A quick introduction to the Stop Online Piracy Act — a.k.a. SOPA

posted at 6:30 pm on December 18, 2011 by Tina Korbe

Last week, the GOP primaries and the dramatic negotiations in Congress over the payroll tax cut extension seemed to dominate the MSM news cycle — but, on Twitter, YouTube and other social media sites, the first stirrings of concern about a House bill called the Stop Online Piracy Act — and its Senate equivalent, the Protect IP Act — also began to crop up.

We haven’t yet discussed the bill in detail here at Hot Air, but, as the House Judiciary Committee could potentially vote this out of committee Monday or Tuesday of this week, I wanted to offer a quick introduction for those of you who are unfamiliar — an introduction to be fleshed out in future posts, as I research the issue a bit more myself.

Introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) and co-sponsored by representatives from both parties (the bill has a total of 31 co-sponsors!), the Stop Online Piracy Act purports to stop “foreign online criminals from stealing and selling America’s intellectual property and keeping the profits for themselves.”

According to Rep. Smith’s website, “IP theft costs the U.S. economy more than $100 billion annually and results in the loss of thousands of American jobs. The Stop Online Piracy Act specifically targets foreign websites primarily dedicated to illegal activity or foreign websites that market themselves as such. The bill ensures that profits from America’s innovations go to American innovators.”

But opponents of the bill suggest it is unlikely to do what it is designed to do — and highly likely to result in troubling unintended consequences. Put simply, the bill would enable the U.S. government to block Internet content for very specious reasons. Sites that “enable or facilitate” copyright infringement could be shut down just for that enabling or facilitating function. In other words, a site like YouTube could be shut down just because one of its users posted content that infringes copyright laws. As critics have pointed out, that’s akin to punishing a car company because a car user crashed his vehicle into another person’s vehicle.

In other words, to critics of the bill, SOPA is not about piracy — it’s about censorship. After all, at its core, piracy is a service problem — and censoring websites like YouTube isn’t likely to stop piraters, who are notoriously adept at finding a way to peddle copyrighted material no matter what the restrictions. As this Cynical Brit who has introduced hundreds of thousands of viewers to the dangers of SOPA put it, the way to beat piraters is to provide better service than they do — to make it a better consumer experience to legally view or use copyrighted material than to illegally view or use copyrighted material.

While I’m still teasing out the details, my initial response to this bill is one of deep concern. It sounds highly suspect to me. Rep. Darrell Issa has spearheaded the Twitter effort to #stopsopa, and that, too, reinforces my doubts about the bill. Please feel free to share additional information about SOPA and Protect IP in the comments section. I’ll be sorting through your responses tonight in my ongoing effort to educate myself about Internet freedom in advance of the vote on SOPA.

Update I: Here’s a YouTube playlist of the greatest hits from last week’s markup of SOPA, via Darrell Issa’s team.

Update II: This post originally made it sound like the entire Congress might vote on SOPA before the end of the year, when, in fact, the potential votes in question were votes within the House Judiciary Committee.


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I’m sure everyone remembers Jack Valenti, the extreme pro-copyright lobbyist and president of the MPAA, whining constantly and acting as if people were stealing the money right out of his pocket if they dared to tape a movie or TV show on a blank VHS tape. Never mind that eventually home video became a huge source of revenue for movie studios during the 80s and 90s.

All of these groups in Hollywood and the recording industry are always at least five steps behind the latest technologies. I seriously doubt they care as much about artists’ actual copyrights as they do about the money flowing in from the control of them.

And this is without a doubt the key reason:

But the real reason why congress is passing this bill are those TV video clips that keep coming back to haunt the politicians captured in them. What better way to shut down those repeating, embarrassing, difficult to explain political clips and the problems they pose for incumbent politicians than to claim copyright infringement when they are replayed without the consent of the originator?

Skandia Recluse on December 18, 2011 at 7:30 PM

PatriotGal2257 on December 18, 2011 at 8:58 PM

This bill is idiotic. It’s akin to holding the telephone company libel for slandering someone during a phone call. I can’t believe the Republicans will actually go along with a bill that helps Hollywood which denounces them at every opportunity.

ReaganWasRight on December 18, 2011 at 9:03 PM

I’m sure everyone remembers Jack Valenti, the extreme pro-copyright lobbyist and president of the MPAA, whining constantly and acting as if people were stealing the money right out of his pocket if they dared to tape a movie or TV show on a blank VHS tape. Never mind that eventually home video became a huge source of revenue for movie studios during the 80s and 90s.

Yup – and I believe, before that, it was a demand for a piece of the selling price of a blank audio cassette tape for the same reason – people copied albums/records on them.

And this is without a doubt the key reason:

But the real reason why congress is passing this bill are those TV video clips that keep coming back to haunt the politicians captured in them. What better way to shut down those repeating, embarrassing, difficult to explain political clips and the problems they pose for incumbent politicians than to claim copyright infringement when they are replayed without the consent of the originator?

Skandia Recluse on December 18, 2011 at 7:30 PM

PatriotGal2257 on December 18, 2011 at 8:58 PM

Yup, again – that is a good point.

whatcat on December 18, 2011 at 9:16 PM

gryphon202 on December 18, 2011 at 7:24 PM

I do agree that many, having pirated music, will come across a band or genre that they like and purchase future content. However, according to Torrent Freak, there is a cult of people which considers IP to be evil, and take it as a badge of honour to not pay.

I’m way too old to be interested in downloading music – legit or otherwise, so I’m out of the loop, so to speak. However gross inflation of lost dollars on music, movies, and software have been an irritation to me, because it is generally not true.

OldEnglish on December 18, 2011 at 9:26 PM

But wait !! There’s more !!!

Don’t forget manufacturers of DVD and videocassette players are required by law to include Macrovision decoding circuitry inside those video playback machines thereby forcing the consumer to purchase technology from Macrovision to gain access to to commercial DVDs and videocassettes they’ve already purchased.

viking01 on December 18, 2011 at 9:27 PM

Anytime I see Lamar Alexander these days, he’s on the wrong side of an issue.
Politicians do not like the internet. They do like youtube. They do not like our cell phones. They do not like how easily we can create websites, share information and monitor and report what they do.

JellyToast on December 18, 2011 at 7:18 PM

I meant Lamar Smith. Oh well.

JellyToast on December 18, 2011 at 9:29 PM

How terribly unexpected.

How terribly undeserved.

How terribly farcical.

Enjoy.

TwoShortPlanks on December 18, 2011 at 9:30 PM

I meant Lamar Smith. Oh well.
JellyToast on December 18, 2011 at 9:29 PM

I thought you meant Lamar Huntsman.

whatcat on December 18, 2011 at 9:40 PM

There are already laws against copyright and patent and trademark infringement.

Enforce them.

So true. Typical Government, they would rather make new crappy laws than enforce the old effective ones.

RightisRight on December 18, 2011 at 9:42 PM

This will also seriously jeopardize anyone who reviews video games or movies (or music) online as a career (or hobby) because it would render “fair use” meaningless.

Sure, give my game a 9/10 or higher and I won’t mind you using a short video clip of it in your review. What’s that? The game’s terrible and only gets a 3/10? Enjoy your blackout!

DrAllecon on December 18, 2011 at 9:42 PM

Yup – and I believe, before that, it was a demand for a piece of the selling price of a blank audio cassette tape for the same reason – people copied albums/records on them.

whatcat on December 18, 2011 at 9:16 PM

Which I used to do all the time as a teenager and young adult so I could play my own tapes in the car. I even used to have an 8-track recorder [snicker], which I promptly shoved in the back of the closet the minute I got a turntable and cassette deck. I had it down to a science as to how many tracks of my favorite recordings I could fit on a 60- or 90-minute tape.

A friend of mine who worked in one of the local retail record chains in my town once told me that the prerecorded cassettes that everyone from ABBA to Warren Zevon had were recorded on the el cheapo, two dollar cassettes that you could buy at Kmart — but of course their price in the record store was $9.99.

PatriotGal2257 on December 18, 2011 at 9:44 PM

Yup – and I believe, before that, it was a demand for a piece of the selling price of a blank audio cassette tape for the same reason – people copied albums/records on them.
whatcat on December 18, 2011 at 9:16 PM

Which I used to do all the time as a teenager and young adult so I could play my own tapes in the car. I even used to have an 8-track recorder [snicker], which I promptly shoved in the back of the closet the minute I got a turntable and cassette deck. I had it down to a science as to how many tracks of my favorite recordings I could fit on a 60- or 90-minute tape.

Wasn’t it nice when an 8-track would stop who knows where in a song to switch tracks to play the rest of it? heh.

A friend of mine who worked in one of the local retail record chains in my town once told me that the prerecorded cassettes that everyone from ABBA to Warren Zevon had were recorded on the el cheapo, two dollar cassettes that you could buy at Kmart — but of course their price in the record store was $9.99.
PatriotGal2257 on December 18, 2011 at 9:44 PM

Oh yeah, the record cos. made out pretty well back in the day. Some were pretty crooked though – literally; for example, Tommy James & The Shondells company, Roulette Records, was mob-owned. The artists were afraid to ask for owed royalties, lol.

whatcat on December 18, 2011 at 9:53 PM

Ya can’t stop the signal.

29Victor on December 18, 2011 at 9:54 PM

As this Cynical Brit who has introduced hundreds of thousands of viewers to the dangers of SOPA put it, the way to beat piraters is to provide better service than they do — to make it a better consumer experience to legally view or use copyrighted material than to illegally view or use copyrighted material.

Or at least make it *possible*. This is the other way around, since I’m in the US, but as a student of foreign languages I’ve done a few questionable things in order to view content that was otherwise completely unavailable to me. I gladly would have bought it if I could, but there was literally no option to do so.

So, yeah, I torrented that stuff, but I think I had a much better justification than there is for most acts of piracy…that’s what I tell myself whenever I feel guilty, anyway. It’s pretty annoying when the language you’re learning is so rarely studied in the US that the market here for stuff in that language is practically non-existent. (During my very brief visit to the country in question, I obsessively visited bookshops as well, since books in that language are really hard to get here too. Despite my “buy ALL the books!” fervor and the somewhat large amount of money I spent, I still don’t have very many. *sigh*) #geekproblems

ClassicalMusicNerd on December 18, 2011 at 9:59 PM

for those interested, here’s lamar smith’s lifetime contributions by industry

http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/industries.php?cycle=Career&cid=N00001811&type=I

TV/Movies/Music is 4…Computers/Internet is 5

and here’s his personal finance profile

http://www.opensecrets.org/pfds/CIDsummary.php?CID=N00001811&year=2010

i don’t know how he writes any legislation with the stock trading he does (1388 transactions in 2010). Unless he’s given complete control of his assets (2M+) to a broker and the guy is churning the hell out of the account

I don’t know Lamar Smith from a lamppost…but i did listen to a speech by Peter Schweizer. I think they are pretty much all crooks.

Here’s Smith’s transactions in 2010

http://www.opensecrets.org/pfds/CIDsummary.php?CID=N00001811&year=2010

very bizarre…for example look at American Axle & Manufacturing buying small amounts on many days in Fed, then selling on several days in Apr, May

BTW, Schweizer said that there are ‘milking’ bills. The bills that are put up to scare a sector so that you’ll get money from the targeted sector.

Harry Reid did this to the Hedge Fund people.

r keller on December 18, 2011 at 9:59 PM

….much like last December’s “Food Safety Act” this bill in not about law, safety, the people, the economy, the troops or any such thing. This is a classic Special Interest Bill. Just follow the money….

STOP ONLINE PIRACY ACT

TOP RECIPIENTS:
US House: The Quarter Million Dollar Club http://is.gd/cUnsWA
US Senate: The Half Million Dollar Club http://is.gd/gdNEgX

US HOUSE
John A. Boehner R OH-8 $1,105,910
Eric Cantor R VA-7 $674,896
Michele Bachmann R MN-6 $649,165
Steny H. Hoyer D MD-5 $553,800
Dave Camp R MI-4 $536,533
Allen West R FL-22 $530,916
Howard Berman D CA-28 $477,051
Jeff Flake R AZ-6 $464,673
Fred Upton R MI-6 $424,750
Mary Bono Mack R CA-45 $386,104
John Dingell D MI-15 $382,350
Kevin McCarthy R CA-22 $338,250
C. Mike Thompson D CA-1 $334,191
Jim Clyburn D SC-6 $332,161
Chris Murphy D CT-5 $323,948
Charlie Dent R PA-15 $317,725
Marsha Blackburn R TN-7 $306,367
Steve Stivers R OH-15 $302,049
Debbie Wasserman Schultz D FL-20 $300,250
Greg Walden R OR-2 $300,218
Pat Tiberi R OH-12 $299,367
Patrick Meehan R PA-7 $297,700
Mike Pence R IN-6 $289,418
Jim Gerlach R PA-6 $279,852
Lamar Smith R TX-21 $277,350
Paul Ryan R WI-1 $265,600
Steve Israel D NY-2 $263,100
Mike Rogers R MI-8 $261,378
Allyson Schwartz D PA-13 $257,326
Jim Matheson D UT-2 $254,250
Erik Paulsen R MN-3 $254,210
Tim Murphy R PA-18 $253,600
Henry Waxman D CA-30 $252,950

US SENATE
Kirsten Gillibrand D NY $1,682,667
Barbara Boxer D CA $1,647,015
Harry Reid D NV $1,359,499
Al Franken D MN $1,304,667
Chuck Schumer D NY $1,191,700
Addison “Mitch” McConnell R KY $1,152,710
Roy Blunt R MO $1,101,290
Max Baucus D MT $873,707
Dianne Feinstein D CA $796,581
Bob Casey D PA $794,738
Michael Bennet D CO $781,473
Patty Murray D WA $777,327
Mark Kirk R IL $765,400
Mark Warner D VA $738,301
Orrin Hatch R UT $685,357
Patrick Leahy D VT $682,231
Claire McCaskill D MO $681,747
Maria Cantwell D WA $675,276
Bob Menéndez D NJ $662,925
Mark Udall D CO $661,772
Bob Corker R TN $642,926
Joe Lieberman I CT $638,690
Clarence “Bill” Nelson D FL $619,067
Rob Portman R OH $618,595
Sheldon Whitehouse D RI $600,880
Amy Klobuchar D MN $589,410
John Cornyn R TX $575,650
Dick Durbin D IL $574,675
Debbie Stabenow D MI $559,220
Earl “Ben” Nelson D NE $542,605
Richard Burr R NC $538,566
Susan Collins R ME $521,522
Sherrod Brown D OH $512,579

SUMMARY:
US HOUSE – The Boehner Cartel is alive and well.
US SEN – As long as Addison ‘Mitch’ McConnell gets his Million he’s happy to shill for Hollywood and let the Senate Dems pull in $50,000,000.00+ …McConnell, Blunt, Hatch and Corker feasting at the Police State Trough yet again.

House GOP: Pro – $29,719,477 ||| Against – $1,891,989
House Dems: Pro – $20,083,485 ||| Against – $4,231,671
Senate GOP: Pro – $16,390,188 ||| Against – $3,979,324
Senate Dems: Pro – $28,656,688 ||| Against – $22,841,696
Total GOP Funds: $51,980,978.00
Total Dem Funds: $75,813,540.00
…easy to see why Addison ‘Mitch’ McConnell so desperately wants control of the Senate from the data on this bill alone.

Notes:
This bill will accomplish nothing other than to push streaming video sites offshore, and increase sales of Proxy Server software. Apparently our geniuses in Congress still don’t understand how the internet works let alone what a proxy is.
As with Napster, Kazaa, Limewire, Rapidshare, Filesomic and the hundred’s of thousands of piracy sites in Russia, China, Taiwan, Poland, Turkey and virtually every other country on earth…Our Government is playing a game of cops and robbers where the robbers are always 3 years ahead of the cops. Welcome to the police state where appearance is everything, solutions are nothing and freedom is an afterthought.
The saddest part of all this is that the Permanent Political Class now has another $125,000,000.00 in their campaign coffers so that they can continue NOT serving the People.

Afterseven on December 18, 2011 at 10:00 PM

How about a “Stop Government Piracy Act”?

PalinLover on December 18, 2011 at 10:04 PM

PatriotGal2257 on December 18, 2011 at 9:44 PM

And don’t forget, those cassettes were like shoving sandpaper into your tape players (both audio and video).

Product piracy is real… but the biggest offenders are safely nested inside countries that the offended parties would never go after… like the PRC.

This is a total BS ‘fix’ being proposed, just like all the cable and internet ‘fairness’ bills they’ve passed over the past two decades.

Every one of them fixed NOTHING, and usually made matters worse (or sweeter for certain corporations).

CPT. Charles on December 18, 2011 at 10:11 PM

They could easily shut down this website or Drudge or any other website if they wanted to. Just because who is being offended?

Mirimichi on December 18, 2011 at 11:02 PM

Is there anything in today’s music, TV and movies worth pirating?

bayview on December 18, 2011 at 11:17 PM

Anyone supporting this is out of their mind. Should any republican candidate vow to veto/repeal this bill, I’d vote for them.

ernesto on December 18, 2011 at 11:27 PM

Anyone supporting this is out of their mind. Should any republican candidate vow to veto/repeal this bill, I’d vote for them.

ernesto on December 18, 2011 at 11:27 PM

No, you wouldn’t, your a Che protege through and through.

MadDogF on December 18, 2011 at 11:40 PM

This bill is insane and Lamar Smith is a fool, or useful idiot for RIAA/MPAA or both. I work in the industry, this could create major disruption to any business that is using the web to promote its services, talk about a job killer…

sebis on December 19, 2011 at 12:12 AM

The GOP will betray you?

The Mega Independent on December 19, 2011 at 12:15 AM

SOPA is crony capitalism writ large. You’ll find both Democratic and Republican sponsors of the bill, because money talks pretty well with both parties.

We already have a huge and invasive law on copyright called the “Digital Millennium Copyright Act, but it’s not enough for these buzzards because it at least attempts to strike a balance between copyright holders and consumers. Under the DMCA, if you report to a web site that they have copyrighted material, and they respond by removing the material until they investigate the truth of the claim, they have adequately responded to the copyright claim and are safe from prosecution. Under SOPA, the web site can be shut down no matter how they responded.

Just another shining example of what lobbying can do for you in getting favorable legislation.

There Goes The Neighborhood on December 19, 2011 at 12:17 AM

I’m disappointed in Lamar Smith. Generally he is a level-headed conservative. But how any self-respecting free market advocate who opposed net neutrality could possibly support SOPA (much less sponsor the bill!) leaves me speechless.

BocaJuniors on December 18, 2011 at 8:56 PM

This. Based on principle, you cannot oppose the Democrats’ net neutrality garbage but support this nonsense.

All this does is take the burden off of content providers in chasing down pirated material and having to take the owners of websites to court and gives it to the government….but in this scenario the government will be handed a “kill switch” (read the manager’s amendment to the bill) and they will have the power to shut down any website that has a hint of piracy on it.

All existing laws (including the DMCA, which in part protects websites that act in good faith in removing pirated stuff from their site) will go out the window and the government will be handed a mallet to squash any website it wants. This is akin to studying prostitution…..coming to the conclusion that the majority of acts of prostitution take place in hotels….and then passing a law that says if one act of prostitution is found to take place in a hotel then the entire hotel will be shut down.

If anything, this law is a very slippery slope and is bad news no matter how they try to sell it. There is no way that any Conservative in their right minds would give this sort of power to the government regardless of the intentions.

SleightOfHand on December 19, 2011 at 12:19 AM

A wolf in sheep’s clothing…

JLPicard on December 19, 2011 at 12:24 AM

The amount of legislative work done by politicians for the entertainment industry is quite impressive. The politicians earn every dollar they get.

NORUK on December 19, 2011 at 12:36 AM

“IP theft costs the U.S. economy more than $100 billion annually and results in the loss of thousands of American jobs.

That downright lie undermines any merit such proposals may have.

Pirates pirate because they have no intention of paying for content. Period!

OldEnglish on December 18, 2011 at 6:45 PM

Every time this subject gets broached, these kinds of ridiculously inflated numbers are tossed around. As Twain said, “There are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics.”

To come up with these numbers, they usually take the number of downloads and multiply them by the retail price of the content. A moment’s thought makes it obvious that the companies still have the content, so they only lose money if the downloader had any actual intention of paying for it.

To say nothing of the fact that a lot of consumers are like me, and never buy the DVD until it’s on sale for half price or so.

That’s not to say that they don’t lose money due to piracy, but it’s probably only 5-10% of what they claim.

There Goes The Neighborhood on December 19, 2011 at 12:41 AM

This bill is idiotic. It’s akin to holding the telephone company libel for slandering someone during a phone call. I can’t believe the Republicans will actually go along with a bill that helps Hollywood which denounces them at every opportunity.

ReaganWasRight on December 18, 2011 at 9:03 PM

As long as Hollywood is paying well…..

There Goes The Neighborhood on December 19, 2011 at 12:42 AM

I’m curious if there are any commenters here opposed to the idea of copyright/patents/intellectual property entirely. I started on this path a few months ago and I decided that our “real” rights are frequently compromised by “intellectual property rights”, and it seems to me that they can’t be considered rights at all. Any thoughts?

Carolus on December 19, 2011 at 12:47 AM

I do agree that many, having pirated music, will come across a band or genre that they like and purchase future content. However, according to Torrent Freak, there is a cult of people which considers IP to be evil, and take it as a badge of honour to not pay.

Absolutely. But those people are fringe. The entire value of every last pirated piece of data is not represented by these neo-anarchist freaks, and we’ll never know just what proportion of it is. The RIAA/MPAA want you to believe that all of it is, which is patently false.

I’m way too old to be interested in downloading music – legit or otherwise, so I’m out of the loop, so to speak. However gross inflation of lost dollars on music, movies, and software have been an irritation to me, because it is generally not true.

OldEnglish on December 18, 2011 at 9:26 PM

And we’ll never know for sure just how the numbers play out. As tends to be the case in any discussion of economics, it’s far too complicated for anyone to really understand.

gryphon202 on December 19, 2011 at 12:48 AM

I’m curious if there are any commenters here opposed to the idea of copyright/patents/intellectual property entirely. I started on this path a few months ago and I decided that our “real” rights are frequently compromised by “intellectual property rights”, and it seems to me that they can’t be considered rights at all. Any thoughts?

Carolus on December 19, 2011 at 12:47 AM

Oh I think that copyright and patent law definitely have a place in America. The problem is that they are used too often as a barrier-to-entry to individuals that want to pursue creative endeavors of their own. I’m sure by now everybody here knows I’m pretty big on thumping the constitution, and the constitution does authorize the federal government to protect intellectual property, but not in the manner in which it stifles intellectual creativity in the modern age.

gryphon202 on December 19, 2011 at 12:52 AM

Any thoughts?

Carolus on December 19, 2011 at 12:47 AM

I am a huge defender of IP and copyright law.

John the Libertarian on December 19, 2011 at 1:28 AM

Oh I think that copyright and patent law definitely have a place in America. The problem is that they are used too often as a barrier-to-entry to individuals that want to pursue creative endeavors of their own. I’m sure by now everybody here knows I’m pretty big on thumping the constitution, and the constitution does authorize the federal government to protect intellectual property, but not in the manner in which it stifles intellectual creativity in the modern age.

gryphon202 on December 19, 2011 at 12:52 AM

Well, copyright in its current form has completely exceeded the original intent. These were supposed to be temporary restrictions that allowed a person to profit from their invention/idea for a reasonable period of time before giving others the ability to build upon that framework. Now copyrights are effectively interminable as big corps continue to lobby Congress to pass bills retroactively extending copyrights by another 20 or 30 years.

Of course, copyright in general is not really designed to deal with the intangibility of the Digital Age. It’s difficult to determine how or even if a copyright holder was harmed by someone who pirates electronic works and does not profit from it themselves, as nothing physically changed hands, and in many cases, the recipient never intended to buy it in the first place. So the owner has neither lost their property nor lost potential income. And in many cases the opposite is true, wherein the digital “theft” results in a sale that would not have occurred, in that the recipient likes the work and chooses to give the owner their patronage.

Unfortunately, what we have are large economic actors and interest groups who have a stranglehold over an existing business model, but it is one which simply cannot survive in a digital era. Rather than adapt to that new era and take advantage of the newer technologies, these fools seek to halt all technological and cultural progress with stupid scorched Earth tactics such as suing the bejesus out of grandmas and pushing this kind of idiotic legislation.

CrankyTRex on December 19, 2011 at 1:44 AM

Unfortunately, what we have are large economic actors and interest groups who have a stranglehold over an existing business model, but it is one which simply cannot survive in a digital era. Rather than adapt to that new era and take advantage of the newer technologies, these fools seek to halt all technological and cultural progress with stupid scorched Earth tactics such as suing the bejesus out of grandmas and pushing this kind of idiotic legislation.

CrankyTRex on December 19, 2011 at 1:44 AM

Absolutely no argument there. But intellectual property issues are just one microcosm of how the constitution has been perverted beyond recognition.

The whole point of protecting intellectual property in the first place is to encourage creative endeavor. Thus, people will be more likely to invent or write or make music if they have something to gain by it:

Trademark — Legal protection for a creative work that describes a product

Copyright — Protection against someone else claiming another’s original, intangible idea

Patent — The divulging of certain aspects of production of a original invention in return for a limited-duration monopoly on that tangible good

So chances are pretty good that if a proposed law stifles creativity rather than promotes it, it probably doesn’t jibe with the constitution.

gryphon202 on December 19, 2011 at 2:19 AM

I’m curious if there are any commenters here opposed to the idea of copyright/patents/intellectual property entirely. I started on this path a few months ago and I decided that our “real” rights are frequently compromised by “intellectual property rights”, and it seems to me that they can’t be considered rights at all. Any thoughts?

Carolus on December 19, 2011 at 12:47 AM

Actually copyrights were never meant to last this long in the first place. The original idea was you get the rights for something like 14 years, but congress keeps extending the copyrights forever.. its at something like 90+ years now.

triple on December 19, 2011 at 2:28 AM

A quick introduction to the Stop Online Piracy Act — a.k.a. SOPA

-Tina Korbe

So we don’t hear a peep about the National Defense Authorization Act that passed last week and allows the indefinite detention of Americans on U.S. soil, but we’re going to hash this one out? Eh, I guess it’s better than nothing.

DFCtomm on December 19, 2011 at 2:31 AM

I’m curious if there are any commenters here opposed to the idea of copyright/patents/intellectual property entirely. I started on this path a few months ago and I decided that our “real” rights are frequently compromised by “intellectual property rights”, and it seems to me that they can’t be considered rights at all. Any thoughts?

Carolus on December 19, 2011 at 12:47 AM

That’s a very big subject, but briefly, I would say that I believe in all of those in principle, but that they have all been overextended to the point of absurdity.

The original copyright was for a limited period of time, but now has been extended to mean the lifetime of the author + 99 years. There is no way to make this a good idea. One of the biggest proponents of this version of copyright was Disney, so they can keep a stranglehold on their movies for a century. Copyright was intended to serve the public good by giving the content creator the right to exclusive profit for a while, but now it’s the exclusive and essentially unlimited right to property for a lifetime plus a century. How can that not be excessive?

Patents were the least offensive of all intellectual property variants, since the inventor had to document his invention for the benefit of all in return for exclusive rights to it for 14 years. Unfortunately, by allowing overbroad patents of mathematical algorithms and software, many software authors have created significant and useful programs entirely on their own without copying, borrowing, or otherwise using the work of others, yet found themselves sued for patent infringement because someone somewhere else had a patent over something that seemed similar.

At one point, British Telecom claimed it had a patent that covered hyperlinks, and therefore every web page on the internet owed them money. Fortunately, they were not able to pull it off.

In many cases, patents were granted for something that was common practice already, and when the patent rights were asserted, everyone using that technique was scrambling to find “prior art,” that is, an example of that technique being in use before the patent was erroneously granted.

Finally, generally speaking, “intellectual property” is too vague a term. I prefer to speak individually of patents, copyrights, trademarks, and “trade secrets,” because each of them is very different from the others.

Okay, maybe that wasn’t so brief after all.

There Goes The Neighborhood on December 19, 2011 at 2:42 AM

Its a lot easier and safer for our lazy, worthless bureaucrats to go after virtual pirates who cost us thousands of virtual jobs, and millions in virtual profits, than it is for them to hunt down the real pirates – you know, the ones who disrupt our real shipping lanes and take real hostages and kill real citizens…

Outofmehead on December 19, 2011 at 2:59 AM

Among the 25 SOPA cosponsors from both sides of the aisle, here’s a breakdown of which legislators have brought in donations from big media in TV, music and movies during their careers in Congress.

Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., $1,727,156. His southern district border is Hollywood Blvd. and he was the beneficiary at a fundraiser earlier this month hosted by two lobbyists at a firm that represents the National Broadcasting Association.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., $516,400
Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., $488,731
Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., $488,636
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Tex., $392,995 (sponsor)
Rep. Robert Goodlatte, R-VA, $316,686
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., $261,700
Rep. Lee Terry, R-Nev., $248,168
Rep. John Barrow, D-GA, $210,900
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., $204,199
Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., $133,023
Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., $130,100
Rep. John Carter, R-Tex., $75,850
Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., $64,648
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-LA, $54,000
Rep. William Owens, D-N.Y., $42,850
Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., $30,000
Rep. Thomas Marino, R-Penn., $21,300

The nearly 40 cosponsors of the Protect IP Act, SOPA’s partner legislation in the Senate, have received more than $13.5 million from the TV, music and movies industry since entering Congress. Here’s a rundown:

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., $1,996,470
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., $1,465,160
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., $1,295,718
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., $899,366 (sponsor)
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., $890,668
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., $747,491
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mont., $503,291
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., $493,069
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, $492,407
Sen. Robert Menéndez, D-N.J., $445,575
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., $430,500
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., $368,733
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., $365,589
Sen. Robert Casey, D-Penn., $343,225
Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., $312,320
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., $297,771
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, $291,621
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, $284,225
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., $254,162
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., $237,084
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., $230,569
Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., $218,539
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., – $217,847
Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., – $171,790
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., $158,066
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., $94,450

Come and take it on December 18, 2011 at 8:46 PM

Bump.

petefrt on December 19, 2011 at 3:04 AM

Ya can’t stop the signal.

29Victor on December 18, 2011 at 9:54 PM

That should read:

Ya can’t stop the signal, Mal.
The signal goes eveywhere and I go everywhere.

Mr. Universe

listens2glenn on December 19, 2011 at 3:05 AM

viking01 on December 18, 2011 at 9:27 PM

Yes, but “cracked” versions of almost ALL software are available on P2P/torrent sites.

listens2glenn on December 19, 2011 at 3:10 AM

That’s not to say that they don’t lose money due to piracy, but it’s probably only 5-10% of what they claim.

There Goes The Neighborhood on December 19, 2011 at 12:41 AM

I wouldn’t concede that their actual losses are even half that.

listens2glenn on December 19, 2011 at 3:15 AM

So we have all these laws that are not being enforced. So, Congress decides to pass a law and create a bureaucracy with a “limited scope” to enforce a new law. Sounds a lot like the same thing that happened with the EPA, Dept of Education, and who knows how many others. We would end up with an agency requiring everyone to get a license for the internet so they could record every search, site and any comment you might write you and I visit…..for a fee, of course. All done “for the good of the country”, or “national security”, or whatever the excuse would be.

RADIOONE on December 19, 2011 at 6:28 AM

The enforcement of such a law will be given to a regulatory agency. Remember when CO2 was not a pollutant? The real effect would be to transfer all control of the internet outside the U.S. and, like China, America will become a limited free speech zone.

Annar on December 19, 2011 at 6:52 AM

That’s not to say that they don’t lose money due to piracy, but it’s probably only 5-10% of what they claim.

There Goes The Neighborhood on December 19, 2011 at 12:41 AM

Hey, we’re losing liberty too. If it comes down between freedom and a little more profits for the movie industry, I’ll take the freedom.

JellyToast on December 19, 2011 at 6:56 AM

The extension of copyright has put thousands of works into limbo as they have no real owner, no estates to claim them and no publishers that are left to claim them. And yet you dare not reprint them due to legal liabilities. This goes far, far beyond Disney and, yet, is led by corporations seeking to gain power as corporate citizens that put real citizens at risk for using ideas merely a decade or eight old. By allowing corporations to hold such things which were meant for actual, corporeal beings, we have prostituted the idea of what a copyright actually is: an idea generated to be protected for a limited time.

It is bad that Congress has gone past the life of mere individuals to prostrate themselves before industry on this topic.

It is horrific that they have decided that corporate entities should be superior to physical ones in their prostitution.

It is truly demonic that the SCOTUS has said that since life + any amount is ‘limited’ that this is LEGAL. Mind you, it could be made life + 3 billion years and still be ‘limited’ by that score.

Yet patents and copyrights started out on equal footing at the first Congress at 10 years.

That is ‘limited’.

Putting the legal utilization of ideas and works of thought and art beyond the scope of a human life is in no way, shape or form, ‘limited’.

SOPA is a horrific extension of power for corporations now wielding far more power than physical individuals can in this realm. If corporations wish to have the ability to do this then they should be willing to be of a ‘limited’ life span, themselves, so that they must yield up works to the public domain on a regular basis whenever they claim such as under their protection. Fair is fair: corporations can live forever, man cannot do so. Putting ideas into the hands of immortal corporations puts man under the heel of them in a way that is repugnant to think about.

ajacksonian on December 19, 2011 at 7:02 AM

My first impression of Perry’s part-time congress proposal was that it was pure pandering. But when I see bills like this one, I begin to think, maybe we need to keep them out of Washington more! The less they meet the less harm they can do.

DouBLe Two on December 19, 2011 at 7:21 AM

SOPA is a ridiculous piece of legislation.

But copyright holders are in a bind. The DMCA, which was supposed to balance the interests of content owners and online service providers, did not work. Unfortunately, service providers are the only industry participants that are in a position to control piracy, and they prefer to sell massive bandwidth to pirates instead. When that kind of situation arises, the reasonable thing to do is to impose the cost of curtailing piracy on the industry participants most able to efficiently monitor/curtail (ISPs) and let them pass along the costs. Through statutory allocation of liability for infringement within the existing copyright law framework.

IndyinVirginny on December 19, 2011 at 7:22 AM

But copyright holders are in a bind. The DMCA, which was supposed to balance the interests of content owners and online service providers, did not work. Unfortunately, service providers are the only industry participants that are in a position to control piracy, and they prefer to sell massive bandwidth to pirates instead. When that kind of situation arises, the reasonable thing to do is to impose the cost of curtailing piracy on the industry participants most able to efficiently monitor/curtail (ISPs) and let them pass along the costs. Through statutory allocation of liability for infringement within the existing copyright law framework.

IndyinVirginny on December 19, 2011 at 7:22 AM

Service providers are already taking part in this effort. My provider has started a system where if an allegation of copyright infringement is made against my IP address I’ll receive a notification. After ‘X’ amount of notifications (I don’t remember what the magic number is) my service will be cut off. I’m fine with that as long as I can dispute any claims made against me as I don’t do the torrent piracy thing.
Beyond that, I have no interest in absorbing the cost that ISP’s would have to absorb in order to try to end copyright infringement on the internet….not only is that wrong, but the time they are done we’ll all be paying $1000/month because this will become a big game of whack-a-mole.

SleightOfHand on December 19, 2011 at 8:04 AM

If Issa’s opposition to the bill reinforces your doubts about the bill, then let those doubts be magnified a hundredfold by the fact that SOPA’s greatest – and sometimes only – champion is the MPAA as chaired by one Chris Dodd.

All you need to do is look at who the polls are who suppport SOPA, and even more important, who the companies are who support it. It’s all about content providers trying to keep you from buying content directly from the source so they can remain the middleman and skim money off the top.

I don’t think there’s any type of due process in this bill. Any website, like this one for example, could be shut down entirely for months because one person wrote one comment that supposedly encouranged in some way internet piracy without even getting a chance to defend themselves.

eyedoc on December 19, 2011 at 9:02 AM

The donations the poster above listed are staggering.

This legislation is quite obviously bought and paid for.

And IP piracy is nothing more than the pretextual reason for this abominable legislation.

molonlabe28 on December 19, 2011 at 10:20 AM

The war on software piracy is getting to resemble the war on drugs: so badly fought it hurts very few of the scum we’re supposed to be going after and gets almost no crooks.

MelonCollie on December 19, 2011 at 10:23 AM

This law allows the US government to stop access to foreign websites without due process. Just like China does. Thanks Republican co-sponsers.

Hollywood needs to charge $2/album and $5/movie to own and then piracy will dry up. Adobe needs to charge $30 for Photoshop and not over $100 for a home user. Reasonable pricing solves the piracy problem.

ZippyZ on December 19, 2011 at 10:49 AM

SOPA =

State-Only Propaganda Anywhere!!

…everyone else SHUT UP!!!

landlines on December 19, 2011 at 12:34 PM

Reasonable pricing solves the piracy problem.

ZippyZ on December 19, 2011 at 10:49 AM

Right idea, but it’s reasonable VALUE which will solve piracy.

Our firm sells copyrighted software. The only time we ever had a case of piracy was resolved when the pirate VOLUNTARILY called us up, apologized, and paid us to register the copy and make it legitimate. Why did he do this??? Simply because he could not afford to provide the level customer support which we routinely provide to legitimate clients.

LESSON: Those who do not provide value deserve no state protection. Those who do provide value will be protected, because it is in everyone’s self-interest to do so!!!

landlines on December 19, 2011 at 12:42 PM

Right idea, but it’s reasonable VALUE which will solve piracy.

Our firm sells copyrighted software. The only time we ever had a case of piracy was resolved when the pirate VOLUNTARILY called us up, apologized, and paid us to register the copy and make it legitimate. Why did he do this??? Simply because he could not afford to provide the level customer support which we routinely provide to legitimate clients.

LESSON: Those who do not provide value deserve no state protection. Those who do provide value will be protected, because it is in everyone’s self-interest to do so!!!

landlines on December 19, 2011 at 12:42 PM

Software is sometimes different becasue it requires support and upgrades. My point was that Hollywood is upset that its profit center model is eroding in that illegal downloads is cutting into video sales and rentals. Too damn bad. In the 1970s they did not have home video profits or cable TV profits or Happy Meal Toys profits and Hollywood made tons of money. They need to lower the costs of making movies, and they need to pay the movie stars less. This law is a desperate attempt for them to put the genie back in the bottle. People are not going to pay $20 for a music CD anymore when they can download it illegally for free. People will pay a few dollars for an album if you make it easy for them to download it.

ZippyZ on December 19, 2011 at 1:29 PM

Lamar Smith is a swine at the trough. He is NOT a conservative. As Mark Levin would put it, he is a statist, and therefore a danger to this country and a cancer on the Constitution.

Twitter: @LamarSmithTX21
Web: http://lamarsmith.house.gov/

NealK on December 19, 2011 at 3:08 PM

Stop American Censorship
Stop The SOPA Bill

If You Disagree with the SOPA Bill Go here to call or email your congressman.

web http://americancensorship.org/

RiCkY.D. on December 19, 2011 at 3:53 PM

Not Al Gore but the real the inventors of the Internet call SOPA “draconian legislation that far exceeds its intended scope, and threatens the Constitutional rights of law abiding citizens.” Stop it now!

Dollayo on December 19, 2011 at 5:18 PM

A counterpoint to SOPA – put a hard copyright timelimit on ANY software. Say 15 years, and after that it can be downloaded, modified, and redistributed by anyone in any way. And that’s plenty; the equivalent of 150 years outside the electronics industry.

MelonCollie on December 19, 2011 at 8:35 PM

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