MPAA Tries Its Hand At Comedy With A Top 10 List In Favor Of Censoring The Internet

from the want-to-try-that-again dept

The MPAA has been sending around a sort of "top 10 list" to folks in Congress about why they should vote to censor the internet via PROTECT IP (PIPA). It's actually two different top five lists. The first is five reasons to vote for the law. The second is five reasons that "Google" is wrong about the law (as if Google is the only one complaining about the law -- which is pure hogwash). Of course, the ten reasons don't make much sense, and we figured that it might be helpful to shine a little of that reality light on the claims:
The PROTECT IP Act will preserve American jobs and encourage economic growth.
Internet piracy and counterfeiting puts millions of American jobs at risk. More than 10.6 million Americans depend on the copyright industries for their jobs. That’s about 1 in 10 private sector jobs in the U.S. And about 2.2 million Americans depend on the film and television industries for their jobs. Many of these Americans work behind the scenes in good paying middle class jobs.
Misleading in the extreme. First of all, as we've explained at great length over and over again in the past, "the copyright industries" (a made up term by the folks who support more draconian copyright legislation) does not mean that these people rely on copyright itself. Much of those jobs would exist with or without copyright. The myth here is that, but for copyright, those jobs wouldn't exist. Yet that's ridiculous. It assumes, a priori, that without copyright there would be no content creation at all. That's completely ridiculous. In fact, as we've seen, as copyright has been ignored, it's actually resulted in much greater output, and the size of these copyright industries has continued to grow and has outpaced the rest of the economy. Furthermore, using the exact same methodology as "the copyright industries," it actually can be shown that it's exceptions to copyright law that create even more jobs -- and thus the conclusion might be that copyright law should be weaker, not stronger.
Internet piracy and counterfeiting is a danger to consumers and national security.
Many websites dedicated to piracy and counterfeiting appear to be legitimate. Consumers looking for prescription drugs online have unknowingly purchased counterfeit goods such as tainted medicine. And the defense industry is very susceptible to counterfeit parts because many defense systems rely on electronic parts that are no longer produced by the original manufacturer. An Armed Services Committee investigation has found over 1 million suspect counterfeit electronic parts that were purchased for the defense supply chain.
Ah, the massive bogus conflation argument again. First of all, if counterfeit drugs are really a problem (and the data suggests that it's a very small problem), then craft legislation that targets just that. Don't lump it in with tons of other stuff that are not a danger to consumers. Ditto for military equipment. First of all, why is our military buying parts from "rogue sites"? Last I checked, the military, as a part of the government, had to buy from providers with a GSA contract, which are not easy to get. If somehow folks are buying around that, then that's an issue and let's deal with that. But lumping both of those, very narrow, and very limited, problems in with the much wider, but totally unrelated, issue of infringement online is dishonest and dangerous.
Internet piracy and counterfeiting funds organized crime networks.
Many organized crime networks engage in Internet piracy and counterfeiting. They often use the profits from this activity to fund other criminal enterprises that are violent and dangerous.
Bullshit. Seriously. This one is total bullshit. The argument has been entirely discredited based on a recent comprehensive study of the issue. From that SSRC report
Arguing that piracy is integral to [organized crime & terrorist] networks means ignoring the dramatic changes in the technology and organizational structure of the pirate market over the past decade. By necessity, evidentiary standards become very loose. Decades-old stories are recycled as proof of contemporary terrorist connections, anecdotes stand in as evidence of wider systemic linkages, and the threshold for what counts as organized crime is set very low. The RAND study, which reprises and builds on earlier IFPI and Interpol reporting, is constructed almost entirely around such practices. Prominent stories about IRA involvement in movie piracy and Hezbollah involvement in DVD and software piracy date, respectively, to the 1980s and 1990s. Street vendor networks in Mexico City--a subject we treat at length in the Mexico chapter--are mischaracterized as criminal gangs connected with the drug trade. Piracy in Russia is attributed to criminal mafias rather than to the chronically porous boundary between licit and illicit enterprise. The Pakistani criminal gang D-Company, far from "forging a clear pirate monopoly" in Bollywood, in RAND's words, plays a small and diminishing part in Indian DVD piracy--its smuggling networks dwarfed by local production.

The US record isn't more convincing in this regard. Jeffrey McIllwain examined the Department of Justice’s IP-related prosecutions between 2000 and 2004 and found that only 49 out of the 105 cases alleged that the defendant operated within larger, organized networks. Nearly all of these were "warez" distribution groups for pirated software--hacker communities that are explicitly and often fiercely non-commercial in orientation. McIllwain found "no overt references to professional organized crime groups" in any of the DOJ's criminal charges (McIllwain 2005:27). If organized crime is a serious problem in these contexts, it should not be difficult to produce a stronger evidentiary record.
But the MPAA fact sheet does not provide a stronger evidentiary record. It just repeats the bullshit.
Copyright protection encourages innovation and free speech.
Copyright protection laws have helped create the Internet of today, alive with free speech, innovation and commerce. Copyright laws in the U.S. uphold free speech while encouraging innovation by giving an economic incentive for artists and investors to create new content and distribute it on the Internet. And noted First Amendment expert Floyd Abrams has concluded that the PROTECT IP Act protects free speech.
Copyright protection, when done carefully may encourage free speech. When done wrong, it clearly limits and inhibits free speech. This is not a debate. Even the courts admit that copyright done wrong can and does inhibit free speech. That is our concern here. PROTECT IP is copyright done wrong. Floyd Abrams was hired by the MPAA to support PROTECT IP. Yet, well over 100 legal scholars, including constitutional experts like Laurence Tribe have said that it violates the First Amendment. The MPAA has yet to turn up anyone other than Floyd Abrams. And, even Abrams admits that these laws would censor protected speech -- he just doesn't think it's to the level that it's a problem.
The PROTECT IP Act provides needed tools to target criminals beyond the reach of current laws.
Foreign websites that traffic in counterfeit goods and stolen content are violating copyright protection but are often beyond the reach of our current laws. The PROTECT IP Act targets criminal behavior. Everyone engaged in legal commerce on the Internet should welcome this legislation.
There are other, better, ways to deal with the narrow issue of sites that are outside of our laws. The Wyden/Issa proposal, for example, narrowly targets that specific problem without all of the collateral damage.

Next up, are the anti-Google points, which repeat much of the above, but with a special anti-Google spin:
Google claims the PROTECT IP Act “threatens the ability for free speech.” Copyright law has promoted free speech on the Internet.
The PROTECT IP Act, like content protection law before it, promotes free speech. Content protection law has given us the Internet today, alive with free speech, commerce, and innovation. In fact, noted First Amendment scholar Floyd Abrams stated that the PROTECT IP Act upholds our First Amendment Rights. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has written, “The State Department is strongly committed to advancing both Internet freedom and the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights on the Internet. Indeed, these two priorities are consistent.”
See above for the Floyd Abrams crap. As for Clinton, she commented on copyright law in general, not the specific proposals under way. The two priorities can be consistent, but they can also be opposing. In fact, we've heard directly from multiple people within the State Department that they're very much opposed to these bills, and that they will undermine their internet freedom arguments.
Google claims that the PROTECT IP Act will be a burden to taxpayers. Criminals involved in Internet piracy do not pay taxes and the PROTECT IP Act will preserve American jobs.
Criminals who profit from piracy do not pay taxes. Internet piracy and counterfeiting puts millions of American jobs at risk. More than 10.6 million Americans depend on the copyright industries for their jobs. That’s about 1 in 10 private sector jobs in the U.S. And about 2.2 million Americans depend on the film and television industries for their jobs. Many of these Americans work behind the scenes in good paying middle class jobs.
Totally misleading. We already debunked the bogus jobs claim above, but more importantly, which sector of the economy has actually been creating new jobs these days? Tech. Facebook alone has created somewhere around a quarter of a million jobs itself, not by hiring, but through the companies that built off its platform. eBay has enabled over 750,000 small businesses to be built on its platform. Those people pay lots of taxes. Taking away and limiting the ability of the next generation of platforms to enable these new businesses and new jobs will significantly impact economic growth and taxes.
Google claims that the bill “is a trial lawyers dream.” The PROTECT IP Act is a nightmare for criminals.
The PROTECT IP Act provides needed tools to go after criminals beyond the reach of our current laws. It targets criminals who profit from trafficking in counterfeit goods and stolen content. Many organized crime networks make millions of dollars from Internet piracy and counterfeiting.
The bill is a nightmare for the entire internet. Its broad definitions mean that it will target significantly more than just the "worst of the worst." And when people tried to narrow the definition, the MPAA threw a hissy fit. That's because this isn't about going after the really bad actors. This is about the MPAA being unable to adapt and wishing to control new legitimate platforms as well.
Google claims the PROTECT IP Act “seeks to regulate the Internet.” The bill penalizes activity that is already criminal but beyond the reach of our current laws.
Foreign websites that traffic in counterfeit goods and stolen content are violating copyright protection but are often beyond the reach of our current laws. The PROTECT IP Act targets criminal behavior. Everyone engage in legal commerce on the Internet should welcome this legislation.
This is especially disingenuous. The bill works by putting massive compliance costs on tons of internet companies. Creating a startup is going to involve a huge legal budget. The fact that PROTECT IP only "targets" foreign sites, ignores that the mechanism for such "targets" is to use internet companies as cannon fodder. That's a problem.
Google claims the PROTECT IP Act is “a threat to our national security.” Site blocking techniques are already in use and the Senate Armed Services Committee has shown that counterfeiting is a threat to our national security.
Site blocking techniques are not new. They are currently used to combat all kinds of harmful behavior including spam, phishing, malware, viruses, and other forms of Internet crime, all without claims of Internet censorship or harm to the Internet. And, the defense industry is very susceptible to counterfeit parts because many defense systems rely on electronic parts that are no longer produced by the original manufacturer. An Armed Services Committee investigation has found over 1 million suspect counterfeit electronic parts that were purchased for the defense supply chain.
This is the craziest claim of all. Look at all of the credible people who have pointed out that PROTECT IP's DNS blocking will be a threat to national security. This includes Stewart Baker, the former Homeland Security Assistant Secretary and former NSA General Counsel. It includes Sandia National Labs, which is an expert in computer security issues, and it includes the freaking people who more or less built the DNS system. In all this time the MPAA has never brought out any expert who can argue to the contrary. The best it's done is have a guy from Hollywood claim he "doesn't agree" with these assessments.

The MPAA's arguments here are dishonest, disingenuous and downright dangerous. Because they don't want to adapt to a changing market, they've decided that collateral damage to security, the economy and innovation are no big deal. Hopefully those in Congress are able to see through the facade.

Filed Under: censorship, congress, pipa, protect ip, sopa
Companies: mpaa


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  1. icon
    Karl (profile), 8 Dec 2011 @ 9:58am

    Re: You haven't explained what could replace copyright.

    Sorry if this is tl;dr, but verbostiy begets verbosity.

    Most of what you said is just smear tactics or outright lying, so I won't address that. However, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume that they spring from a complete misunderstanding of the points raised here. In fact, every one of them is a straw man (or fabrication), so I'll address those.

    Hopefully, you'll actually think about them, and not just ignore them, like you have every other time in the past. A man can dream, can't he?

    1) piracy doesn't result in ANY lost sales, it even increases income because promotes the products, free advertising

    Nobody said it doesn't result in ANY "lost sales" (a misleading term, by the way, since buying from a legal competitor is also a "lost sale").

    But there is no question that increased exposure leads to increased sales - both of the item itself, and of other goods or services. The question is whether the increased sales is greater, or less than, the "lost sales" due to piracy.

    And that is an open question, because none of the industry studies on piracy even consider increased sales due to wider exposure.

    2) content owners / producers haven't actually lost anything by people sharing their content as digital files because still have their product whole

    Straw man. This point is always raised in the context of whether infringement is "stealing." It is not stealing. The Supreme Court agrees - and they agreed for precisely this reason. That doesn't make it legal, of course, but it is not stealing.

    3) if ALL of the movies on The Pirate Bay were obtained legally it would net Hollywood a mere $60M

    It wasn't Mike that said this. He merely reported on the story. It also may be true; I notice that you did not provide a single shred of evidence (or even a guess) that it's not true.

    4) technology marches on and piracy can't be stopped

    Again, not a shred of evidence that this isn't true. The point, though, is not that "piracy can't be stopped." It certainly can - if we do away with technological advancement, free speech, and civil rights. The point is that taking the necessary actions to "stop piracy" result in problems that are orders of magnitude worse than piracy ever was, or could be.

    5) producers who ignore or even promote piracy make out better

    If producers "promote" content sharing, it's not piracy! If I download The Slip from NIN's website, I am not "pirating" anything. If I share a Corey Doctorow book over The Pirate Bay, I am not "pirating" anything.

    These - and many more - examples show that producers do make out better. Or, at the very least, they certainly can, if they do it properly.

    Why would you be against content producers making money?

    6) studios need to "connect with fans" instead of worry about people getting the content without paying -- as if that isn't THE ESSENTIAL connection!

    So, you're saying that fans buying your product is your "essential connection." That's absured. If your "essential connection" with fans begins and ends at the cash register, then you haven't "connected" with anyone. You're doing the opposite. You're living in an ivory tower.

    If you can do that, then good for you. Most can't, and never could.

    7) products should be given away and money made from "scarcity", follow-on physical goods or services -- translation: sell Chinese-made T-shirts

    There are all kinds of scarcities, none of which have to do with T-shirts (Chinese-made or not). For example, access to the musicians themselves, or the actual labor of the artists - say, writing works on commission. There are more... lots more.

    But if you're trying to make money on something that is an infinite good, you're probably in trouble. Not that it can't be done - look at bottled water - but it's not a very sustainable business model.

    8) give away and pray is a valid business model

    This is just an outright fabrication. Mike is on record saying, many times, that "give it away and pray" is not a valid business model. In fact, I think it was Mike who actually coined this term - in an article saying why it doesn't work.

    9) the movie industry can be both crowd-sourced and crowd-funded (admittedly, so silly that it's only tacitly implied...)

    Again, willfully misleading. Some movies can be crowd-sourced and crowd-funded. Nobody has ever said that all movies should be.

    And I have explicitly stated many, many ways that movie studios are making money right now that are not even remotely affected by piracy (ticket sales, synch rights, cross-promotional merch, toys, etc). Which you didn't respond to. Don't ask if you don't want the answer.

    10) attempts to stop piracy with SOPA will have massive collateral damage to "free speech" on links sites and impose undue burdens on file host sites

    It will impose massive collateral damage to "free speech" on every site with user-generated content, not just "link sites" or "file host sites."

    Also, seeing as most "link sites" and "file host sites" are 100% legal, why wouldn't this be a bad thing?

    11) DNS blocking won't work at all -- OR, at times contradictorily in the same piece: DNS blocking WILL censor large swathes of the Internet

    It will do both. It will not work at eliminating piracy, but it can censor large swaths of the internet. In fact, it already has - witness ICE's takedown of mooo.com, when 80,000 sub-domains were suddenly seized and accused of distributing child pornography.

    And, more to the point, according to internet engineers, it will make the 'net less secure, and more balkanized.

    11) enforcing copyright with SOPA will stifle what Mike inventively terms the "innovation industry" -- whatever called, it's definitely NOT a productive part of society, relies on being in middle to re-distribute

    "Not a productive part of society"? What are you smoking? The tech industry creates orders of magnitude more jobs than the entertainment industry. And you're a fool if you think that artists aren't helped tremendously by these industries.

    It's also ironic that the authors of the bill - the RIAA and MPAA - represent businesses whose entire purpose is "being in the middle to re-distribute." If you think that makes them "definitely NOT a productive part of society," then I won't argue.

    12) IF Big Media gets what it wants, THEY'LL BE SORRY!

    Obviously speculation, but likely true, given their history. Every emergent technology that "Big Media" has opposed, tooth and nail, ended up making them a lot of money in the end. On the other hand, every time they've had a "success," such as suing individual file-sharers, their business has gone in the toilet.

    And, of course, that's discounting the obvious fact that eventually, PROTECT IP will be used against Big Media themselves.

    13) Big Media is doing just great with record incomes, OR is on the verge of collapse and disappearing

    Since "Big Media" is a bunch of industries, they can both be true. The RIAA clients, for example, are not doing well at all (though the wider music industry is actually making more money). The MPAA clients, on the other hand, have been making record profits for the last decade.

    14) Big Media is propping up "outdated" business models because we can duplicate files endlessly, but WE have NO idea where those files come from or how they got on our computers, WE have NO duty to be moral and not STEAL work-products or even slightly reward whoever made them (because morality is outdated too: about its only mention on Techdirt is in the phrase "moral panics")

    This isn't a point, it's a rant. Yes, selling artificial scarcities becomes outdated when that artificial scarcity can no longer be maintained. That's not even debatable.

    As far as the "WE" stuff - who you callin' "we," white man? Nobody here ever said anything even remotely close to what you're saying.

    15) a fundamental but thoroughly pernicious theme is that pirating products is a natural urge (it's here termed "sharing"), and is therefore moral because approved by self-interest (they even embrace "pirate" as if a positive term)

    Well, since everyone in our society has been told since grade school that sharing is good, you can hardly blame people for think that sharing is, you know, good.

    And what, exactly, is your moral ground for stopping people from sharing things, "products" or not? I'm betting it has to do with "self-interest."

    Look, I recognize that there is an economic need for copyright in some form. That doesn't make copyright a moral imperative. The only opposing argument you've raised is that "I won't get paid," but getting paid isn't a moral virtue. In the extreme, it is nothing but greed, and most people don't think greed is moral.


    16) deride studios as "gatekeepers" while promoting the rise of a new bunch of gatekeepers such as Google and Spotify

    You don't know what a "gatekeeper" is. If you can get that same content from anywhere other than Google or Spotify, then they're not gatekeepers.

    For example: You can legally get a specific Aerosmith album from somewhere other than iTunes (like, say, Amazon). That means iTunes is not a gatekeeper. On the other hand, if you want to sell that Aerosmith album, you can't legally get it from anywhere other than their record label - including from the artists themselves. That means the record label is a gatekeeper.

    17) along with above, Mike insists that the Internet allows new ways to "monetize" one's product, which is of course true, but he then stumbles over "Step 2", simply putting in question marks for someone else to fill in...

    That's because there isn't a single "Step 2," but a vast number of them, and none of those "Step 2's" work for everyone.

    It's still an improvement over the past, when there was only one "Step 2" (e.g. record label deal if you're a musician), and that "Step 2" worked for almost nobody.

    18) Mike doesn't want to do away with RIAA / MPAA; he isn't against them AT ALL, only wants to show them how to increase their income (though that direct statement remains online only because I copied/pasted it in my comments)

    It's online because Mike wrote an entire article about it.

    Also, being against the RIAA/MPAA's methods doesn't mean you want them to fail, and not wanting them to fail does not mean you must support their methods. So, I'm at a loss to see why this is any sort of criticism at all.

    Now - are you actually going to address these points, or just slink into a corner like a whipped dog, and only emerge to bark after your masters have gone?

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