says:

Can't vs Won't

It is not the case that the present Congress can’t do the right thing, the fact is that they won’t do the right thing. They all knew perfectly well that accepting bribes in return for legislation was morally wrong. They knew that from the start. It was well known to them that what they were doing was wrong and they would be in serious trouble if they got caught. Well, they got caught. They are now in the position of bad guys who have just been arrested and who know full well that the evidence against them is overwhelming. But they have not got to court yet, so they are frantically trying to lie their way out of trouble.

US voters, do your duty. Find them guilty.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re:

Like an industry that has been making money off others via loopholes in the DMCA?

The DMCA Safe Harbors are not a loophole AC, they are a feature.

This is how the U.S. Copyright office describes the DMCA:

Congress enacted the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the “DMCA” or “the Act”) as part of an effort “to begin updating national laws for the digital era.” It was designed to “facilitate the robust development and world-wide expansion of electronic commerce, communications, research, development, and education in the digital age.”
Source

The Section 512 Safe Harbors are pretty much the only part of the DMCA that are actually doing what Congress intended. And you want to label them as “loopholes”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

It *has* facilitated the robust development and world-wide expansion of electronic commerce, communications, research, development, and education in the digital age.

It’s also facilitated parasites that can’t create their own content to illegally piggyback on those that can.

Everyone knows this. You aren’t fooling anybody.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

“… that they will either ignore or wave the issue away…”

Maybe the news media should start doing journalism rather than pretending like it’s “too complicated” and taking press releases or shrills word for it.

Half the reason people responded is because they had never heard about it or hadn’t heard any other side.

Anonymous Coward says:

Response to: monkyyy on Feb 6th, 2012 @ 5:18pm

They’ve already made that case before and it didn’t stick – but there’s no reason why they wouldn’t revamp and tweak it, and throw it at the wall again.

“…It just so happens to be funded by the movie studios claiming that piracy is helping to promote terrorism — and because of that, the US government needs to devote stunning levels of new resources to stopping piracy at all costs.” 2009

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090304/0025383981.shtml

Yup. This is criminal priority number one. Never mind that a study came out today stating 45,000/year die due to lack of healthcare in the U.S.

Anonymous Coward says:

Remember when the air waves was considered ‘belonging to the public”? Not only am I admitting my age but this generation hitting 20 has no concept of “for the good of the public”, fair use or public domain.

All Hollywood needs to do is keep things stalling for a few years more and this debate will be mute; stories that grandma and grandpa told …

CJ (profile) says:

I happen to think...

They will ignore the letter. To agree to leave this alone for now will mess with their egos. After all they are busy apologizing to the lobbyist, and now that they have them back in their pocket… it’s time to make them all happy, to hell with the public money rules.

You better believe those lobbyist had a nice talk to every one of them that said no. I don’t doubt they were threatened. If Dobbs will announce to the world his distaste in the Bill not getting passed… What makes you think Dobbs and the rest of those mongers talked to them any better in private?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Moot, not mute, but I understand where you are coming from. This is why it is important to educate our younger generations, ourselves. My nephews (only 1 niece, too young to understand as yet) are all very aware of the issues. They do not pirate material, but they are well-versed in why IP as it is today is going too far, and why it must be pruned back. Don’t let that younger generation remain ignorant. If they are, it isn’t Hollywood’s fault, it’s ours.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

What you call parasitic relations are in fact symbiotic relationships where one part takes what other had done improve it a little and it is available to others including the other guy copied to make use of the improved version.

On the other hand in your monopoly dream world that is bad, but for society that is just another day and will continue to happen even if you don’t like it.

Richard (profile) says:

Listen up, union leaders!

I would like someone to please forward this to the heads of the labor unions so they won’t be able to pretend they didn’t read about it.

I find your comment heartily depressing.

When you consider why the labour unions were founded and their original ideals of standing up for the ordinary man against the big companies and the government it is amazing that they have reached the point when they are part of the problem – when they should be part of the solution. I’m not in the US so I’m not familiar with how your unions operate – but if your comment is a fair one then Wow!

Richard (profile) says:

Re:

I would like someone to please forward this to the heads of the labor unions so they won’t be able to pretend they didn’t read about it.

Hmm – within the industry – meaning within our little private game where outsiders are excluded.

You’re cool with consumption of labor without compensation? Awesome. Come wash my clothes, car and dishes.

Don’t give us that crap AGAIN! We’ve seen it all before.

If you want compensating I suggest you put the arrangements in place before you do the work.

What you want to do is roughly equivalent to the people who come and cleane your windscreen at traffic lights and then expect to be paid afterwards when no-one asked them to do it beforehand.

Richard (profile) says:

Re:

It *has* facilitated the robust development and world-wide expansion of electronic commerce, communications, research, development, and education in the digital age.

It’s also facilitated parasites that can’t create their own content to illegally piggyback on those that can. Everyone knows this. You aren’t fooling anybody.

Everybody also knows that it’s a small price to pay for the benefit – you’ll just have to live with it.

The eejit (profile) says:

Re:

Just go ask Eminem how he felt about being stiffed out of millions of dollars. Just ask why the CRIA was asked to pay millions of dollars for copyirhgt infringement over compilations. Just ask why, when confronted with a public that disagrees with what was being asserted and had hard evidence to back them up, the refain was that the MAFIAA was being persecuted by terrorist pirate paedophiles.

Oh, wait, you won’t. Fucking hypocrite, hiding behind the very same anonymity you want ot remove from everyone else…

Paul Hobbs (profile) says:

This is very encouraging

Recently I posted a comment appealing to Americans to mobilise, take a stand, and basically do something about all the crap which is going on (eg: corruption in Washington; unwarranted power of MAFIAA; erosion of rights in the name of national security; huge drop in journalism standards; etc). I have to say, this letter is very encouraging. The response of people (not just in the US, but across the world) to injustice, corruption, abuse of power, etc, is wonderful to see. Hopefully the protests in Europe will see ACTA go the way of SOPA/PIPA.

It seems to me that the best thing which can happen now is for HUGE numbers of people – ordinary folk with jobs, mortgages, etc – to actually make the (minimal) effort to contact their representatives and endorse the objectives of the letter. The more I think about it, the more I am amazed at the paradox of how democracy can become so warped and deformed, despite the fact that such warping and deformation can be prevented by simply participating. All it takes is a phone call or an email, or even a visit in person to make an impression on a representative, and right there you have democracy in action. (Perhaps it isn’t strictly a paradox, but it is puzzling).

I recently watched the video of Jack Abramoff being interviewed by Lawrence Lessig, and I was transfixed. It was fascinating to me how things actually work in Washington (and I’m not even American). But the most telling part (for me) came towards the end where a member of the audience asked “how does a new member of Congress get corrupted?” And the answer was chilling in its simplicity. When newly elected politicians arrive in Washington, the first thing that happens is they meet with their leadership. The leadership informs new members that their number one priority is to get re-elected at the next election. And since most new members arrive with a debt (presumably from running a campaign), the leadership informs the new members that they need to retire that debt. And here is a group of people who are very good at helping you to retire that debt – meet the lobbyists. Now the lobbyists (for the most part) represent large corporations and other special interests (eg: MPAA, RIAA, etc). But here is the kicker. Lobbyists, companies, etc can give all the money they want to a member of Congress (and in doing so “buy” a vote), but there is one thing they can’t do (despite a corporation being a “person”, which frankly is ridiculous), which real people can do. Vote. If a member of Congress was inundated, on a scale previously unheard of, with phone calls, letters, emails, and personal visits, I suspect that most members would take notice, and probably do the right thing (whatever that is). Remember, the leadership has already told them that priority number one is to get re-elected. I suspect that the reason it is so easy for lobbyists and special interests to get their way is it is a one-sided tug-o-war. There aren’t enough people pulling the members of Congress in the other direction.

Which brings me to my next observation. A democracy is a double edged sword. It is great because it affords us many freedoms. But it demands that EVERYONE participate. If only a handful participate, you may have elections, and you may call it democracy, but to the extent that people are not involved (usually out of apathy), it is not a democracy. In ancient Greece, the term “idiot” referred to a private person, a person who took no interest in politics. Involvement or participation doesn’t necessarily mean running for office, or volunteering in a campaign, or joining a party. Personally, I define participation as making your views known to your representative. That is as simple as it needs to be. If 100% of the population did that, lobbyists would be completely redundant.

The tricky part, of course, is how do you get people involved? How do you motivate someone to make that phone call or write the letter? I think the thing which prevents most people is inertia. Somehow we need to make taking that first step (eg: writing a letter or an email) as painless as possible. The Internet is probably the single most powerful tool available for connecting with people to get them motivated/activated. And there are probably lots of strategies for achieving this. But that needs to be the goal – mass mobilisation.

I am reminded of some of the things that Winston Churchill had to say about government and governing:

“But it is not Parliament that should rule; it is the people who should rule through Parliament.”

“No-one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

PS: Sorry for the long post – I get carried away sometimes.

TDR says:

Re:

*AC 35 jumping up and down* “NO, NO NO! I WON’T ADAPT! I WON’T ADAPT! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME! YOU CAN’T, I TELL YOU, YOU CAN’T! THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE THE 90’S! THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE THE 90’S! TIME MUST STAND STILL! THE WORLD MUST OBEY MY WHIMS AND THOSE OF MY MASTERS, ETHICS BE DAMNED! I CAN’T POSSIBLY IMAGINE OTHER WAYS OF MAKING MONEY BESIDES WHAT I ALREADY KNOW! I REFUSE TO ACCEPT THAT TECHNOLOGY MAKES MY GATEKEEPER ROLE OBSOLETE, BUT THAT CREATORS CAN AND DO MAKE A GOOD LIVING SELLING THEIR STUFF WITHOUT ME! NOOOO! THAT CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO HAPPEN! MIDDLEMEN MUST SURVIVE AT ALL COSTS! THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES THAT MATTER! WAAAAHHHHH!!!!”

Michael says:

Copyright/IP = Monopolistic Power Grab

With PIPA, SOPA, ACTA, and the looming TPP, copyright/IP extremists are trying to wrestle control of general computing and internet data flow away from the general public. The eventual goal is to make it so that in order to access anything online with your computer, it would require that A) You obtain a limited license of use via payment, B) You can only access that data via a media player designated and controlled by them (again, making what was once yours theirs), and C) You be monitored at all times via your ISP. It is a measured attempt, step by unilateral step, to take control of our lives, an Orwellian Big Brother with an iron fist and no remorse.

The legacy players are acting the part of Satan, gladly tempting our politicians by flaunting money, seducing them with empty promises in exchance for our rights. As such, these days Washington resembles a brothel moreso than a democratic government. To be honest, there are still a few politicians who care enough to listen to what we have to say, but they are too few and far-between which is why we must continue to push back against having our rights trampled in this seemingly neverending battle.

We have a choice: either a vibrant internet built by the people or a destitute one built to serve corporate interests.

DNY (profile) says:

A small criticism

Great letter. The only criticism is that they (and we) should not be using the rent-seekers’ phrase “intellectual property”. Words matter. “Copyrights and patents” isn’t that many more characters to type (and in some cases “copyright” suffices), and we should not cede the rhetorical ground that state-granted monopolies (even state-granted monopolies that succeed in some salutary purpose) constitute “property”.

Michael says:

Good Luck

Nothing will change until there is major reform of the laws governing the money and gifts that lobbiests use to buy politicians and politicians actually start acting like public servants again rather than corporate puppets.
Furthermore, we ned to see fresh politicians who understand how technology works before we can expect legisation in the area to resemble something sane.
Additionally, none of this will be likely with the current state of the average voter’s intelligence. If you’ve spoken with anyone outside of the field at all about any technology related political issues you will realise the level of ignorance is amazing.
Nothing will change while the voters remain blissfully ignorant. And the SOPA protest, in my opinion, was a fluke caused by the social networks and will not hold as much attention when its time to fight the next round – the fad will be old hat to the constituents of the social networks who’s attention span for the matter will have expired.
To move toward a solution would require more education, which the US needs to improve badly anyway. I don’t see any politicians willing to turn off the faucet of money coming from lobbiests.

MrWilson says:

Re:

The middlemen in the Entertainment Industry obviously don’t work without compensation. They make out like bandits. And they convince artists to work with little guarantee of shared proceeds via unethical business practices such as Hollywood accounting and repayment of advances in addition to charging them for production and marketing costs.

So what’s worse – underserved consumers looking elsewhere for what they want because Hollywood refuses to heed market forces or the Hollywood middlemen activity screwing over the actual artists and content-creators while pretending to work in their interests?

John Thielking (user link) says:

Protest ACTA and Decolonize The Internet 12pm-2pm Feb 11 San Jose City Hall

Peacemovies.com is sponsoring a protest called “Protest ACTA and Decolonize The Internet” at San Jose City Hall, 4th and E Santa Clara St, San Jose, CA USA on Feb 11th, 2012 from 12pm-2pm. ACTA is the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement that the US signed in October 2011. It is currently in the process of ratification in Europe and there are many protests planned all across Europe for Feb 11, 2012. This treaty is worse than SOPA and would require the US to pass laws such as the Lomar Smith HR 1981 Internet snooping bill that would require ISPs to retain 18 months of data on which web sites each user has visited. Peacemovies.com also supports overturning the laws that make it possible for web sites to post and enforce draconian terms of use contracts that restrict the use of web site content more severely than copyright law. People should be able to make commercial use of paraphrased versions of content obtained on the Internet as well as be able to make “fair use” of quoted short passages of material, regardless of what individual web sites state in their terms of use. This protest is also endorsed by Occupy San Jose.

btr1701 says:

Listen up, union leaders!

> it is amazing that they have reached the
> point when they are part of the problem –
> when they should be part of the solution
> if your comment is a fair one then Wow

Not only is it fair, it’s an understatement.

The entire state of California is teetering on the brink of insolvency due to union domination of the political process and the politicians in Sacramento that run it.

They’ve raided the state’s coffers dry, and now that there’s noting left, they’re demanding the state raise taxes so that they can have more.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Because copyright, the agreement between the public and innovators/creators, says we get a time period to make money on our work to fund future creations? (granted, that time period should only be 50 years, but that’s not exactly my fault.) You know, because the honor rule doesn’t exactly work any more…who would pay for consuming content or crediting works used in a derivative if they didn’t have to?

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