Stop SOPA

Submitted by Brian on January 18th, 2012 at 2:19 PM

Earlier this year, Thought Equity Motion used the DMCA to get clips this site uses in UFR and other places pulled off of YouTube. The EMU UFR's video was up for only a few hours and a couple subsequent ones were posted without video as I tried to confirm my legal standing.

After several conversations that did not constitute legal advice with helpful lawyers in the relevant field, the obvious was confirmed: the blog had a strong fair use case and the comically named corporation was unlikely to test this because of low upside and high downside. I opened a new account and counter-noticed Thought Equity Motion when they issued takedown notices on two Minnesota plays that were included in a Picture Pages. To date that is the last I have heard from TEM.

This is obviously an unsatisfactory state of affairs. This corporation abused the DMCA's takedown procedure to disrupt normal service here without providing anyone any evidence of infringement. The Minnesota videos took two weeks to restore; TEM hurt the viability of this site at no risk to themselves, without explaining themselves, and got what they wanted automatically.

This is not enough for entertainment companies. They would much rather not have MGoBlog on the internet at all, and they have purchased legislation that could allow a company like Thought Equity Motion to kick MGoBlog off the internet. These bills are the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and the PROTECT IP Act in the Senate, commonly abbreviated SOPA and PIPA.

These bills are awful for many reasons. Key components wouldn't work but would compromise the security of the internet. They would create a framework for censorship. They further erode the ability of fair use to prevent corporations from suppressing content they find objectionable or think they can make money off of. And they could lead to a day where you type in this URL and get this:

our-sites-saisie-usa_01179071[1]

I hereby discharge any and all beveled guilt for a period of one year if you will find your relevant congressmen and tell them in no uncertain terms that these bills are unacceptable to you. If you don't want to bother with a phone call, 50% off guilt is available by using the EFF's extremely simple mailer to fire off a targeted response.

Comments

bronxblue

January 18th, 2012 at 2:25 PM ^

Thank you Brian for joining the fight against SOPA.  While I understand that there are meaningful issues involved concerning true abuse of copyrights, the scope of SOPA (and PIPA), along with the continued misuse of the DMCA, will not address the underlying flaws of the copyright system and will instead create a perverse incentive for nebulous "rights holders" to mistreat users of content on the internet, especially those who do so within the strictures of acceptable law.

 

ixcuincle

January 18th, 2012 at 2:26 PM ^

Emailed one congressman earlier and will email the other later today. This law threatens to make Youtube highlights illegal. That's ridiculous. 

FIGHT SOPA

MattisonMan

January 18th, 2012 at 3:45 PM ^

I worked in close proximity to the hill for several years.  Congressional offices take data based on calls for/against an issue, it's effective and extremely easy.

1-You should make several calls.  One to each of your two senators, and your house representative.  Call the state/district of every place you've lived recently or have voted in.  If you don't know your congressman, find it here by your zip code: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/findyourreps.xpd

2-Call this number (I think this is still it): 202-225-3121.  You can get to any member by simply saying their name.  

3-Calmly say the following: (a) I live in the district and I'm a voter (b) SOPA is very important to me (c) I hope the Congressman/woman will strongly consider voting against these provisions.

5-Profit.

 

maizenbluedevil

January 18th, 2012 at 3:56 PM ^

Thank you so much for this very handy guide.  I wanted to call my coggressman and senators but didn't know what to say.  Now I do.  Brian should add this to his post (or link to it) for people who don't read the comments.

Already filled out the EFF thing and posted the link to it on my Facebook.  

Now calling congress...

go16blue

January 18th, 2012 at 4:22 PM ^

This is a good point, all you really have to do is point out that you are very strongly against the bill. All they do is mark down who you are, what organization you are affiliated with (if applies), and what your position is on any given bill. The interns handling the phones have no interest in a 5 minute lecture about the downsides of SOPA/PIPA.

Source: talking to one of said interns.

ziggolfer

January 18th, 2012 at 4:15 PM ^

A world without you tube videos of facepalm guy. Without the pictures of Lloyd Brady. These are two great things that would go away if this cencorship was enacted to my knowledge.  I'm always of the argument that censorship is a bad thing. Fortunately, cencorship normally never survives. 

Corey

January 18th, 2012 at 2:31 PM ^

I have already written my congressmen, and got something slightly higher quality than a form letter.  No... wait, it was a form letter in return.  Unfortunately one of my senators authored the PIPA, so efforts don't seem to be doing as much on him.

a2_electricboogaloo

January 18th, 2012 at 2:54 PM ^

Also if you go to Change.org, and scroll down to the featured petitions there are several petitions to sign there, two with >130,000 signees so far.

Edit:  I just called, and Stabenow's office was busy (I'm guessing too busy with all the calls about PIPA).  I still highly reccomend calling though, you can leave a brief message, and they'll call you back.

Sac Fly

January 18th, 2012 at 2:36 PM ^

Without this site I have no connection to my beloved Wolvereines. I was even thinking about making my own Michigan hockey site, so hopefully it gets put down.

Needs

January 18th, 2012 at 2:37 PM ^

For those who want to be more effective. The general weight given to constituent communication in congressional offices (from someone married to a former congressional aide) goes...

1. phone call

2. personal letter

3. personal email

4. Form letter/email

5. petition

And for any readers in NY, both Schumer and Gillibrand are co-sponsors of each.

bluesalt

January 18th, 2012 at 2:42 PM ^

They're both sponsors of PIPA, the Senate version, and not SOPA, the House version.  While staffers taking phone calls surely know what you mean when you say "stop supporting SOPA", it gives pols the cover they like when they say "I didn't support SOPA.  I supported PIPA, a different bill."

LVaught89

January 18th, 2012 at 2:49 PM ^

I've worked on the Hill for the past six years and I can tell you definitively that your member of Congress will not base his/her decision regarding SOPA on constituent outrage. Check campaign contributions first. If he/she took cash from the entertainment industry then you can conclude pretty easily how they'll vote. This is normal DC culture.

Jon06

January 18th, 2012 at 5:07 PM ^

but if you mean the bills, SOPA was introduced in the House by Lamar Smith (Republican of Texas) and PIPA in the Senate by Patrick Leahy (Democrat of Vermont). (PIPA is just the Senate version of SOPA.) Like most legislation, the content is essentially written by lobbyists employed by the industries that stand to benefit (in this case, mostly television, music, and film trade organizations).

dragonchild

January 18th, 2012 at 4:11 PM ^

"I can tell you definitively that your member of Congress will not base his/her decision regarding SOPA on constituent outrage"

This is demonstrably false.

I will say that it's RARE.  It's tough to do.  Nine times out of ten, money trumps speech.  The key is to get voters disinterested and uninformed over issues, and the media knows this very, very well.  But there are cases where public reaction is so strong that politicians have no choice but to vote against their financial backers -- or paid a heavy political price for choosing badly.  The National Do Not Call list was one example.  Bush Jr. was considered one of the most "pro-business" Presidents in modern history; he signed a bill that not only strictly regulated telemarketing companies, but had millions of dollars in lobbying spent to defeat it.  Why?  Because public support was about 98% in favor of it.  Whether you thought he was principled or corrupt, voting against THAT would've been political suicide.  This wasn't a particularly earth-shattering piece of legislation, I might add (though you're free to draw conclusions about America's priorities about it).

The goal, then, is for public sentiment to render a bill politically toxic.  If voters understood that these bills would destroy the Internet as we know it, and they would, then it can happen.  It's difficult, but there is precedent.  Congress can get only so odious when people are actually paying attention, and few people don't use the Internet these days.

In fact, four Senators (including co-sponsors!) have reversed their support for the bill since the blackout.  Time to eat crow, then.  More importantly, while that's progress I want these bills to die horribly shameful deaths.  Otherwise they'd just come back wearing a different mask.  Watch out for a "Stop Child Pornography Act" or "Defending America MOAR Against Terrorism Act" or something similarly hyperbolic with the exact same legal language.

Vigilance against Congress is necessary and very exhausting.  I'm not some glittery-eyed idealist about how messed up our system is.  However, full-blown cynicism isn't only unproductive, it's damaging.

MattisonMan

January 18th, 2012 at 4:29 PM ^

Yeah, I'm with you.  I spent some time in DC as well and to say it's all about the money is false.  

The money is for the campaign.  The campaign is for to be re-elected.  You need those voter things for that. That's why when voters get educated and motivated, it can certainly trump donations (which the entertainment industry doesn't give a lot anyway).  

The best argument a voter can make is voiced and informed opposition.  Icing on the cake would be anything about how this wouldn't get more jobs in the state/district/etc.  I've heard this argument made but haven't seen any real data.

Jon06

January 18th, 2012 at 2:52 PM ^

a human answered immediately when i called conyers, which was weird, so i mentioned corporate abuse of DMCA laws affecting websites i use, as well as weighing in against SOPA and PIPA. i left a message with levin, and got cut off (hung up on?) by stabenow's office, which is kind of amazing, so i just called back and left a message.

Section 1

January 18th, 2012 at 4:58 PM ^

{POLITICAL WARNING}

John Conyers, the Detroit Democrat, is a co-sponsor of the House bill (SOPA).  And Conyers, if were of a mind to do so, would be in a unique position to stop the bill if he were of a mind to do so because he is the Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Committee, where the bill will be voted on, perhaps this week.

Conyers ought to be sensitive to constituent pressure, if you are of a mind to call his office, because he is being redistricted this year, and he will likely have to run in an all-new district in order to hang onto a seat in the House this fall.  Because Michigan loses a seat in the next Congress, Conyers is likely to not run in his current (14th) District and will instead run in the newly-configured 13th District.

A very similar problem is faced by Rep. Gary Peters of the Michigan 9th, whose District almost ceases to exist after this year.  Peters has taken some film industry lobbying money, but he has not announced his position.  I should think that Peters would be sensitive to lots of constituent contacts, and since he may be running in the new 14th, people from Grosse Pointe to Southfield to West Bloomfield to Pontiac could all have a voice.  Peters will be facing off in a primary against Hansen Clarke, and like Peters, I don't know how Clarke (a sometime-maverick voter) will decide the issue.

This issue is one of those extremely rare Congressional votes where the party lines are not so clearly drawn.  The issue is as complicated politically, as it is technologically challenging.

Bodogblog

January 18th, 2012 at 8:16 PM ^

of the first order: he'll make whatever deal he can to secure the most financing for his next election and get votes. Constituents are of nearly no importance. Should you be a union rep or member, or otherwise someone able to provide a bloc of votes or speak as someone from that group, you can affect Peters.

Hate to break my favorite rule of mgoblog, but this post practically requires it. Also, not a comment on Peters' party or positions. The above or similar can likely be said about most politicians, but I have knowledge of this one.

Maize.Blue Wagner

January 18th, 2012 at 3:02 PM ^

As a legislative staffer (state level, so don't call me) I second this list.  I would also add that we give more weight to someone who is from our district.  My guess is that if you're from Michigan and calling a representative from New York, they're probably not going to pay as much attention to you. 

Also, if you get a canned response or a form letter, don't be disappointed. You can only say the same thing so many ways, and even if the legislator agrees with you, they're probably not going to come up with a special response for you.  Though again, if you give a personal letter/email/call they will be more likely to take notice.

kakusei

January 18th, 2012 at 2:42 PM ^

saw this comment on the NY Times article and really liked it. thought i would share:

 

"The people backing this bill are the same people who told us the VCR would make it impossible to make money with movies and that the audio cassette would be the end of recorded music. iTunes and Netflix show that people are willing to pay for content if you make it convenient, and lots of people would rather pay for a high-quality, consistent product than brave the internet backwaters to obtain pirated content. Sadly, it's still difficult to get a lot of media legally even if you are willing to pay, because the entertainment industry would rather drag their feet than embrace the future. Now they want the government to step in and fix it for them, breaking the internet in the process. If the MPAA and RIAA put the money they've spent lobbying for this bill toward innovating and creating a compelling digital product or a reasonable distribution model, then the music and film industries would be thriving. Instead they've doomed themselves to obsolescence while Apple and Netflix eat their lunches. I can understand why record companies and movie studios are scared, but we've all known the shift to digital distribution was coming for some time and this situation is very much their own making."

 

EDIT: I'm a new yorker and have already contacted my senators and congressman.  urge everyone to do the same

cp4three2

January 18th, 2012 at 3:23 PM ^

Being marked up in committee does not mean it will be brought to the floor. I'm sure Smith's committee will work on it (he wrote it), but it's not going anywhere.

The Senate is what to focus on. I'm not saying that you shouldn't contact the House, but if you're only going to call one or two offices I'd start in the Senate.

julesh

January 18th, 2012 at 3:33 PM ^

Considering everyone only has 3 representatives (2 Senators and 1 Congressman) I can't imagine a situation where you can call your Senators but not your Congressman. I certainly don't suggest ignoring your Senators.

RockyMtnWolverine

January 18th, 2012 at 2:46 PM ^

I am glad you made a post highlighting the dangers of these acts. I just finished calling my Colorado congressional leader and senators voicing my oposition to these laws. I find it inconsionable and inscrutable that these types of legislation are being sponcered and considered.

bjk

January 19th, 2012 at 2:59 PM ^

from linked article:

Third--and this may have been the point of the entire exercise--it gave Polis an excuse to insert the full lyrics of the popular Internet meme "The Internet is for Porn" into the official congressional hearing record for SOPA. (Representative excerpt: "All these guys unzip their flies / For porn, porn, porn!")

My favorite -- and maybe they couldn't quote this in the article:

"Grab your dick and double-click."

This was my first encounter with the 7.3-million-view "Internet is for Porn" on YouTube. The first two comments there are "SOPA sent me here."