Wikipedia is on strike today

If you try looking something up today on Wikipedia, you won’t be able to.  The ubiquitous online encyclopedia is shutting down as a way to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) currently before Congress.  Other sites, such as Reddit and Boing Boing are also joining the strike.  Google and others will not shut down, but they will put up messages decrying the attempt at internet “censorship.”  Here are some details:

Though the Stop Online Piracy Act has the support from the likes of Hollywood, the music industry, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, many Silicon Valley firms say it effectively amounts to censorship. To show their opposition to the bill, some sites are planning a service blackout on Jan. 18. Hayley Tsukayama reports:

Wikipedia, Reddit and Boing Boing are planning to black out their services Wednesday to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act by showing users the bill’s effect on Web companies. These companies object to language in the bills, which are aimed at stopping online piracy on foreign Web sites, that grant the U.S. government the right to block entire Web sites with copyright-infringing content on them from the Internet.

Wikipedia will block all of its English-language pages — the first time since the encylopedia’s 2001 launch that it has ever restricted access to those pages as a form of protest.

“[It’s] a decision that wasn’t lightly made,” the company said on its blog Monday. The decision to take down the free encyclopedia’s English pages was made with the input of 1800 Wikipedia users who voted overwhelmingly in favor of the blackout, according to statement from the Wikimedia Foundation. . . .

via SOPA protests planned by Google, Wikipedia and others on Jan. 18 – The Washington Post.

What would SOPA do?  As I understand it, the target is sites that pirate movies and music.  But what the bill does is to allow for court orders that would actually take down sites–including those from other countries–by delisting the domains and stopping search engines and service providers from accessing them.  From Everything You Need to Know about Congress’s Online Piracy Bills:

At a basic level, SOPA — and its Senate analogue, the Protect IP Act — would enable copyright holders and the Justice Department to get court orders against sites that “engage in, enable, or facilitate” copyright infringement. That could include, say, sites that host illegal mp3s or sites that link to such sites (the revised House bill focuses primarily on foreign sites like, oh, Pirate Bay). Courts could bar advertisers and payment companies such as PayPal from doing business with the offending sites in question, order search engines to stop listing the accused infringers, or even require Internet service providers to block access entirely. The bills contain other provisions, too, like making it a felony to stream unauthorized content online. . . .

Why are tech start-ups so vehemently opposed? These companies have argued that the bills are tantamount to Internet censorship. Rather than receiving a notification for copyright violations, sites now face immediate action — up to and including being taken down before they have a chance to respond. Intermediary sites like YouTube and Flickr could lose their “safe harbor” protections. Nonprofit or low-budget sites might not have the resources to defend themselves against costly lawsuits. And, meanwhile, larger companies like Google and Facebook could be forced to spend considerable time and money policing their millions of offerings each day for offending material.

Do these online piracy bills threaten free speech? Plenty of law professors, including Harvard’s Laurence Tribe, think so. The original version of the bill would have allowed copyright holders to block advertising and payment services for an accused Web site before a judicial hearing even took place. The new version of the House bill would require a hearing first, but, as Julian Sanchez notes, the bill “still makes it far too easy for U.S. corporations to effectively destroy foreign Internet sites based on a one-sided proceeding in U.S. courts.” Other critics have worried that the bill’s language is far too broad, threatening all sorts of potentially benign Internet uses. What’s more, the Electronic Frontier Foundation worries that the bill cracks down on electronic tools to circumvent government blacklists that are essential to human rights activists and political dissidents around the world.

Could the bills actually “break” the Internet? Many tech experts think so. The bills would give courts the power to order rogue sites to be de-listed from the Domain Name System — basically, the Internet’s phone directory. U.S. service providers would be tasked with acting as if the site didn’t exist at all (although the newly revised House bill gives a little bit of flexibility here). A big potential pitfall here is that the Internet is global, and it’s possible that users could seek out foreign DNS servers to access blacklisted sites. Some experts have raised security concerns about this splintering of the Internet’s architecture.

I’m curious who in Congress is pushing for this?  Democrats or Republicans or both?

Do you think this is much-needed protection of intellectual and creative property?  Or are the methods too heavy-handed, with unintended consequences that could damage the internet as a whole?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • SKPeterson

    From what I can tell this is somewhat bipartisan, but at heart, it is a protectionist maneuver by Hollywood and the RIAA to forestall having to deal with the fact that they are becoming increasingly low-profit or no-profit industries in their current configurations; they are being bested by new forms of content creation and distribution and don’t have an adequate response except to attempt to squash everything that might be a threat. What SOPA is really saying is that we need a complete overhaul of our copyright and patent laws that might allow some protections, but certainly not at the levels and lengths that currently exist.

  • SKPeterson

    From what I can tell this is somewhat bipartisan, but at heart, it is a protectionist maneuver by Hollywood and the RIAA to forestall having to deal with the fact that they are becoming increasingly low-profit or no-profit industries in their current configurations; they are being bested by new forms of content creation and distribution and don’t have an adequate response except to attempt to squash everything that might be a threat. What SOPA is really saying is that we need a complete overhaul of our copyright and patent laws that might allow some protections, but certainly not at the levels and lengths that currently exist.

  • #4 Kitty

    I’m surprised that religious leaders are not actively supporting SOPA. Yes, it breaks the internet but without the free exchange of ideas it would be so much easier to catechise and then control their flocks.

  • #4 Kitty

    I’m surprised that religious leaders are not actively supporting SOPA. Yes, it breaks the internet but without the free exchange of ideas it would be so much easier to catechise and then control their flocks.

  • Tom Hering

    Huh. I tried to find an article about the controversy on Wikipedia today, but …

    And the story leads in “top stories” at Google News. Surely that’s the result of pure aggregation. Google wouldn’t self-servingly manipulate results at its own news site, would it?

  • Tom Hering

    Huh. I tried to find an article about the controversy on Wikipedia today, but …

    And the story leads in “top stories” at Google News. Surely that’s the result of pure aggregation. Google wouldn’t self-servingly manipulate results at its own news site, would it?

  • Random Lutheran

    Of course both of The Party’s wings support this bill — it would give it more control over communications and speech than it has now.

  • Random Lutheran

    Of course both of The Party’s wings support this bill — it would give it more control over communications and speech than it has now.

  • Tom Hering

    RL, how do you know both wings of “The Party” don’t already control internet content, eh? :-D

  • Tom Hering

    RL, how do you know both wings of “The Party” don’t already control internet content, eh? :-D

  • Random Lutheran

    :)

    They always want more.

  • Random Lutheran

    :)

    They always want more.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    In other news, car manufacturers have sent their employees home today and dealerships refuse to show cars in a coordinated protest against the Protect Buggy Whips Act.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    In other news, car manufacturers have sent their employees home today and dealerships refuse to show cars in a coordinated protest against the Protect Buggy Whips Act.

  • WebMonk

    Tom, I’m pretty sure that with both Google and Wikipedia (and thousands more smaller sites) doing very public statements, that there is far more than enough news on the topic to bump it up to the top of Google News without Google needing to tweak anything.

    I’m seeing it at the top of a lot of other news aggregate sites as well.

  • WebMonk

    Tom, I’m pretty sure that with both Google and Wikipedia (and thousands more smaller sites) doing very public statements, that there is far more than enough news on the topic to bump it up to the top of Google News without Google needing to tweak anything.

    I’m seeing it at the top of a lot of other news aggregate sites as well.

  • SKPeterson

    It is the lead article in the Section B “Marketplace” of today’s WSJ . The WSJ has had several recent articles on the controversy, while also covering it for the past few weeks and months. These require a subscription, but you’ll get the gist:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203471004577142893718069820.html?mod=rss_opinion_main

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204555904577167873208040252.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories

  • SKPeterson

    It is the lead article in the Section B “Marketplace” of today’s WSJ . The WSJ has had several recent articles on the controversy, while also covering it for the past few weeks and months. These require a subscription, but you’ll get the gist:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203471004577142893718069820.html?mod=rss_opinion_main

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204555904577167873208040252.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories

  • SKPeterson

    Here’s one that’s open that details the old media v. new media angle:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203735304577167331129343336.html?mod=technology_newsreel

  • SKPeterson

    Here’s one that’s open that details the old media v. new media angle:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203735304577167331129343336.html?mod=technology_newsreel

  • Patrick Kyle

    NRP is on strike today. Here is a video explaining what this legislation is really about.

    http://fightforthefuture.org/pipa

  • Patrick Kyle

    NRP is on strike today. Here is a video explaining what this legislation is really about.

    http://fightforthefuture.org/pipa

  • Tom Hering

    WebMonk @ 8, I just checked. “Wikipedia goes dark” leads the top stories with 3,320 sources. The second story has 10,134 and the third has 8,102. Hmmm …

  • Tom Hering

    WebMonk @ 8, I just checked. “Wikipedia goes dark” leads the top stories with 3,320 sources. The second story has 10,134 and the third has 8,102. Hmmm …

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom@12: Who cares? Does Google have some sort of moral responsibility (or even a stated claim) that all its search results must be “objective” and “unmanipulated”? For years, Google has been manipulating search results by various metrics: search histories of the individual, location, perceived relevance, etc. And Google is one of the parties that is adamantly opposed to this bill; there was talk, I believe, of Google participating in Wikipedia’s “strike.”

    If you don’t like it, use Bing. Yeah, I thought so.

    In any case, SOPA is an horrific idea. The bill was originally supposed to enjoy wide bipartisan support–it was expected to pass in the Senate by 80 votes–but support seems to be dwindling because of outcries from Wikipedia and the like. The most adamant supporters seems to be Democrats, for whatever that’s worth; perhaps they happen to be more deeply in the pockets of the cable companies and ISPs who are in favor of the bill.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom@12: Who cares? Does Google have some sort of moral responsibility (or even a stated claim) that all its search results must be “objective” and “unmanipulated”? For years, Google has been manipulating search results by various metrics: search histories of the individual, location, perceived relevance, etc. And Google is one of the parties that is adamantly opposed to this bill; there was talk, I believe, of Google participating in Wikipedia’s “strike.”

    If you don’t like it, use Bing. Yeah, I thought so.

    In any case, SOPA is an horrific idea. The bill was originally supposed to enjoy wide bipartisan support–it was expected to pass in the Senate by 80 votes–but support seems to be dwindling because of outcries from Wikipedia and the like. The most adamant supporters seems to be Democrats, for whatever that’s worth; perhaps they happen to be more deeply in the pockets of the cable companies and ISPs who are in favor of the bill.

  • Tom Hering

    Cincinnatus, your support of odd notions – like news aggregators not needing to be objective or unmanipulated – never ceases to not [sic] surprise me.

  • Tom Hering

    Cincinnatus, your support of odd notions – like news aggregators not needing to be objective or unmanipulated – never ceases to not [sic] surprise me.

  • Cincinnatus

    Frankly, I don’t have an opinion on news aggregators, Tom. Google is a private entity that makes no claims to being some sort of utterly unbiased medium of truth. About what, exactly, should I be outraged here? That Google is publicizing an important story in which they have an interest? It’s not like they’re hiding anything: as you yourself have noted, the numbers are there for all to see.

    But you’re right. Instead of debating the merits of a particularly important legislative proposal, let’s whine about Google’s search results.

  • Cincinnatus

    Frankly, I don’t have an opinion on news aggregators, Tom. Google is a private entity that makes no claims to being some sort of utterly unbiased medium of truth. About what, exactly, should I be outraged here? That Google is publicizing an important story in which they have an interest? It’s not like they’re hiding anything: as you yourself have noted, the numbers are there for all to see.

    But you’re right. Instead of debating the merits of a particularly important legislative proposal, let’s whine about Google’s search results.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    SOPA/PIPA is little more than an attempt to make paywalls profitable. If they can shut down any competitor who offered content for free they can force people who want any content on the internet top sign up for their pay per view services.

    It isn’t going to stop piracy. It is going to allow RIAA and Hollywood to prevent legit competition.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    SOPA/PIPA is little more than an attempt to make paywalls profitable. If they can shut down any competitor who offered content for free they can force people who want any content on the internet top sign up for their pay per view services.

    It isn’t going to stop piracy. It is going to allow RIAA and Hollywood to prevent legit competition.

  • Cincinnatus

    Dr. Luther@16:

    Indeed. And anyone who sides with that supremely vindictive cabal of entitled brats, the RIAA, has, I am convinced, no soul.

  • Cincinnatus

    Dr. Luther@16:

    Indeed. And anyone who sides with that supremely vindictive cabal of entitled brats, the RIAA, has, I am convinced, no soul.

  • Tom Hering

    “Frankly, I don’t have an opinion on news aggregators, Tom.”

    So, what was your comment @ 13? Frankly, your standard fall-back position of “I don’t really care” is beginning to strain credulity.

  • Tom Hering

    “Frankly, I don’t have an opinion on news aggregators, Tom.”

    So, what was your comment @ 13? Frankly, your standard fall-back position of “I don’t really care” is beginning to strain credulity.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    16 & 17: Amen!

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    16 & 17: Amen!

  • http://blog.mikeoconnor.net Michael O’Connr

    Ed, yes it is that bad and worse. Basicly it has so many bad points. 1) if a user posts a link to a site that might have “illigal” stuff on it the site that had the link can also be taken down, so lets take this law back to 2000 and napster, lets say I posted in a comment a link to napster, your blog would be taken down because it had a link to a site that had copy right infrangment 2) it allows big companies to take down smaller companies sites, just by claiming copy right infrangement, think about how this would have played out in the early 2000′s microsoft would just have to claim Linux infranged on a copy right, no Linux for any one in the US. 3) it puts up a china like firewall around the US internet, where big companies get to decided what we get to see on the internet (no I am not anti-big company, but at the same time one must understand they will do what ever to protect their bottom line) Could you imagin the encyclopedai bratanica decideing they don’t want people in the us to see wikipedia (not that wikipedia is any good but…) they just file the complaint and no wikipedia in the US 4) the problem with the DNS blocking “solution” opens up so many security holes it not funny, ask any internet security expert out there.

  • http://blog.mikeoconnor.net Michael O’Connr

    Ed, yes it is that bad and worse. Basicly it has so many bad points. 1) if a user posts a link to a site that might have “illigal” stuff on it the site that had the link can also be taken down, so lets take this law back to 2000 and napster, lets say I posted in a comment a link to napster, your blog would be taken down because it had a link to a site that had copy right infrangment 2) it allows big companies to take down smaller companies sites, just by claiming copy right infrangement, think about how this would have played out in the early 2000′s microsoft would just have to claim Linux infranged on a copy right, no Linux for any one in the US. 3) it puts up a china like firewall around the US internet, where big companies get to decided what we get to see on the internet (no I am not anti-big company, but at the same time one must understand they will do what ever to protect their bottom line) Could you imagin the encyclopedai bratanica decideing they don’t want people in the us to see wikipedia (not that wikipedia is any good but…) they just file the complaint and no wikipedia in the US 4) the problem with the DNS blocking “solution” opens up so many security holes it not funny, ask any internet security expert out there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Well… Wikipedia may not be available directly today, but you can still look things up, using Google’s cache, though it may be a little out of date. (For example)

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Well… Wikipedia may not be available directly today, but you can still look things up, using Google’s cache, though it may be a little out of date. (For example)

  • WebMonk

    Tom, right now one of the top stories on Google news (no login) is “iPhone 4S Puts Apple Neck-and-Neck With Android”

    Want to know how many sources it has listed?

    87

    Google news doesn’t just rank things according to the number of sources. I am quite sure they don’t need to manipulate anything to make sure that story gets into the Top News section. I know they have at least three other triggers which put things up there – how long has a story been up there, how hot/trending is the story, and are there other stories of the same category there already.

    Just from a programming standpoint, there is no way they would do something like that as a one-off. WAY TOO MUCH effort involved.

    Now, if someone wants to suggest that Google has built into their system from the beginning the capability to manually force a story to the top, then that’s certainly technically possible.

    I also hear that Men In Black makes regular stops in at Google, and they are using super alien time travel photonic tachyon warp speed emission technology in their server farms. :-D

  • WebMonk

    Tom, right now one of the top stories on Google news (no login) is “iPhone 4S Puts Apple Neck-and-Neck With Android”

    Want to know how many sources it has listed?

    87

    Google news doesn’t just rank things according to the number of sources. I am quite sure they don’t need to manipulate anything to make sure that story gets into the Top News section. I know they have at least three other triggers which put things up there – how long has a story been up there, how hot/trending is the story, and are there other stories of the same category there already.

    Just from a programming standpoint, there is no way they would do something like that as a one-off. WAY TOO MUCH effort involved.

    Now, if someone wants to suggest that Google has built into their system from the beginning the capability to manually force a story to the top, then that’s certainly technically possible.

    I also hear that Men In Black makes regular stops in at Google, and they are using super alien time travel photonic tachyon warp speed emission technology in their server farms. :-D

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @22 That’s awesome. I want a super alien time travel photonic tachyon warp speed emission technology.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @22 That’s awesome. I want a super alien time travel photonic tachyon warp speed emission technology.

  • The Jones

    Co-sponsors of the bill include:
    Peter King (R)
    Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (D)
    Steve Scalise (R)
    Melvin Watt (D)
    Benjamin Quayle (R) was a co-sponsor, but he withdrew on the 17th, which is when opposition to the bill from the president and Google (who will now have to give a hoot about piracy and lose a few bucks) started ratcheting up. Score one for legislative courage!
    Tim Holden (D)
    Bob Goodlatte (R)

    The Stop Online Piracy Act does just that. It stops online piracy. It makes things that are already illegal in the real world illegal in the digital world to catch up to the new realities of technology. Google doesn’t like it, because it will no longer let them be a (money-making) channel that directs customers to (illegal) products from other countries. Cry me a river.

    The president recently came out against it, even though the chairman of the Democratic National Committee is a co-sponsor. This is strange, but it’s not really. It allows him to stick to a populist issue, “don’t censor the net,” for his reelection while also feeding into his “do-nothing-congress” idea.

  • The Jones

    Co-sponsors of the bill include:
    Peter King (R)
    Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (D)
    Steve Scalise (R)
    Melvin Watt (D)
    Benjamin Quayle (R) was a co-sponsor, but he withdrew on the 17th, which is when opposition to the bill from the president and Google (who will now have to give a hoot about piracy and lose a few bucks) started ratcheting up. Score one for legislative courage!
    Tim Holden (D)
    Bob Goodlatte (R)

    The Stop Online Piracy Act does just that. It stops online piracy. It makes things that are already illegal in the real world illegal in the digital world to catch up to the new realities of technology. Google doesn’t like it, because it will no longer let them be a (money-making) channel that directs customers to (illegal) products from other countries. Cry me a river.

    The president recently came out against it, even though the chairman of the Democratic National Committee is a co-sponsor. This is strange, but it’s not really. It allows him to stick to a populist issue, “don’t censor the net,” for his reelection while also feeding into his “do-nothing-congress” idea.

  • http://www.chriskrycho.com/web/ Chris Krycho

    The Jones, the problem is that it doesn’t just stop online piracy. Lots of people – Google and Wikipedia and content producers like Ars Technica and Peter Gabriel and Tim O’Reilly among them – are deeply opposed to the acts, because they’re like going after termites with nuclear warheads. The amount of power granted to copyright owners by these acts is vastly out of proportion to the actual threat posted to them and is mind-bogglingly short on respect for the rights of anyone but the content owners.

    Actual fact: if, in this comment, I linked to a site (for non-piratical purposes) that also included pirated content (user-posted, even), a content-owner could take this site down, with no short-term legal recourse by Dr. Veith. I’m not exaggerating here. He could eventually get his site back up and running, but the burden of proof would be on him, rather than the accuser – something we do nowhere else in our legal system, and something that should horrify every sensible person out there.

    I’m all in favor of stopping piracy. But the way to do that is for content owners to actually have to make their case in a court, the same as everyone else has to do in every other circumstance. If I publish libel in a paper, you can sue me all you want – but you don’t have the right to summarily demand, before a trial and without having presented any evidence, that all copies of the paper be burned and my printing press seized. You have to actually sue me and prove it in court. Likewise, a record company can’t walk into a record store and say, “We believe you are encouraging the illegal sale of stolen copies of our CDs; we’re shutting you down.” They have to go through the existing legal channels.

    Even the existing legal channels (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) are arguably too lenient in terms of the power they grant to rights-holders, but in any case, there are already legal channels by which rights-holders can have infringing content taken down. They just don’t want to have to actually do the legal work.

    I’m not anti-business by any means, and as someone who does a fair amount of creative work on the side, I see the value in protecting intellectual property. But I do not trust big business not to abuse power when it’s given to them – because I don’t trust any large institution not to abuse power when it’s given to them. The temptation is simply too great, and human nature too predictable.

    As another commenter pointed out above, there are many other, better solutions to piracy. One of them is addressing the root issues of much of the piracy that goes on: the absolutely backwards systems that the content-publishers themselves have created that inconvenience only the people who actually care about copyright. Consider: music piracy dropped significantly after the launch of the iTunes store. Why? Because people could get the music they wanted in digital form easily and inexpensively. It didn’t need to be free; it just needed to be convenient, relatively inexpensive, and follow the distribution model – digital downloads – that now ruled the day. The same is true of movies. Digital copy protection on disks, a half dozen unskippable commercials before the content actually plays, etc… these don’t actually stop pirates, but they do frustrate people to the point that many people are tempted to “pirate” content they would not otherwise. (One number nobody on the content side wants to publish or even think about is this: how many “pirated” copies are just people downloading a copy of something they already own because they don’t want to have to deal with the enormous hassles involved in dealing with the copy they do own? The number is higher than you’d think.) So one of the best ways to defeat piracy – and publishers who have embraced this mentality have reaped the rewards – is to make content relatively inexpensive and readily available in the channels people want.

    Look: I’ll pay for Hulu Plus if I can get the content I want on it. That money then goes back to the people making it. But I’m not going to pay for it if you refuse to publish your content there because you can’t imagine most of your money on a TV show not coming from DVD sales. But wait – ten years ago, you didn’t want to sell DVDs because you thought you’d never make money on them, and people would watch them instead of watching whatever your current show on television is. The people who do best in any new technological moment are those who embrace its ability to extend their reach, not those who reject it simply because it forces them to reevaluate their current practices.

    The reality is that old ways of protecting content are dead. Digital distribution is in. Your content will be distributed digitally, period. If you don’t do it, someone else will – they’ll digitize it, and they’ll make it available for others. The best way to make money off your product is to beat them to the punch. Get your product out there, and make it easy for people to get to. Then ask them to pay a bit so you can keep giving it to them. Guess what? They will!

  • http://www.chriskrycho.com/web/ Chris Krycho

    The Jones, the problem is that it doesn’t just stop online piracy. Lots of people – Google and Wikipedia and content producers like Ars Technica and Peter Gabriel and Tim O’Reilly among them – are deeply opposed to the acts, because they’re like going after termites with nuclear warheads. The amount of power granted to copyright owners by these acts is vastly out of proportion to the actual threat posted to them and is mind-bogglingly short on respect for the rights of anyone but the content owners.

    Actual fact: if, in this comment, I linked to a site (for non-piratical purposes) that also included pirated content (user-posted, even), a content-owner could take this site down, with no short-term legal recourse by Dr. Veith. I’m not exaggerating here. He could eventually get his site back up and running, but the burden of proof would be on him, rather than the accuser – something we do nowhere else in our legal system, and something that should horrify every sensible person out there.

    I’m all in favor of stopping piracy. But the way to do that is for content owners to actually have to make their case in a court, the same as everyone else has to do in every other circumstance. If I publish libel in a paper, you can sue me all you want – but you don’t have the right to summarily demand, before a trial and without having presented any evidence, that all copies of the paper be burned and my printing press seized. You have to actually sue me and prove it in court. Likewise, a record company can’t walk into a record store and say, “We believe you are encouraging the illegal sale of stolen copies of our CDs; we’re shutting you down.” They have to go through the existing legal channels.

    Even the existing legal channels (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) are arguably too lenient in terms of the power they grant to rights-holders, but in any case, there are already legal channels by which rights-holders can have infringing content taken down. They just don’t want to have to actually do the legal work.

    I’m not anti-business by any means, and as someone who does a fair amount of creative work on the side, I see the value in protecting intellectual property. But I do not trust big business not to abuse power when it’s given to them – because I don’t trust any large institution not to abuse power when it’s given to them. The temptation is simply too great, and human nature too predictable.

    As another commenter pointed out above, there are many other, better solutions to piracy. One of them is addressing the root issues of much of the piracy that goes on: the absolutely backwards systems that the content-publishers themselves have created that inconvenience only the people who actually care about copyright. Consider: music piracy dropped significantly after the launch of the iTunes store. Why? Because people could get the music they wanted in digital form easily and inexpensively. It didn’t need to be free; it just needed to be convenient, relatively inexpensive, and follow the distribution model – digital downloads – that now ruled the day. The same is true of movies. Digital copy protection on disks, a half dozen unskippable commercials before the content actually plays, etc… these don’t actually stop pirates, but they do frustrate people to the point that many people are tempted to “pirate” content they would not otherwise. (One number nobody on the content side wants to publish or even think about is this: how many “pirated” copies are just people downloading a copy of something they already own because they don’t want to have to deal with the enormous hassles involved in dealing with the copy they do own? The number is higher than you’d think.) So one of the best ways to defeat piracy – and publishers who have embraced this mentality have reaped the rewards – is to make content relatively inexpensive and readily available in the channels people want.

    Look: I’ll pay for Hulu Plus if I can get the content I want on it. That money then goes back to the people making it. But I’m not going to pay for it if you refuse to publish your content there because you can’t imagine most of your money on a TV show not coming from DVD sales. But wait – ten years ago, you didn’t want to sell DVDs because you thought you’d never make money on them, and people would watch them instead of watching whatever your current show on television is. The people who do best in any new technological moment are those who embrace its ability to extend their reach, not those who reject it simply because it forces them to reevaluate their current practices.

    The reality is that old ways of protecting content are dead. Digital distribution is in. Your content will be distributed digitally, period. If you don’t do it, someone else will – they’ll digitize it, and they’ll make it available for others. The best way to make money off your product is to beat them to the punch. Get your product out there, and make it easy for people to get to. Then ask them to pay a bit so you can keep giving it to them. Guess what? They will!

  • steve

    Remind me again why we all hate China, with some of the most draconian internet regulations and, at the same time, the biggest software and movie piracy industry in the world?

  • steve

    Remind me again why we all hate China, with some of the most draconian internet regulations and, at the same time, the biggest software and movie piracy industry in the world?

  • Cincinnatus

    The Jones: You’ve already received a great response from Chris Krycho and others, but I’ll chime in with something of a summary.

    Even if you insist that digital “piracy” is a “crime” on par with actual theft, according to present intellectual piracy laws–and there are good reasons to be dubious of such an argument–it is not an end that justifies any available means whatsoever. That’s like arguing that it’s acceptable to grant the President the authority to detain American citizens without trial because it will give him tools to fight terrorism more effectively. (oh wait…)

    Technically, the latter claim might be true. But is that a cost we’re willing to pay? SOPA is an horrific proposal that would effectively end the internet as the quasi-anarchical market of ideas and entertainment that it has been since its inception and will cede ultimate authority over its content to massive corporations and, in particular, ISPs. We’ve been advancing on this blog a healthy skepticism of big business. Accordingly, how could any thinking conservative embrace this bill, regardless of one’s thoughts on digital piracy? There are better ways to stop piracy if you consider such to be a problem worthy of attention.

    It’s apparent that big corporations and big government in the United States have been champing at the bit to assert some form of dominance over the internet in general for several years now: first net neutrality, now this. And that fact alone should give us pause.

  • Cincinnatus

    The Jones: You’ve already received a great response from Chris Krycho and others, but I’ll chime in with something of a summary.

    Even if you insist that digital “piracy” is a “crime” on par with actual theft, according to present intellectual piracy laws–and there are good reasons to be dubious of such an argument–it is not an end that justifies any available means whatsoever. That’s like arguing that it’s acceptable to grant the President the authority to detain American citizens without trial because it will give him tools to fight terrorism more effectively. (oh wait…)

    Technically, the latter claim might be true. But is that a cost we’re willing to pay? SOPA is an horrific proposal that would effectively end the internet as the quasi-anarchical market of ideas and entertainment that it has been since its inception and will cede ultimate authority over its content to massive corporations and, in particular, ISPs. We’ve been advancing on this blog a healthy skepticism of big business. Accordingly, how could any thinking conservative embrace this bill, regardless of one’s thoughts on digital piracy? There are better ways to stop piracy if you consider such to be a problem worthy of attention.

    It’s apparent that big corporations and big government in the United States have been champing at the bit to assert some form of dominance over the internet in general for several years now: first net neutrality, now this. And that fact alone should give us pause.

  • –helen

    Congress has already tripled the length of a copyright… putting it way past the possibility of the original author profiting from it. Instead, the copyright (e.g., of a book) is owned by a corporation, which probably won’t reprint the book, because it isn’t a blockbuster, but won’t let anyone else reprint it either.
    What’s the sense in that?

    [Guess we'll have to ask Paul T McCain!]

  • –helen

    Congress has already tripled the length of a copyright… putting it way past the possibility of the original author profiting from it. Instead, the copyright (e.g., of a book) is owned by a corporation, which probably won’t reprint the book, because it isn’t a blockbuster, but won’t let anyone else reprint it either.
    What’s the sense in that?

    [Guess we'll have to ask Paul T McCain!]

  • Cincinnatus

    –helen@28:

    Ugh, yes. Copyright/intellectual property law in this country is horrifically outdated and a stinking mess that serves only the interests of various holding companies and corporate figureheads. Yet another reason to oppose this bill: it further institutionalizes an already broken system.

  • Cincinnatus

    –helen@28:

    Ugh, yes. Copyright/intellectual property law in this country is horrifically outdated and a stinking mess that serves only the interests of various holding companies and corporate figureheads. Yet another reason to oppose this bill: it further institutionalizes an already broken system.

  • DonS

    You can peruse Wikipedia normally using a smart phone.

    SOPA/PIPA are horrific, largely for the reasons so eloquently outlined by Cincinnatus. Fortunately, though Harry Reid continues to claim the Senate will pass PIPA no matter what, SOPA is dead in the House, and with Obama’s asserted opposition, this issue is over for this year.

  • DonS

    You can peruse Wikipedia normally using a smart phone.

    SOPA/PIPA are horrific, largely for the reasons so eloquently outlined by Cincinnatus. Fortunately, though Harry Reid continues to claim the Senate will pass PIPA no matter what, SOPA is dead in the House, and with Obama’s asserted opposition, this issue is over for this year.

  • http://www.chriskrycho.com/web/ Chris Krycho

    DonS – for which we should all be grateful! That said, I am glad that everyone is still going through on making noise about it, as it will hopefully help set the groundwork for the battle ahead, because this kind of legislation will be back next year, and the year after, and on until big content realizes that digital distribution is an ally, not an enemy.

    I’ll just content myself with seconding Cincinnatus’ and Helen’s thoughts on copyright. Ugh.

  • http://www.chriskrycho.com/web/ Chris Krycho

    DonS – for which we should all be grateful! That said, I am glad that everyone is still going through on making noise about it, as it will hopefully help set the groundwork for the battle ahead, because this kind of legislation will be back next year, and the year after, and on until big content realizes that digital distribution is an ally, not an enemy.

    I’ll just content myself with seconding Cincinnatus’ and Helen’s thoughts on copyright. Ugh.

  • JunkerGeorg

    @Random Lutheran, #6

    “They always want more.”
    ———————
    Indeed, the Law is never satisfied, is never done, that is, for those trying to live by it, whether they be Dispensationalist Falwellian “Big Government Social Conservative” Christian Rightists (Pharisaical?) seeking to usher in their theocratic version of a Kingdom of God on earth, or if they be atheist universal harmony engineers of the “Big Government Socialist Liberal” Leftists trying to usher in their utopian version of a Kingdom of Man on earth.

  • JunkerGeorg

    @Random Lutheran, #6

    “They always want more.”
    ———————
    Indeed, the Law is never satisfied, is never done, that is, for those trying to live by it, whether they be Dispensationalist Falwellian “Big Government Social Conservative” Christian Rightists (Pharisaical?) seeking to usher in their theocratic version of a Kingdom of God on earth, or if they be atheist universal harmony engineers of the “Big Government Socialist Liberal” Leftists trying to usher in their utopian version of a Kingdom of Man on earth.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    You can still use Wikipedia via your desktop browser. Hit ‘Esc’ as it is loading, stops the script that reroutes you to the blackout page.

    @24 What Chris said.
    What these laws allow is for companies to have a say over what you can and cannot view without legal recourse. The way the laws are worded basically allow them to take down any site they don’t like simply by going to hosting companies with a complaint about piracy and thus having the “offending” site blocked. They don’t actually have to prove piracy.

    And it’s not just big corporations like Google who stand to lose out. It is the little guys who will lose out and the average netizen who will lose out. We will lose innovative, creative content. Innocent providers who do legal things such as parodies, critiques, or news reports that cover copyrighted materials will find themselves blocked because the copyright holder didn’t like what they said.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    You can still use Wikipedia via your desktop browser. Hit ‘Esc’ as it is loading, stops the script that reroutes you to the blackout page.

    @24 What Chris said.
    What these laws allow is for companies to have a say over what you can and cannot view without legal recourse. The way the laws are worded basically allow them to take down any site they don’t like simply by going to hosting companies with a complaint about piracy and thus having the “offending” site blocked. They don’t actually have to prove piracy.

    And it’s not just big corporations like Google who stand to lose out. It is the little guys who will lose out and the average netizen who will lose out. We will lose innovative, creative content. Innocent providers who do legal things such as parodies, critiques, or news reports that cover copyrighted materials will find themselves blocked because the copyright holder didn’t like what they said.

  • JunkerGeorg

    @ Kitty, #4

    “I’m surprised that religious leaders are not actively supporting SOPA. Yes, it breaks the internet but without the free exchange of ideas it would be so much easier to catechise and then control their flocks.”
    ——————
    A few are, but you’re right, most aren’t. To support SOPA, especially for reasons of religious/socially problematic things like porn or militant kkk “how to build a pipe bomb” type of groups on the internet, would seem to reflect the “socially conservative” view, that is, according to how such “social conservatism” is being defined by the Republican “establishment” : To impose by might what are our self-determined values and our self-beneficial interests both domestically and abroad. In other words, to heck with any Golden Rule, i.e., of live and let live individual liberty and justice for all, let alone any type of “free” market capitalism and free exchange of ideas worthy of the name “free”, even if they be bad ideas or failing business ventures. I mean, if it weren’t for the government to protect us from ourselves, we’d no doubt be living out of a van exchanging syringes in a Walmart parking lot. Right?

  • JunkerGeorg

    @ Kitty, #4

    “I’m surprised that religious leaders are not actively supporting SOPA. Yes, it breaks the internet but without the free exchange of ideas it would be so much easier to catechise and then control their flocks.”
    ——————
    A few are, but you’re right, most aren’t. To support SOPA, especially for reasons of religious/socially problematic things like porn or militant kkk “how to build a pipe bomb” type of groups on the internet, would seem to reflect the “socially conservative” view, that is, according to how such “social conservatism” is being defined by the Republican “establishment” : To impose by might what are our self-determined values and our self-beneficial interests both domestically and abroad. In other words, to heck with any Golden Rule, i.e., of live and let live individual liberty and justice for all, let alone any type of “free” market capitalism and free exchange of ideas worthy of the name “free”, even if they be bad ideas or failing business ventures. I mean, if it weren’t for the government to protect us from ourselves, we’d no doubt be living out of a van exchanging syringes in a Walmart parking lot. Right?

  • #4 Kitty

    @JungerGeorg
    Yes, SOPA not only allows religious fundamentalists to once again control the medium/message but also as you say it builds a fence around the tree of forbidden fruit. I think they missed their chance.
    Josh McDowell said it best:
    Now here is the problem,” said McDowell, “going all the way back, when Al Gore invented the Internet [he said jokingly], I made the statement off and on for 10-11 years that the abundance of knowledge, the abundance of information, will not lead to certainty; it will lead to pervasive skepticism. And, folks, that’s exactly what has happened. It’s like this. How do you really know, there is so much out there… This abundance [of information] has led to skepticism. And then the Internet has leveled the playing field [giving equal access to skeptics].”

  • #4 Kitty

    @JungerGeorg
    Yes, SOPA not only allows religious fundamentalists to once again control the medium/message but also as you say it builds a fence around the tree of forbidden fruit. I think they missed their chance.
    Josh McDowell said it best:
    Now here is the problem,” said McDowell, “going all the way back, when Al Gore invented the Internet [he said jokingly], I made the statement off and on for 10-11 years that the abundance of knowledge, the abundance of information, will not lead to certainty; it will lead to pervasive skepticism. And, folks, that’s exactly what has happened. It’s like this. How do you really know, there is so much out there… This abundance [of information] has led to skepticism. And then the Internet has leveled the playing field [giving equal access to skeptics].”

  • SKPeterson

    JG @ 34 – the van would be down by the river. But, more importantly, this issue is bringing to a fore the entire question of intellectual property and what the proper response to such a question should be. While I think there should be some protections, I’m exceedingly leery of the length of copyright protections given to copyright holders. I think these may have been instituted to protect the estates of the authors, but my guess is that someone in Hollywood recognized the potential in being able to lock up books-as-scripts for decades until they could be made without facing competition from rivals. Maybe not such a bad idea if it could have kept Atlas Shrugged from being made,;) but generally a bad idea.

  • SKPeterson

    JG @ 34 – the van would be down by the river. But, more importantly, this issue is bringing to a fore the entire question of intellectual property and what the proper response to such a question should be. While I think there should be some protections, I’m exceedingly leery of the length of copyright protections given to copyright holders. I think these may have been instituted to protect the estates of the authors, but my guess is that someone in Hollywood recognized the potential in being able to lock up books-as-scripts for decades until they could be made without facing competition from rivals. Maybe not such a bad idea if it could have kept Atlas Shrugged from being made,;) but generally a bad idea.

  • Cincinnatus

    So, am I missing something? What do religious fundamentalists have to do with any of this? Is Kitty trolling?

  • Cincinnatus

    So, am I missing something? What do religious fundamentalists have to do with any of this? Is Kitty trolling?

  • #4 Kitty

    @Cincinnatus
    Of course I’m trolling that’s …uh kinda what I do. But maybe you can help me develop an argument. It’s my theory that fundamentalism thrives only in situations where authority is not challenged and then usually within pockets of isolation. This is not easily achieveable with the ascendency of the internet. For this reason I was surprised that religious leaders had not sided with SOPA. Make sense? Or am I off the mark?

  • #4 Kitty

    @Cincinnatus
    Of course I’m trolling that’s …uh kinda what I do. But maybe you can help me develop an argument. It’s my theory that fundamentalism thrives only in situations where authority is not challenged and then usually within pockets of isolation. This is not easily achieveable with the ascendency of the internet. For this reason I was surprised that religious leaders had not sided with SOPA. Make sense? Or am I off the mark?

  • Cincinnatus

    #4Kitty:

    At least you’re honest. The argument you’re developing is silly for at least two reasons:

    1) Regardless of whether you characterize fundamentalism accurately, are you suggesting that fundamentalists (however defined) should support any proposal that increases or consolidates someone’s–anyone’s–authority? Why? SOPA/PIPA would manifestly increase the authority of big corporations and the government agencies they’ve “bought.” Upon what grounds do you suggest that a fundamentalist Baptist, for example, would have any interest in advancing such authority? That’s an absurd proposition.

    2) Relatedly, you need to clarify your terms a bit. At best, your usage of the term “fundamentalism” is fuzzy; at worst, it is a flagrantly inaccurate straw man. Historically, fundamentalism in the United States refers to a specific group of Christians who insisted that Christianity is defined by assent to a few basic “fundamentals” of the faith: that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that he literally rose from the dead, etc. I still know a lot of folks who accept this label when it means precisely that. As I noted above, I can’t see how these sorts of fundamentalists would have any particular interest in SOPA one way or the other.

    Over the years, either through lexical carelessness or deliberate malice, “fundamentalism” has come to be associated in the popular malice with ideas like “patriarchalism” and “authoritarianism.” I have no interest right now in speculating as to why this is so. Perhaps because adhering to the fundamentals of the Islamic faith actually does involve rigid patriarchy and authoritarian politics.

    My point is that “fundamentalism” has no obvious or direct connection to “situations where authority is not challenged,” and certainly not to all situations in which any kind of authority whatsoever goes unchallenged. If SOPA empowered the government to shut down pornographic websites or something, you would have a point. But it doesn’t, so you don’t. The idea that any and all fundamentalists should be inclined to support any and all legislation that increases any and all authority is ridiculous.

  • Cincinnatus

    #4Kitty:

    At least you’re honest. The argument you’re developing is silly for at least two reasons:

    1) Regardless of whether you characterize fundamentalism accurately, are you suggesting that fundamentalists (however defined) should support any proposal that increases or consolidates someone’s–anyone’s–authority? Why? SOPA/PIPA would manifestly increase the authority of big corporations and the government agencies they’ve “bought.” Upon what grounds do you suggest that a fundamentalist Baptist, for example, would have any interest in advancing such authority? That’s an absurd proposition.

    2) Relatedly, you need to clarify your terms a bit. At best, your usage of the term “fundamentalism” is fuzzy; at worst, it is a flagrantly inaccurate straw man. Historically, fundamentalism in the United States refers to a specific group of Christians who insisted that Christianity is defined by assent to a few basic “fundamentals” of the faith: that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that he literally rose from the dead, etc. I still know a lot of folks who accept this label when it means precisely that. As I noted above, I can’t see how these sorts of fundamentalists would have any particular interest in SOPA one way or the other.

    Over the years, either through lexical carelessness or deliberate malice, “fundamentalism” has come to be associated in the popular malice with ideas like “patriarchalism” and “authoritarianism.” I have no interest right now in speculating as to why this is so. Perhaps because adhering to the fundamentals of the Islamic faith actually does involve rigid patriarchy and authoritarian politics.

    My point is that “fundamentalism” has no obvious or direct connection to “situations where authority is not challenged,” and certainly not to all situations in which any kind of authority whatsoever goes unchallenged. If SOPA empowered the government to shut down pornographic websites or something, you would have a point. But it doesn’t, so you don’t. The idea that any and all fundamentalists should be inclined to support any and all legislation that increases any and all authority is ridiculous.

  • Cincinnatus

    in the popular imagination*

  • Cincinnatus

    in the popular imagination*

  • steve

    Pshh… is Kitty trolling? Seriously? Or was that rhetorical?

  • steve

    Pshh… is Kitty trolling? Seriously? Or was that rhetorical?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Cincinnatus @ 39 – depending on your background, fundamentalism means something completely different. For a lot of people, it means a religious-cultural community such as, but not confined to, Independant Fundamentalist Baptists. It is much more than just a narrowly defined set of doctrines. I grew up in what could be termed a Fundementalist sect. See this web page to get more of the flavour of this religious-cultural phenomenon – and as such, Kitty is not so far off in her use of the term, although she is certainly trolling and a bit loose with her use thereof: http://www.stufffundieslike.com/

    It is a mixed site – 1/2 serious, half mocking (the author grew up in fundyism, and the site for him, as for many others, is therapeutic. You have no idea…)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Cincinnatus @ 39 – depending on your background, fundamentalism means something completely different. For a lot of people, it means a religious-cultural community such as, but not confined to, Independant Fundamentalist Baptists. It is much more than just a narrowly defined set of doctrines. I grew up in what could be termed a Fundementalist sect. See this web page to get more of the flavour of this religious-cultural phenomenon – and as such, Kitty is not so far off in her use of the term, although she is certainly trolling and a bit loose with her use thereof: http://www.stufffundieslike.com/

    It is a mixed site – 1/2 serious, half mocking (the author grew up in fundyism, and the site for him, as for many others, is therapeutic. You have no idea…)

  • Cincinnatus

    KK@42:

    I’m aware of “your” definition of fundamentalism, and referenced it in my comment. My point was that such is not the “original” definition.

    In any case, it doesn’t make Kitty’s argument any better either way.

  • Cincinnatus

    KK@42:

    I’m aware of “your” definition of fundamentalism, and referenced it in my comment. My point was that such is not the “original” definition.

    In any case, it doesn’t make Kitty’s argument any better either way.

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ C-Christian Soldier

    Senate -PIPA &
    House SOPA – backed down for now–
    looks like Dept heads did not get the message-
    DoJ site DOWN AWA others-
    someone is acting against an over reaching govt-
    http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/anonymous-shuts-down-dept-of-justice.html
    Carol-CS

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ C-Christian Soldier

    Senate -PIPA &
    House SOPA – backed down for now–
    looks like Dept heads did not get the message-
    DoJ site DOWN AWA others-
    someone is acting against an over reaching govt-
    http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/anonymous-shuts-down-dept-of-justice.html
    Carol-CS

  • Gerald

    Where is the due process as promoted in the Constitution, Amendments 5 and 14? That should be our real concern.

  • Gerald

    Where is the due process as promoted in the Constitution, Amendments 5 and 14? That should be our real concern.