Archives for January 2012
Already, today’s SOPA Strike is having an effect. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), one of the co-sponsors of the bill, has withdrawn his support today. From his Facebook page:
A Better Way to Fight the Online Theft of American Ideas and Jobs
By Senator Marco Rubio
In recent weeks, we’ve heard from many Floridians about the anti-Internet piracy bills making their way through Congress. On the Senate side, I have been a co-sponsor of the PROTECT IP Act because I believe it’s important to protect American ingenuity, ideas and jobs from being stolen through Internet piracy, much of it occurring overseas through rogue websites in China. As a senator from Florida, a state with a large presence of artists, creators and businesses connected to the creation of intellectual property, I have a strong interest in stopping online piracy that costs Florida jobs.
However, we must do this while simultaneously promoting an open, dynamic Internet environment that is ripe for innovation and promotes new technologies.
Earlier this year, this bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously and without controversy. Since then, we’ve heard legitimate concerns about the impact the bill could have on access to the Internet and about a potentially unreasonable expansion of the federal government’s power to impact the Internet. Congress should listen and avoid rushing through a bill that could have many unintended consequences.
Therefore, I have decided to withdraw my support for the Protect IP Act. Furthermore, I encourage Senator Reid to abandon his plan to rush the bill to the floor. Instead, we should take more time to address the concerns raised by all sides, and come up with new legislation that addresses Internet piracy while protecting free and open access to the Internet.
In keeping with the goal to educate readers about the dangers of SOPA and PIPA, here is a piece by Jason Pye, originally posted by on December 20, 2011.
On the heels of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which effectively shredded the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and Habeas Corpus, Congress will likely take up the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) at some point early next year.
Introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) and co-sponsored by representatives from both parties (the bill has a total of 31 co-sponsors!), the Stop Online Piracy Act purports to stop “foreign online criminals from stealing and selling America’s intellectual property and keeping the profits for themselves.”
According to Rep. Smith’s website, “IP theft costs the U.S. economy more than $100 billion annually and results in the loss of thousands of American jobs. The Stop Online Piracy Act specifically targets foreign websites primarily dedicated to illegal activity or foreign websites that market themselves as such. The bill ensures that profits from America’s innovations go to American innovators.”
That sounds relatively harmless, but there has been a lot of concern among tech-advocates that SOPA would would lead to censorship and deter innovation on the Internet.
In keeping with the goal to educate readers about the dangers of SOPA and PIPA, here is a piece by Ron Davis, originally posted on January 11, 2012.
There’s legislation in the House and Senate right now that is very troubling to me. In the House, it’s called the Stop Online Piracy Act (abbreviated SOPA); in the Senate, it’s called PROTECT IP (or PIPA). The goal of the legislation is to stop online piracy, which is definitely a problem. The Senate will be voting on it later this month, and for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been in awe at the absurdity of this legislation while trying to find a proper way to respond to it.
I’m a freedom loving, Constitution defending, small government guy who writes my own personal opinion about politics (which, for the record, may or may not always be the view of my employer). My day job (the one that actually pays bills) is as a systems administrator for a very large company. I’ve spent the vast majority of the last 13 years since my college graduation dealing with the technology of the Internet, and I know it quite well.
My career in IT and my fondness for liberty make me one of a relatively small number of political bloggers qualified to address this issue from both the technological and political points of view. Today I am discussing the technological issues around this legislation; tomorrow I’ll post the political problems with it.
This weekend I spent a lot of time poring over this legislation, blog posts, and white papers about it. I made my own notes and then merged my concerns of this legislation with those I found elsewhere on the Internet. This post is a fairly exhaustive list of the technological problems with SOPA and PIPA.
Welcome, United Liberty readers! Today we are solely focusing on the evil that is #SOPA and #PIPA, the two bills that are in Congress and aiming to destroy the Internet. Thousands of websites are going dark to protest, including such giants as reddit, BoingBoing, Mozilla, Wordpress.com, Scribd, and Wikipedia. Google is also joining in, though they aren’t going completely dark, they’re putting notifications on their front page, which will help the protest get a lot more attention.
If you’re new here, or you’re new to the whole SOPA and PIPA debate in general and want to know more about why these bills plainly suck, you’re in the right place. But rather than reinvent the blogging wheel, I’m instead going to give credit where credit is due, and direct you to Mashable’s Chris Heald, who has done an absolutely fantastic job dissecting these bills and showing you why they are some of the worst things that have ever been put before Congress (after the horrific NDAA, of course.)
The post is very long, because it dissects them so thoroughly. Here are some highlights I want to share with you, that I think are most applicable:
We’ll expand on this further down, but the really scary thing here is that there isn’t any qualification that the site be solely for the purpose of theft, only that it facilitate it. Since copyright violation is ridiculously easy, any site with a comment box or picture upload form is potentially infringing. Furthermore, DMCA Safe Harbor provisions are no defense. You, as a site operator, become liable for copyright infringement committed by your users, even if you comply with DMCA takedown requests.
Over the last couple of months, we’ve been keeping you up to date on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). While its supporters say that the legislation is needed to safeguard intellectual property rights and protect jobs, SOPA and the PROTECT IP Act (it’s Senate counterpart) would fundamentally change the Internet by censoring websites that purportedly enable copyright infringement or piracy.
There are many who will deny that piracy is a growing problem, but the answer to the problem is not SOPA, PROTECT IP, or any other bill that would promote government censorship of the Internet and, as Mark Lemley, David Levine, and David Post have noted, remove due process protections for sites accused of copyright infringement. These bills would also tinker with DNS filtering, which would block “offending” websites from being accessed by Internet service providers.
As you can imagine, the consequences of these two bills has many websites owners on edge. The prospect of an entire site being essentially wiped off of the web due to a single instance of copyright infringement, even if it’s unintended, has many ready to fight back. That’s why today many big names are either blacking out their sites in protest of SOPA/PIPA — among them are Wikipedia, Reddit, Mozilla, and Wordpress.org. Others, such as Google, are hoping to educate vistors of the dangers of these two bills.
First off, I think the hashtag should have been #OhJesusChristItsAnotherDebate, but unfortunately that was too long for many tweets.
Second, my pessimism from last November and December has returned. During the summer of 2011, I was pretty sure that Obama had it. Even with the killing of bin Laden, after the support quickly evaporated, I figured his support was going to continue to fall. But then, after seeing the rise of Herman Cain and the ridiculous tomfoolery in the back half of the year, I figured Obama had it in the bag. Lately, I was thinking it’s a more 50/50 thing, but last night’s performance has me thinking again that Obama is going to steamroll this election in November.
Why? Because none of the candidates—aside from Paul, natch—had any real divergence or difference, nothing truly remarkable that sets them apart from either each other, Obama, or even George W. Bush. Cut taxes, increase defense spending, some paltry attempts at entitlement reform, and oh, civil liberties, who needs those? They may play well with the base, but they are utterly disastrous with the general electorate. I for one agree on the taxes thing, but you will have Obama and the left point out that taxes are the lowest they have been in years, and unless Republicans shoot back with the OECD taxation charts, I don’t think that will sell very well (though obviously, yes, if we’re going to remain competitive, cutting our business tax rates to ~20% and getting rid of capital gains and payroll taxes would be good—though we have to balance that by massively cutting spending.)
Given President Obama’s first instincts to centralize power in Washington and expand his own executive power, it might seem unlikely that he would issue a veto threat against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senate counterpart, the Protect IP Act (PIPA). But we might be able to persuade him if we speak in language that is well understood at the White House, which is the language of reelection. While the Obama campaign might think backing SOPA/PIPA will help the president’s reelection efforts by way of generous campaign contributions from Hollywood, the White House might want to consider that signing SOPA/PIPA into law could damage his chances of reelection in at least five important ways.
1. SOPA/PIPA will alienate independents. No question about it, independents love and are well-informed about threats to their civil liberties. The Obama campaign might want to remember an ACLU poll from 2007 that showed a large majority of independents insisting that the next president should restore civil liberties that were eroded during the eight years of the Bush administration. That President Obama largely hasn’t restored those civil liberties hasn’t gone unnoticed. Maybe that’s why new polling shows Ron Paul and Mitt Romney beating Obama and even Rick Santorum nipping at his heels among independents. Many independents are independents precisely because they don’t trust either party to protect their civil liberties. Obama can kiss those independent voters goodbye if he signs SOPA/PIPA into law.
On Thursday, the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal released the 2012 Index of Economic Freedom, an annual report on economic freedom across the globe that measures interventionist government policies and ranks countries accordingly.
Ed Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, gives us an idea of what we’ll find in this year’s report, and it’s not pretty:
As Friedrich A. Hayek foresaw decades ago, “The guiding principle in any attempt to create a world of free men must be this: a policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy.” Thus, the battle of ideas must also be a battle for the meaning of the very words with which we debate. Is it “progressive” to utilize the coercive power of the state to redistribute and level incomes within a society? Is it “liberal” to build a massive state apparatus to regulate conditions of employment, usage of energy, and access to capital? The answers to such questions will determine how we live as individuals in the 21st century.
The 2012 Index of Economic Freedom documents a global economy that is engaged in this evolving battle between the forces of government and free markets. Today’s troubles have been neither accidental nor inevitable. The problems we face are the outcomes of politically driven and economically self-defeating policy decisions that have turned an economic slowdown into an accelerating decline.
Unfortunately, the report shows that the United States has, once again, lost more economic freedoms as corruption, cronyism, government spending, and a poor monetary policy continue to drag us down. While we are still ranked as “mostly free,” we can no longer say our economy is the ambition of the world.
As we near the South Carolina primaries, the media is abuzz with the drama unfolding among the Republican candidates for president, and the harsh attacks being leveled by each faction. Some see this as detrimental to the eventual Republican nominee, but I tend to disagree. In 2008, when Mitt Romney graciously stepped down and conceded to John McCain, it allowed the Republican Party to coalesce around “their man”, who promptly went on to get an Electoral College tail-whipping, losing 365-173 to a smooth-talking political neophyte with no record to speak of, but a catchy, feel-good slogan and the media on his side.
This year, make no mistake, the gloves are coming off, and the Republicans had better have a battle-tested candidate that is ready to go up against Obama. The “Hope and Change” campaign is no more, and Obama knows it. He now has a record that can be used against him, so rest assured, the absolute last thing he will focus on is that record. He’s accumulated more debt than every other president combined, signed off on a nearly trillion dollar stimulus bill that actually increased unemployment by more than two percent, the size of the federal government has grown by a quarter, and we have the scandals surrounding voter intimidation by the New Black Panther Party, the Solyndra scandal, Fast and Furious, his latest unconstitutional power grabs, and more.
Since he can’t run on his record, so what will he do? My guess is, first, he will claim that while things have been bad under his administration, he has the right policies, and therefore it would have been even worse under Republicans. The second angle I believe he will use, and indeed we saw it implemented in part during the 2012 mid-term elections, is to paint his opposition as being against him because he is black, and because they are just bad people. Why that route? Because if you can demonize the messenger you can avoid having to address the message.
The Washington Times had an interesting article yesterday, about how Congress did very little work last year. It’s a hoot to read:
It’s official: Congress ended its least-productive year in modern history after passing 80 bills — fewer than during any other session since year-end records began being kept in 1947.
Furthermore, an analysis by The Washington Times of the scope of such activities as time spent in debate, number of conference reports produced and votes taken on the House andSenate floors found that Congress set a record for legislative futility by accomplishing less in 2011 than any other year in history.
The Senate’s record was weakest by a huge margin, according to the futility index, and the House had its 10th-worst session on record.
Futility index? Have they copyrighted that? (I hope not, with SOPA coming down the pipeline…)
Of the bills the 112th Congress did pass, the majority were housekeeping measures, such as naming post office buildings or extending existing laws. Sometimes, it was too difficult for the two chambers to hammer out agreements. More often, the Senate failed to reach agreement within the chamber.
That left much of the machinery of the federal government on autopilot, with the exception of spending, where monumental clashes dominated the legislative session.