Colbert Takes On SOPA

from the can-we-get-some-internet-policement dept

By the way, I wanted to embed the clips of Colbert's show in this post -- as is clearly allowed by the site. But because Viacom is crazy, they appear to set the embeds to autoplay as soon as you load up the page. And that's freaking annoying. I tried to find hidden variables to stop the autoplay... and nothing worked. So, sorry, no embeds. Meanwhile, Colbert: please, please, turn off autoplay, or at least make it an option. Thankfully, a few folks sent over the secret code to make it work...

Want to see just how mainstream the issues of SOPA and PROTECT IP are becoming? Last night they made it on to The Colbert Report, where he had a bit of a debate about SOPA, between record label owner Danny Goldberg and Harvard professor Jonathan Zittrain. It kicked off with a short segment, where Colbert explained the issue.
As a content provider, I am wholeheartedly against the infringement of copyright... so much so that I had that phrase trademarked and then I had it emblazoned on a Mickey Mouse doll
Which, of course, he then shows to the audience.

But the awesomest part? He quotes the famous $200 to $250 billion in losses claim that always gets thrown around... but then immediately says:
That is a shocking number. Especially when you realize the FBI admits it has "no record of source data or methodology for generating the estimates and that it cannot be corroborated." Now folks, that's what happens when the FBI buys bootleg reports off a card table in Chinatown.
Honestly, this might be the first time I've seen mainstream media -- and a Viacom-owned property, no less -- call out the bogus numbers for being bogus. He finishes by pointing out that YouTube, Twitter and Facebook could be in trouble under the law, and that people uploading infringing videos may face problems as well.

From there, he went into the debate. In his typical satirical way, he introduces Zittrain by claiming he was here to "defend thieves & pirates," and asks him "why do you want artists to starve?" Zittrain did a great job:
"I want artists to thrive. The internet allows artists to find their audiences. When Justin Bieber started singing his favorite songs on YouTube, he got discovered because of the internet. And the odd thing is, under this law, SOPA, the behavior of Justin Bieber, singing his favorite songs, without authorization, over the internet, could make him a felon, in jail for three years."
It's actually five, but close enough. Goldberg, of course, says this is all an exaggeration, and then claims (incorrectly) that the bill only targets foreign sites. Zittrain did note that there were different parts of the bill (but leaves out that many of them target US companies), but then makes the second key point, about how this law uses the same mechanism that China & Iran use to censor the internet there. To which Colbert replies: "I don't know about Iran, but China is kicking our ass in business right now. Wouldn't it be good for American business? Because if we shut down parts of the internet, won't people at work actually do the work they were hired for?"

Goldberg continues to play the "but something must be done" line, leading Colbert to make his alternative proposal: "What if the artist gets something from the company stealing from them? An eye for an iPod?" to which Goldberg says "it's a good line, but..." and Colbert points out, "it's an excellent line, not a good line" and then threatens to sue anyone who "steals" it.

Wasn't expecting much for an under 5 minute interview, but overall Zittrain did a great job, and got in a few key points. The Bieber point is a little exaggerated, because Bieber would have to do a few more things (such as embedding the videos on his own site), but the overall point he's getting at is clear: the bill is overreaching and will harm legitimate activities which artists rely on today.

Filed Under: copyright, danny goldberg, jonathan zittrain, justin bieber, pipa, protect ip, sopa, stephen colbert
Companies: viacom


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  1. icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 3 Dec 2011 @ 4:48pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You're cheering on piracy again. Not recognizing the problem.

    I would beg to differ. Musicians get promotion from CD Baby and Discmakers. You have a chance to gain an audience from places like that. In my view, the technology is now there that you have an abundance of material to negotiate terms with people, but copyright won't do that for you.


    But you could easily sell my music at CD baby and print it with Discmakers if I, say, waived my copyrights (or used a CC license without the non-commercial clause). Also, I wouldn't get any royalties if my works were in the public domain. Even Jonathan Coulton, Lawrence Lessig and Cory Doctorow understand this.


    Let's take a moment and ask what exactly copyright can do. We have a Copyright Board who always increases fees. We have ASCAP and BMI who enforce copyright for the top 20% of artists. We have consumers being thrown in jail for a civil offense.


    I'm not so familiar with the "copyright board", so I won't respond to that. I do have many, MANY problems with ASCAP and BMI raiding venues in small towns for whatever cash they could cough up, thereby striking fears into their hearts. That being said, if they support the top 20% of artists, that's probably because that's whose music is being played. And it's not always them. Take a look at this CD Baby Podcast. At about the 28:30 mark, a caller from Ohio talks about how he had a song called "Ice Cream", it got used in a TV morning show, and he got $700 from it. I'm sure this is an anecdote, but there are probably many other stories like that.

    I know that people have an abject fear of their work proliferating and they aren't paid as a result. But all evidence shows that even if someone pays only .01 cent to you, they will pay if you make it enticing enough.


    People were paying Jonathan Coulton in spite of him not really giving a "reason to buy" other than his own authenticity. But even so, Jonathan Coulton is licensed with BMI. That should tell you something.

    The law can't take away what people feel is alright to them. Judging from the reaction of SOPA, copyright goes against what people actually want. Let's remember, copyright has almost always been a censorship tool. It's a footnote of the 1st Amendment. If it doesn't meet the requirements in Article 1 Section 8, it is not meeting the circumstances to which is was created.


    But that's no reason to scrap copyright completely. You have the same logic as the MPAA and the RIAA in wishing to destroy the internet as you wishing to destroy copyright.

    Also, you see copyright as a censorship tool, but it honestly hasn't always been widely used as such. It only covered 1-5% of works at the founding of the United States (Now it covers everything). If it censored people, it only did it a tiny bit. Now it does it too much.

    In any event, your grievances with copyright law as it stands is no reason at all to get rid of it completely. Would I like to see less or more sane copyright law? Yes. Would I like to abolish it completely and remove any sort of income to creators as you wish to do? No.

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