"Since the U.S. is the largest producer of (intellectual property) that is consumed around the world"
Really?? I find that hard to believe. For example, Hollywood may have the highest revenues for movies worldwide, but Bollywood dwarfs Hollywood in terms of the number of films that are produced, and the size of it's target audience. As for music, I don't have the figures but I'm pretty sure that there are lots of bands/artists in other parts of the world. I've heard some of them.
A message to Lamar Smith (he reads this blog, right?):
Let's agree that America is a great country. But it is not the only great country. And it isn't the only country to produce "intellectual property". Brazil is a great country. New Zealand is a great country. Germany is a great country. You, sir, need a Copernican revolution. You need to realise that America is not the centre of the universe.
Actually, I would suggest that the MegaUpload thing (plus the ICE domain seizures) demonstrates that whatever laws are in place are immaterial - the government will do what it (or the MAFIAA) wants, and worry about the consequences later.
He who pays the piper calls the tune. Up until a couple of weeks ago, the MAFIAA was paying the piper. I think that Congress is waking up to the fact that the likes of MPAA and RIAA may write nice big cheques at fund raisers, but they don't vote.
Recently I posted a comment appealing to Americans to mobilise, take a stand, and basically do something about all the crap which is going on (eg: corruption in Washington; unwarranted power of MAFIAA; erosion of rights in the name of national security; huge drop in journalism standards; etc). I have to say, this letter is very encouraging. The response of people (not just in the US, but across the world) to injustice, corruption, abuse of power, etc, is wonderful to see. Hopefully the protests in Europe will see ACTA go the way of SOPA/PIPA.
It seems to me that the best thing which can happen now is for HUGE numbers of people - ordinary folk with jobs, mortgages, etc - to actually make the (minimal) effort to contact their representatives and endorse the objectives of the letter. The more I think about it, the more I am amazed at the paradox of how democracy can become so warped and deformed, despite the fact that such warping and deformation can be prevented by simply participating. All it takes is a phone call or an email, or even a visit in person to make an impression on a representative, and right there you have democracy in action. (Perhaps it isn't strictly a paradox, but it is puzzling).
I recently watched the video of Jack Abramoff being interviewed by Lawrence Lessig, and I was transfixed. It was fascinating to me how things actually work in Washington (and I'm not even American). But the most telling part (for me) came towards the end where a member of the audience asked "how does a new member of Congress get corrupted?" And the answer was chilling in its simplicity. When newly elected politicians arrive in Washington, the first thing that happens is they meet with their leadership. The leadership informs new members that their number one priority is to get re-elected at the next election. And since most new members arrive with a debt (presumably from running a campaign), the leadership informs the new members that they need to retire that debt. And here is a group of people who are very good at helping you to retire that debt - meet the lobbyists. Now the lobbyists (for the most part) represent large corporations and other special interests (eg: MPAA, RIAA, etc). But here is the kicker. Lobbyists, companies, etc can give all the money they want to a member of Congress (and in doing so "buy" a vote), but there is one thing they can't do (despite a corporation being a "person", which frankly is ridiculous), which real people can do. Vote. If a member of Congress was inundated, on a scale previously unheard of, with phone calls, letters, emails, and personal visits, I suspect that most members would take notice, and probably do the right thing (whatever that is). Remember, the leadership has already told them that priority number one is to get re-elected. I suspect that the reason it is so easy for lobbyists and special interests to get their way is it is a one-sided tug-o-war. There aren't enough people pulling the members of Congress in the other direction.
Which brings me to my next observation. A democracy is a double edged sword. It is great because it affords us many freedoms. But it demands that EVERYONE participate. If only a handful participate, you may have elections, and you may call it democracy, but to the extent that people are not involved (usually out of apathy), it is not a democracy. In ancient Greece, the term "idiot" referred to a private person, a person who took no interest in politics. Involvement or participation doesn't necessarily mean running for office, or volunteering in a campaign, or joining a party. Personally, I define participation as making your views known to your representative. That is as simple as it needs to be. If 100% of the population did that, lobbyists would be completely redundant.
The tricky part, of course, is how do you get people involved? How do you motivate someone to make that phone call or write the letter? I think the thing which prevents most people is inertia. Somehow we need to make taking that first step (eg: writing a letter or an email) as painless as possible. The Internet is probably the single most powerful tool available for connecting with people to get them motivated/activated. And there are probably lots of strategies for achieving this. But that needs to be the goal - mass mobilisation.
I am reminded of some of the things that Winston Churchill had to say about government and governing:
"But it is not Parliament that should rule; it is the people who should rule through Parliament."
"No-one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."
PS: Sorry for the long post - I get carried away sometimes.
I really don't understand how the US got itself into such a deep pile of shit.
For the past 100 years the USA has produced some of the finest minds (and bodies) in history - incredibly talented, creative and productive people in virtually any field you care to name - science, literature, music, technology, industry, sports, etc. Your founding fathers were clearly very smart guys, and while not perfect, your constitution is a marvellous document.
Yet, despite having such talent, and such a solid blueprint for a system of government, the US is in a seriously bad way right now. And it baffles me how you got to this state. Perhaps it is just complacency. Global Warming alarmists often use the example of a frog and boiling water - if you drop a frog in boiling water it immediately jumps out. If you put a frog in cold water, and heat it up gradually, the frog will stay there until it boils to death. Lock everyone up in prison in one fell swoop, and you would have nationwide riots. Take away one freedom at a time, and people don't notice (or if they do, "it's only one freedom, we've got plenty more where that came from").
Washington politics is so corrupt and dominated by special interests; corporations wield unbelievable power (and have the same rights and status as a person); so many of the freedoms for which the USA was famous (and admired/envied) are being eroded (or have been taken away completely); the news media (I'm looking at you Rupert Murdoch) has lost any semblance of journalistic integrity; the entertainment industry (which should be nurturing and supporting art and artists of all kinds), has become petty, greedy, corrupt, and seems to have completely lost sight of the importance of the arts in the evolution of culture. It's almost like the US needs to press a big RESET button.
Something has to change. As a people, as a society, you have to rise up and demand change. A few hundred people occupying Wall Street was a nice idea, and an admirable place to start. But it's going to take a lot more than that. Look at the Arab Spring - look at what the people of those countries have had to do (and have been willing to do) in order to shrug off the yoke of oppression.
As I understand it, roughly 50% of the population votes in an election (of any kind). That means that HALF of eligible voters are too fucking lazy to get off the couch and go and cast a vote. In my view, that is half the problem right there - does anyone honestly believe that George W. would have "won" the election in 2000 if you had complete voter turn-out? In Australia (where I live), voting is compulsory. You can argue all you like about how mandatory voting takes away a person's "freedom to choose", but at the end of the day, we get over 90% of eligible voters casting a vote. Sure, some cast invalid votes, but the majority don't. I have one friend who refuses to vote, simply because it is compulsory. IMHO, that is plain dumb. By not voting, he is abdicating his responsibility to participate in a democracy, and he surrenders any right to criticise the government of the day.
Speaking very personally, I am counting on you. All around the world, you hear people talking about "you Americans" as being arrogant, or loud, or ignorant, or ultra-conservative, or ultra-liberal, or whatever. And such generalisations are ALWAYS unjustified and not even close to accurate. But on this issue, it really is about "you Americans". All of you. The rest of the world will follow your lead, in whichever direction you go. Head down the draconian, omnipresent government path, where even talking about a movie is a crime, and the rest of the world will go that way too. Head down the path of greater freedom, greater personal accountability, less government interference, etc, and the world will head in that direction. In fact, some countries will race you to see who can get there first (whichever way you go). But if you do nothing, and you let the Chris Dodds of the world dictate which path you follow, it won't just be your country that suffers. My country, Australia, will almost certainly follow suit.
"existing laws already have the power for the US to take down foreign websites and arrest foreign website owners"
I assume you mean that if a non-US citizen commits an act which is unlawful under US law, the US can issue an arrest warrant, and request that the authorities in the country where the non-US citizen resides take the person into custody pending extradition proceedings.
Because if you mean that US has the power to just walk in to another country and arrest someone, then I have a serious problem with that.
You Americans are so screwed. You have the worst politicians which are like, real dumb, and they don't know nuffink.
In Australia, we're so lucky cos our politicians are really awesome cos they're real smart and clever and they know stuff; like Stephen Conroy ("let's censor the whole Internet - for the children"), and Bob Katter ("there are no gay people in my electorate"), and Pauline Hanson ("we are in danger of being swamped by Asians"), and Tony Abbot ("Western civilisation came to this country in 1788 and Iím proud of thatÖ").
Re: it could have gone to much more productive uses
Wow! Take a chill pill!
I think the point is not that people spent all that money on MS products, but they could have spent one tenth on equivalent open source products, and been just as productive. The Coca Cola example doesn't quite work because there isn't an alternative to Coca Cola which tastes the same but which is one tenth the price (at least not that I know of).
This is only kind of relevant, but I love the ad for the new Motorola Xoom. Some of you may remember that back in 1984 (or even late 1983) Apple had a powerful ad about how when the Mac was released, 1984 wouldn't be like "1984". Fast forward to the present. The Xoom ad has all these Apple "zombies" listening to their iPods while the lone free person is reading the book 1984 on his Xoom.
I think it is fair to say that Apple has become that which they so vociferously decried all those years ago. Once upon a time Apple was Winston, but now they are O'Brien.