SOPA-thinking It

PIPA

A bunch of websites, including Wikipedia, Reddit, BoingBoing, Craigslist, ICanHazCheezeburger (is that the right number of Zs?) and others have either shut down or done something else visible today to protest SOPA and PIPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act (as it is called in the U.S. House of Representatives) and the Protect I.P. Act (as a similar, complementary act is called in the U.S. Senate). Here’s the video that’s been going around—by the creator of the brilliant series Goodie Bag and Everything is a Remix that takes a stab at explaining it.

If passed by both bodies and signed into law by the President, these bills, along with similar government actions that are lining up in other countries, would, like Armageddon and Deep Impact, deliver profound, expensive, and oddly symmetrical shock waves to the Internet, both in the United States and around the world. That includes Overthinking It.

But, also like Armageddon and Deep Impact, people disagree on just how bad or crassly commercial they are. Votes are coming up, so now is the time to take action if you want to take action, whether you are of the Bruce Willis or Morgan Freeman schools of asteroid-stopping or asteroid-coping.

A lot of us here at Overthinking It have strong feelings about SOPA and PIPA. We try not to use the site to endorse specific political positions or candidates, so we did not shut down today. Still, without Wikipedia, we have no way of producing new content. So we decided to make this neutral official statement on behalf of the site and save our personal opinions for the comment thread.

SOPA

So let’s open the conversation to our writers and readers! What do you think about SOPA and PIPA? What do you think about copyrights? Who do you think should be responsible for identifying lapses or wrongs on the Internet, and what powers should they have to address them? What does our large international readership think of this American issue?

For example, why does the Rdio terms of service care if I make a derivative work of Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” which would not usually be covered by copyright? Do they think it would be commercially viable if I did? Should I make it anyway? Would “We Found Love In a Homeless Place” be inappropriate?

We’ve been thinking of adding forums around here for a while, and this seems like the perfect test case for whether our notoriously civil community can manage to discuss something controversial without being jerks, like the rest of the internet. So sound off in the comments!

FURTHER READING

The Stop Online Piracy Act — H.R.3261.IH — introduced in House

The Protect I.P. Act of 2011 — S.968 — introduced in the Senate

Write Your Representative, from the U.S. House of Representatives

How to Contact U.S. Senators, from the U.S. Senate

“We Found Love,” Rihanna

32 Comments on “SOPA-thinking It”

  1. Orion #

    This is a small point I’ve been developing:

    The Pirate Bay is out-competing record labels and they don’t like it. The model of on-site advertising as the revenue source allows them to offer a price point per song of $0. The Pirate Bay, having a basic grasp of economics, have figured out that you can not demand more than nothing for a product that his literally infinite supply and finite demand (a digital copy of music) and therefore alternative revenue must be found.

     
  2. MechanusSunrise #

    I am opposed to PIPA/SOPA and any form of putting property rights ahead of democracy, equality and freedom.

    What I find most interesting is how much interest PIPA/SOPA have generated in comparison to other issues that have come before Congress. It looks like people don’t give a shit about the 22% of children in the US that go hungry, the blood metals that go into cell phones and IPADs and wireless shit, the pending permanent extinction of polar bears, gorillas or tigers, infringements on many Constitutional rights, violent land grabs in Uganda, India and Vietnam where the army/police kill subsistence farmers who have lived there for generations to clear land for factories owned by Americans to make products for the US, hate crimes, racial profiling and surveillance of Muslims by the NYPD Demographics Unit but if you give minor inconvenience to routine web surfing, people suddenly throw a tantrum. Yes. Many people are protesting censorship but most of those same people do not protest it in other forms.

    I’m being too harsh. Its not their fault. They are just too comfortable/busy/disinterested/selfish/desperate/tired/depressed to question more. More generously, I think the internet got people’s hopes up, since they’ve already accepted censorship and hierarchical access in other spaces like television, print and the visible spaces of cities and other landscapes. What censorship? The censorship that inevitably follows privatization, where getting your message across requires spending more money and not bothering those who spend more money on downtown real estate, ad space, TV shows, professional lobbyists and newspapers. The capitalist press is not a free press. Not as free as an Occupation. The capitalist press is like a state press but beholden to more inhuman market forces – often dominated by cartels and rent-seekers. The Occupy movement disrupted this and the Occupations were, and in many cases are, visible places where anyone’s views can be heard, including dissenting views – spaces that were not payed for with messages that are not proprietary and generate no rent or fees. Views expressed are not beholden to market or state – only to the speaker and the listener, gathered for that purpose. Not beholden to market or state until they are evicted. With SOPA/PIPA the internet is getting evicted by market/state forces working in tandem. You can call it crony capitalism, but I know no other kind of capitalism.

     
    • fenzel #

      I generally take issue with accusations that Americans are apathetic. Everywhere you look around, it seems like everybody is pissed off about something or other.

      It’s certainly not true that nobody cares about hunger or does anything to try to alleviate it – or that polar bears or gorillas have no support from anybody. Lots of people dedicate a lot of time and energy to that stuff, and lots more who don’t have as much time or energy to spread as far across as many things are sympathic and upset by it.

      But when you talk about things like the NYPD or manufacturing standards, or even the environment and endangered species – it’s just that people just don’t care; it’s often that people disagree about what to do.

      What is the proper thing to do about a land grab in Uganda driven by U.S. foreign direct investment (and, in subsaharan Africa especially, more notably Chinese investment these days)? An American political intervention on behalf of the Ugandan subsistence farmers? A lot of people would have problems with westerners thinking they can just go to Africa and solve all their problems for them, and a lot of people would say that the Ugandan people should have the decision as to what to do in this situation. Well, how about tighter regulation on U.S. FDI? A lot of people would have a problem with that, too — why can’t factories and jobs be set up in poor countries that need them? A lot of people will say that what you might see as exploitative slave labor is an improvement in standards of living and something to support. Others would say any time spent worrying about Uganda would be better spent worrying about problems here at home – simpler problems with a more direct impact, which can also be addressed more directly, where individual people can make a greater difference.

      Now, I am playing Devil’s advocate here. I don’t think all these things.

      But you will run into a lot of people who do. The whole AM radio band is full of angry people who have strong opinions on stuff, and don’t see their lack of hewing to a particular acceptable vision by any one person’s standards as a mark of their own failings of moral vigor.

      I read a lot on the Internet these days about how supposedly there are no political parties and everybody in America is lazy and apathetic, and that’s why we have political problems, and that’s just total hogwash. There are definitely political parties with huge differences from each other, even beyond that, people line up in sects and disagree intensely on how to approach problems.

      One of the reasons SOPA and PIPA have attracted so much attention is the luck of being able to build an easy consensus around them (which is “NO”). You see right-wingers and left-wingers alike against these bills, people defending their profits alongside people defending altruistic goals. That is largely a matter of luck — this issue happens to have a position that is clear, actionable, and not divisive — and that people see in their own lives, and that has immediacy and isn’t just an interminable long-term thing.

      There are a lot of very ardent Ron Paulers on the Internet who would very much disagree with your take on censorship being a necessary cosequence of privatization, though – which I think shows that this specific consensus may be, if not brief, then specific and limited.

       
      • MechanusSunrise #

        I agree with the reasons you give for SOPA/PIPA having attracted so much attention. You are right about the role of luck. Its an easy consensus. People are uncomfortable with controversy and will rally behind uncontroversial positions. You don’t have to worry about what the neighbors will think if there is a consensus. Unfortunately that is how republics fail. Nationalist dictatorships on the other hand. . .

        Sorry to digress but I am really talking about SOPA by contrast.

        I also agree that people disagree and that is often why systemic ongoing shit is not addressed adequately. I wasn’t even thinking about that. If my Facebook feed had ever seen a tenth of the number of people outraged over issues like those I mentioned as are outraged over SOPA, disagreeing about the hows all they want, I would concede this point to you. That’s just not true though. Disagreement is not an excuse if you never put enough energy in to reach the point of disagreement. So I think my argument still stands. Why is the sports section so much bigger than the politics section in most local newspapers? Hint: its not because there is more information to report.

        You are right that people would not like a lot of the possible solutions, but if we are honest with ourselves, how much of that is really driven by caring about the consequences? Watch the expressions on people’s faces. I see no compassion, sorrow, disappointment at the allegedly inevitable and hard choices they are faced with as they triumphantly proclaim, for example, that the middle class are a higher priority than the poor. When the Occupations brought the homeless into broad daylight, you could see the disdain on the faces of those TV pundits and hear it in the voices of the radio hosts you mention. Disgust with the poor is not moral vigor, especially when we live in culture that celebrates the laziness and distractions of the wealthy. Just look at advertising.

        I do think people care, but when there is so often a reason to not do shit about anything you care about, to not even bring it up to the people in your life, then it counts for very little. In the meantime the world goes around and that pristine rain forest in at Yasuni National Forest in Ecuador with the most biodiversity in the world and more tree species in a single hectare than in all of North America you care so much about are destroyed to be dredged for oil for your car. We can still stop this. Will we? I hope so. If not, at least you’ll be able to read about it on Wikipedia.

         
        • Genevieve #

          It’s no simple trick to convince people why they should care.

          A huge swathe of the folks opposing SOPA/PIPA are *not* activists or even people more likely to read the op eds than the sports page – they’re grandmothers who saw a clever video. The thing that truly tips the scales for SOPA/PIPA is that the people who would actually be most hurt by it are ALSO the people who are in the best position to make compelling arguments against it. Who makes the clever internet videos that everyone’s grandma watches? The people in SOPA/PIPA’s crosshairs.

          If the homeless, or the Ugandans, or the Ecuadorian rain forest, were able to make their own pervasive and persuasive appeals, with convenient links to petitions and Senator’s email addresses, then they’d have a LOT more people behind them.

          Unfortunately, they require intervention… and as soon as you have a 3rd party intervening on their behalf, you have (1)a certain degree of emotional detachment, and (2)the appearance of an agenda. Of course, wherever there appears to be an agenda, you get *automatic,* almost visceral dissent – people don’t necessarily doubt that they should care, they doubt the motives of the people telling them they should care.

           
  3. Pasteur #

    I’m going to sound like a horrible person, but SOPA/PIPA is an important thing, and in many ways more important than general or specific human suffering. The internet represents a change in the world on par with or exceeding the printing press. The future of humanity is dependent on its ideas and information, not on the welfare of its citizens, so to speak. To quote Borges/Shaw, “Neither poverty nor pain are cumulative.” But the progress of our ideas is.

    The debate may be over just how bad SOPA or PIPA may be. What I have to say is that the Internet is the most important thing we have to offer our children; and so while we may defend it out of convenience, camaraderie, and comfort, it is not just an issue of censorship. SOPA represents the burning of all books.

     
    • MechanusSunrise #

      Stopping SOPA is extremely important; however, I see absolutely zero reason why SOPA and human suffering should be ranked. They are in no way mutually exclusive causes that anyone must choose between. Actually, the causes are synergistic.

       
    • Matthew Wrather #

      @Pasteur

      When you talk about how Important the Internet is, and how we need to not eff it up for the next generation, you’re getting at the area that I’m interested in with this whole thing. Whether you think that SOPA/PIPA is a good idea (it isn’t) or is a well-crafted law (it isn’t), it is an attempt—a ham-fisted, anti-democratic attempt, but still an attempt—to cope with a basic problem that we’re gong to have to address.

      With the advent of the internet and the advent in the developed world of a knowledge economy based on making ideas, not things, our culture needs to cope with a whole new set of circumstances that our laws were not designed for. And because the transformation is not smooth, and because it doesn’t happen to all people and places at the same time, there are people, regions, and industries all over the continuum on the transition from industry to information, sot he process is particularly messy.

      But it seems to me that there’s a countervailing large-scale move away from lives organized around nations and more towards lives organized around corporations. I’m not particularly proud to admit this, but there are days when I think of myself as a Mac user before I think of myself as an American. It’s just that the former is more relevant to my day-to-day experience.

      I’m not saying that we need to solve this problem by everyone learning Perl or something, or returning to the days of ARPAnet, but it does seem to me inevitable that something SOPA-like—something asserting business control over the information economy—is in the cards if current trends continue.

       
  4. Martin #

    These bills have global relevance, not only because certain provisions of it imply asserting jurisdiction over foreign websites, but also because American copyright bills tend to be adapted by other countries pressured by the U.S. (especially those USTRs Special 301 Report), like the DMCA. It wouldn’t be surprising to find bills in other countries with similar language employed in SOPA and PIPA.

    Therefore, it would be naive to think that just because you are not American, you will not be affected by such overreaching legislation. These bills are a global concern, not just American.

     
    • fenzel #

      The treaty you want to read about is ACTA.

      Also, be prepared for the same tactic they’re using in Spain over copyright and used in Yemen with regards to the military actions there against Al Qaeda camps — because the people in general are opposed to the U.S., the government can make a secret deal with U.S. diplomats and business advocates that is in their mutual interests, but then tell the people the U.S. bullied them into it.

      The U.S. consents to this sort of stuff and is generally fine with being painted as the bad guy as long as it gets what it wants.

      So, the Spanish government wants to crack down on the Internet. It makes a secret deal with the State department to support ACTA or to push for a SOPA-like law in Spain. Then it tells the people that it doesn’t want to censor the Internet, but the big, bad U.S. is forcing them to. Then the people don’t go after their own government as much for it – which they can potentially affect – but instead rage at a proxy thousands of miles away that they have much less ability to change.

      This stuff with regards to the Yemen aerial bombings on terrorist camps – which the Yemeni president had secretly asked for and then publicly condemned to save face – was in the circulated diplomatic cables.

      Of course, in Spain, the people are already pretty well fed-up and protesting, but that’s just a recent example I heard of.

       
  5. EZ #

    To understand why SOPA/PIPA are bad, just look at how current copyright law has been enforced and what the landscape would look like had SOPA/PIPA been law ten (or even five) years ago.

    The RIAA has shown that it’ll sue anyone it thinks might be illegally sharing files without any research into whether or not those folks are doing it, giving those people the choice between paying exorbitant legal fees to prove their innocence or paying a smaller, yet still large settlement.

    Imagine if you gave them the authority to un-index a site from search engines and disconnect their IP from their domain name on the basis of a court order, but not a conviction in court. They would basically have the same leverage against Internet companies as they do against individuals they’ve been suing for ten years. The small company could pay to go to court to prove their innocence and have their domain re-established – or it could fold. YouTube in its first year would certainly have folded. So would have Wikipedia. So would most social websites we take for granted today.

    Under SOPA/PIPA, since the intellectual property holder can go directly to the domain host without even contacting the content provider (sidestepping the DMCA) any small company can be put in the position of proving its innocence after already being punished for a crime it wasn’t even convicted of.

     
    • fenzel #

      This is a very good point. The track record of policing of, say, YouTube by the recording industry is really, really bad. Tons of videos get removed that ought not to be removed with no recourse and no due process.

      Artists get _their own videos_ removed from YouTube because a record company _they don’t work for_ uses an algorithm that recognizes _their song_.

      Also, derivative works that should be protected under fair use are removed without notice or recourse as well. While this might be something in the YouTube terms of service, it isn’t the law – but there’s every reason to believe this non-law would be enforced just as arbitrarily and zealously by record and movie company advocates as they kill sites left and right under their new color of authority – with no accountability to anyone.

      The big issue is that there is the no recourse – the no way to fix it that isn’t prohibitively time-consuming or that is even likely to work.

      It puts a huge burden on the wrong people. If you have a copyright, the onus is on you to assert your copyright, not on everyone else to stay away from it. And that means you need to follow due process and sue infringing individuals in court if they infringe – not shut down whole websites with no trial just because somewhere upstream it _might_ be costing you money.

      There’s the separate debte about what to do about the piracy issue, but the enforcement mechanisms in SOPA and PIPA are totally absurd, and the real affront to everybody’s intelligence and ethics.

       
  6. Lee #

    A couple of things I want to add to the conversation:

    1) I really hope that the SOPA/PIPA outrage leads to further action against other egregious acts of corporate/legislative collusion, such as the Farm Bill, that have similarly huge ramifications for our daily lives.

    2) What is the way forward? Let’s hope/assume that SOPA/PIPA dies. Then what? The fight slowly grinds on until we reach the true tipping point where media companies either adapt or die?

     
    • EZ #

      “Then what? The fight slowly grinds on until we reach the true tipping point where media companies either adapt or die?”

      I mean… yeah. That’s how new technology has always worked. Old media has spent enough time killing new technology (how’s Internet radio doing these days? I can’t stream my favorite independent radio station because the fee structure is different/prohibitively expensive compared to broadcast radio) so now they’re going to have to start adapting. And if they can’t new companies will emerge and do it for them.

       
    • fenzel #

      1) I don’t think it will. Once the issues get too big, it’s hard to sustain a consensus. Although there have already been some positive movements on the farm subsidy stuff recently – the ethanol subdidy is going away, I hear.

      2) Welcome to politics. The fights never stop, and you have to be eternally vigilant – because the site that makes money off corruption gets to do this for their job, whereas people like you and me have the inconvenience of jobs and lives to get in the way of our aspirations to be relentless political attack dog.

       
    • MechanusSunrise #

      1) This is my hope as well.
      2) Yes, although I imagine it will only be a half death. There may still be a desire for over-hyped crap, even if only as a kitsch status symbol. My dad is proud of using AOL, for example.

       
    • Erigion #

      1) No chance. SOPA/PIPA is the perfect storm for Internet Rage which won’t last beyond this fight.

      2) Assuming SOPA/PIPA are gutted or stopped outright, what next? The old media giants aren’t going to sit idly by. They already have the DMCA yet they’re pushing for SOPA/PIPA and I’m sure even if they got one of those through untouched, they’d be pushing for something more a few years down the line.

      Will the tech giants finally start spending large amounts of money to lobby Congress? Or are they just going to protest about it every few years when a new piece of legislation comes around?

      Two articles about this. The one from The Verge is a bit more in depth but the Gizmodo one has a line about the “techno-libertarian utopianism of Silicon Valley” which made me chuckle.

      http://www.theverge.com/2012/1/18/2716516/money-power-and-congress-how-lobbyists-will-determine-the-fate-of-sopa

      http://gizmodo.com/5877237/sopa-and-pipa-are-the-internets-own-damn-fault?tag=sopa

       
  7. jjsaul #

    Even were one to be in complete agreement with the intent behind SOPA, it’s written to encourage frivolous and abusive takedowns.

    We need only look to the stunning abuse of patent laws over the past decade to have a hint of how media companies would use it, but even more worrisome, just think of how it would be abused by political actors. The Daily Show is about 1/3rd clips from Fox News. Think Roger Ailes would hesitate for a moment to set up a section of the legal department that is tasked with nothing other than gleefully blizzarding out takedown notices all day and night? The cost of sending the notice is trivial. The cost of responding to them, and the risks of violation, would be immeasurable.

    Considering the fact that nearly every politician’s web site is using Creative Commons stock without the required attribution, at least it’s nice that every one of those sites, and every site that links to them, are subject to immediate takedown notice the moment the law would go into effect.

    The 40 Inspiring Speeches video is easily one of the best and most creative pieces of art I’ve seen on the web.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to erase it from the web entirely?

     
    • Matthew Belinkie #

      Ah, but the 40 Inspirational Speeches video isn’t the best example. It’s a clear violation of YouTube’s terms of service, and it COULD have been taken down at any point over the past 3 years (if any of the dozen studios had complained). I suppose I could argue it’s Fair Use, but I’d have to go to court to argue that, and in the meantime I certainly wouldn’t fault YouTube for taking it down. They’re not the ACLU.

       
    • shejustlaughs #

      But would the cost of takedown notices be as trivial to the people who license their content on Creative Commons? Would an artist whose work was copied onto a shirt and sold for profit be able to take down CafePress (or even just the infringing user’s store page) as easily as Disney could take down all of Tumblr just because one person posted a picture of Cinderella? So few internet writers/artists/creators can afford to even think about suing for infringement as it is. Many find it better to use that time and energy instead to create more, to cultivate the paying audience they do (or can) have. Besides, why would this artist want to take down all of CafePress, when they could open their own store on the site to sell their own merchandise? Don’t let big companies destroy the internet just because they don’t know how to use it.

       
  8. JeremyT #

    Today, out of all the things I usually see on the Internet, I’ve seen SOPA protest cards on ten different sites, and discussion of SOPA on three more. Four of them were blocked completely. On top of that, I’m not a U.S. citizen, so I can’t write to a Congressman. I adhere to a Westphalian model of foreign principles, so I am wholly unwilling to protest the internal workings of a foreign power. I have the utmost faith in my own government’s ability to craft legislation to stop online piracy without turnoing into Internet Mao-Jong Stalin. I feel like a rat in a cage. What am I to do?

     
    • Matthew Wrather #

      If any of our international readership disagrees with JeremyT, there’s a form for foreign nationals to petition the US State Department on many of the SOPA protest sites.

       
  9. Erigion #

    What should be done about protecting creations now? It’s amazingly easy to rip a copy of a movie or CD or ebook and slap it on any number of websites. In some ways this is the current environment we’re in and content creators need to suck it up, but should they be given tools that let them protect their creations without having to send a DCMA notice to every site that’s hosting their work?

    Is OPEN really a better alternative since it uses US International Trade Commission instead of the Justice Department to determine whether or not to block money from being transferred to accounts run by foreign websites? In theory this would be more effective than hacking the basic workings of the Internet in a way that could be easily circumvented, but I’m sure there are ways around OPEN’s solution as well.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OPEN

     
    • Matthew Wrather #

      We began to talk about this on the last podcast. Taking a wholly non-normative view (that is, without engaging questions of whether people should or shouldn’t do copying), businesses need to change the way they make money when circumstances render the old model unworkable. There’s only so long you can insist that the world conform to your business model and not the other way around.

      And the answer at the moment is…nobody knows. There are a few bright spots—the recent Louis CK concert video gets mentioned a lot here—but there are no systems in place yet nearly as robust as, say, commercial television was for all those decades.

       
      • MechanusSunrise #

        A business model akin to kickstarter.com or Radiohead’s release of In Rainbows might be sustainable for many artists. In terms of production costs of music, for example, the first copy takes a lot to produce. The second and later copies cost almost nothing. A business model needs to be based on paying for the production of the first copy or on voluntary payments for later copies.

         
        • Wizardy #

          Exactly. Why would anyone want to invest in producing something without the chance for it’s guaranteed success? Kickstarter is the perfect example of the fact, that people are willing to pay for products they want IN ADVANCE as long as they have been given the option to choose the amount. Even moreso, projects like Bandcamp or Humble Bundle, where you can pay anything from 0 to 1000+ dolars for a song or a game, have proven to be a huge success! So the fault is clearly on the publishers side for not adapting to the age of voluntary generosity.

          Also, I’m not an American either and I still think SOPA is more then just an american problem. If this bill succeedes, ACTA is the next step.

           
  10. MrB #

    Before I start I’ll just say – I’m a UK citizen, don’t hold any copyrights, own a small business, occasionally download stuff (mainly RPG rules, but that doesn’t make it better/worse or more/less illegal. Just more nerdy) but I’d generally classify myself as LN for the DnD players out there. So everything is coming from that place.

    I think IP is important, in general. And I can’t for one moment fault major copyright and IP owners for wanting to protect their investment. Downloading/piracy has to harm the business (although I wouldn’t be willing to take a stab at how much). People above have made the point that distribution is free and so costs should be lower and thats an argument but it seems to me to be a _moral_ argument.

    Maybe costs should be lower, maybe Hollywood are evil, maybe etc. But what they’re not (largely – there are well publicised exceptions) is breaking the law. The Stop Sopa lobby, Reddit’s founders in particular, seem to be saying that the internet is a new way of doing things and as such existing legislation shouldn’t apply. While I’m happy to say the legislation is out of date, that doesn’t stop it from being legislation. Piracy is flatout illegal, whether you think it should be or not. If everyone stopped pirating stuff, SOPA would never have come up for discussion.

    Now, from what I’ve read SOPA certainly seems to be a shockingly bad piece of legislation that would have a widespread chilling effect and I think it should be opposed. But what I also think should be opposed is the way this is being pitched on the internet as a battle between heroic techies versus the evil powers of big business. Businesses have a right to protect their investments. They have a right to expect the legislative and regulatory environment in which they developed products to remain roughly consistent and not to be ignored just because a percentage of the population believe those factors are outdated.

    What I’m basically getting at here, in quite a roundabout way, is that yes, big business is about making money but that that is not a bad thing and they shouldn’t be villified for it. This isn’t so much directed at the comments above me as at some of the more extreme rhetoric found in other places of the web. Overthinkers so far seem able to discuss it rationally “without being jerks, like the rest of the internet”.

    We can haz forumz?

     
    • mmmpretzels #

      “But what I also think should be opposed is the way this is being pitched on the internet as a battle between heroic techies versus the evil powers of big business. Businesses have a right to protect their investments. They have a right to expect the legislative and regulatory environment in which they developed products to remain roughly consistent and not to be ignored just because a percentage of the population believe those factors are outdated.”

      Businesses are just individuals working together. The fact that they are businesses doesn’t give them rights that other individuals don’t have.

      Businesses _want_ to protect their investments, certainly. We all do.

      Businesses don’t have a right to make a profit. They _get_ to make a profit if they have a business model that works. They don’t have a right to expect a consistent legislative environment, either, any more than any individual person does. Things change, laws change.

      When you work to create or change legislation in order to create the opportunity to make more money for yourself, whoever you are, you are also affecting the lives of other individual people, people who also want to protect the quality of their own lives.

      If your proposed legislative change affects someone negatively, they will fight you. That is how open societies work. Being a business doesn’t exempt you from that.

      A large part of that fight will be rhetorical. “Heroic techies vs. evil corporations.” “Heroic job-creators vs. evil anarchist pirates.” Whatever. You start a fight, you’re going to get hit.

       
      • MrB #

        Yeah, I was probably wrong to use the word “right”. I didn’t mean it in a legal sense, I simply meant they have the, I dunno, the power, the right-in-a-non-legal-sense, to make a profit.

        And yes, regulatory environments change but my point is that ‘big business’ is on the flip side of this. They’re not asking for a change in the law, they’re asking for current restrictions against copyright theft to be tightened. They’re doing this because the meta-law of “Don’t take copyrighted stuff” is being ignored by a decent percentage of the population (fair use, parody and other legal methods aside.)

        What seems to be happening – and again I stress Im not in the US so am getting a possibly warped view of this – is that big businesses are wanting an existing law tightened. There’s no fundamental change being made to what is illegal, simply to how that is being enforced.

        If Pirate Bay et al didn’t and had never existed then this wouldn’t be required. Maybe their business model could be adapted to an internet age more succesfully but that would incur costs for them and I have to feel a little sorry for them (this is the smallest violion in the world playing just for multi-billion dollar international companies) that they are coming in for such a backlash simply for wishing that a meta-law that benefits them and objectively harms noone was enforced.