OT(?): SOPA and PIPA internet strike in effect today

Submitted by samber2009 on January 18th, 2012 at 1:32 AM

Wikipedia has already shut down for the next 24 hours in protest of the internet censorship bills that will be voted on next week. Tons of other sites are shutting down for a large portion of the day, and plenty more, Google included, are doing something in protest.

Plenty more information here.

If passed, these bills will likely have a trickle down effect (beyond the intention to stop internet piracy) to wonderful blogs like these who would be responsible for users posting infringing copyrighted content (game highlights, audio commentary, logo usage).  If others have more/knowledgable information to add, please do. I just don't see what good can come from censoring the internet.

EDIT: Not my intention to get political (I know it's a no no). Just tyring to be informative if you see crazy things on the internet today and don't know why. Mods feel free to delete if necessary. 



January 18th, 2012 at 8:06 AM ^

Forget politics.. Lets get it straight. Isp's can police their illegal traffic just fine as it is. Charter sends out constant warnings to users when they detect illegal torrent downloads (i know from experience). This is all about money pure and simple. We are all fans, alumni, employees of this amazing university with highly educated people.. Call your reps, board members. Alumni, lawyers, doctors etc.. You dont have to be gun ho with 60 phone calls.. Just make sure the 5 or 10 you do make are passionate and to the right people... Speak up, only way people can listen is if you have something to say!

Seattle Maize

January 18th, 2012 at 1:40 AM ^

Really glad you brought this up.  Internet piracy is as wrong as stealing, but not as dangerous as limiting the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans. It really is a slippery slope from SOPA and PIPA to censoring out other info.


January 18th, 2012 at 2:25 AM ^

I understand the sentiment behind your statement that "Internet piracy is as wrong as stealing," but I just need to point out that the way you phrased it perpetuates a dangerous misunderstanding.

Copyright infringment is, by definition, NOT stealing.  It is copyright infringment.  In most of the cases we are talking about with SOPA, like downloading a song or a movie, the violation is NOT a criminal offense.  Copyright infringment at that scale is a civil matter.

The equivalence you are suggesting, between stealing a CD and downloading one illegally, is false.  If I walk into a store and steal a CD, no one else can buy that CD.  If I make a copy of that CD, and leave the original there, the artist can still sell that to someone else.  Now, you are right, in some cases there IS a lost sale still.  If I can download the CD for free, I am not buying it.  However, if the CD cost me any money, I may not buy it in the first place.  Every illegal download does NOT represent a lost sale or a stolen one.

Of course, in an ideal world, artists are compensated at a level that keeps them making art.


January 18th, 2012 at 3:11 AM ^

Now that is some interesting way to look at the matter; pretty insightful in fact.

The internet and its laws etc. etc. baffle me beyond all, and I don't think I'm alone in that regard. I understand stealing, I understand (for the most part) piracy, I understand people desiring an earning ($$$ usually) for what they produced, I understand citizen's freedoms and liberties (for the most part!), but put all of these ideas and concepts together and add in the internet and what's created is a big mess I don't think laws can dictate straightforwardly or people can understand.

Anywho, good catch on stopping the loading of the Wikipedia page and utilizing it though "unusable"! And what all of this is accomplishing I am too ignorant to understand.


January 18th, 2012 at 1:23 PM ^

But it appears that he's just asserting that scarcity (and only scarcity) can ground property rights, without even really arguing for it. He makes a vague appeal to "Nature" making certain things scarce, which leads to conflict over use. But just because the scarcity of tangible objects was the (an?) original or "natural" reason for the development of property rights doesn't mean that it's the only good reason to have them.

Rights are conventions. Property rights are effective in the allocation of scarce resources because they help prevent people stabbing each other in the abdomen over stuff that no one owns, not because there's something magical about scarcity. But if we decide as a society that we value creative production and find that IP laws more or less efficiently allow people to be compensated for their contributions, then those rights are justified even if we can't point to someone who was prevented from hearing a song because someone else illegally downloaded it.



January 18th, 2012 at 1:53 PM ^

In regards to your second paragraph, I believe he uses the phrase "visible and just" to describe appropriate property right laws. It isn't until later where he goes into explaining why (in his opinion) all IP laws are inherently unjust.

His explanation for the unjustness of these laws fundamentally hinges on the belief that a) a pattern or pixels or combination of words cannot be property (because there is no scarcity) and b) that even if they could, it is unjust to restrict a person's inviolate right to their own property (such as copying a book with my paper and ink, or using a patented process to dig a well on my own land).

There is a third school of thought from anti-IP libertarians, I haven't read Kinsella's entire paper in quite some time, so I don't know whether to include this in the prior paragraph or to adress it separately. This third school believes that by allowing copyrights/patents to apply to, say, a musician, but not apply the same standard to Hawking's discoveries in quantum physics you create two inherently unequal classes under IP law; one is granted a monopoly on their work, while another is not. Quite obviously, we would be in the dark ages if ideas were patented, so the thought is that the better option is to abolish the laws for the other class as well.

So, without trying to speak for the paper, I don't believe your point about society having the ability to establish systems is in contention, only whether it is just, or whether society should establish those systems.


January 18th, 2012 at 2:45 PM ^

But the two claims by which he defends the unjustness of Intellectual property rights are contestable

a) a pattern or pixels or combination of words cannot be property (because there is no scarcity)

But what grounds the idea that scarcity a necessary condition for property? This just seems like some sort of essentialism about what property "really" is. Property is whatever we decide it is.

b) that even if they could, it is unjust to restrict a person's inviolate right to their own property (such as copying a book with my paper and ink, or using a patented process to dig a well on my own land).

On what concept of justice? There are all kinds of reasonable restrictions on what I can or can't do with my own property. I own a printer and paper, but I'm not allowed to use it to counterfeit money. Is this an injustice?

The point about scientific discoveries is interesting and maybe valid, but I think maybe the reason we can live with the asymmetry is that  Hawking's discovery that black holes emit radiation (for example) put him in a unique position for other types of compensation (tenure, grants, etc.) that might not present themselves as a general rule in artistic creation.



January 18th, 2012 at 3:19 PM ^

Your points are both fair and well thought out. I would just reply that the nature of economics, political philosophy, legal theory, ect. means that we're going to have disagreements on what the proper course of action is at any given time.

But on my original points and your replies:

I don't think I can agree that property is "whatever we decide it is". The very reason we have a use for the idea of "property" is scarcity. Paraphrasing Kinsella's example, if we all lived in Eden where anything was possible with the blink of an eye, the human mind would have no use for the concept of property, because we would need to protect nothing; everything would be abundant. If I drove off in your car while you were at work, but the same car appeared as soon as I left the spot, did a theft occur? Judging by legaldictionary.com, no. Theft/larceny is defined as [t]he unauthorized taking and removal of the personal property of another by an individual who intends to permanently deprive the owner of it; a crime against the right of possession.

On your second point about reasonable restrictions, it entirely depends on what "reasonable" is. The author (and I for that matter) have a very, very high threshold for what could be constituted as reasonable, and are prepared to stand by that. In your specific example, I would argue that the act of printing a $100 bill isn't inherently unethical*; it's the fraudulent act of passing the bill off as real that is unethical.

*Caveats that legal =/= ethical, but ethical or not is the only thing I can argue since it is indisputably illegal here and now.


January 18th, 2012 at 12:40 PM ^

The counter to that would be to ask, "does one have a legitimate claim on tangable property"? Nearly everyone (IMO) would say that, yes, a CD company owns the CD's in their factory. Then you need to ask "does a producer have a right to sales"? to which nearly everyone (IMO) would reply that, no, a producer does not have a right to sales.

There definitely can be good arguments in favor of IP, but I don't think this particular example is that relevant (possibly only because I don't see utilitarian arguments alone as enough of a basis for anything).


January 18th, 2012 at 1:14 PM ^

Kinsella puts forth an interesting argument. It seems to me, though, that a system for protection of IP based solely on contract would be a less efficient (more easily circumvented) way of accomplishing the same thing. If you're worried about semantics, I'm fine with not calling it intellectual property- it's not property and it's not scarce. (Jefferson and tapers and so on).

The idea is that we, as a society, want these things to exist. Without copyright, patent, trademark, etc..., authors, artists, and technologists have little incentive to create. I think we can agree that the current system fails in matching the required amount of incentive with the actual costs an author or technologist incurs in creating, but we do want art and music and technological progress, and we do need to incentivize their production.

Posner and Landes: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/IPCoop/89land1.html

"Where widespread distribution is necessary to generate an adequate return to the author or where the work is resold or publicly performed, contractual prohibitions may not prevent widespread copying. Thus, the greater the potential market for a work, the greater the need for copyright protection."

Bill Patry on the matching problem: http://volokh.com/author/bill-patry/

kevin holt

January 18th, 2012 at 1:45 AM ^

Considering this involves the internet and concerns us as a blog community, I suppose one could argue that it doesn't stray too far OT, but let's make sure we don't get into politics. That's a major rule and preference even under OT.


January 18th, 2012 at 1:50 AM ^

Not my intention at all to get political. Just wanting to point out  how one of my favorite places on the internet could be affected. I get a lot of my random information on here, so I thought I'd share if someone couldn't access one of their other favorite sites as well and didn't know why.



January 18th, 2012 at 2:01 AM ^

awareness be spread. This bill is quite possibly the worst thing that could happen to the modern world. I thought about suggesting that Brian shut down MGoBlog for a day too, but I figured that too many people would have to go the hospital for withdrawal symptoms.... I was glad when I found out that Brian and Co. moved the servers from GoDaddy to Amazon.


January 18th, 2012 at 3:09 AM ^

Mainly because your Internet Service Provider (ISP) i.e. Comcast, AT&T, etc. would be blocking all their users from accessing MGoBlog. So MGoBlog would still exist but unless you have a private satellite, no one in the US could access it. Moving the site from the GoDaddy servers to the Amazon servers was pretty much a FU to GoDaddy. A week or two ago, GoDaddy had come out in support of SOPA and well, the Internet got pissed. Pissing off the Internet is never a good thing. 1000s of sites migrated off of GoDaddy in an organized protest and it finally got bad enough that GoDaddy took their name off of the list supporting SOPA. It was pretty much an empty gesture though because some trade group that they belong to still has their name on the list supporting SOPA. 


January 18th, 2012 at 11:38 AM ^

Now I want to know which country has the domain .ky, but can't because Wikipedia is down.

E.T.A.: Never mind. A quick trip to French Wikipedia tells me that it's the Cayman Islands. I don't actually think that would help, seeing as how the UK will probably comply with U.S. requests on this when the party in question is American.


January 18th, 2012 at 8:15 AM ^

While this is a political thing (because there is a bill before congress now) it isn't a political thing with respect to liberal/conservative. I know plenty of people that normally disagree on most issues but on this one they can all agree. This is a colossal mistake that would have far reaching effects, it is a bad idea and needs to go down in flames, never to be brought up again.



January 18th, 2012 at 11:34 AM ^

It's because both parties are headed by old farts who don't understand the internet and who are happy to be educated by whichever side is insistent enough with its donations and favors. I would be interested in seeing a breakdown of SOPA/PIPA support among Congress-members by age.


January 18th, 2012 at 12:37 PM ^

It is a bill in congress, which is inherently political.  However, from our perspective this is barely even off topic.  Under SOPA, "Cue the Muppets" posts would be ground to shut down or block access to this site, since the muppets are the IP of Disney who will not likely be trigger shy when it comes to using the law .


January 18th, 2012 at 1:54 AM ^

Take for example that wonderful Brian Kelly Gif that gets posted everytime Notre Dame or Kelly gets mentioned. Well, that's property of NBC. By posting that on this site, or even just linking to it, Brian could lose all sources of revenue on this site, on top of being sued. Those ads that get Brian money? The advertisement providers would be banned from providing services to the site. That handy Google custom search? Well Google would be banned from providing that for MGoBlog too. But fine, say Brian has enough good in his heart to continue providing everything without making any money. Well, then the government talks to Comcast, AT&T, etc. and tells them to block MGoBlog from being accessed. Just for linking to a Brian Kelly Gif. Now think about how many videos and pictures get posted on this site. Brian would be getting sued for each video and each picture. You think Brian has the money to pay the legal fees for every lawsuit that he would face? Now think about a site like YouTube. You think Google is going to waste money on lawyers for every video? What about Wikipedia? These bills are nothing more than thinly veiled attempts at censorship. When you read about the death of the internet, it's usually a joke. Not this time. If these bills get passed, the Internet is gone. 

I'd love to talk about it more, but I just read half of Theogony and I have to write a presentation on the Organisational Effects of Hormones on the Developing Brain. Seriously, just google SOPA and you'll find articles written much better and with much more information than I wrote above.

My name ... is Tim

January 18th, 2012 at 9:00 AM ^

How is that any different than now? NBC has the rights to that image pre-SOPA and can assert them at any time. They don't (and won't) because: a) it would be impossible to sue thousands of providers using such images; and b) what loss are they suffering as a result of its use? People don't sue just to sue. Lawyers are expensive. Also, no law can overcome the constitutionally protected fair use right.

Not saying this law is not worthy of protest, but I think that doomsday scenario you and others are touting may be slightly exagerrated.


January 18th, 2012 at 9:41 AM ^

—If my understanding of SOPA is correct—they will not need lawyers in order to take down sites like that.  Once a site has been recognized for having copywrited content, it will be taken down without legal proceeding.  It's not like a site will be marked, reviewed, a trial will occur, and it then it will be decided whether or not they stay.  Pretty much whenever copywrited is recognized the site will be shut down, which is dangerous for MGoBlog, because Brian has already had problems with Though Equity Motion, which probably means that this site is a likely target for black out.


January 18th, 2012 at 11:33 AM ^

Actually no with sopa they don't need to prove the owners of the ip did anything wrong just somebody using the website which is one of the main problems.  For example on youtube if somebody posted copyrighted information under SOPA youtube could get shut down over the one video, it is beyond absurd.


January 18th, 2012 at 11:03 AM ^

Not hard at all. A judge will probably give them a rubber stamp with his signature. I just wanted to be technically correct.

And does it really make sense to forego a trial when a person's income is on the line? It's one thing to send cease and desist letters to a site and give them time to respond. It's another to send cease and desist letters to 3rd parties without allowing the alleged violator to defend himself. All these acts and the DMCA do is circumvent requirements in the constitution, that are there for a reason, to make things easier for the right holders to inflict their will without obstruction.


January 18th, 2012 at 9:44 AM ^

The difference is that, right now, they can sue, which, as you mentioned, is a fruitless endeavor. However, SOPA and PIPA would allow them to send out notices to all of Brian's advertisement agencies and prevent payment to him. They could also block links to Brian's site from search engines, or even have his domain blocked. It's one thing to try to get money for your work. It's something completely different to try to censor anything that makes reference to your work.


January 18th, 2012 at 12:03 PM ^

This is not true. SOPA and PIPA require a threshold showing that the targeted site is dedicated to infringement. They do not enact a new notice and takedown system. A trivial instance of infringement (or several) will not meet that burden. These provisions should be tightened, as reddit argues, but even in their current state they would not allow for a slope as slippery as the one you (or they) describe.

I don't think SOPA/PIPA should be passed in their current form, mostly because all they do is provide new remedies- they do nothing to alter the current (problematic) system of liability.

You don't need to mischaracterize the bills, as so many have, to convince people that we can do better. 

The following links are from a well-regarded pro-copyright blog written by a recent law school grad. I don't completely agree with his take, but he's done a reasonably faithful job of breaking down the bills. The truth probably lies somewhere in between the popular account and what he's arguing for here. If you're already convinced about SOPA (and about this post), I don't want you to get any more angry and yell "Internet Death" at me. You've got this one figured out, so go ahead and skip the links.

If you've got any interest in reading a discussion of the bills not provided by reddit, google, or wikipedia, well then you might want to give it a shot. Above all, please read the bills.