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Law Professors On SOPA and PIPA: Don't Break the Internet 283

An anonymous reader writes "Law professors Mark Lemley, David S. Levine, and David G. Post have just published a piece on the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act. In Don't Break the Internet, they argue that the two bills — intended to counter online copyright and trademark infringement — 'share an underlying approach and an enforcement philosophy that pose grave constitutional problems and that could have potentially disastrous consequences for the stability and security of the Internet's addressing system, for the principle of interconnectivity that has helped drive the Internet's extraordinary growth, and for free expression.' They write, 'These bills, and the enforcement philosophy that underlies them, represent a dramatic retreat from this country's tradition of leadership in supporting the free exchange of information and ideas on the Internet. At a time when many foreign governments have dramatically stepped up their efforts to censor Internet communications, these bills would incorporate into U.S. law a principle more closely associated with those repressive regimes: a right to insist on the removal of content from the global Internet, regardless of where it may have originated or be located, in service of the exigencies of domestic law.'"
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Law Professors On SOPA and PIPA: Don't Break the Internet

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  • by Fireking300 ( 1852630 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:27PM (#38427036)
    When is the public going to actually get the opinion from a Network expert and not people that deal with law?
  • Oh shocking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:28PM (#38427046)

    US Congress proposes bill that violates Constitution. News at 11.

    Libertarians (and truly conservative conservatives, not just the "gays are bad, m'kay" kind) have been warning this was the inevitable end of the gradual expansion of US government that has been happening over the last 60-odd years. And look! It's happening. Already happened actually (in the form of the TSA). Of course, both parties are on the gravy train now. Except Ron Paul and Ron Wyden and a handful of others. And I doubt they can stop it.

    The end of any government that continually expands in power (and money) and never grows smaller is tyranny and repression, and it always has been. Thousands of years of history back this up. Only way to stop it in the US is cut it's funding and authority. And I mean cut: as in, halve it over 5 years. More would be ideal. And of course restore the state rights back to the states. Never happen of course. If you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go think about where I want to live instead in 5-10 years.

  • by MetalliQaZ ( 539913 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:29PM (#38427058)

    I am heartened by the overwhelming list of experts and public figures who have come out against these bills. However I can't help but feel that the Senators and Representatives who are debating it will never know. Slashdot's catalog of evidence against SOPA and PROTECTIP may as well be invisible to them. These people are trying to regulate something like the Internet but could never be found in a place where real experts have these discussions. How frustrating.

  • by tkrotchko ( 124118 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:33PM (#38427104) Homepage

    From the viewpoint of the people proposing and supporting the law, if it breaks the Internet, too bad.

    In their view, nothing is more important than the principle of them controlling their copyrights. If it takes the destruction of the Internet, so be it.

    I imagine if buggy whip manufacturers would have had a better lobby 100+ years ago, they would have lobbied for laws that would have forced motorists to always keep a buggy whip in their car.

    Well ladies and gentlemen, record, film, game, and software companies do have better lobbyist. And they're not afraid to use them.

  • by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:33PM (#38427108) Homepage Journal

    They do get such opinions. From the following Networks:

    CBS, NBC, ABC, etc...

    Unfortunately, that's what Congress considers to be Network experts.

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:35PM (#38427128)

    Well, if the "the overwhelming list of experts and public figures" would donate millions to Congressional reelection campaigns, maybe Congress would listen. It's not Congress's fault that they didn't put their money where their mouths were, now is it?

  • Quelle surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TrumpetPower! ( 190615 ) <ben@trumpetpower.com> on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:35PM (#38427130) Homepage

    The proponents of these bills consider the breaking of the 'Net a feature, not a bug. They won't be happy until it's been reduce to nothing more than pay-per-view TV v2.0.



  • If the proponents of this moronic legislation have said (paraphrasing only slightly) "I don't even pretend to understand the technicalities of this law or the arguments against it, but I'm supporting it fully, regardless" then I don't think any opinion from any group is going to help things very much. As depressing as it sounds, I honestly do not believe that there is anything that "the people" can do that will make the slightest difference to whether or not these laws are passed, there's just too much money at stake.

    Suggestions on how to fix this, such as this one [informationdiet.com] are all well and good, but they require a massive, sustained public effort over a long time, which will be blocked at every opportunity by the existing lobbyists with a vested interest in the status quo.

  • Wrong assumption (Score:5, Insightful)

    by characterZer0 ( 138196 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:36PM (#38427150)

    extraordinary growth, and for free expression

    The incumbent politicians do not want extraordinary growth and free expression. If your argument starts with that position, you have already lost them.

  • Is it just me... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrquagmire ( 2326560 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:37PM (#38427162)
    Or does it really seem like our country is going straight down the toilet at an accelerating rate? I mean I know I've only been alive for so long and I've only been paying attention to this stuff for a shorter period of time, but the events that occurred over the course of the last decade (and especially the last few years) combined with the policies that have been set up over the last 30 years or so is really starting to make me think we're in serious trouble. I mean real. serious. trouble.

    Am I way off? Has our country been in a situation like this before where all the powers-that-be seem to be working together for their benefit, at the expense of everyone else's freedoms, liberties, and way of life?

    Please tell me I'm wrong...
  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:37PM (#38427166)
    Round about the same time you will realize that government does not exist to serve you.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:38PM (#38427176)

    The problem is that it is a law, written in legaleze. People who do real work cannot make sense of this language (and with good reason, there is little sense that can be conveyed in legaleze).

    To properly translate a law into a real, understandable form you either need a trusted professional who is also fluent in legaleze (hah), or a lawyer and a professional who can both understand a common dialect and who are both sufficiently trustable. Since we're trying to live in reality (for a few minutes at least), all we are likely to get are tech professionals who can't understand the law but don't like the parts they can parse, and lawyers who understand what the law says but have no ability to understand the consequences of the law.

    For the above reason, I advocate an amendment that only laws written clearly in the dialect of english that teaches have tried to push on me since kindergarden could be enforced. This amendment would equally penalize everyone who is not an english teacher, because the rest of us learned divergent dialects despite the many classes and sentence diagrams.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:39PM (#38427184)

    As depressing as it sounds, I honestly do not believe that there is anything that "the people" can do that will make the slightest difference to whether or not these laws are passed, there's just too much money at stake.

    That's what the ammo box option is for.

    If your lawmakers are passing laws about things they don't understand, and incapable of understanding why they're illegal ... it might be time to remind them that either they should read up on these things, or step aside.

    Anybody who votes for a law which is unconstitutional has committed treason, even if they're too stupid to understand that fact.

  • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:40PM (#38427202)
    The whole point is to break the Internet! The mainstream media hates the Internet, because people can be more than just passive consumers of entertainment and products. SOPA and PIPA are just one more step in a long chain of attacks on the philosophy that underlies the very architecture of the Internet.

    For the past few years, the RIAA and MPAA have been working hard to undermine and destroy peer-to-peer networking on the Internet, because it does not fit into the distribution model they are comfortable with. In the view of the mainstream media, the corporations and the politicians that support them, people are supposed to pay for things, and they are not supposed to assist in the distribution chain unless they are being paid to do so. The idea that computing resources or communication resources can be shared is antithetical to the old media barons, because they want to be the center of the universal. To them, distribution costs are paid for by copyright holders, who recoup those costs by selling copies of entertainment in its various forms.

    What they want, in other words, is the Cable TV system. They like the way that cable works -- a relatively small number of head ends that distribute the entertainment, which can easily be policed for violations. Set-top boxes are designed to prevent users from stepping outside the bounds of what the copyright holders demand. Restrictions on distribution can be negotiated with a small number of entities that control the entire network.

    They want to break the Internet, so that they can rebuild it. They want a star architecture for the network. They want to routers that block access to "rogue websites." DRM was pioneered by Cable TV and its cousin, satellite (see: HBO). They want the same thing to happen on the Internet, which means they need to recreate the entire network to better suit that purpose.
  • SCOTUS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stevegee58 ( 1179505 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:44PM (#38427236) Journal
    Like other unconstitutional laws, if either of these pass they'll simply be challenged immediately in Federal courts.
    If anyone like RIAA wants to be dicks about it, it'll go to the Supreme Court and be defeated there.
  • Re:Oh shocking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clonehappy ( 655530 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:46PM (#38427280)

    If you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go think about where I want to live instead in 5-10 years.

    The only problem being that, if you follow the money, most first and second world countries are under the control of the same tyrannical forces. See the IMF, World Bank, and other related cretins. Do you really want to live in Iran or some third-world banana republic?

    Unfortunately, this time the tyranny is a worldwide occupation. So you might as well just go all in and stand up on the side of freedom and liberty now, for tomorrow it will be too late.

  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:50PM (#38427308)
    You have guns. They have professional killers with precision attack drones. The possibility of armed revolution just isn't realistic any more. It'd need overwhelming public support, and that isn't coming in the age of television.
  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <(delirium-slashdot) (at) (hackish.org)> on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:51PM (#38427312)

    Hilarious that it's named OPEN, but I guess Newspeak bill names aren't even novel anymore.

  • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:55PM (#38427354)
    If just 5% of the American public wanted to overthrow the government, an armed revolution would be possible. You do not need overwhelming support, you need enough angry people with guns.

    The problem is that less than 0.05% of the public cares about SOPA or PIPA. Most people just want to watch The Jersey Shore, football, etc., and then post about it on Facebook. They will not overthrow the government as long as they can still get their cheap entertainment. They will not even get their magazines and clips loaded.
  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:58PM (#38427390) Journal

    You're missing a few zeros in your suggestion.

  • Awesome Law! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 19, 2011 @05:00PM (#38427408)

    As one of the people who don't live in the USA, who gets annoyed from time to time with the USA hegemony in technology, I'm quite pleased to see the US destroy its tech lead through _amazingly_ stupid law. Awesome! If the rest of us wanted to make the US a place that nobody can afford to start an internet-based business, this law would be pretty good way.

    Keep up the good work guys.

  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @05:06PM (#38427458) Journal

    It's just you. It's been like this for at least 100 years, and very close to it for 200+. We've been through most of this foolishness before, and we'll do it again. It tends to happen in 50-80 year cycles, as that's about how long people live. Go read about the 1920s, and you'll see much of the same fiscal foolishness. We've actually gotten better at controlling it, but that just means we are ratcheting up the foolishness to the breaking point a bit slower.

    It's entirely likely that without the great depression and the advent of the use of Keynesian economics, we would likely see 25%+ unemployment and massive governmental collapse. Instead, we've held steady in return for a huge debt. Unfortunately, it will really take us 10-20 years to dig ourselves out, but as soon as the collapse-panic is over, we expect to see progress/growth. All we've really done is started to set ourselves up for a second collapse where we don't have the ability to borrow our way out of a major correction.

    I just hope I have the forethought to avoid losing my retirement savings when it happens.

  • by andrew_d_allen ( 971588 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @05:07PM (#38427480)
    The real problem, as I see it, is the "accusation = guilt" and extra-judicial enforcement methods of these laws. It just floors me that our congressmen, sworn to uphold the constitution, thinks that laws where all you have to do is file some paperwork and "poof" the website gets blocked without having to present compelling-enough evidence to a judge under penalty of perjury (and with oppposing counsel's arguments) for him or her to issue an injunction to block the DNS entry. It shows they have absolutely no respect for the Constitution or even knows what "rule of law" means.
  • Re:Oh shocking (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mellon ( 7048 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @05:10PM (#38427510) Homepage

    Oh bullshit. This is the inevitable result of the expansion of anti-science, anti-reality thinking that has overtaken our country in the past thirty years. We don't check to see if laws actually *work* anymore—we just pass them because they address "emergencies" that are declared in the press to justify them. We don't even read them. We just pass them.

    The kind of magical thinking that you're complaining about, where people pass new laws and hope that will make things better, is certainly stupid, but the kind of magical thinking you're engaging in is just as stupid. Your argument is more of the same: "just cut the government's income and force it to ..?" What, exactly? This is just more ignorant hand-waving. It is just pure mental laziness to imagine that some easy thing you can do will make everything all better.

    What we have to do if we want anything to change is to stop arguing over subtle points of ideology and start punishing legislators who pass stupid laws, and rewarding legislators who pass good laws. We have to start paying attention to whether laws that are passed work, and repealing the ones that don't. We have to make reason and thinking the basis for passing laws, and not prejudice and ignorance. This means we have to pay attention—we actually have to spend some of our precious time studying what the government is doing, and what our representatives are doing, and letting them know that we are paying attention, and that we will punish them if they allow any of the various forms of corruption to flourish, whether it's regulatory capture, simple cronyism, or the kind of contracting that often happens where the contractor promises the world for a really big hunk of money, takes and spends the money over time, and then eventually says "well, I guess it isn't working, sorry."

    When we let this kind of crap continue and never factor it into who we vote for, we have only ourselves to blame.

  • by mirix ( 1649853 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @05:15PM (#38427558)

    Your puny open letter is powerless against our massive bribes^W donations.

    Maybe if the letter was attached to a large wad of cash it might change some minds in congress, otherwise good luck.

  • by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @05:18PM (#38427590) Homepage Journal

    You have guns. They have professional killers with precision attack drones. The possibility of armed revolution just isn't realistic any more. It'd need overwhelming public support, and that isn't coming in the age of television.

    "Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damned full of 'facts' they feel stuffed, but absolutely 'brilliant' with information. Then they'll feel they're thinking, they'll get a sense of motion without moving. And they'll be happy, because facts of that sort don't change. Don't give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy." - Fahrenheit 451

  • Re:TSA? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 19, 2011 @05:22PM (#38427628)

    In the sense that that government employee is violating the Fourth Fucking Amendment of the Constitution, yes, it is rather dangerous to let pass. Just because you can come up with more violations of our Constitutional rights doesn't invalidate the parent's point at all.

    Don't be such an asshole next time.

  • by mellon ( 7048 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @05:22PM (#38427636) Homepage

    Yes, our country has been in this situation before. Regulatory capture is a well-known problem. Read up on Teddy Roosevelt and the trust-busters. Read up on the robber barons. Read up on social darwinism. Read up on the suppression of the communist party in the 1930s (whether or not you think communism is bad, the way the communist party was suppressed was definitely anti-American). Read up on McCarthyism. Then read up on the Pullman Strike, and Hoovervilles, and the New Deal, and the civil rights movement.

    The pendulum swings back and forth. I wish it would just stay on "social justice,' but it doesn't, because people get complacent and let things decay until they get bad enough that they feel like they have to do something. This is that time. People feel like they have to do something now. Don't be without hope. Stop thinking you are powerless. Stop trying to hit me, and hit me. Er, sorry, that just slipped out.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper ( 991155 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @05:25PM (#38427656)

    Which is the goal of the corporate oligarchy that passes for government these days. Frankly, most of the world's corporation-governments would be happiest if the internet was a restricted, monitored, toll-road. Of course, the flaw in this plan is the million geek army. Telling millions of technically savvy engineers what to do with their toys is very unlikely to be successful in the long run. It just means that the open source pirate internets arrive faster.

    Not that this matters to a congresscritter. They just take their fee for passing the stupid law and move on down the road to retirement and the little secret Swiss bank accounts set up for them by the RIAA and friends as a reward.

  • SOPA is about control. The web is the one area that the powers that be do not fully control, this legislation provides the mechanism to accomplish that, in much the same way that the true intention of the PATRIOT act was to strip away other rights in the name of security.

    Wake up people.

  • by bky1701 ( 979071 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @05:45PM (#38427848) Homepage
    Excuse me? The sole purpose of the government is to serve the citizens by providing order and certain services. Read up on contract theory, you'll be shocked it isn't the middle ages anymore.

    If government always works in favor of common citizens is a different matter, but your statement, "government does not exist to serve you," leads only two places: anarchy or a government you expect to only wrong you, and thus a lack of surprise or anger when it does. I consider neither of those options good, so I have to go with you being full of it. If the government is broken, fix it. Throwing up your hands and crying like a spoiled child does nothing.
  • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @05:55PM (#38427934)

    Here's the problem with the current situation: it's not that the people for this travesty (and it truly is one) are merely misguided and mistaken. They fully understand that the current legislation will break the Internet, because that is their goal. Let me repeat that, just for emphasis: these senators and representatives fully intend on breaking the Internet and turning it into cable TV.

    Why? Isn't the Internet this awesome engine of growth, revolutionizing communications across the world? Yes, but that's not the part that matters. What matters is who makes money off of it, and who screams the loudest.And the people who scream the loudest and who are the most impacted by the Internet are all the old media and power structures. The Internet is their guillotine, and they will do everything they can do stay alive. The easiest way to do this is to influence, subtly or less so, the legislators who ultimately are in charge of how things work in this world.

    That's why you hear statements like "I don't understand the technical details, and I don't care". These people truly do not care that they are breaking the Internet, because that is their goal. That's why arguing that the internet will be broken by SOPA and PROTECT IP is a complete waste of time. You want to talk to these legislators? Either pull out bigger donating and campaigning guns than the old media elite, or pull out arguments that counter the ones from the old media: that the current Internet is destroying value, destroying content makers' ability to make money, etc.

  • by Thiez ( 1281866 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @05:55PM (#38427938)

    > If just 5% of the American public wanted to overthrow the government, an armed revolution would be possible. You do not need overwhelming support, you need enough angry people with guns.

    Wouldn't that mean that 95% of the public does not want to overthrow the government, so the overthrowing people are essentially a minority oppressing the majority, making them no better than the system they aim to overthrow?

  • by Totenglocke ( 1291680 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @06:06PM (#38428026)
    And the sad part is, refusing to buy their products doesn't help because then they just use that as "evidence" of piracy and thus proof of why the government needs to start stealing your money and giving it to them.
  • by Fned ( 43219 ) on Monday December 19, 2011 @07:28PM (#38428718) Journal

    "Copyright and computers aren't compatible", I said. "the only way for them to co-exist is for them to break all the computers", I said.

    "Pish-tosh," said the naysayers. "You just want free stuff."

    "No, really," said I, "I can prove it with math."

    "Poppycock." said the naysayers. "What about the needs of the artists? Don't they deserve to be paid for all their hard work?"

    "If the artists want to ensure that they get paid for something that can exist on a computer, I helpfully suggest they get paid before doing the work. Y'know, like all really successful creators already do," I helpfully suggested, citing advance payments in the music, movie, and book publishing industries, every single dollar of which already, ultimately, comes from the consumers of said products.

    "Otherwise, I suppose they can depend on donations borne of gratitude, which, if you think about it, is really just payment to produce the next work anyway. Either way, though, a copy of a file on a computer is effectively valueless, so selling copies of files on computers is a broken business model. Mark my words, if they try to make this broken business model work, it will have to be by outlawing functioning computers."

    "Stuff and nonsense," opined the naysayers. "I shall heed no more of your scurrolous lies. Away with you!"

    And so, here we are, about to join China and Iran in the glorious future of online freedom. Naysayers, kindly go fuck yourselves in the eye. I can provide an excellent array of online sources for Yoga instruction and melon-ballers if this proves too difficult for you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 19, 2011 @08:50PM (#38429278)

    That's a misrepresentation of the GP's reasoning. His belief is clearly that the democratic process is not functioning and can't be made to function because the powers that be are too entrenched. Writing to "your" representatives has no effect because they're all corrupt. Voting has no effect because the entrenched parties collude to prevent legitimate opposing positions from gaining a foothold. Nonviolent protest is either immediately silenced by a militarized police force or marginalized by the entrenched powers' propaganda machine. So what do *you* think are the remaining options?

  • And who is he to make that ultimate decision and overturn a 300 year old democratic system? Democracy doesn't work because I say so? Need a better rationale than that.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 19, 2011 @09:14PM (#38429480)

    If government always works in favor of common citizens is a different matter, but your statement, "government does not exist to serve you," leads only two places: anarchy or a government you expect to only wrong you, and thus a lack of surprise or anger when it does. I consider neither of those options good, so I have to go with you being full of it.

    Well, you can deny reality all you like, if it makes you happy. Reality is that 26,783 Americans [readersupportednews.org] account for the greatest share of campaign contributions, and government exists to serve them. It will, as a backup plan serve retirees, who have plenty of time for political action, but it serves primarily the 27k people who personally donate, and who direct the lobbyist fundraisers to support re-election campaigns. Think about that the next time you sign over 15.3% of your salary to keep retirees fed and drugged.

It's a poor workman who blames his tools.