It's really quite amazing just how badly Chris Dodd still
doesn't seem to get what happened in the SOPA/PIPA fight. Every time he opens his mouth to "explain" what happened, he just looks less
aware of what actually happened.
His latest discussion on the topic came at the National Association of Attorneys General meeting in Washington DC
-- a "friendly" audience for Dodd. His discussion starts around the 2 hour, 10 minute mark if you want to fast forward the video. For reasons that are unclear, CSPAN has disabled embedding on this video. Either way, Dodd continues to show off that he has no idea what happened. The specific "panel" that he's on is (of course) pretty one-sided. It involves him, old friend Rick Cotton from NBC Universal ("just think about the poor corn farmers!
") and then two university officials to talk about how they're forced to censor the internet because of draconian laws that the MPAA pushed through (where there's at least a little pushback on the ridiculousness of copyright law, but just barely).
Dodd does his usual nod to the fact that the MPAA is "pro-internet" and "pro-innovation" and how any "solution" has to keep a free and open internet. That's funny, because the proposal he backed over the last year didn't actually do that. So, it's a bit late to say that now. And, next time, if he really wants to protect the free and open internet, perhaps invite some of the folks who actually built it to the table, rather than shutting them out, calling them liars and trying to dismiss their concerns. It might help people take him more seriously when he talks about how much he loves the internet.
He goes on to talk about how an example of "good" legislation was the kind that the MPAA shoved through a few years ago, forcing colleges and universities to become copyright cops
. Not surprisingly, Dodd happens to leave out the part where the MPAA was so egregious in lying with bogus stats to get that law passed that it eventually had to admit
it lied. Of course, that didn't stop the law from passing.
From there he launches into a defense of SOPA without naming SOPA. He takes us on a tour for the ages of bogus, debunked or misleading stats, in talking about just how evil "foreign rogue websites" are -- leaving out the actual facts, including that existing laws seem to be doing just fine in tracking those guys down. He neatly conflates counterfeit drugs and bulletproof vests with people downloading movies. Funny, because I don't think anyone's ordering bulletproof vests from Megaupload.com. On top of that, he claims that (unnamed) search engines are reaping billions in profits from these sites, which is flat out bunk.
He concludes by asking the assembled attorneys general for "help" in dealing with this "ever growing problem." Wait, I thought that the MPAA was insisting that the "problem" was getting under control... but now they're admitting that it's "ever growing"? Yeah, okay...
Rick Cotton's talk is no less ridiculous. He kicks off by telling the attorneys general that it's time to end "the wild west" of the internet, and that we can't think of the internet as "Somalia" any more. This is, of course, totally and completely ridiculous and Cotton should be ashamed for such blatant misinformation. After all, he's been a key player in helping to pass many of the 15 different copyright laws
in the past 30 years targeting "piracy" -- with many focused directly on the internet. To pretend that the internet is "the wild west" is just flat out ridiculous. He quotes the bogus
Mark Monitor report claiming tons and tons of traffic to infringing sites. And while he admits that Megaupload has been shut down, and that it represented a huge portion of that traffic, he ignores the point that this was under existing laws. And yes, he says this right after insisting the internet is lawless.
Rick Cotton is shameless in his disinformation efforts.
When they get to the question section, the first question is to Dodd about SOPA (which neither he nor Cotton mentioned directly). Dodd starts out with his usual talking points about how this was unprecedented -- that the bill had tremendous bipartisan support, and how SOPA was just about foreign sites (ignoring that the original draft of SOPA was not
limited to foreign sites -- yay misinformation!). Dodd pretends that a bunch of these sites "learned" from the "over 300" domain seizures to set up in foreign territories -- ignoring that most of the sites he's complaining about have been around for much longer. He also skips over the bogus seizures
and the questionable legality
of the seizures themselves. Minor details, apparently.
He then states that it's unlikely that these bills will move forward this year, but "there are efforts underway" and he's hopeful that solutions to "this problem" are being worked on.
And he concludes on the doozy that I point out in the title, claiming that the internet itself would have been at risk if the tech industry had "the same attitude" to copyright as they do today:
The internet itself would have been in deep trouble, if you'd had this attitude about copyright twenty years ago -- where the very ideas that gave birth to this industry would be at risk.
Oh really? Which ideas? Ideas about freely sharing information and code? Ideas about not caring if anyone could copy your source code -- in fact requiring
that such copying be allowed? To claim that the internet industry's view on copyright law has somehow shifted from being protectionist to not just shows, yet again, how Dodd has absolutely no clue what he's talking about on this subject, and should maybe take some time to talk to people who actually work in the industry before he makes a bigger fool of himself.
From there Mark Shurtleff, Utah's Attorney General, blamed the whole SOPA/PIPA situation on a "well-orchestrated" online campaign that was based on pure lies. Um. It's ridiculous to hear him say this after sitting through nearly an hour of lies from the pro-SOPA/PIPA camp. He even admits that his own kids argued against him. Perhaps he should listen to them, because it appears they were a lot better informed than their father. He notes that he's now afraid that any attorney general that tries to "stick his or her neck out" on these issues will get similar SOPA/PIPA treatment -- so he asks Chris Dodd and Rick Cotton to come up with "a plan" to help them.
That, right there, is pretty incredible. A US state attorney general, asking private industry how to help them avoid having to deal with the public speaking out against plans to censor the internet and attack internet openness. Wow.
Dodd responds by saying that the movie industry "needs to move into the social media space. We were not in that space at all." That's pretty ridiculous. The MPAA has a blog. I mean, they don't allow comments on it, and it's sort of the laughingstock of anyone who actually understands these issues, but they have that. They also funded and supplied the key employees for "Creative America" -- the astroturfing group that supposedly is trying to round up supporters for SOPA and had an active Facebook page and blog... though the Facebook page mostly involved discussions about just how laughable Creative America's positions are.
SOPA supporters had an online and social media presence. It's just that they didn't have reality on their side. That's the problem. If Dodd and the MPAA ever bothered to understand what actually happened perhaps he'd stop making these crazy claims.
Either way, the clear conclusion from this talk is that folks like Dodd and Cotton still have no clue what happened and still don't understand the issues at hand. They're still approaching this from the old way of doing things, where it's politics as usual. They're not interested in really understanding what the public was concerned about and they have no intention of actually listening to what was said. All of the strategies discussed were about "reloading" on their side, not about actually talking to the people who understand the internet. It's sad, but it means that SOPA and PIPA will be back, though as Dodd explicitly says "hopefully it won't be called SOPA any more..."