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Ask Slashdot: What Can You Do About SOPA and PIPA? 1002

Posted by Soulskill
from the grab-some-tea-and-head-to-boston dept.
Wednesday is here, and with it sites around the internet are going under temporary blackout to protest two pieces of legislation currently making their way through the U.S. Congress: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect-IP Act (PIPA). Wikipedia, reddit, the Free Software Foundation, Google, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, imgur, Mozilla, and many others have all made major changes to their sites or shut down altogether in protest. These sites, as well as technology experts (PDF) around the world and everyone here at Slashdot, think SOPA and PIPA pose unacceptable risks to freedom of speech and the uncensored nature of the internet. The purpose of the protests is to educate people — to let them know this legislation will damage websites you use and enjoy every day, despite being unrelated to the stated purpose of both bills. So, we ask you: what can you do to stop SOPA and PIPA? You may have heard the House has shelved SOPA, and that President Obama has pledged not to pass it as-is, but the MPAA and SOPA-sponsor Lamar Smith (R-TX) are trying to brush off the protests as a stunt, and Smith has announced markup for the bill will resume in February. Meanwhile, PIPA is still present in the Senate, and it remains a threat. Read on for more about why these bills are bad news, and how to contact your representative to let them know it.

Note: This will be the last story we post today until 6pm EST in protest of SOPA.
Why is it bad?

The Stop Online Piracy Act is H.R.3261, and the Protect-IP Act is S.968.

The intent of both pieces of legislation is to combat online piracy, giving the Attorney General and the Department of Justice power to block domain name services and demand that links be stripped from sites not involved in piracy. The problem is that the legislation, as written, is vague and overly-broad. For one thing, it classifies internet sites as "foreign" or "domestic" based entirely on their domain name. A site hosted abroad like Wikileaks.org could be classified as "domestic" because the .org TLD is registered through a U.S. authority. By defining it as "domestic," Wikileaks would then fall under the jurisdiction of U.S. laws. Other provisions are worded even more poorly: in Section 103, SOPA lays out the definition for a "foreign infringing site" as one where "the owner or operator of such Internet site is committing or facilitating the commission of criminal violations punishable under [provisions relating to counterfeiting and copyright infringement]." The problematic word is facilitating, as it opens the door to condemning sites that simply link to other sites.

The most obvious implication of this is that search engines would suddenly be responsible for monitoring and policing everything they index. Google indexed its trillionth concurrent URL in 2008. Can you imagine how many people it would take to double check all of them for infringing content? But the job wouldn't end at simply looking at them — Google would have to continually monitor them. Google would also have to somehow keep track of the billions of new sites that spring up daily, many of which would be trying to avoid close scrutiny. Of course, it's an impossible task, so there would need to be automated solutions. Automation being imperfect, it would leave us with false positives. Or perhaps sites would need to be "approved" to be listed. Either way, we'd then be dealing with censorship on a massive scale, and the infringing sites themselves would continue to pop up.

But the problems don't end there; in fact, SOPA defines "Internet search engine" as a service that "searches, crawls, categorizes, or indexes information or Web sites available elsewhere on the Internet" and links to them. That's pretty much what we do here at Slashdot. It's also something the fine folks at Wikipedia and reddit do on a regular basis. The strength of all three sites is that they're heavily dependent on user-generated content. Every day at Slashdot, readers deposit hundreds and hundreds of links into our submissions bin. Thousands of comments are made daily. We have a system to surface the good content, but the chaff still exists. If we suddenly had a mandate to retroactively filter out all the links to potentially copyright-infringing sites in our database, we wouldn't have many options. We're talking about reviewing hundreds of thousands of submissions, and every comment on 117,000+ stories. And we're far from the biggest site around — imagine social networks needing to police their content, and all the privacy issues that would raise.

Small sites and new sites would be hurt, too. A website isn't a single, discrete entity that exists on its own. A new company starting up a site would have to worry about its webhost, registrar, content provider, ISP, etc. The legislation would also raise significant financial obstacles. New companies need investments, and that would be much less likely (PDF) if the company could be held liable for content uploaded by users. On top of that, if the site was unable to live up to the vague standards set by the government and the entertainment industry, they could be on the receiving end of a lawsuit, which would be expensive to fight even if they won (and such laws would never, ever be abused). It's hard to conceptualize the internet without noting its unrivaled growth, and SOPA/PIPA would surely stifle it.

This legislation hits near and dear to the hearts of many Slashdotters; if SOPA/PIPA pass, IT staff for companies small and large are going to have their hands full making sure they aren't opening themselves to legal action or government intervention. Mailing lists, used commonly and extensively among open source software projects, would be endangered. Code repositories would need be scoured for infringing content; the bill allows for the strangling of revenue sources if its anti-infringement rules aren't being met. VPN and proxy services become only questionably legal. The very nature of the open source community — as the EFF puts it, "decentralized, voluntary, international" — is not compatible with the burdens placed on internet sites by SOPA and PIPA.

What can we do?

So, what can we do about it? There are two big things: contact your representative, and spread the word. Slashdot readers, on the whole, are more technically-minded than the average internet user, so you're all in a position to share your wisdom with the less internet-savvy people in your life, and get them to contact their representative, too. Here's some useful information for doing so:

Propublica has a list of all SOPA/PIPA supporters and opponents.
Here is the Senate contact list and the House contact list.
You can also use the EFF's form-letter, the Stop American Censorship form-letter, or sign Google's petition.
If you don't live in the U.S., you can petition the State Department. (And yes, you have a dog in this fight.)
SOPAStrike has a list of companies participating in the protest, and this crowd-sourced Google Doc tracks companies that support the legislation. Tell those companies what you think.

Further reading: Wikipedia has left their SOPA and PIPA pages up. The EFF has a series of articles explaining in more depth what is wrong with the bills. Here are some protest letters written to Congress from human rights groups, law professors, and internet companies.

Go forth and educate.
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Ask Slashdot: What Can You Do About SOPA and PIPA?

Comments Filter:
  • Spread the word (Score:5, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:09AM (#38737336)
    Making sure that everyone knows what is happening and what is at stake is probably the most useful thing anyone can do.
    • Re:Spread the word (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tsingi (870990) <graham DOT rick AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:13AM (#38737386)

      Making sure that everyone knows what is happening and what is at stake is probably the most useful thing anyone can do.

      Going offline is a good tactic to reach the general audience of Wikipedia. There probably aren't that many subscribers at /. that aren't aware of SOPA and what it means.

      The thing to do now is make it known everywhere you hang out and try to get people to care. A tough row to hoe, but if we all do it, it will have an effect.

      • Re:Spread the word (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ByOhTek (1181381) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @11:08AM (#38738048) Journal

        Indeed. There were several people I was talking to, today about the wikipedia outage, who wanted to know what the big deal was (one even tried to defend SOPA). My general comparison was similar to the patriot act, but instead of dismantling checks and balance within the government some tenuous terrorism issues, it's dismantling checks on certain abusive businesses over piracy (which will be only minimally mitigated, at the cost of, probably billions, to other companies and individuals).

        • Re:Spread the word (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Joce640k (829181) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @12:13PM (#38738838) Homepage

          It won't make the slightest difference to piracy.

          Piracy will continue unabated so long as binary data can be transferred between people's computers.

          • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @12:50PM (#38739312)

            long as binary data can be transferred between people's computers.

            Don't give them ideas.

            • Re:Spread the word (Score:5, Insightful)

              by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @04:59PM (#38741654) Homepage

              Seriously, if you look at what the 5 media giants (Disney, GE, News Corp, Time Warner, Viacom) really want the Internet to become, it's a return to a broadcast-focused system where users can download or stream "content" helpfully provided by those same companies, but can't interact peer-to-peer.

              For these kind of jerks, the idea that ordinary people can use the Internet to communicate with each other directly is considered a serious problem. For instance, they might use it to create alternate media sources that aren't tied to the same corporate advertisers as those 5 media companies. Or they might organize political protests that cause problems for these company's allies in Washington DC. Or they might spread information about ideas that these companies would rather suppress. Or they might organize workers in an industry and demand higher wages.

              It's all about controlling the information and entertainment that us peons are allowed to experience and use to make decisions. And the danger extends beyond media companies - if regular people have created alternate forms of entertaining and informing each other, then they won't be bombarded with commercials, which means they won't buy the new useless kitchen gadgets and won't vote for the candidate who's picked up the most campaign cash. This ordinary-people-talking-to-each-other thing could be the force that *destroys America* (at least as the corporate and business guys see it).

        • Re:Spread the word (Score:5, Informative)

          by hexadecimate (761789) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @12:15PM (#38738860)
          A useful link [techdirt.com] [techdirt] to send to anyone defending or even ambivalent about SOPA. It's legislation designed by a lobby group to service their agenda, and damn any unforeseen consequences. If you think the RIAA and MPAA give a shit about the free speech and due process of *others* balanced against their desire to maximize profits, you've been asleep for the last twenty years.
        • Re:Spread the word (Score:5, Informative)

          by steelfood (895457) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @12:28PM (#38739052)

          You should explain that the big deal for Wikipedia is that if one of these bills were passed, someone (or some company) can claim one of Wikipedia's pages is infringing on said entity's copyrights and have Wikipedia temporarily taken down without presenting any actual evidence of that infringement. As Wikipedia has many pages, its content is user-generated, and the full history of each page is maintained, not only can this inadvertently be true, but it can be repeated over and over again until the people running Wikipedia either quits out of frustration or becomes irrelevant due to the continuous downtime.

          You can also add that while Wikipedia may have the legal resources to fight such claims, it is firstly resources better off used to maintain and grow their services instead of fighting potentially frivilous but immediately damaging claims, and secondly that the individual blogger, personal sites, and sites run by smaller organizations will not have access to such legal resources, and will be forced to shut down indefinitely without recourse. If your acquaintance has a personal site or blog, you can point out that an infringement claim can come from anyone, especially from competitors looking to steal page views from your acquaintance's blog, or from enemies your acquaintance may have made by writing something offensive to that individual, or even (though it's a stretch) from mobs like Anonymous who may just do it for the lulz.

          The only winners of this are the entities who don't have an internet presence, and don't care to.

        • Re:Spread the word (Score:5, Insightful)

          by DarKnyht (671407) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @06:53PM (#38742502)

          My way of explaining it to people is this: SOPA/PIPA is like building a Death Star to kill the three rebels hiding in the population of a small planet.

    • Re:Spread the word (Score:5, Interesting)

      by smpoole7 (1467717) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @11:05AM (#38738010) Homepage

      One of our morning talk show hosts -- who's about as conservative as they come -- devoted most of his program to SOPA and PIPA this morming. As a result, a lot of people who'd never heard of it are now very annoyed and are expressing their displeasure toward their Congress Critters. :)

      Heh. Heh, heh.

      I'm actually feeling pretty encouraged this morning. It has been a while since I felt that way.

      • Re:Spread the word (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Joce640k (829181) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @11:56AM (#38738620) Homepage

        I'm actually feeling pretty encouraged this morning. It has been a while since I felt that way.

        Won't make any difference...it'll just resurface in 2012 attached to the back of the "True Patriotic Americans against Pedophiles and Terrorists" bill.

      • Re:Spread the word (Score:5, Interesting)

        by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @12:39PM (#38739190) Homepage Journal

        One of our morning talk show hosts -- who's about as conservative as they come -- devoted most of his program to SOPA and PIPA this morming. As a result, a lot of people who'd never heard of it are now very annoyed and are expressing their displeasure toward their Congress Critters. :)

        Heh. Heh, heh.

        I'm actually feeling pretty encouraged this morning. It has been a while since I felt that way.

        I noticed that one of my two Senators' web sites is down this morning. The site of the one who has been publicly opposing PIPA (Mark Udall) is chugging along just fine, but I think the other one (Michael Bennett) has gotten hammered. :-)

    • Re:Spread the word (Score:5, Informative)

      by jupiter126 (2471462) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @12:13PM (#38738836)
      One of the major problem is that the problem is mostly known by english speaking people. Here's a translation to french of an essai on SOPA by the Stanford Law Review, please pass it on to your french-speaking contacts: http://www.openskill.lu/ensopa-concernedfrsopa-tout-monde-est-concern/ [openskill.lu]
    • Re:Spread the word (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@nosPam.gmail.com> on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @12:14PM (#38738844) Homepage

      Making sure that everyone knows what is happening and what is at stake is probably the most useful thing anyone can do.

      But that's not (completely) what people are doing. When I see a corporation defending my rights, especially when they have a record of violating them, I have to ask why they would do that. What's in it for them? Just because they appear on the surface agree with you, doesn't mean they have the same reasons or goals as you or your interests at heart.
       
      When you look at Google for example, you have to think of YouTube and the terabytes of copyright violations that they derive ad revenue from. You also have to think of Google Books and their attempts to violate authors rights by forcing them to opt-out if they don't want their material illegally (under current law) served up by Google.
       
      So no, I don't think Google (for just one example) is indulging in their minor protest out of the goodness of their hearts... They're doing it out for their bottom line and for the PR it generates.

  • One other thing... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jholyhead (2505574) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:12AM (#38737360)
    ...work on ways to bypass SOPA and PIPA. Congress doesn't care that it will censor the internet, because they're the ones who will be doing the censoring. Censorship always makes perfect sense to the censors

    Creating undetectable breaches of such unenforceable laws is the way out of this mess and those workarounds might just work in China too. So you'll be saving the internet and advancing human rights in China all at the same time.
    • by Blue Stone (582566) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @11:31AM (#38738320) Homepage Journal

      I think you're partially right in that this is definitely A way to go, but as with all campaigns against an evil (percieved or otherwise) a multi-pronged approach is always best.

      Lobby, raise awareness, campaign, write, make art, make jokes, converse, code. Do all these things and more.

      The chances are this issue will re-surface. Even if SOPA and PIPA are killed stone dead, they're just the fruiting bodies of a root system that spreads far and wide and has much influence. That's also where we need to focus - the self-interested parties who will burn the earth so long as they have a fire with which to warm their hands. And the tame politicians who engage in mutual backscratching with these creatures.

      SOPA/PIPA is a skirmish, and one which the opposing army will walk away from largely intact.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @11:47AM (#38738518)

      I fear that the way it will be bypassed is a return to professional piracy.

      In the era when the internet was just taking off, I remember people selling CDs of software, movies, music and games. Many people could not download, or did not have a fast connection, so others stepped in, providing a service for a price. People with racks of CDs at car boot sales, or selling the under the counter, or in the pub. It cost a little, but still massivly cheaper than buying in a shop.

      If it becomes difficult for the average person to pirate, then that service becomes valuable again. Piracy will not be reduced, but the middle men will start making money again.

      As a musician, I'd rather people downloaded for free than were buying my music from professional pirates.

  • Oblig XKCD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:13AM (#38737378)

    http://xkcd.com/865/ [xkcd.com]

    Stop SOPA and PIPA now!!!

  • Why not slashdot? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xtracto (837672) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:13AM (#38737382) Journal

    There was a time when Slashdot was at the forefront of such kind of fights against "the man" (e.g., Sony Rootkit fiasco).

  • by Speare (84249) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:16AM (#38737400) Homepage Journal

    This morning on NPR's Marketplace Morning Report, there was a footnote similar to a few other mass media articles I've seen. They pointed out that if necessary, you could use Google's "cached copy" of a site like Wikipedia, if you are otherwise blocked by the SOPA front page. It's like a digital scab on the picket line.

    Then it struck me: isn't this advice a sort of inducement to piracy, and therefore a strong statement about SOPA's odious nature? If a site blocks its own publication of data, say, Sony/EMG/WarnerBros takes down its own webpage, isn't relying on a third party copy to get that content without their authorization just another form of "stealing" in their eyes? Wikipedia content is under some copyleft premise, but I don't think that changes the point: there are times that everyday reasonable activities can be construed as piracy in ways that a law or a technology can never adequately distinguish.

  • I'm not in America! (Score:5, Informative)

    by duguk (589689) <dug AT frag DOT co DOT uk> on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:17AM (#38737410) Homepage Journal
    How about for the rest of us who aren't in America?
    I'd really like to help, since if this passes it's only a matter of time before it's in the UK too.

    What can we non-US citizens do to help?
  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:19AM (#38737442)

    I would have expected the tech-savvy slashdot to do something similar to what google and reddit have done in protest. Why not?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:49AM (#38737852)

      Protesting to the informed would serve no purpose whatsoever.
      It's the general sheeple that need to be informed.

    • by DeathMagnetic (1365763) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @11:06AM (#38738026)
      Why is it that in every story about this, someone feels the need to question why /. isn't shutting down? These blackouts, in and of themselves, will not stop SOPA/PIPA. The purpose is to raise awareness and mobilize people who would otherwise be unaware or apathetic to the cause. /. readers are already well aware and united in their opposition, and frankly, stories such as this on the front page will so more good than a simple blackout to that audience. The blackout of Wikipedia, on the other hand, reaches a vastly wider audience, including millions who have never even heard of this legislation. The inconvenience of not having access to one of their most useful sites will hopefully serve as a wake-up call to these people and spark action from a much larger base. Think for a moment about why one size doesn't fit all when it comes to how sites can best raise awareness of the issue.
  • I get the concerns (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thepainguy (1436453) <thepainguy@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:20AM (#38737452) Homepage
    God knows, I don't know how many times a sales guy, or some piece of legislation, proposed something that would have been awesome in theory but that was just totally unmanageable in practice. On more than a few occasions I have seen these features go into production over my protests, only to see them die a rapid death when management realized how much time it was taking to keep them up.

    Having said that, I'm also an author and copyright owner and my book can be found on multiple pirate and other sites around the Internet. I would love the ability to press a button or fill out a form and have the link removed from every index.

    To be honest, I don't know how many sales this is costing me, but not knowing isn't a particularly comfortable feeling. Maybe the big boys can just blow off a certain amount of piracy, but I'm still very small and every sale, or lost sale, makes a difference.
    • by Kidbro (80868) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:30AM (#38737560)

      To be honest, I don't know how many sales this is costing me, but not knowing isn't a particularly comfortable feeling.

      Do you know how many sales it is giving you [youtube.com]?

      • by thepainguy (1436453) <thepainguy@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:42AM (#38737760) Homepage
        Valid point.

        I guess I'd be more comfortable with/less bothered by this if I had a story that I could point to where a sale was driven by a download of pirated copy, but I don't have one yet (which of course doesn't mean it hasn't happened).

        I also think this may work better for authors with multiple works; they hook people with pirated copies and then make their money by selling them their new stuff. Many people seem to do this on the Apple eBook store. Of course, that could make an argument for breaking books up into smaller pieces (e.g. turn a three-section book into three separate books) so that this approach can be used.
        • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @11:14AM (#38738144) Journal

          You do now. Actually, I'll give you two.

          The runner up story is Susan Boyle. When Wikipedia comes off blackout, go look her up and check the sales records - some such highest selling new artist in X years.

          But let's do your story.

          If you're gutsy, you'll post a link to your book and dedicate it "A gift to protest SOPA". Pick a CC license, I suggest "Attribution Only" (So that people can't replace your name, but all told, people are usually pretty good at keeping original artist names on their copies.) Put a rider in "Since this copy originated on a special post, please let me know if this copy inspires you to buy it". Give us an address to send checks/payments to, etc.

          Or, if you are still a little squeamish, send *me* all that info which I won't re-share, but I'll report my results. My email is "not obfuscated" so send it along!

          • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @02:13PM (#38740246) Journal

            Update: The gentleman did in fact email me a copy, so now it's my turn to decide what happens next.

            A couple of notes:

            A Legit issue underneath all the snow-job the **AA is churning out is that there is indeed a longer gestation period for "non-traditional sales" so on purpose I "won't pay today". (Otherwise that's just more of an inverted retail transaction.)

            Also this situation is different because "the clock starts today" whereas the poster's point was that he couldn't figure out the "correlation - causation" link between unknown downloads vs. sales.

            This feels like an important project for me and my stance on copyright, so everyone, watch for further posts later in other threads and we'll see where it all goes. Mr. Author, please pay extra care not to "get impatient" here. I have some ideas but the time passing is in fact part of the point, so that it doesn't just become astroturfing.

            See you all In Another Thread!

    • by Spad (470073) <slashdot@spad . c o . uk> on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:45AM (#38737796) Homepage

      The real question is, how many sales does piracy cost you compared to how many sales it gains you by spreading awareness of your existence?

      I'm sure you're smart enough not to make the "pirated copy = lost sale" mistake, so think about it in this context; I typically "pirate" two classes of books, those which I already own as a physical copy and those which aren't available officially as a digital copy & that I need in that format for them to be practical (typically reference books). In neither case are there any lost sales involved - I won't re-buy books I already own on principle and there's no point in buying reference books that are never going to be used because they're too bulky to carry around with me - so even if you were able to magically take down all the links to pirated copies of them, it still wouldn't result in any additional sales. The same argument can be made for people who pirate because they genuinely can't afford to buy and people who pirate because they download *everything* they can get their hands on and then never look at it.

      Ultimately, the only group who are causing losses are those who pirate because they don't want to pay for something, which I have no doubt is a fair number, but even then, while this is obviously a huge problem for the people whose works are being pirated, it still doesn't impact the economy in the way that the MPAA/RIAA always claim because oddly enough, the money they're not spending on movies, games, books and music gets spent on other things instead.

      So, from what I can see of your book, it's Unavilable on Amazon and only available as a DRM'd PDF from your website in terms of digital formats; I don't trust Paypal as far as I can throw them, which means I can't buy a copy direct from you, so even if I wanted to I couldn't buy your book in a way that's convenient to me. That's when people get frustrated and think "sod it, I'll just download the damn thing" (For the record, that's not what I'm going to do).

      • by Bob9113 (14996) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @12:25PM (#38739008) Homepage

        The real question is, how many sales does piracy cost you compared to how many sales it gains you by spreading awareness of your existence?

        That is the real question for copyright holders to rationally support SOPA, and I agree with your implication that it may be shaky ground. Rational societal support of SOPA is even more conservative than that.

        Society's balancing point is at delta copyright profit versus total cost of copyright enforcement. Your formula above, lost sales versus gained sales, is one of the factors in calculating delta profit. If that value is positive, copyright holders would support SOPA. But that is not enough for society to benefit from SOPA. For society to support it, delta profit must exceed total cost of enforcement. (if you are a pure economist -- libertarians would require still more justification for government enforcement) (authoritarians might require less, but authoritarians have no just standing in This Grand Experiment)

        That is how it is with all legislation and enforcement. If the cost of jaywalking is not very high at a particular intersection (very few car versus pedestrian incidents), you don't have to enforce the law too strictly. If a particular stretch of highway out in the desert is sufficiently desolate, you don't have to invest as much in enforcing the speed limit. Heck, we even have limits on murder enforcement -- if we didn't, there would be no such thing as a cold case file.

        We are acting as though we cannot stop writing more copyright law until infringement ceases to exist. As you rightly point out, this is not necessarily in the rational interests of the protected class. And beyond that is the rational interests of society, which are far more conservative regarding copyright enforcement.

        Considered in this coldly rational light, it is hard to think that we are anywhere but far beyond the rational societal balancing point of copyright grants and enforcement.

  • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:21AM (#38737476)

    I listened to a clip of senate hearings on NPR this morning. After a stream of warnings by PIPA opponents, Patrick Leahy (D) said something to the effect of "If this bill is as bad as you say, it won't get five votes. If it protects content providers from piracy, it will pass easily."

    Way to ignore the point. He is admitting the rest of the country can burn as long as content industries are happy. That is the definition of special interest control.

    • by SirGarlon (845873) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:44AM (#38737780)

      "If this bill is as bad as you say, it won't get five votes."

      He's assuming his colleagues will read it before voting on it. He should know better.

    • by Spad (470073) <slashdot@spad . c o . uk> on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @11:24AM (#38738258) Homepage

      The irony being that SOPA/PIPA *doesn't* protect content providers from piracy any more than the DMCA did, DRM does or any other failed attempts to legislate their way out of this mess have done.

      Ultimately, there is no technical or legal measure that will prevent piracy. The *only* way you will stop piracy from being a problem is to make it a more attractive proposition to buy a legitimate copy than to download a pirated one which requires Speed (Don't make me wait 6 weeks after the DVD is released to download the movie), Flexibility (Give me the option of several formats and let me move between platforms, don't time limit it), Choice (Old stuff, obscure stuff - it barely costs anything extra to have it available as well as the brand new shiny things) & Sensible Pricing (*LESS* than the physical copy).

  • by hackstraw (262471) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:22AM (#38737486)

    That when the radio was talking about companies like Facebook, Google, and Wikipedia protesting legislation put to Congress by the Motion Picture Industry that there is nothing that I can do. US government isn't much about people anymore. I have no clue how SOPA got this far.

    • by SirGarlon (845873) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:53AM (#38737900)
      The only actual power you have is your vote. However your senator and U.S. representative (and president, or presidential wannabe) need your vote. Do not forget this: money in politics is only a means to secure your vote, and your vote is what decides elections. So what you can do is write to your elected representative and/or opposition candidate(s). Tell them that your support is contingent on their promotion of Internet freedom. If enough people say that, succinctly, they will listen. If you can get ten or fifty or a hundred friends who live in the same district to sign the letter, so much the better.
    • by hrvatska (790627) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @11:13AM (#38738118)
      SOPA and PIPA got this far because their supporters were rushing them through hoping they could pass before opposition against them coalesced. US senators and representatives are rethinking their support for PIPA and SOPA because they're getting flooded by emails and phone calls from their constituents who are opposed these pieces of legislation. Money certainly does speak loudly, but politicians do listen to their constituents if enough of them send a strongly worded messages of support or opposition on an important issue. Don't be so defeatist. Let your representatives know how you feel on issues and vote. It doesn't always make a difference, but you'd be surprised at how often it does.
  • by roman_mir (125474) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:25AM (#38737516) Homepage Journal

    The only correct thing to do is to abolish all copyrights and patents and to prevent complete decay and decline of the political and economic systems.

    more [slashdot.org]
    comments [slashdot.org]
    on this same [slashdot.org]
    topic [slashdot.org]

    I am posting the links to the comments here, because they apply to each and every situation and you can follow those threads if you are wondering as to how /. crowd responds to the idea, and it's not favourable here.

    The reason why /. crowd doesn't like the idea of abolishing copyrights and patents is due to high degree of hypocrisy. How many people want to see government picking up the bills for other types of failing businesses, like stores, manufacturers, miners, medical clinics, transport companies, telecoms, banks, insurance, etc.etc.?

    The point is that copyrights and patents are standing on the way of innovation and invention and economic progress rather than helping it in any way.

    In one of the threads I mentioned the case of Louis C.K. - he didn't need the copyright laws to protect him from anything, he is not going after people downloading his show for free, but he is offering to download his show from his site for $5 a pop and he made over million bucks by now. In that thread [slashdot.org] people argued that copyright still applies to Louis C.K. work, but they missed the point - he specifically offered a non-DRMed version and he said that he understood that people would be sharing his show on torrents and download sites, and it didn't bother him, it was a business risk he was willing to take.

    Just like a new restaurant owner takes a business risk of opening his business in some specific location, sinking his capital into it (or borrowed capital) and risking losing the investment and time it took to build up that investment capital. Same thing with somebody writing a book or a play or a song or a shooting a movie or a show or painting a picture, whatever, it takes time to build up capital to open a restaurant, it takes time to write a book, it takes time (money) to make a show.

    It does not matter to the market how you do it - you shouldn't be protected from failure in the market by government, nobody should be protected that way, it distorts the market, and just like with protections of money (default on gold promise in 1971), protection of mortgages (insurance by FHA, F&F,) FDIC, any type of protection by government, it all turns sour and goes bad and hurts the economy.

    The only correct way is to let the market function, those who can rely on trade secrets should do so, but this encourages competition if there is no government protection against failure.

    If Louis C.K. sucked and his shows weren't popular, he would have lost his investment. SO WHAT? Instead he proved that his shows are worth paying $5 for even with many people downloading the shows for free he still made enough money to continue working that way. His business model is sound, the people who believe their business model must be protected by government regulations are wrong and the government shouldn't be serving any company. Government for the people, by the people, of the people, right?

    So it's hight of hypocrisy to be PRO-copyright and PRO-patent while complaining about bank bailouts also with public money! After all, the copyright police (FBI and such), that's also public money. The prison system where people can go for violation of copyright also is public money.

    Many don't see the problem with their hypocrisy, but they also do not want SOPA and PIPA.

    Well you can't have copyrights and patents and NOT have SOPA and PIPA eventually.

    Just like you can't have abolition of the Cons

  • Get People to Panic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:32AM (#38737584)

    What Can You Do About SOPA and PIPA?

    Take SOPA/PIPA seriously. By that I mean if YOU, or a company is going to protest, then do more than have a small link at the bottom of your screen (like Google). Or do absolutely NOTHING, like Slashdot. Yes I know the majority of people who read Slashdot are aware of the issues, but to anybody who pays attention it looks as if (companies like) Slashdot don't care; because they don't even have a banner add voicing their opposition to aggressive Internet police states. I read Slashdot everyday and I haven't heard anything from Management about any opposition.

    The power here lies not with businesses, but with the individual (i.e. People Power); if religious fanatics can get companies to stop advertising the reality TV show All American Muslim, then certainly the majority of normal people can get companies to stop supporting Internet censorship and an Internet police state.

    People need to take this seriously. People usually panic after it is already too late. As a recent example; the crew of the Italian cruise liner that sank only told people to abandon ship after about an hour after it started sinking and after the ship already started to keel over. Of course I could point out Nazi Germany; most people didn't complain because most people weren't effected until the allies started bombing residential neighborhoods in Berlin. Sometimes it takes a kick in the ass to get people to realize that their government's policies are evil.

    Ordinary people need to email their friends and families about this issue, and they need to include links to their representatives telling them to oppose these overwhelmingly evil measures. They need to use Facebook, instant messaging and anything else to communicate the urgency of the issue. Also as important people need to remind the public NOT TO BELIEVE WHAT GOVERNMENT AND INDUSTRY ARE SAYING. This is important. People are continually told that repressive measures are only for the good of the country. This is a lie and people need to be exposed to the fact that they are being lied to.

    People need to be told that this is NOT a copyright issue, but an excuse where governments and large corporations can have unprecedented control over YOUR communications. They need to be told that this measure is used to enforce corporate power and greed, and that ordinary artists, like usual will not be the benefactors of "copyright" enforcement, but only the people who actually own and control the copyrights (which is usually a corporate entity) will benefit. These measures will further erode copyright by giving the companies with access to lawyers and politicians an unfair advantage over smaller companies and the consumer. They need to be told not to believe Rupert Murdock because he is not trustworthy. They need to be told not to believe Sony because they are not trustworthy. They need to be told not to believe the Big Lie that congress is being paid big money to support:

    Reddit Founder Alexis Ohanian on CNBC: "Why is it that when Republicans and Democrats need to solve the budget and the deficit, there's deadlock, but when Hollywood lobbyists pay them $94 million dollars to write legislation, people from both sides of the aisle line up to co-sponsor it?"

    Reference:
    http://www.reddit.com/r/politics/comments/ol56z/reddit_founder_alexis_ohanian_on_cnbc_why_is_it/ [reddit.com]

    • by SirGarlon (845873) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @11:30AM (#38738300)

      Proponents of SOPA have a 10-word sound byte saying why SOPA is "great:" "this bill will stop online piracy." What we need is a 10-word statement of why the whole idea of SOPA, PIPA, and the like is disastrous. How about:

      This bill gives law-enforcement powers to Big Media.

      I am sure someone can improve on that. Please, do.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:32AM (#38737588)

    Vote for Ron Paul. Register Republican so you can vote for him in the primaries. You can unregister afterward if you want.

    Ron Paul: Tells The Dangers Of SOPA And PIPA [allvoices.com]

    Ron Paul on SOPA: They Want to Take Over the Internet! [youtube.com]

    Why's The Media Shafting Ron Paul, And Ignoring NDAA & SOPA Dangers? [businessinsider.com]

    Or just DuckDuckGo "Ron Paul SOPA" to get many, many more examples.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:32AM (#38737592)

    Last week my congresscritter held a public information session, which I attended. He is hard-core Tea Party. During the q&a I told him that SOPA was a mistake and should be stopped. He seemed to appreciate the problems with SOPA and gave a very similar reply to the one from the White House.

    I think is is important that more people visibly communicate with their representatives that they are opposed to such laws, and that the people are closely watching Congress.

    The really sad part was the reaction of the majority of the audience, average age estimated in the 60's. They either had no clue at all, or felt it was a good thing that the government was controlling the internet.

    An elderly gentleman accosted me afterwards and said that he had been "hacked" and that if I were ever hacked I would support the government clamping down in the internet. I tried to explain SOPA to him, but it was a lost cause.

  • by dasunt (249686) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:33AM (#38737598)

    I'm being serious. Make a super-PAC and use it in the next election season against people who introduce or push bills like SOPA and PIPA. Attack politicians where it hurts: Election year.

  • by Port1080 (515567) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:37AM (#38737668) Homepage

    It's easy to end an e-mail letter, but those aren't as effective as a personally written letter. In order of effectiveness, petitions are the lowest, followed by e-mail form letters, followed by personally written e-mails, followed by mailed form letters, followed by phone calls, followed by personally written mailed letters. Personally visiting your Congressman's office is also highly effective (this is probably less possible with your Senator, unless you live in a small population state, but Representatives often have offices that the public can easily visit and offer feedback). The most effective thing to do, if you don't have a lot of money (large cash donations are VERY effective), is to become a volunteer (assuming your Rep is someone that you can get behind on most issues and you'd like to see reelected) and get plugged in. It's not as difficult as you'd think. Once your Rep knows you by name, and potentially respects your opinion, you can slip some info in about tech issues from time to time. Of course, this does take a lot of effort and time commitment, which is why most people won't be doing it - but if you've got the time, and want to make a difference, it's definitely something you can do.

  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:41AM (#38737742) Homepage

    I am an advocate of copyright. I feel it is a very effective mechanism for channeling revenue to those who advance science and the useful arts.

    We have overstepped the bounds of cost effective copyright grants and enforcement. We have exceeded the efficient level of enforcement, and I suspect we have exceeded the efficient level of revenue channeling. We have passed more copyright legislation in the past fifteen years than at any other time in our history. More than during the advent of the printing press, the radio, the cassette tape, or any other disruptive technology. We are not balancing the potential value of new technology against the perceived cost of adapting copyright to the new reality. Moreover, the legislation is not working. It is not significantly inhibiting copyright, but it is harming the progress of new business models and entrepreneurship. It is not rational to pass ever more extreme legislation when what has gone before is not working.

    We are channeling a lot of revenue into copyright holders, and that money is coming back in lobbying. That cycle is self-catalyzing, and it has gone beyond what is cost effective. It is harming our ability to compete in the global marketplace, and is a cycle that is hostile to our national economic interests.

    It is time to demand a moratorium on new copyright law, coupled with a serious research effort on the cost effectiveness of copyright enforcement. That research should have the explicit objective of answering the question: "How much can we reduce government interference in the market while still advancing the progress of science and the useful arts?"

    Failure to do so should be seen as an act of aggression against our economy by those who are benefiting from this government fiat monopoly, and should be met with total opposition.

    • by blind biker (1066130) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @01:49PM (#38739990) Journal

      I am an advocate of copyright. I feel it is a very effective mechanism for channeling revenue to those who advance science and the useful arts.

      At least when it comes to science, this statement is a fucking lie. Me and my colleagues in science, have no love for copyrights, because it is *always* a gun pointed against our work. It is a means for private journals to make money, nothing else. Most scientists would love for the results of their scientific research to reach as wide an audience as possible, and see copyrights as the main obstacle in that.

      Even those scientists that don't look at science quite so altruistically, hate copyrights because it makes citing other works a total pain in the arse (try writing a document review or a textbook, and see how much you enjoy filling those forms asking for permissions from each copyrights holder, for each picture you would like to include in your book or document review).

      Sorry, maybe this is too long and confusing. In brief, scientists view on the issue is FUCK COPYRIGHTS, WITH A RAKE!

  • by MxTxL (307166) <mlutter@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:42AM (#38737758)

    The bills are massively unpopular on the internet but we are still losing the spin war on this. The blackouts are being covered on main stream media in droves (a good thing!), but every MSM reference that i have seen describes the bills as the 'anti-piracy' SOPA/PIPA bills. Lots of people, even many of us on this site, might support bills that are just anti-piracy... in the head of many, anti-piracy is a good thing.

    We can lose hearts and minds if these bills are seen as anti-piracy. Get the word out that we don't object to these bills because they are anti-piracy, we object to these bills because they are anti-internet!

    The internet breaks with these bills. Great firewall of America type broken. That is what we are against! Go spread the word.

    • by russotto (537200) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:50AM (#38737866) Journal

      The bills are massively unpopular on the internet but we are still losing the spin war on this. The blackouts are being covered on main stream media in droves (a good thing!), but every MSM reference that i have seen describes the bills as the 'anti-piracy' SOPA/PIPA bills.

      We can't win in the mainstream media: they are the enemy. Not in some figurative or symbolic sense, but quite literally. Those behind the bills own the mainstream media.

      We also probably can't do anything about SOPA/PIPA. They're going to pass them, by hook or by crook. We can protest all we want, black out web pages, complain to representatives, what have you. Doesn't matter. The other side has more power (being the mainstream media); that's all there is to it.

  • Nothing you can do (Score:4, Interesting)

    by alexo (9335) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:48AM (#38737838) Journal

    The only thing you can do against the likes of these laws that harm the public in order to cater to short-term special interests is to ensure that your elective representatives answer to you and only you (plural), so you could easily kick them out of office AND INTO PRISON when they begin to contemplate such shenanigans.

    To achieve that you have to first vote out all the D's and the R's and replace them with people that are willing to criminalize corruption to an extent that will make premeditated murder look like jaywalking in comparison, revoke corporate personhood, make corporate executives personally responsible for the actions of the respective corporations and in general restore sanity to all branches of government.

    In other words: it will never happen.

  • by nbauman (624611) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:50AM (#38737874) Homepage Journal

    The best way to get the attention of congress is to have one of the IP stooges lose an election.

    Identify one of the prominent supporters of SOPA/PIPA who is weak in his district and support his challenger in the next primary and general election.

    When a congressman loses a seat for taking on a third-rail issue, the surviving congressmen remember that for decades.

    That's what AIPAC does. You don't see any congressmen criticizing Israel, do you?

    Strategically, it would be best to attack somebody who is a jerk on other issues too; in other words, an all-around jerk.

    The only problem is that it's hard in this country to defeat a well-financed incumbent, no matter how much he sells out the interests of his constituents.

    But it does happen. I give democracy about 50% odds.

  • by SirGarlon (845873) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @11:05AM (#38738016)

    As others have said, there is one major presidential candidate who is against SOPA: Ron Paul. I don't personally support Mr. Paul because of unrelated issues, but it's a fact he is opposed to SOPA, to the point of joining the blackout [dailypaul.com].

    Slightly off-topic but if you are asking "what can I do" and you want to get at the root cause, not the symptom, you might want to check out the Move to Amend [movetoamend.org].

  • Research Works Act (Score:5, Informative)

    by Guppy (12314) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @11:16AM (#38738156)

    While we're on the general topic, I'd like to remind folks about another bill being considered, the Research Works Act [loc.gov]. Previously covered on Slashdot here [slashdot.org], the act is being pushed by the journal industry, and would reverse the current requirement that papers resulting from federally funded research be freely available to the public.

  • Military tactic? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 3seas (184403) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @12:01PM (#38738680) Journal

    constrain communications of those your consider enemies?

    The Declaration of Independence expresses a feedback loop "Of the People, By the People, For the People". The founders recognized it is the people right and DUTY to keep their government in check. But they also foresaw the probability of government to deteriorate and fail the people. And they provided the people with instructions to follow in doing their duty as U.S. Citizens, to put off the current government and replace it with governance that will follow the feedback loop the founders intended.

    For this feedback loop to work, the people need information about what their government is doing. Bradley Manning showed intent to make such information available to the people. Wikileaks made similar information available to the people and the Occupy movement is providing the government with feedback from the people.

    There is plenty evidence the government is violating the founders intended feedback loop. When any system requiring a feedback loop for verification on staying on course, fails... lost and in this case its clear skerd happens.

    The government lives in its own world, has its own laws, even Washington DC is separated from the Union, its own country more or less (like Vatican City, separate from Italy, and London separate from England). The Government has its own benefits, retirement, medical, etc...all different than The People that are supposed to be a part "Of the People, By the People, For the People".

    Addiction and what the addicted will do in denial and to maintain their addiction, and regarding the government, military command is certainly included.

    So yeah, military tactic of constraining free communication of the enemy......they have been identifying as "The People."

    The Founders of the United States gave us, the people, instructions to follow in doing our duty. See the Declaration of Independence for it.

  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @12:47PM (#38739276)

    Sen. Chuck Schumer's phone line is jammed. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's phone line is jammed, and her contact page is offline. On her Facebook page, the line of comments on the issue is endless and they're 100% opposed to PIPA/SOPA.

    As somebody that's watched this country go off the rails the last 30 years in a row, though, in my heart I think the American people need to send a much stronger message to DC, like by burning that town to the ground and salting the earth afterward.

  • by gelfling (6534) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @01:53PM (#38740026) Homepage Journal

    Round up some web billionaires and get them to lobby the hell out of congress. If you can't get the money out of politics then use money as a weapon the same way Hollywood and the Music Industry does. "Going Dark" is insufferably silly because it gives ordinary anonymous slackers the impression they are doing something while in fact it accomplishes nothing. You'd be better off selling ribbon magnets.

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