from the sometimes-you-'get'-social-media-and-sometimes-the-social-media-gets-you dept
As the front mouth of SOPA, Lamar Smith isn't taking any more chances with his website. After the whole "I swear this picture was already here when I got the site" debacle, Smith's new site isn't taking any chances. Why, you can't even send a disgruntled email to the man unless you have a zip code in his district. That would be fine if his legislation only affected the people in the 21st Congressional District of Texas, but not so fine if you're shepherding through a bill that affects not just the contiguous 48 states, but the entire world, if deployed as intended.
But, despite all this lockdown and proper image sourcing, Lamar forgot about the single thing he wants to regulate most: the internet. Like anyone wishing to appear "connected" (and that includes congressmen who don't want to hear from anyone but specific Texans), Smith has installed a Facebook plugin on his site, so that with a quick glance, incoming visitors can see just how well-"Liked" the congressman actually is.
And just like that, all his best laid plans start unraveling:
How's that social media thing working for you now, Congressman? Looks like this whole Facebook protest-by-proxy is just another "gimmick."
We've been pointing out for months that the entertainment industry -- who more or less wrote SOPA & PIPA -- has done everything it can to deny both the tech industry and consumers any seat at the table. Many of us have asked to take part, or suggested that the backers of SOPA & PIPA open up the process -- as Senator Wyden and Rep. Issa did with their OPEN Act -- allowing the public to comment on it, suggest specific changes, and actually have a real debate on the bill, rather than handling it all in the back room. Multiple times, MPAA boss Chris Dodd has suggested that Hollywood is more than happy to sit down with folks in Silicon Valley to talk over the issues related to the bill -- though, when a bunch of us offered to do just that, somehow Dodd wasn't so welcoming.
Turns out he wasn't the only one. California Senator Dianne Feinstein -- despite coming a bit late to the game in recognizing the concerns of the tech industry -- has been trying to make up for lost time by trying to "broker a peace" between the North and the South. We'd been hearing some rumors that Feinstein had actually been trying to set up just such a meeting -- given her role covering both Silicon Valley and Hollywood -- but that Hollywood was blocking all attempts, and it appears that's now been confirmed by reporter Zach Carter:
After that story ran, Feinstein attempted to broker a compromise, calling both tech companies and film studios.
Walt Disney Co. President and CEO Bob Iger declined the invitation on behalf of content providers. "Hollywood did not feel that a meeting with Silicon Valley would be productive at this time," said a spokesperson. The meeting took place with only tech companies present. Feinstein, once a reliable vote for the existing version of Protect IP, is now working hard to amend the bill, according to Senate Democratic aides.
Basically, this claim of wanting a bill that works for everyone is all a facade that Hollywood puts up in order to pretend that it's open to input on these bills when it's clearly not. At all. Instead, as has been the case all along, the MPAA and the big Hollywood studios have arrogantly believed that they wrote the bill, they have the votes, so why should they waste time on petty little things like real discussions with real experts? When the actual opportunity -- at the behest of a US Senator no less -- to meet with the tech community came along, the Hollywood guys flat out ignored it and said they weren't interested. If that doesn't tell you everything you need to know about how the industry views this bill, it's time to start paying closer attention.
WASHINGTON--The following is a statement by Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA) on the so-called “Blackout Day” protesting anti-piracy legislation:
“Only days after the White House and chief sponsors of the legislation responded to the major concern expressed by opponents and then called for all parties to work cooperatively together,
Why are my former colleagues listening to their constituents about legislation? Don't they stay bought?
some technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging.
Maybe if we keep saying copyright infringement is a real problem without evidence, they'll believe it.
It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and use their services.
A so-called “blackout” is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals.
I am high as a kite
It is our hope that the White House and the Congress will call on those who intend to stage this “blackout” to stop the hyperbole and PR stunts and engage in meaningful efforts to combat piracy.”
What have the Romans done for us? Apart from instantaneous global communications, digital audio and video editing, the DVD, Blu-ray, Digital projection, movie playback devices in everyone's pockets and handbags...
It appears that the some in Congress are finally hearing you. Senator Marco Rubio, from Florida, has announced that he is removing his name as a co-sponsor of PIPA and is urging Senator Harry Reid not to go ahead with the plan to bring the bill to the floor.
Earlier this year, this bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously and without controversy. Since then, we've heard legitimate concerns about the impact the bill could have on access to the Internet and about a potentially unreasonable expansion of the federal government's power to impact the Internet. Congress should listen and avoid rushing through a bill that could have many unintended consequences.
Therefore, I have decided to withdraw my support for the Protect IP Act. Furthermore, I encourage Senator Reid to abandon his plan to rush the bill to the floor. Instead, we should take more time to address the concerns raised by all sides, and come up with new legislation that addresses Internet piracy while protecting free and open access to the Internet.
Publicity stunt? Or democracy in action? I vote for the latter. It's good to see politicians actually listening to constituents rather than lobbyists sometimes...
We were wondering when our elected officials would start realizing just how toxic SOPA and PIPA have become. It appears it's happening today, along with the online protests. Rep. Lee Terry, from Nebraska -- who just last week expressed some concerns about the bill at CES, but still appeared committed to it -- has announced that he's removing his name as a co-sponsor of the bill, becoming the first US Representative to do so. Over in the Senate, Senator Jerry Moran did so way back in June -- and has since become a leading voice against PIPA. Terry's spokesperson claimed that after listening to some of the complaints, he realized that the bill just has too many problems, and could cause more harm than good -- especially for the open internet. Good for him. Now... who's next?
As more and more sites announced plans to black out their sites today in protest of Congress considering both PIPA and SOPA, a few people asked us if we would take part in the blackout as well. We definitely thought about it, but decided that was not the best use of this site. The key point behind the blackouts for most sites is to alert their users just how bad these legislative proposals are. For that purpose, Techdirt wouldn't gain very much, if anything, in going dark. If you've been reading this site at all over the past few months to a year (year plus, going back to the original COICA bill), you'd already be well aware of why these efforts are tremendously dangerous. Furthermore, we believed that we'd be able to provide even more value in covering what happens today, as these protests roll out. The fact that a couple of pro-SOPA lobbyists joked that they hoped we'd go dark (with one even asking "how much" it would take to get us to stop talking about this issue for the day), gave us even more reasons to keep publishing.
Obviously, however, we support the actions lots of other sites have taken in response to this ridiculous attempt to regulate the internet, based on fairy tales and no actual evidence from the legacy content businesses. The sites that have decided to go with a full blackout deserve the utmost respect for taking a true stand on the matter. Similarly, some other sites are adding their voice to the protest in different ways -- whether it's highlighting problems with the bills or pushing people to call Congress.
That last point seemed like a good idea to us, so with each post today, we'll also be posting a widget that will allow you to call your Senators' office, and express your displeasure with PIPA. We've also "grayed out" much of the site, and have a specific link at the top to StopTheWall.us, where you can find out more. I will actually be doing a bunch of meetings with Senate staffers later today, and I hope (and fully expect) to hear phones ringing off the hook while I'm there.
As promised, Google has decided to "go big" with its home page to join Wikipedia, Reddit and others in protesting SOPA/PIPA. The logo on the home page is blacked out:
And clicking the logo takes you to a protest page asking people to "take action" by signing a petition:
I'll admit that I'm a little surprised that Google went with a petition rather than driving phone calls to Congress, though the sheer numbers may make this one petition that Congress actually acknowledges. Either way, it's a strong statement of Google's support for the protest against these bills. Google also has an information page that explains how SOPA and PIPA will censor the internet, kill jobs & innovation and won't stop piracy at all. It also includes a collection of anti-SOPA/PIPA videos...
I knew this was common years ago, but I honestly had no clue that modern sports leagues were so clueless as to think that it made sense to blackout local TV broadcasting if the attendance at the event wasn't a sell-out. Those rules were from a time (apparently still existing for some) where people actually thought that being able to see a game on TV would mean fewer people coming out to the actual game. Of course, as any sports fan knows, there's a massive difference between watching on TV and "being there." But allowing fans to watch their favorite team on TV does seem to encourage fans to care more about their team, making it more likely that they'll go out and see the team live when they can. But... not according to the NFL, who still has such blackout rules in effect, and is suddenly worried that attendance this season is dropping (thanks Carlo) due to the economy, meaning that many more games won't be shown to local fans. It's difficult to see how that makes any sense at all. All it does is piss off the biggest fans, and give them reasons not to pay attention to the team, and to cut out the most compelling local TV for many fans (harming ad revenue). On top of that, you risk a sort of death spiral. Teams that don't get enough fans at the live event piss off their fans who can't watch the games on TV -- and without the games on TV, they're less interested in following the team... leading to less interest in going to the game... leading to more empty seats... leading to even fewer games getting on TV.
A few years back, after a major blackout hit the northeast, many people immediately assumed that it had something to do with a terrorist attack on the electricity system or perhaps a computer worm/cyber attack. It turned out to be neither, but it wasn't that surprising that people jumped to that conclusion. However, afterwards, people began discussing how likely it was that a cyberattack really could take out the power grid for a city, and some people felt that it was fairly unlikely to occur. The CIA, apparently, would disagree. Late Friday, a CIA official claimed that cyberattacks have been to blame for certain blackouts over the past few years, and that the agency had debated whether or not to release that information publicly. Of course, without much in the way of detail, it's difficult to have any sense of what's actually happening here and how accurate the information really is. However, we will repeat what we said after that huge blackout: even if it was a cyberattack, it wasn't particularly damaging. Yes, it was an inconvenience. And, yes, it was annoying, and some businesses were temporarily hurt due to the blackout. But, compared to other types of attacks, shutting off the power certainly seems relatively minor.