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. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2011 @ 9:46am

    Restructuring copyright

    Permitting noncommercial file sharing on the condition that all files are subject to watermarking doesn't work.

    First, as soon as a file is released to the public, someone somewhere down the chain is going to remove or tamper with the watermark.

    Second, the nature of file sharing and the internet makes it impossible to calculate how many times a file has been copied.

    The only system under which controlling copies is going to be effective is one destroying privacy and anonymity.

    This is practically no better for privacy and anonymity than copyright maximalism, since any communication outside the controlled system must logically be made illegal for the model to work.

    The problem with copyright law is precisely that the state must give the copyright holder tools to count and enforce the number of copies on the assumption that an unauthorized copy constitutes a lost sale.

    On the balance I don't like your model, because it will necessarily destroy privacy and anonymity in exchange for a very limited right to copy.

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