This Week In Techdirt History: SOPA, China, Dajaz1 & The Hypocrisy Of Copyright

from the a-closer-look dept

Five Years Ago

Today we’re dedicating this post to another focused look at the events of this week in 2011, in the midst of the SOPA fight and some other important developments on the copyright and internet freedom fronts that highlighted the government’s and the industry’s hypocrisy on the issue.

Firstly, the backlash against SOPA/PIPA continued to grow. Anti-virus firm Kaspersky dumped its association with the BSA over the organization’s support for SOPA, while the American Bar Association was having an internal fight over how to react to the bills; human rights groups and people with disabilities spoke up to point out how much SOPA could hurt them, constitutional scholars explained why it doesn’t pass First Amendment scrutiny, a former White House technology advisor explained the disastrous effect it could have on privacy, and Paul Vixie declared that he would stand against the bills even though they’d probably help his business.

With all this backlash, how was SOPA still standing? For one thing, big media firms were donating plenty of money to the bill’s sponsors, and spending plenty more buying astroturf support since the public overwhelmingly opposed them. And surprise, surprise: two congressional staffers who helped write SOPA got comfy industry lobbyist jobs. Plus, there were still plenty of nonsensical and/or hilarious arguments for the bill, and bizarre claims about being able to ignore its worst provisions. When Chinese internet users laughed at the US for considering its own Great Firewall, the MPAA boss shockingly upped the ante by holding China’s successful censorship up as a shining example.

And that’s where we begin to see the amazing hypocrisy inherent in SOPA, for that very same week Hillary Clinton was speaking out against internet censorship — something the State Dept. has always done alongside the government’s ongoing attempts to regulate the internet domestically. And this was also the week that the details of the embarrassingly terrible Dajaz1 domain seizure came out, revealing that the government censored a blog for over a year for no good reason. The site deserved a huge apology, but ICE avoided admitting anything while the RIAA outright refused to apologize and stood by the seizure. Meanwhile, yet another website was in similar limbo: the court dismissed the case against Puerto 80 and Rojadirecta but refused to give back the domain, leaving the company to try to explain to everyone why the seizure was unconstitutional.

Oh and speaking of the RIAA? They were also nosing their way into the Righthaven fight, because I guess their reputation wasn’t tarnished enough. And amidst that, just for fun, they also had the gall to claim they already solved the piracy problem years ago.

Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile, then publish a press release demanding 10 and fund a “grassroots” organization that calls it half a million inches. Little has changed in five years, and as we approach yet another copyright reform fight, it’s good to look back on SOPA and remember how stalwart we’re going to have to be.

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