While David Pogue’s opinion piece “Put Down the Pitchforks” makes a valid point about the alliance of varied views on the utility and validity of copyright that have come together to oppose SOPA/PIPA, the differences are more subtle than his language indicates.
Everyone, even those characterized (somewhat fairly) as the “we want our illegal movies” crowd, is horrified that the United States would contemplate outright censorship of the web à la North Korea or Iran, something we actively fight quite vigorously, and with USAID and State Department support, to ensure that dissidents can circumvent similar blocking schemes.
There is no way to fix the language of the bills to rule out those abuses. Universal filling a flagrantly illegal DMCA takedown request with YouTube to censor the MegaUploads advertisement video, the pernicious use of malicious prosecution by the RIAA, and the recent MPAA/Chris Dodd bribery flap all demonstrate incontrovertibly how the entertainment industry has been utterly shameless to date and there is no basis for the belief that they would voluntarily refrain from an aggressive and likely illegal extension of whatever new powers they are offered. If anything, we need stronger legislation to discourage the current abuse of litigation and take-down powers.
Thus everyone, including those that believe that copyright needs to be extended (again, further), recognizes that the premise of SOPA/PIPA—that parts of the international internet have to be blocked in the US—are fundamentally flawed and cannot be repaired.
The differentiation between the “ignorant mechanism” and “ignorant goal” camps is, however, unfairly characterized by Pogue when he draws an analogy to shoplifting. Copyright is not a property right—it is a privilege that is granted by we the people, an exchange where we the people voluntarily relinquish our right to copy, and we gift the inventor with a temporary monopoly as an incentive to promote the progress of science and the useful arts.
It is not “stealing” to copy a movie; it may be illegal, but it is not stealing. There is no legal basis to consider such an act theft—not in natural law, not in “denial of utility.”
“If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it.”
The basis and purpose of copyright is codified in the constitution: it is an agreement between we the people and inventors to promote the progress of science and the useful arts, it is neither a property right nor a human right. If any copyright legislation fails to advance the cause of promoting the progress of science and the useful arts it is simply prima facia unconstitutional. And not a single extension of copyright law, back to and including the Sony Bono Copyright Extension Act, has even bothered to pay lip service to the obligation to promote the progress of science and the useful arts.
The problem is that these bills retard progress by hampering important and economically relevant industries for economically irrelevant ones (regardless of how nostalgic they might be). It is fair, still, to frame copyright protections and copyright modifications with respect to the expected actual net contribution to the progress of science and the useful arts, as the constitution requires. It is unlikely that such an analysis would favor complete abolition of copyright but it is clear that only a mechanism closer to the patent model makes sense: a very limited and carefully regulated temporary monopoly granted to inventors and creators in return for fully contributing their efforts to the public domain promptly thereafter.
(Edited and enhanced by Carolyn Anhalt)
If you have ever found the internet useful for anything other than browsing corporate web sites, for example if you’ve ever looked up an independent review or enjoyed a post like this one by anyone at all, then you must contact your representative and insist they reject SOPA and Protect IP.
This act is the most inane, repressive, anti-progress, anti-civil-rights, special interest protecting, bought and paid for legislation I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading. Every site that has an opinion that might offend anyone with an in-house lawyer will be erased from the DNS system. The primary opponents of the bill point out that sites like Google and Youtube are targets, but the tactic will not be to strike at targets that can afford lawyers, the tactic will be to wipe out small sites that aren’t generating much revenue first and establish precedent before taking out the big guys. First all the fun sites will go, then youtube, but, hey, you’ll still have Hulu and Microsoft.com.
Anyone who is favorable to this bill does not understand the constitution and is not fit to stand in office. It is an absolute rejection of the constitutional mandate to “promote progress and the useful arts” solely to enable short-term profiteering by absurdly wealthy studio execs.
The bills primary sponsors, Patrick Leahy and Lamar Smith: whatever you can do to get these tools of the studio execs out of office, please do. They’re not from my state, but if they were I’d back anyone who challenged them.
Co spononsors must also be ejected as forcefully as possible.
Sen Alexander, Lamar [TN] – 5/25/2011
Sen Ayotte, Kelly [NH] – 6/27/2011
Sen Bennet, Michael F. [CO] – 7/25/2011
Sen Bingaman, Jeff [NM] – 10/19/2011
Sen Blumenthal, Richard [CT] – 5/12/2011
Sen Blunt, Roy [MO] – 5/23/2011
Sen Boozman, John [AR] – 6/15/2011
Sen Brown, Sherrod [OH] – 10/20/2011
Sen Cardin, Benjamin L. [MD] – 7/13/2011
Sen Casey, Robert P., Jr. [PA] – 9/7/2011
Sen Chambliss, Saxby [GA] – 11/2/2011
Sen Cochran, Thad [MS] – 6/23/2011
Sen Coons, Christopher A. [DE] – 5/12/2011
Sen Corker, Bob [TN] – 6/9/2011
Sen Durbin, Richard [IL] – 6/30/2011
Sen Enzi, Michael B. [WY] – 9/7/2011
Sen Feinstein, Dianne [CA] – 5/12/2011
Sen Franken, Al [MN] – 5/12/2011
Sen Gillibrand, Kirsten E. [NY] – 5/26/2011
Sen Graham, Lindsey [SC] – 5/12/2011
Sen Grassley, Chuck [IA] – 5/12/2011
Sen Hagan, Kay [NC] – 7/5/2011
Sen Hatch, Orrin G. [UT] – 5/12/2011
Sen Isakson, Johnny [GA] – 11/2/2011
Sen Johnson, Tim [SD] – 10/3/2011
Sen Klobuchar, Amy [MN] – 5/12/2011
Sen Kohl, Herb [WI] – 5/12/2011
Sen Landrieu, Mary L. [LA] – 10/17/2011
Sen Lieberman, Joseph I. [CT] – 7/7/2011
Sen McCain, John [AZ] – 7/26/2011
Sen Menendez, Robert [NJ] – 10/31/2011
Sen Nelson, Bill [FL] – 9/23/2011
Sen Risch, James E. [ID] – 11/7/2011
Sen Rubio, Marco [FL] – 5/26/2011
Sen Schumer, Charles E. [NY] – 5/12/2011
Sen Shaheen, Jeanne [NH] – 6/30/2011
Sen Udall, Tom [NM] – 7/7/2011
Sen Vitter, David [LA] – 11/7/2011
Sen Whitehouse, Sheldon [RI] – 5/12/2011
Rep Amodei, Mark E. [NV-2] – 11/3/2011
Rep Barrow, John [GA-12] – 11/14/2011
Rep Bass, Karen [CA-33] – 11/3/2011
Rep Berman, Howard L. [CA-28] – 10/26/2011
Rep Blackburn, Marsha [TN-7] – 10/26/2011
Rep Bono Mack, Mary [CA-45] – 10/26/2011
Rep Carter, John R. [TX-31] – 11/3/2011
Rep Chabot, Steve [OH-1] – 10/26/2011
Rep Conyers, John, Jr. [MI-14] – 10/26/2011
Rep Deutch, Theodore E. [FL-19] – 10/26/2011
Rep Gallegly, Elton [CA-24] – 10/26/2011
Rep Goodlatte, Bob [VA-6] – 10/26/2011
Rep Griffin, Tim [AR-2] – 10/26/2011
Rep King, Peter T. [NY-3] – 11/3/2011
Rep Lujan, Ben Ray [NM-3] – 11/14/2011
Rep Marino, Tom [PA-10] – 11/3/2011
Rep Nunnelee, Alan [MS-1] – 11/3/2011
Rep Owens, William L. [NY-23] – 11/14/2011
Rep Ross, Dennis [FL-12] – 10/26/2011
Rep Scalise, Steve [LA-1] – 11/14/2011
Rep Schiff, Adam B. [CA-29] – 10/26/2011
Rep Terry, Lee [NE-2] – 10/26/2011
Rep Wasserman Schultz, Debbie [FL-20] – 11/3/2011
Rep Watt, Melvin L. [NC-12] – 11/3/2011
I wrote my representatives:
The “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” introduced by Senators Leahy and Hatch to shut down internet sites accused of violating copyright is fundamentally unacceptable and must be blocked. It is predicated on three failed precepts.
The law would provide for expedited prior restraint of free speech based on a claim of infringement. This extends the already over-broad powers granted by the DMCA, which has been used to silence political opposition (e.g. John McCain’s DMCA takedown of a critical video on YouTube) and shut down legitimate criticism of corporate and financial interests. This bill will further erode free speech in America and thus further delegitimize democracy itself.
The bill provides for in rem actions against a web site. In rem actions have become one of the most popular mechanisms which police forces have used to enrich themselves by taking legal action against private property (e.g. USA v. $124,700 (2006)). This has lead to massive corruption and even the murder of innocent people (e.g. Donald P. Scott 1992). In rem cases should be limited to acceptable legal situations where the owner cannot be identified, not as a method of prior restraint or as an extrajudicial shortcut that effectively extorts compliance from the target by creating an excessive cost barrier to seeking real justice.
The bill promotes the fiction that copyright law is a property law. It is not. Limited monopolies on the fruits of inventions are offered to inventors to promote the progress of science and the useful arts. These monopolies are in the form of copyrights and patents. There is no constitutional basis for creating laws to protect the privilege of copyright beyond what can be proven to promote the progress of science and the useful arts. It is an offense to democracy to privilege profits over basic civil rights. American society would not suffer meaningfully without the copyright industry, but American democracy is meaningless without free speech. Unfortunately, the copyright industry leverages profits into campaign contributions and lobbyists while free speech is, by its nature, free and thus profitless. Free speech can only be defended from profiteers by patriots.
This bill must be blocked. Please stand up for democracy.
Sunday morning we went to the Great Expectations short film series. This year they were all Mexican shorts.
- Fish Soup was fast and funny. A family gets visited by a bird.
- Distinguishing Features was a very sad short about a woman and her near-do-well son, and his disappearance.
- End of the Line was an interesting story about a romance on a bus line outside of Mexico City, but didn’t really pay off in the end.
- Coco Y Nico was a sort of avant guard animation/live action mix about a woman and her lover (who was animated scratchies). The technique was more interesting than the story.
- A Small Death was funny and a pleasure to watch. A boy steals a purse and ends up delivering a running commentary on the people around him and his life as he paid the price for doing so.
- If I Die Far From You was amazingly powerful for a short. It felt like a difficult (in a good way) feature and really stuck long after seeing it.
- Venus was a sort of odd short nominally from the perspective of a Virgin Mary Icon. It was a little slow….
- Ver Llover was a touching short about a young couple in love and growing out of their village. Funny and touching.
Carolyn found the funniest short, I’ve seen (possibly ever) and posted the YouTube link to Spider.
2007 Telluride Film Festival