SOPA

January 18th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Hollywood may have bitten off more than they can chew.

The studios got their lackeys in Congress to put forward a bill called SOPA – Stop Online Piracy Act.

Rather than target those actually infringing on – it targets anyone who links to sites that allegedly infringe – including search engines such as . It basically wants and others to act as filters on behalf of Hollywood – a law China could be proud of.

The ramifications are massive. Someone might post a comment on Kiwiblog mentioning the name of a site which tells you where some good torrent sites are. Bang – Kiwiblog is out of the search engines.

But it gets worse than that. Under SOPA, ISPs (US ones anyway) could be forced to block access to sites. Just like in Syria and Libya. A summary of views against from Wikipedia:

On TIME‘s Techland blog, Jerry Brito wrote, “Imagine if the U.K. created a blacklist of American newspapers that its courts found violated celebrities’ privacy? Or what if France blocked American sites it believed contained hate speech?”[21] Similarly, the Center for Democracy and Technology warned, “If SOPA and PIPA are enacted, the US government must be prepared for other governments to follow suit, in service to whatever social policies they believe are important—whether restricting hate speech, insults to public officials, or political dissent.”[22]

Laurence H. Tribe, a Harvard University professor of constitutional law, released an open letter on the web stating that SOPA would “undermine the openness and free exchange of information at the heart of the Internet. And it would violate the First Amendment.”

My views are simple. No Government should censor the Internet. If people access illegal material on the Internet then they should be held liable in a court for that. If people commit crimes on the Internet, then they should be arrested for that. And yes if people infringe copyright on the Internet, they should be liable under the law. But to have laws giving the power to require all ISPs in a country to block particular sites is a practice that should remain the norm in China, not the US and definitely not NZ.

Amusingly the MPAA has actually cited China in their advocacy, with the MPAA Chairman having said that as Google has figured out how to block sites when China requests it, it can’t be that big an issue.

Anyway the backlash has begun and could be huge. is closing down later today for 24 hours as part of a black out protest. I can just imagine the millions of pissed off Americans who will be e-mailing their complaints into Congress.

Think if Google did the same? Maybe even for just three hours the search engines all turned off and displayed a protest page?

The MPAA and RIAA are used to being the biggest players in the game. I think they are about to find out they’re not.

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31 Responses to “SOPA”

  1. tvb (4,422 comments) says:

    Theft of copyright material is a crime. What you are complaining about is someone deliberately providing information on how to commit that crime and in some cases making money out of it. I would have thought in someOne involving your blog would give you a men’s rea defence and that would be obvious.

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  2. David Farrar (1,895 comments) says:

    TVB: What defence. No due process here. The MPAA go to a friendly Judge in California and says these sites have links to sites that infringe our copyright, and bang every ISP in the US has to block access to you.

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  3. Peter (1,712 comments) says:

    And it may be a link you aren’t even aware you’re hosting. Comments links, for example. The link may be legitimate, at first, then the target site is swapped out or redirected a few days later.

    Want to take out a competitors site? Send out the spam bots to drop links. Look for server vulnerabilities that allow you to create “hidden” pages on that domain. Then report domain to MPAA.

    Competitor gone.

    This law is vile. It will catch a lot of legitimate sites.

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  4. Fletch (6,389 comments) says:

    It’s already happening. Someone posted this in GD the other day.
    A young guy in the UK is being extradited to the US for just listing places on his website where illegal content may be downloaded from.

    Note, that this is not illegal under UK law where he lives. He’s never stepped foot outside the UK in his life, yet is being sent to the US where he may be imprisoned for 10 years!

    On Friday, Westminster Magistrates’ Court agreed with American prosecutors and ruled the GP’s son should face court in New York on two charges of copyright infringement. He is accused of setting up a website from his university bedroom that listed places where films and TV programmes could be illegally downloaded. Legal experts have claimed this is not an offence in the UK because he did not download the entertainment himself.
    His supporters, including Mrs O’Dwyer, 55, a paediatric nurse, and his sister Lucy, a trainee solicitor, insist he is not a criminal worthy of such heavy-handed tactics.

    Speaking at her £400,000 renovated country house in Bolsover, Derbyshire, Mrs O’Dwyer said: ‘Richard has been hung out to dry by the magistrates’ court and it’s a disgrace. It’s not right that we should be put through this. We are decent people and Richard is a decent young man from a good home.
    ‘I’m not afraid to say I’m disgusted and deeply saddened, and I just hope there is a way out.’
    The Extradition Act 2003, signed by the then US President George W. Bush and former Prime Minister Tony Blair, was designed to make it easier to extradite terrorists after the events of 9/11. But campaigners argue that American officials have extradited far more British citizens from these shores than vice versa.

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2086800/Richard-ODwyer-extradition-Britain-throwing-son-wolves-says-mother-Julia.html#ixzz1jkowXzPT

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  5. Fletch (6,389 comments) says:

    A better version of the story with more info –

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2086310/Richard-ODwyer-extradition-Student-faces-10-years-US-jail-echo-Gary-McKinnon.html

    His lawyer Ben Cooper argued that it did not store copyright material itself and merely pointed users to other sites, in the same way that Google and Yahoo operate.
    But District Judge Quentin Purdy said the extradition could go ahead, saying there were ‘said to be direct consequences of criminal activity by Richard O’Dwyer in the U.S. albeit by him never leaving the North of England’.

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  6. unaha-closp (1,165 comments) says:

    If this passes Google is going to become useless. What search engines aren’t American based and will be less effected?

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  7. Graeme Edgeler (3,289 comments) says:

    Note, that this is not illegal under UK law where he lives.

    A standard rule relating to extradition is that the offence must be an offence in both the country seeking extradition and the country in which the person sought to be extradited has been found. I would be very surprised were this not the case in the United Kingdom.

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  8. Mary Rose (393 comments) says:

    The Bill sounds heavy handed, but:

    >Wikipedia is closing down later today for 24 hours as part of a black out protest.

    I kind of thought “so what?” about that. They may find no one much notices or cares. It’s not like you can trust everything you read on it anyway.

    >Think if Google did the same? Maybe even for just three hours the search engines all turned off and displayed a protest page?

    That WOULD upset a lot of people. Might cost businesses reliant on search engines to point customers their way. But again, the world would still turn.

    Not sure if you’re supporting the idea of a strike, btw?? ;-)

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  9. immigant (950 comments) says:

    If this Bill passes and it will, we wil all be one step closer to teh NWO

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  10. metcalph (1,430 comments) says:

    I have little sympathy for Richard O’Dwyer considering that he made 150,000 pounds from his website.

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  11. Weihana (4,537 comments) says:

    tvb,


    Theft of copyright material is a crime.

    The term “theft” in relation to copyright material is a misnomer. Copyright infringement does not amount to theft. Refer Dowling v. United States (1985).

    I believe the same is true in New Zealand. I do not believe s219 of the Crimes Act covers copyright infringement and I would assume the same reasoning applied in the US case would apply here. I’m not even sure if downloading infringing material for personal use is a crime, but is rather a civil offence for which the rights holder is entitled to claim compensation. I can’t see anything in s131 or s198 of the Copyright Act which makes it an offence to possess (for personal use) infringing material.

    What definitely is a crime is distributing copyright material. I guess anyone using Bittorrent would be guilty of that, but perhaps other forms would not be.

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  12. Weihana (4,537 comments) says:

    immigant,

    The White House appears to have expressed opposition to the bill and without the President’s authorization two thirds of each house in Congress would need to approve the bill. Seems unlikely given the contentious nature of the bill.

    Then again, the President said he doesn’t support indefinite detention while at the same time signing a bill that authorized indefinite detention.

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  13. tristanb (1,127 comments) says:

    There are two main reasons that many people think “right-wing” is bad.

    That’s because:
    1. People who are racists and try to terrorise Asian communities, or shoot up a camp full of kids, call themselves right-wing.
    2. People who call themselves “right-wing” seem to support laws which are bought by companies and only harm people. (The right-wing needs to stop doing leftie stuff, like using taxpayers money to help failing banks.)

    Recording something and playing it back is not a “productive” job. Copying costs nearly nothing nowadays. So these people lobby governments so to make it illegal to make a copy of something. That’s restricting freedoms, and forcing us to pay someone else for a job we could do ourselves.

    Performing music would exist naturally – we’d pay to see a concert. But recording – that only exists because there’s a law that restricts the population from doing something (copying an MP3) that harms no-one.

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  14. Weihana (4,537 comments) says:

    tristanb,

    Recording something in a professional studio is most certainly productive. Copyright and recording are two different things. Copying is easy, recording (or composing for that matter) is not.

    Further, copyright is not intended primarily to protect the process of recording, but rather it is to protect the creativity of the artist. Why be creative and share that creativity with the world if there are no rewards?

    But where I agree with you is that those rewards can come in other forms, such as concerts, movie theatres etc, and it is clear that these revenue streams remain productive for artists despite over ten years of widespread file sharing.

    I think the rights accorded to copyright holders have to be realistic, and expecting to have draconian laws passed to try and stop the march of technology is not realistic and harms society more than it helps protect artists.

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  15. PaulL (5,981 comments) says:

    Tristanb: it’s not true to say it harms noone. It’s not theft – you’re not taking an item from someone. It is potentially preventing someone from commercially exploiting something they own.

    Weihana, on bittorrent – interesting question. Hypothesise the following:
    1. That it is legal / borderline legal to have a copy of something infringing, so long as you don’t distribute
    2. That is is legal (under fair use laws) to distribute a small piece of something
    3. That the internet lets you assemble lots of small pieces of fair use into an entire copy of something

    Is it possible that, depending on how your bittorrent is configured, that lots of people can give you a small piece of the whole movie, and none of them infringed because they only gave you a small piece, and you didn’t infringe because you have a full copy, but only for personal use? That’d certainly be an interesting position.

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  16. Kimble (4,440 comments) says:

    I wish someone had had the god-like foresight to approach the MPAA and RIAA back in the 1980’s and get the ok for people who individually possess some material to break it up into a million smaller pieces, and tomake them available to anyone who wants to contact thousands of different people to collect different individual pieces and paste them together to make a full copy.

    I am sure they would have laughed and said, “sure, if someone wants to go to all that trouble, then they can do it”.

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  17. Fletch (6,389 comments) says:

    The copyright law in NZ is whack.
    As far as I’m aware, you’re allowed to make copies of the music you own to put onto your MP3 player (iPod etc), but you’re not allowed to do the same thing with movies (to iPod or a make a backup DVD) you legally own. This is particularly weird, because a lot of Blu-rays are sold these days in a kind of triple pack that includes blu-ray, DVD, and a digital copy for your player. – http://bit.ly/xyDIKu

    http://www.consumer.org.nz/reports/copyright-law

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  18. SHG (316 comments) says:

    Ironically the Internet industry is worth far far more to the USA than the movie and music industries. It’s just that the movie and music industries devote much more of their money to bribes, sorry I meant political lobbying.

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  19. Manolo (13,774 comments) says:

    List of SOPA supporters: http://www.webguild.org/20111222/what-is-sopa-who-is-behind-it

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  20. Swampy (191 comments) says:

    If we’re going to have this debate about web filtering in US how about debate about our Great Firewall the DCE system in NZ that is not under any legislation or scrutiny.

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  21. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    http://blog.reddit.com/2012/01/technical-examination-of-sopa-and.html

    a pretty good laymans explanation.

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  22. Jeremy (319 comments) says:

    Defending copyright is a laudable aim but this SOPA law is draconian.

    A website is required to be forcibly removed by an ISP and search engine results if a single other person accuses it of linking to copyrighted material.

    Opposing this is about the only thing Obama has done that I approve of.

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  23. tristanb (1,127 comments) says:

    Why be creative and share that creativity with the world if there are no rewards?

    Then don’t be. Or do it because you enjoy it. Or do it because you make money in other ways. Go busking, or sell an original painting.

    No-one’s paying any of the contributors here. Plenty of things happen without a guaranteed income.

    It is potentially preventing someone from commercially exploiting something they own.

    They don’t “own” it! How does a musician own an MP3 on my computer? I put it there. I DL’d it of a few others on the internet.

    Overstretched analogy time:
    Imagine, if you will, a law when anyone mentions (for example) Robyn Malcolm’s name, that she is to be paid 50 cents. She’d have made a lot of money.

    But then, she finds out that people have been mentioning her name without paying her! Have they been stealing from her? She’s been deprived of money! She estimates about $400,000 in lost income! Do we need massive fines and penalties?

    Or is that $400,000 loss only in existence because of income that was guaranteed by a nonsensical law in the first place? Especially when we find that much of the money she gets goes to others, who lobbied the government to get these laws passed.

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  24. Weihana (4,537 comments) says:

    tristanb,

    Copyright doesn’t provide a “gauranteed income”. What it provides is the opportunity to make an income from creative effort. You can be apathetic towards the creation of artistic works, but personally I find value in them and anyone who downloads such things likely finds value in them as well. The concern is whether we will still be able to download them if we all keep copying them without rewarding the artists, producers, distributors etc.

    Some of my favourite movies cost tens, if not hundreds, of millions to make. They will not be made if they have no opportunity to generate revenue from their investment.

    Point is the creators must have some rights to their intellectual works. I’m not saying they should have the rights granted in draconian legislation like SOPA, but they should have some rights. The reality is that technology will mean their income has to depend more on things like concerts, theatres and the like rather than strcit copyright enforcement which is increasingly impractical.

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  25. Weihana (4,537 comments) says:

    tristanb,


    They don’t “own” it! How does a musician own an MP3 on my computer? I put it there.

    Yes they do own it because the law says they do. You could ask the same question about a piece of land. How does a person own something God/Nature/Aliens put there?

    Your analogy with Robyn Malcolm’s name is not a good one. First it’s not unique. Second it doesn’t really have any commercial value that needs protecting. Third, granting a property right in relation to the name serves no purpose.

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  26. Weihana (4,537 comments) says:

    tristanb,

    Further to the ownership issue….the reason they own the information is because it is unique and creative. You may have copied onto your MP3 player but your action would have been impossible without the creative effort of the artist in the first instance, and the productive efforts of the recording industry in the second instance.

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  27. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    Weihana

    The Rolling Stones own “Exile…” that’s a given.

    From my reading of this proposal there is much room for interpretation and this has what has got web sites concerned.

    Again from my reading ,admittedly brief on it , the proposal goes further than strict liability, you can be completely ignorant of something that has occurred and still be punished

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  28. ZenTiger (435 comments) says:

    Wiki has now gone dark. I grabbed a screenshot of it and thought I’d discuss another aspect of SOPA – that increasingly governments place the onus (risks and costs) of policing on business: Please click on this broken Link

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  29. Mark (1,488 comments) says:

    metcalph (735) Says:
    January 18th, 2012 at 12:12 pm
    I have little sympathy for Richard O’Dwyer considering that he made 150,000 pounds from his website.

    Metcalph you are missing the point, in all of the articles that I have read on this what O’Dwyer has done in itself is not being defended but what must be a major concern for the Brits is that its government looks as though it has signed up to a treaty that for all intents and purposes as ceded jurisdiction on this matter to the US. O’Dwyer in all probability has not broken any British law, lives in the UK and his website is based in the UK but along come the americans and seek extradition because he has broken laws in America. For fucks sake I drive my car on the left hand side of the road which is also illegal in America

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  30. Manolo (13,774 comments) says:

    As we speak: http://www.foxbusiness.com/technology/2012/01/18/popular-web-sites-stage-protests-against-anti-piracy-bills/

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  31. Manolo (13,774 comments) says:

    A corrupt-to-the-bone Chris Dodd defends SOPA: http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/science-updates/chris-dodd-motion-pictures-association-defend-sopa-anti-piracy-bill

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