Op-Ed hijinks

This op-ed by Cary Sherman, head of the RIAA, is the funniest, angriest, and most ironic op-ed I have read in quite some time. Basically, she he argues that the challenges to SOPA/PIPA were all damned lies, and that the media industry was helpless to get their message out. Weep for the media industry.


While no legislation is perfect, the Protect Intellectual Property Act (or PIPA) was carefully devised, with nearly unanimous bipartisan support in the Senate, and its House counterpart, the Stop Online Piracy Act (or SOPA), was based on existing statutes and Supreme Court precedents. But at the 11th hour, a flood of e-mails and phone calls to Congress stopped the legislation in its tracks. Was this the result of democracy, or demagoguery?

Misinformation may be a dirty trick, but it works. Consider, for example, the claim that SOPA and PIPA were “censorship,” a loaded and inflammatory term designed to evoke images of crackdowns on pro-democracy Web sites by China or Iran. Since when is it censorship to shut down an operation that an American court, upon a thorough review of evidence, has determined to be illegal? When the police close down a store fencing stolen goods, it isn’t censorship, but when those stolen goods are fenced online, it is? Wikipedia, Google and others manufactured controversy by unfairly equating SOPA with censorship. They also argued misleadingly that the bills would have required Web sites to “monitor” what their users upload, conveniently ignoring provisions like the “No Duty to Monitor” section.

The hyperbolic mistruths, presented on the home pages of some of the world’s most popular Web sites, amounted to an abuse of trust and a misuse of power. When Wikipedia and Google purport to be neutral sources of information, but then exploit their stature to present information that is not only not neutral but affirmatively incomplete and misleading, they are duping their users into accepting as truth what are merely self-serving political declarations.

The EFF published this response.

… it seems to us that the op-ed’s really unfortunate message is that Hollywood still thinks the way forward is for a few executives to sit down together and make a deal. He calls on “the companies” that opposed the bills to come up with “constructive alternatives” and then have a “fact-based conversation” with the entertainment industries. MPAA chair Chris Dodd made a similar call a few weeks ago.  Even New York Times op-ed columnist Bill Keller seems to think this comes down to a few “players”: in his own piece on the battle against the bills, he seemed to assume that Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales is the only person who matters on the other side of this debate.

That’s precisely the wrong approach. It was great to see technology companies and platform hosts like Wikipedia stand up against SOPA and PIPA.  But the people Hollywood most needs to consult now are the users of the internet– the millions of people who have found their voice due, in part, to the emergence of technologies and platforms that allow them to speak to a bigger audience then ever before.

The truth is that a broad swath of public interest, consumer rights, and human rights groups were fighting these bills from the get-go, because we saw how they would harm users, not just technology companies and platforms.  Due in part to the hard work of this coalition in raising public awareness, millions of those users saw that, too, and that’s why they contacted their Congressional representatives. We weren’t scared by rhetoric, we were scared by what the bills actually proposed, and we were really scared that the proponents didn’t seem to understand their own legislation.

More info here.

SOPA soap opera

There is a fascinating article in The Hollywood Reporter describing the behind-the-scenes drama at the MPAA during the SOPA smackdown of the past few weeks.

In the desperate hours of early January, with chatter spreading that the White House was poised to make a devastating statement opposing parts of proposed anti-piracy legislation that Hollywood studios considered key to the industry’s very survival, MPAA president Christopher Dodd made a phone call to DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Katzenberg’s company is not an MPAA member, but a list of the top 10 fund-raisers bundling money for President Obama would include not only Katzenberg but also his political adviser, Andy Spahn. It would not include any of the chiefs whose studios belong to the MPAA. So the former U.S. senator reached out, he says, to find out about the thinking inside the White House.

“The rumors were running rampant,” says Dodd. “I was trying to use all the information points I could to find out what was going on.”

Dodd says that at the time of his call, he had been assured no major actions were imminent. Then, on Jan. 14, the administration said it would not support legislation “that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”

“They just made up their mind to do it,” says Dodd. “I raised issues about it, but they were going to march ahead.”

And the article notes the damage to Dodd’s reputation and effectiveness as a lobbyist caused by this remark:

In the days after the controversial House version of the bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act, was derailed, Dodd belittled those who opposed it and threatened Democrats who had fled when the bill became radioactive. Perhaps his worst post-defeat move came Jan. 19 when he told Fox News that “those who count on, quote, ‘Hollywood’ for support need to understand this industry is watching very carefully who’s going to stand up for them when their job is at stake.” There was an instant outcry, including a petition on the White House website calling on the administration to investigate Dodd for “bribery.” (In less than a week, it had attracted more than 21,000 signatures.)

As I previously noted, that remark by Dodd does seem to come close to an offer of a direct quid pro quo of money for legislative action.

SOPA quote of the day

The former senator and now CEO of the MPAA can’t catch a break: “You’ve got an opponent who has the capacity to reach millions of people with a click of a mouse and there’s no fact-checker.” Must be terribly hard to represent the largest media empires in the world, who collectively own all the major newspapers, TV stations, radio stations, billboards, record labels and studios. How will they ever get their side of the story out?

Cory Doctorow, writing at Boing Boing.

Revenge of the copyright industry

Today Congressional leaders effectively conceded that, at a minimum, SOPA and PIPA will be significantly delayed for revision. And some have claimed that SOPA is dead. But Hollywood, the music industry and their unions are not ready to concede the battle. And they have weapons available today.

In fact, one of the arguments against SOPA/PIPA was that existing law already provided significant weapons to the copyright industry. From The Hollywood Reporter:

Although debate over SOPA has instigated protests and gathered headlines in the past few weeks, the truth is that the legislation would have been only a small part of Hollywood’s ongoing attempt to crack down on foreign piracy. Large entertainment studios wanted — and still want, of course — codified language that would result in serious efforts by websites to do something about troublesome foreign piracy sites. But even in the absence of such formal legislation, there’s a plan to get the intended results anyway.

Read the full article for the numerous weapons still at the disposal of the industry.

SOPA tweets of the day (updated)

So Obama has thrown in his lot withSilicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery.-
Rupert Murdoch
Piracy leader is Google who streams movies free, sells advts around them. No wonder pouring millions into lobbying.
Rupert Murdoch

In terms of lobbying money contributed to the SOPA/PIPA battle, the copyright owners have spent far more on lobbying than the tech industry.  News Corporation believes in strong copyright protection at all costs, but doesn’t feel that personal voice-mails are private.

In addition, the copyright owners are actively suppressing any discussion of these bills on their own media properties. For example, NBC News has had virtually no coverage of the bills but actively supports their enactment.

Update: Google’s official response to Murdoch’s claims:

This is just nonsense. Last year we took down 5 million infringing Web pages from our search results and invested more than $60 million in the fight against bad ads…We fight pirates and counterfeiters every day.

White House opposes SOPA, PIPA

Logo of the United States White House, especia...

Yesterday, on the official White House blog, the Administration came out strongly against both the DNS changes and censorship provisions of both SOPA and PIPA. With regard to the DNS changes, the White House has concluded that the risks of damage to the Internet charged by opponents of the bills was real:

Proposed laws must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet through manipulation of the Domain Name System (DNS), a foundation of Internet security. Our analysis of the DNS filtering provisions in some proposed legislation suggests that they pose a real risk to cybersecurity and yet leave contraband goods and services accessible online. We must avoid legislation that drives users to dangerous, unreliable DNS servers and puts next-generation security policies, such as the deployment of DNSSEC, at risk.

With regard to censorship risks, the post provides:

Across the globe, the openness of the Internet is increasingly central to innovation in business, government, and society and it must be protected. To minimize this risk, new legislation must be narrowly targeted only at sites beyond the reach of current U.S. law, cover activity clearly prohibited under existing U.S. laws, and be effectively tailored, with strong due process and focused on criminal activity. Any provision covering Internet intermediaries such as online advertising networks, payment processors, or search engines must be transparent and designed to prevent overly broad private rights of action that could encourage unjustified litigation that could discourage startup businesses and innovative firms from growing.

Effectively, both bills seem dead for now.

But don’t expect the entertainment industry to go away quietly.  For example, the MPAA responded aggressively to the White House position and seem to have read an entirely different Administration release.

We welcome the Administration’s clear statement that legislation is needed to stop foreign based thieves from stealing the hard work and creativity of millions of American workers. For too long in this debate, those that seek to preserve and profit from the status quo have moved to obstruct reasonable legislation. While many of the elements mentioned in the White House statement are critically important, we believe, as do others in our coalition, that protecting American jobs is important too, particularly in these difficult economic times for our nation. We are pleased that Chairman Leahy and Chairman Smith reiterated yesterday that they too support action. So now it is time to stop the obstruction and move forward on legislation.


While we agree with the White House that protection against online piracy is vital, that protection must be meaningful to protect the people who have been and will continue to be victimized if legislation is not enacted. Meaningful legislation must include measured and reasonable remedies that include ad brokers, payment processors and search engines. They must be part of a solution that stops theft and protects American consumers.

SOPA is a danger to us all

From Politico:

The conservative and liberal blogospheres are unifying behind opposition to Congress’s Stop Online Piracy Act, with right-leaning bloggers arguing their very existence could be wiped out if the anti-piracy bill passes.

“If either the U.S. Senate’s Protect IP Act (PIPA) & the U.S. House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) become law, political blogs such as Red Mass Group [conservative] & Blue Mass Group [liberal] will cease to exist,” wrote a blogger at Red Mass Group.