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. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    out_of_the_blue, 8 Dec 2011 @ 8:30am

    You haven't explained what could replace copyright.

    "as we've explained at great length over and over again in the past" -- Copyright is a focused privilege for those who create, NOT a grant of someone else's work to every Little Pirate who has a DVD drive.

    But as Mike does boilerplate, so too I present this:

    It's inarguable that YOU don't have the right to publicly distribute content that someone else has made. Inarguable. Yes, you can buy a movie DVD and make any number of copies for your own use on other devices, and will get no argument from me, so don't bother to complain that the MPAA doesn't like that. BUT if you distribute those files publicly, I'm forced to agree with the MPAA that you are STEALING. And yes, the MPAA defines "publicly" so narrowly that they don't want you to have pals in to watch it, but we all KNOW that "file sharing" with total strangers over the Internet IS making it public.

    Now, assuming that inarguable point is nailed down, it naturally follows that file hosts don't have a right to publicly distribute such content, either. For now, they've a legalistic loophole that should never have existed, in that if can even remotely claim they don't know for certain that files are uploaded without permission of copyright owner, they can continue to distribute them by the petabyte on over 800G/S bandwidth. -- That legalistic loophole needs to be closed, is all, and then you'll all be clear on the principle.


    "Pssst! Hey, I got a movie. Didn't cost me a cent. Don't ask where it came from. -- Don't look at it! We'll lose safe harbor protection! -- So, now..." (Rubs hands and chuckles sleazily...) "How do we get money from it?" -- Mike's movie example in the "can't compete" piece where he disappears $100M "sunk (or fixed) costs" is EXACTLY the case for links sites and files hosts. Mike POSITS "FREE" PRODUCT so that he can then claim that only marginal costs matter. My analysis can be contradicted but never rebutted, because any honest evaluation inevitably leads to: his example works only by ignoring how the movie came to exist, otherwise he has to worry about repaying costs.

    It's no coincidence that "can't compete with free" is what exists with rampant piracy; "economist" Mike crafted his example as if instructions for grifters. Getting attractive products for free is the ONLY reason that links sites and file hosts have ANYTHING to draw eyeballs to advertising (and in the case of Rapidshare and others, to collect fees for Premium service). -- And to anticipate a standard weenie-ism: that you upload your projects to those hosts is at most decimal percentages of the petabytes, so irrelevant.

    Loss of FREE PRODUCTS is SOLELY why Mike is worried about SOPA. He has no lofty abstract concern for free speech, but for actual FREE MONEY. His grifter pals will soon be prevented from getting money by leveraging other people's expensive products: he wants the content producers to KEEP competing with the "free" outlets that use it to bring eyeballs to ads on the sites of pals.

    The symbiotic parasites of links sites and files hosts rely on stolen content. They maintain that "users" do all the uploading (not true, see link below), and that the file hosts KNOW NOTHING about the copyright status or even content of files, and in a brazen reversal state that they get too much material to check! -- Simultaneously, when suits their purpose, pirates here maintain that infringement is at such low levels can barely be detected.

    Grooveshark bunged staff bonuses 'for pirating music'

    It's definite that Mike's efforts here haven't stopped the increase of piracy. It's not cogently arguable that he wishes to stop piracy. Techdirt and its fanboys ALWAYS argue against copyright and to facilitate piracy, such as:

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

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

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

    ) technology marches on and piracy can't be stopped

    ) producers who ignore or even promote piracy make out better

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

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

    ) give away and pray is a valid business model

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

    ) 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

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

    ) 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

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

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

    ) 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")

    ) 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)

    ) deride studios as "gatekeepers" while promoting the rise of a new bunch of gatekeepers such as Google and Spotify -- fine, times change, BUT problem is that the new bunch largely relies on unethically "monetizing" products of the old bunch (recent products and the accumulated treasure of a century)

    ) 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...

    ) 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)

    But Mike has had at least ten years to find the various industries a "better business model" and sell them on it. He presumably thinks about this every weekday. YET, hasn't produced a single idea that passes the laugh test. -- Instead, Mike actually BLAMES Big Media for piracy, reviles them for "dinosaur" methods in the new modern age of technology, utterly overlooking that copyright IS an artificial restriction precisely because COPYING HAS ALWAYS BEEN FAIRLY EASY -- COMPARED TO producing and promoting new and attractive material from scratch.

    Mike passes off standard advertising gimmicks / loss leaders as new because "on the Internet". As getting noticed in mass markets is always the crucial difference between unknown and popular, one might expect him to concentrate on how to rise from the noise. Instead, he trumpets a few examples, usually those that come to his notice only because of legalities, often already successful, and puts them out to tacitly imply that his notions work. But it's unrelated; he could equally well take credit for the sun rising each morning.

    Recently Mike put out his very own notion that DVDs of movies should be sold in the lobby (simultaneous theater and DVD release); he seems to simply block from consciousness that within an hour of first sale of such, the ripped files would be uploaded to all file hosts and torrented, in high quality, not via camera. That notion is near certain to reduce theater take to almost nothing on the second night: who'd go to a theater when your pal will let you see the hottest and newest movie on DVD for free? Here's the choice: pay big bucks to see a movie that you may not like after all, or toss a DVD in the player, definitely save money AND possibly a couple hours? -- Gosh, Mike, the "sell DVDs in lobby" notion is SO obviously silly that I must question your common sense to write it down in public!

    (Mike has even complained that a theater experience is lousy, AND that he expects it to be elegant for cheap! He and others follow through by saying to hell with theaters if can't figure out a way to make money -- while meeting demands for luxury at low prices! And making those teenagers keep quiet! Whew. Libertarian economics is always ruthless ON OTHERS while the drones spouting it view themselves as brilliant, creative, productive, and essential.)

    But back to that first-run movie content will be STOLEN. -- Libertarians are unable to see that bad actors even exist, just posit "perfectly competitive" conditions in a "free market" of meritorious and honest peers where no one would even consider making unearned money off what others have produced.

    You've studied this for TEN YEARS, college boy: NOW WHAT THE HELL IS STEP 2? Putting question marks there is below failure, simply incomplete. IF you were honest, you'd at least admit that the problem is intractable.

    IF you have a degree in anything, it's in /marketing/ Internet Pollyanna-ism to those hoping to get rich quick in mass markets. But whether brilliant or hacks, they're better off NOT wasting time here, just going out and DOING.

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