SOPA

Citizens United and SOPA/PIPA

You know, letting corporations donate to political campaigns and have free speech rights will destroy the country. Giving corporations the right to speech, like us, is a monumental threat to democracy. They would make us all beholden to the 1%. They would buy campaigns, transform this country into a plutocracy or, worse yet, a full blown corporatocracy. Who knows what terrible things they could do to our country. Why, with their money and resources, they would be able to warp and corrupt public opinion, and turn them against the government. They might even lead a campaign to stop online censorship!

I find it somewhat amusing that the progressives who railed against Citizens United so furiously are now finding themselves the beneficiaries of that decision. Citizens United allowed corporations and such organizations as unions to spend money on political campaigns, though they could not be donated to political parties or candidates, and had to be spent separately. What else was the SOPA Strike Wednesday but a political campaign, with Hollywood on one end trying to use the political system to do away with due process in order to reap more profits, and tech companies and grassroots citizen-activists on the other trying to prevent such a mockery of law? I’m not a legal expert, but it would appear to me that if Citizens United hadn’t been decided the way it were, and the McCain-Feingold Act was still in place, this campaign might not have gotten off the ground, or if it did, it might not have been as wildly successful as it was.

Are SOPA/PIPA protests a tipping point in history?

While some of my colleagues here at United Liberty may feel that the protests yesterday may be heralding a new age of libertarianism, I’m afraid I have a darker feeling.  You see, yesterday, while the masses were arguing against a law that will create intense burdens on small websites, stifle the creative flow that makesup the internet, and ultimately throw us back about 20 years digitally, I saw only a handful of politicians leave the embrace of SOPA and PIPA.

Both of my senators have remained as co-sponsors of PIPA.  Senator Saxby Chambliss tried to argue that he was best positioned to change PIPA because, as a co-sponsor, he would have more influence.  Whatever.

After the NDAA sailed through Congress with remarkably little opposition, and I see little evidence that Congress has the testicular fortitude to say “screw the entertainment industiry’s money”, I’m forced to ponder as to whether we are at a tipping point in history.

Every society eventually falls.  Freedom is and always has been an endangered species.  It requires a great deal of vigilence for it to thrive.  This nation is obviously incapable of providing that vigilence.  Does this mean we are at a tipping point in history?  A downward slide towards all out totalitarianism?  Honestly, I don’t know.  However, I do see some things that make me very concerned.

For example, there are people who honestly believe that getting a court order counts as “due process”.  They thing that because a judge says something is acceptable, that is sufficient to meet the standards set forth in the constitution.  They don’t understand that a law like SOPA or PIPA will have a negative effect on websites that have nothing to do with piracy.

SOPA/PIPA opponents score a victory

While former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and other supporters of SOPA and PIPA have lashed out at companies and websites that participated in yesterday’s “blackout,” it certainly seems as though opponents of the two bills carried the day:

Members of the Senate are rushing for the exits in the wake of the Internet’s unprecedented protest of the Protect IP Act (PIPA). At least 13 members of the upper chamber announced their opposition on Wednesday. In a particularly severe blow from Hollywood, at least five of the newly-opposed Senators were previously sponsors of the Protect IP Act.

The newly-opposed Senators are skewed strongly to the Republican side of the aisle. An Ars Technica survey of Senators’ positions on PIPA turned up only two Democrats, Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), who announced their opposition on Wednesday. The other 11 Senators who announced their opposition on Wednesday were all Republicans. These 13 join a handful of others, including Jerry Moran (R-KS), Rand Paul (R-KY), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR), who have already announced their opposition.

Marco Rubio, a freshman Republican Senator from Florida who some consider to be a rising star, withdrew his sponsorship of the bill, citing “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.” He urged the Senate to “avoid rushing through a bill that could have many unintended consequences.”

It’s Working: #StopSOPA Protests Make Senators Back Off

Most times, petitions, protests, and the like to seem to have very little effect. People protested against the Iraq War, but we went in. People protested against TARP and the bailouts, but we bailed them out anyways. People protested against Obamacare, and it was passed anyways.

Today is different.

Judging from the news I’ve been seeing, it appears that the SOPA Strike is having an appreciable effect. I’ve already noted that Sens. Rubio and Cornyn, two sponsors, have switched sides on the bill. Declan MuCullough over at CNet reports that there is even more antipathy than I previously thought:

Rep. John Carter, [R-Mars? -Ed.] a Texas Republican who is listed as a SOPA sponsor, “reserves judgment on the final bill,” a spokesman told CNET today. “He’s certainly not saying pass the bill as-is — there are legitimate concerns in this bill.” (See CNET’s FAQ on the topic.)

[…]

The home pages of Craigslist and Google feature exhortations to contact members of Congress and urge them to vote against the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Senate version called Protect IP. Amazon.com and Yahoo’s Flickr have also joined in. (Craiglist’s snarky note: “Corporate paymasters, KEEP THOSE CLAMMY HANDS OFF THE INTERNET!”)

New York senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats who are Protect IP sponsors, sent CNET a joint statement saying: “While the threat to tens of thousands of New York jobs due to online piracy is real and must be addressed, it must be done in a way that allows the Internet and our tech companies to continue to flourish.” They said they believe “both sides can come together on a solution that satisfies their respective concerns.”

PIPA, SOPA, JOHNNY DEPP and LAMAR SMITH

Cronies are attempting a last-ditch bailout for a failing industry.

Lamar Smith's HairI saw Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean movie. It was good, but I don’t think I would see it again. The problem is there are apparently government officials out there who have seen the film and believe that it’s real. Except instead of seeing Orlando Bloom swoop down from a chandelier in order to save his, would be, girlfriend from vengeful and evil ghost pirates, they see anyone who has ever used the Internet as one knot-tying lesson away from loading up every last ship in the kings navy with any and all privately licensed media and heading straight for Tortuga.

Lamar Smith (pictured right), creator of SOPA (now PIPA) believes this in the deepest part of his heart. He is scared of Geoffrey Rush, and ipso facto he is scared of you. Him and people like him believe that the free dissemination of information makes everybody criminals. They want to put the genie back in the bottle, as it were, and given the chance they would probably be perfectly happy to see us crawling around on all fours and hanging from trees with our tales so long as we pay the going rate for DVDs; not that monkeys behave that way, or that folks like Smith likely believe in evolution.

If you take the time to calm down and ask the supporters of the PIPA doctrine about their motivation for their support of the whole mess, they will argue that media corporations and producers need to be protected against folks who steal from them and that the way to enforce this protection is not to change the way that media is provided but rather snap the lid shut on forward thinking technologies — which is, of course, total bullshit, but it’s their story and they are sticking to it.

Chris Dodd Thinks Anti-SOPA/PIPA Websites Are Abusing Their Power

If you’re like me, you hoped that you wouldn’t be hearing anything more from allegedly corrupt former Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) after he decided in 2010 not to seek a sixth Senate term. Unfortunately those hopes were dashed when the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) decided it just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hire somebody who allegedly knows exactly what it takes to buy a senator. The MPAA selected Dodd as its new head lobbyist chairman and CEO last year. Now Dodd is taking aim at Wikipedia, Google, and other websites involved in today’s protest against the SOPA/PIPA internet censorship legislation pending in Congress:

It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and use their services. It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today. It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests.

Intro to Stop SOPA Day: The 411 on SOPA Evil

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.

[…]

 

It’s time to bring down SOPA and PROTECT IP

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.

5 Reasons Obama Should Stop #SOPA & #PIPA With Veto Threat

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.

BREAKING: #Wikipedia to go dark Wed to Protest #SOPA

It’s official, from The Hill:

Wikipedia will blackout on Wednesday to protest two controversial Internet piracy bills, founder Jimmy Wales announced on Twitter Monday.

“Student warning! Do your homework early. Wikipedia protesting bad law on Wednesday,” Wales wrote.

The protest will apply only to the English version of the popular online encyclopedia and will last for 24 hours.

Wales estimated that the English Wikipedia receives about 25 million visits per day, but he said the site could receive even more visits during the blackout due to the publicity.

There you have it, folks. Now this protest actually will be effective. 25 million will see that Wikipedia is against SOPA, leading to 25 million who will also be against it. And that’s just a conservative estimate.

The Senate will vote on SOPA’s counterpart January 24. We need to let everyone in the Senate know how bad this bill is—and hopefully, with the weight of Wikipedia behind us, maybe they’ll sit up and take notice.

 


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