As Congress Explore New Awful Copyright Plans, Maximalists Look To Rewrite The History Of SOPA/PIPA

from the say-what-now? dept

As we noted, there's an effort underway, lead by Senator Thom Tillis' office, to rewrite copyright laws in a manner that is even "friendlier" to Hollywood -- which is kind of insane, given just how far the laws have been bent to favor Hollywood over the years, and against the public. Of course, for the past decade or so, significant updates to copyright law have mostly been a kind of third rail issue in Congress (with a few notable exceptions), as the memory of the SOPA/PIPA protests still lingers. However, with this new approach brewing, it seems that some wish to rewrite that history.

Gene Quinn from IP Watchdog -- a site that tends to support an extreme maximalist viewpoint mostly on patents, but sometimes on copyright as well -- has an amazingly weird post, supporting a more maximalist copyright reform, playing off a new paper from ITIF. If you don't recall, ITIF wrote the original paper that became SOPA. It was that think tank's policy proposal that was molded into the awful bill that would have fundamentally changed how the internet worked. So, you should already be somewhat skeptical of ITIF's "policy recommendations" on copyright -- starting with the very idea that "digital piracy" is a "scourge" that requires laws to stop.

As we've shown in great detail using the industry's own "piracy" numbers, changes to the law to ratchet up copyright enforcement have failed to decrease piracy. What does decrease piracy is putting in place laws that enable more innovation and experimentation around new licensed services with a variety of business models.

But, not surprisingly, that's not the focus of any reform effort. Still, what's most amazing in Quinn's piece is his rather insane attempt to rewrite the history of SOPA/PIPA. If you weren't around when it happened nearly a decade ago, (Gene was, so he has no excuse), a wide coalition of people all got together to point out how dangerous the law would be for a functioning internet, and how it would stifle speech, harm innovation, and (worst of all) break certain technical elements being used to make the internet more secure -- all so Hollywood could continue to tilt at windmills and pretend that "piracy" was being attacked. As more and more people (with very diverse ideological backgrounds) all came to realize how dangerous SOPA/PIPA was, they organized a day of protest on the internet, which set phones ringing throughout Congress, urging elected officials to rethink that plan. One by one, Senators and Representatives dropped their support of the bill, and it never moved forward.

That's not how Gene Quinn describes it however. In his version "hacker groups" (?!?) threatened to shut down the internet (?!?!?!?!?) if SOPA passed:

About a decade ago, Congress was poised to do something about rampant copyright infringement on the Internet. They were ready to take a bold step that would protect content creators. These bills were met with threats from hacker groups to take down the Internet if they were enacted, and Congress caved.

Again, that's not even remotely accurate. It was pointed out that implementing SOPA/PIPA would have made the internet less secure by breaking the DNS system, and that could lead to more attacks, but that's... not what Quinn is saying. And of course, when he presents something so blatantly incorrect, and so devoid of historical accuracy, it should make you call into question basically everything else he's saying regarding this particular topic.

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Filed Under: congress, gene quinn, pipa, rewriting history, safe harbors, sopa, thom tillis

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  1. icon
    Rico R. (profile), 13 Mar 2020 @ 7:46pm


    My theory as to why Congress kisses up to Hollywood's demands is because of media and press coverage of their elections. Think about it: The same entity that owns NBC owns Universal Studios. The same goes for Warner Bros. and CNN. CBS recently acquired Viacom (again), which owns Paramount Pictures, and I don't need to remind you that ABC likes to always speak well of its parent company, Di$ney. At the end of the day, they need as much good press coverage as they possibly can to get re-elected, and if they dared stand up to them, that could quickly go away. No press/bad press does not bode well for re-election bids, so copyright maximalism is the future we have to look forward to. It might be another reason why the media seems to favor Biden over Sanders as the Democratic nominee. I'm not saying it's right at all. Heck, it's very corrupt if you think about it.

    And this is one reason why I find it almost baffling that most copyright abolitionists (as well as those pushing for common-sense copyright reform) are libertarians. I've found most libertarians side with conservatives on how to solve corruption (i.e., the problem lies with the special interests, not on the government, anti-corruption regulation won't help, etc.). Yet, as a liberal, I see it as a liberal issue. By giving the voice of democracy back to the people, Di$ney-style lobbyists won't be able to have the same effect they once had. People won't want to have the Internet broken just to help legacy media industries make more money because they failed to adapt to the Internet. Di$ney's the reason we have very long copyright (Thanks for nothing, Mickey Mouse!), and these corporations are the ones pushing and lobbying for more draconian copyright enforcement efforts.

    With Gen Z and the generation that comes after it (which I like to call the post-meme generation, for reasons I'll explain) being regular internet people, they will quickly learn that everyday internet fun (i.e., creating memes, sharing them, etc.) is branded by these media corporations as the same kind of activity of those who want to profit off of selling content wholesale without authorization. As such, they will not exactly see these corporations in the most favorable light, and fight back against their copyright wish-list. And eventually, people who will be born into a world with the Internet and meme culture already in existence will be the oldest ones in power.

    Copyright may very well look to the world as a bad idea to these people of the future, just as slavery of the 1800s pre-Civil War does to us today. And at the end of the day, when these people are the ones in power, copyright abolition could become a reality. Laws only can remain effective as long as people are willing to enforce them. No one in Virginia is charging people with the crime of having pre-marital sex (even though such a law is on the books), and the same thing can easily happen with copyright law, and eventually (as I believe is recently happening with the aforementioned Virginia law), it can be repealed.

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