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The Real Piracy

© Jerry Holbert

I’d like this comic even better if the money bags sitting behind the Congress character was the money thrown at Congresscritters by lobbyists (like all the money they get from the MPAA, the Chamber of Commerce, and other organizations pushing the SOPA and PIPA bills). To their credit, most Internet companies have been reluctant to do a lot of lobbying, preferring instead to let their products and job creation record speak for themselves.

I also think the old media companies (represented by the MPAA and RIAA) were caught off-guard by the new media companies (who are just figuring out how to turn their huge ability to rapidly marshall grass roots support into political power).

UPDATE: Stephen Colbert hilariously claims that the internet has too much control over what’s on the web:



  1. This actually completes a thought that I was beginning to have as a result of a series of particularly lengthy conversations on Facebook.

    I understand why the MPAA is fighting tooth and nail to protect their interests, but I also know that in order to get this stuff written, all they have to do is pepper congress with cash. I would rather see lawmakers putting resources into exhaustively analyzing the scope of the problem of piracy, both now and in the future (as the Internet model becomes the economic norm) before rushing to cut off access to the source and putting the burden on search engines and ISPs.

    I’m of the mind that SOPA and PIPA need to be halted; any legislation that turns the Internet into a police-state by implementing hair-trigger mechanisms to block access to pirate sites is not the answer to the problem. In fact, I think economic restructuring that goes hand-in-hand with international cooperation is the more complex but obvious answer.

    It’s funny, but even though I’m against the bills passing, and certainly in their current forms, all day I have been resenting sites like Wikipedia and various blogs for misrepresenting the potential effects of SOPA, because after reading the actual text of the bill, it’s obvious that it’s targeted at offshore crack and torrent sites, is in absolutely no way applicable to domestic domains (everyone’s precious YouTube is safe), and cannot be used wily-nilly to turn off any site “the government doesn’t like.” If any abuse is to come from it, you can be sure that abuse will be focused on sites like Wikileaks, which surprisingly few people have displayed any concern about. Instead, my Facebook feed has been consistently bombarded with claims that SOPA will basically destroy the Internet as we know it, much like the worries that the now-forgotten NDAA was or is going to result in an Orwellian nightmare where anyone who criticizes the President will get “disappeared.” The “my site would get taken down because I put up a funny animation of Oprah” argument was particularly annoying, mostly because it fails to take into account certain safeguards like fair use and parody. This was just one of the many examples I saw of how poorly caricaturized these bills have become in the mind of the public.

    Yet, at the end of the day, I’m beginning to wonder if we live in such a state of relative indifference and distraction that people actually need to be lied to in order to be motivated. The psychology behind exaggerating a threat, as I have seen happen in various forms over the past decade, is extremely effective.

    The “new media” companies fought hard and dirty on this one, aided and abetted by an independent disinformation campaign that capitalized on the fears of the average user that the social networks they’ve become addicted do will be taken away from them.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 3:56 am | Permalink
  2. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    You think they are all wrong?

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 5:56 am | Permalink
  3. Duckman wrote:

    Here is a nice little bit on greed.

    Good thing Mr. Buffett is doing, good man and I applaud Rep. Scott Rigell for donating. However, do you see the jump in the amount that Rigell paid in 2011 and 2012?

    Rigell made $154,000 for 2011 and will make $174,000 in 2012. That is a 13% pay raise!

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 8:17 am | Permalink
  4. PatriotSGT wrote:

    CGE – I’m not so sure the spin doctors in favor of the legislation have done a job minimizing the potential consequnces or not. 1032 provides an excellent scholarly appraisel of what could happen. I never believe the government when they say, even though it says that we’d never actually do it. Like the NDAA recently signed into law. The power is out there now and can be used. If the government is given the power to censor or shut down any site without due process, but say they’ll never actually do that, yeah right. Then why do they need that power.

    Duckman – I don’t know why he only made 154k in 2011. The current rank and file member pay is the 174k. Here’s a link that shows the pay and benefit breakdowns for congress. (look at the retirement plan)

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 8:43 am | Permalink
  5. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Also, on the IPR (Intelectual Property Rights), copyright and other information ownership issues this has always been an issue. Before the internet and currently stores always deal with what they call shrinkage, theft of property. They actually account for it in their budgets. I work next to a gov’t IPR group in my office and occasionally help them. IPR theft is a huge enterprise and the biggest abusers are the chinese. I’m talking an estimated 1000’s of tons of counterfieted goods each year. This represents a significant loss for manufacturers, retailers and employees annually and this bill does nothing to stop that. The other arena is the internet and it accounts for less, because it is already more traceable then other methods. This does not apply to things like music or video where the method of choice is the internet. Although there is a big black market for bootleg video and music done by locals out of brick and mortor stores. Some of the biggest “fencing” operations are sites like Ebay and other online user auction and trade (craigslist, etc.)sites. And they aggressively try to eliminate those instances and fully cooperate with the government in investigations. I’m not convinced that current internet crime is all that different from the pre web brick and mortor thefts that used to occur. More sophisticated perhaps, but equally solveable with our advancements in computer forensics.
    So I guess I’m trying to say that I don’t think we need this to actually prosecute internet crimes. Perhaps updating some laws to include technologically targeted language would get the same result and keep the internet free. I can just see a future where like in more closed societies the access to information could be cut off, because of a percieved threat to say national sucurity or more to the point policy.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink
  6. TENTHIRTYTWO – That letter is not part of the Overreaction Machine to which I refer. My only dispute with it is that it uses the word “any website” when referring to potential web victims, when it should be saying, “any foreign website.” Even then, you’re walking a hard to define line when you have a set of criteria, no matter how vague, that spells out what constitutes “a foreign infringing website” and then you argue that it can literally be applied to anything you want. It’s a logically flawed stance because it doesn’t draw on support for your conclusion, but rather hypotheticals. For instance:

    Man 1: “We will only go after websites in foreign countries that provide services which facilitate piracy. If someone says a website is infringing and the matter goes to court and it turns out that it’s not infringing, that person can be held liable.”

    Man 2: “You can use this to apply to any website!”

    Do you see what I mean? It’s not a good counter-argument. It basically says, “You’re going to break your own law once you pass this law in order to do what you want to do anyway.” You may as well say that the government doesn’t actually need the law since if it’s going to ignore it, it may as well do whatever it wants to do with or with out it in the first place. Unless you think the law simply builds a rickety framework for plausible deniability that will hold up just long enough for them to get away with their dirty deeds.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Permalink
  7. PATRIOTGST – It’s not a matter of the government “saying” “We won’t abuse this.” It’s a matter of asking “In what ways is this bill likely to be abused, if any?” The Wikileaks example is far more plausible than the fear that they’re going to shut down Twitter. Unfortunately, it’s the second possibility (which the language of the bill doesn’t actually allow for) that’s got people crying out en masse to have this thing stopped.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink
  8. ThatGuy wrote:

    CGE: I think the problem with these bills are what they open the door for. If lobbying by the MPAA and the RIAA pushes the US to prevent access to certain overseas websites, what happens when those industries turn their gaze to domestic piracy and/or piracy linked sites? Yes, this is the cliche “slippery slope” idea, but the legislation itself is so poorly thought out and poorly targeted that, were it to pass, it demands future amendments and additions which, I think, would only become more strict with continued lobbying by media giants.

    Sure, there are plenty of people opposed to the acts who don’t understand them completely or have misconceptions of what they are intended to do, but I would say that the general anti-censorship mindset is a good one.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Permalink
  9. Iron Knee wrote:

    ChinaGreenElvis — I think you are being misled by the wording of the bill. It doesn’t matter that the bill says it is focused on foreign websites. The problem is that they define foreign websites as those who use a foreign domain name. This is a very poor definition since it would include domains like, and

    And just because a bill claims to be for one purpose doesn’t mean that it won’t be misused for another purpose. Look at the 14th Amendment, whose clear purpose was to give due process rights to former slaves, but which is misused far more often for corporations, including the infamous Citizen’s United decision.

    And the same thing happened with the DCMA. In one well-known case, the RIAA required that a video someone took of their child doing something cute be taken down from YouTube because in the background a stereo in their house was playing some copyrighted music. It doesn’t matter that the law specifically exempts fair use (and this was clearly fair use), if a law is poorly written then it *will* be misused by IP owners who have a large financial stake. You can call such situations hypotheticals, but that doesn’t make them any less real and onerous when they actually happen. Before a law is passed, everything is hypothetical.

    Jimmy Wales has a good interview on why Wikipedia blacked out their site on Wednesday, and it doesn’t sound like overreacting.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Permalink
  10. Iron Knee – Again, I say it’s not a matter of believing that a bill won’t be abused, but being annoyed at what appears to be a gross exaggeration of the ways in which it can.

    Eight out of ten articles and videos that I clicked on yesterday claimed, specifically, that SOPA and PIPA would get rid of Wikipedia, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. While you’re right that the mechanism that defines a foreign website makes a mistake by assuming that a foreign name implies foreign hosting is flawed, saying that could be blocked is not the same thing as saying could be blocked.

    I shouldn’t have to reiterate that I’m against the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP act – but if you can’t see that the majority of information that has motivated the public to respond to this issue is the result of misinformation (and in some cases, disinformation), there’s really nothing more I can say.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Permalink
  11. Falkelord wrote:

    IK is right CGE. The issue at hand here is that the wording of the bill allows it so that any site which links copyrighted material runs the risk of being shut down – whether or not the site’s owners posted it or someone unaffiliated with the site did it.

    For example, let’s say I run wikipedia.

    In an article on, let’s say, Guinness, and someone edits the page to include a promotional picture of the brewery in Ireland from Guinness’ website. The picture is copyrighted, but the editor mistakenly attributes fair use rationale (either because they misunderstand what “fair use” means or they’re being willfully malicious). That page is now in violation of the bill, and Wikipedia is subject to shutdown based on the actions of one single misinformed or malicious individual who is completely unaffiliated with either party.

    The bill puts the burden of policing into the hands of the websites, meaning they have to be vigilant 24/7 to make sure there aren’t any copyright infringements.

    And what about sites whose business model relies on posting of humorous pictures and videos? They can’t link half of their content anymore because they’re copyrighted content or their use could be attributed to copyright infringement.

    The bill doesn’t treat the disease, it treats the symptoms (poorly). There’s a commercial running now about how foreign pirates are stealing american jobs everyday by stealing intellectual property (what? seriously how is this even possible?)

    While that’s not only a far fetched idea, it’s absolutely wrong in every sense of the word. You can’t steal jobs by stealing intellectual property. It’s not like this bill will prevent foreign governments from stealing our atomic secrets, we’re talking about foreign pirates stealing our movies and music……so they can do what, open record shops and movie theaters? Fuck no, who seriously believes foreign pirates are doing that? It makes no sense and it’s simply a scare tactic to get you to vote for these poorly worded and poorly structured bills from people who don’t know the difference between a DNS and their assholes.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Permalink
  12. Falkelord – If you can explain the portion of the bill that allows Wikipedia to be shut down because a user uploads a copyrighted image, I’ll eat my socks.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Permalink
  13. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    CGE: just to confirm…you believe the 100+ law professors that wrote/signed that document are all wrong? You believe their statement that SOPA/PIPA would, ‘[a]llow the government to block Internet access to any web site that “facilitated” copyright or trademark infringement’ is incorrect?

    Do you have expertise in consitutional, copyright, or patent law? Do you have a law degree?

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Permalink
  14. PatriotSGT wrote:

    UPDATE: Just saw this–

    Now if we can use existing laws to do the job, why do we need to enact this bill. Or are there other motives involved?

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink
  15. TenThirtyTwo – Yes, I believe that statement is inaccurate.

    Protect IP is even less vague on this – it specifically defines a foreign site as a site that is both operated overseas and runs under a non-domestic domain name, and it defines infringing sites as those whose primary functions are to enable and facilitate piracy. The idea that this definition can be legally applied to “any” site is absurd.

    I stand by my challenge. I’ve even got a nice pair of socks already picked out.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink
  16. Here, I’ll make it easier for you guys.



    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink
  17. Oh, and TenThirtyTwo, as for your questions regarding my qualifications in the fields of constitutional and copyright laws and whether or not I have a degree, I think you should read the following:

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Permalink
  18. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    I’ll assume by you ignoring my question that you have no expertise in law. It begs the question, what do you hope to gain by challenging (again, I assume) other people who have no expertise in the law to attempt to correct your conclusion (which, again, you have drawn without expertise)? Even if we could convince you that you were wrong, why would our opinions be any better than yours?

    Instead, what about picking some of the 100+ names on that PDF and challenging them? I’ll get you started:

    mlemley@law.stanford.edu – “He teaches intellectual property, computer and Internet law, patent law, and antitrust.”
    dlevine3@elon.edu – “His scholarship focuses on the operation of intellectual property law at the intersection of technology and public life and intellectual property law’s impact on public and private transparency and accountability.” – “…practicing in the areas of intellectual property law and high technology commercial transactions.”

    Even better would be to post your exchange on the web. I would be delighted to read it.

    Good luck with the whole socks thing.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink
  19. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    Thanks for the read, I love logical fallacies. 🙂 You’ve applied this one incorrectly. It wasn’t really even where I was going when I asked you that, but, per your link:

    “Fallacious arguments from authority often are the result of failing to meet at least one of the two conditions from the previous section.”

    Those conditions are:

    “1. The authority is a legitimate expert on the subject.
    2. A consensus exists among legitimate experts on the matter under discussion.”

    In other words:

    “when a doctor of medicine untrained in economics, opines about the state of the economy, many people still will give his opinions on the subject more credence than the opinions of a person of less, or of less imposing, education”

    Giving the opinion of experts credence in matters where they are experts is not a fallacious appeal to authority. It is actually…really, really common. Used constantly in damn near everything, including our judicial system.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink
  20. You are using the Appeal to Authority argument to avoid directly discussing the contents of the bill. You would rather assure me that because a hundred professors signed a statement and you have no evidence that I ever went to law school that I have no ground on which to challenge any content of that statement.

    This is why your stance is fallacious.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Permalink
  21. Don wrote:

    CGE: I’ve taken some time to go through SOPA and find that your assessment may very well be in error. Please refer to: SEC. 103. MARKET-BASED SYSTEM TO PROTECT U.S. CUSTOMERS AND PREVENT U.S. FUNDING OF SITES DEDICATED TO THEFT OF U.S. PROPERTY.

    This section deals with US directed sites: i.e. sites established to serve a constituency located in the US. I can find no reference to these sites being necessarily foreign. The definition can easily be applied to US based sites as well as foreign sites. This is the clause that opens the door to impacts on US based companies. Sec. 103 (a)(1)(B)(ii)(I) puts the onus for enforcement on the backs of site managers to take continuous, positive actions to police their sites. If they fail to do so, they are subject to the action initiated by IP holders as plaintiffs.

    Sec. 104 is quite interesting, too, opening the door for voluntary enforcement of the law by providers of internet services and, as this is suggested behavior, indicating that the provider of services is immune from action. This section clearly differentiates between a foreign site as discussed in Sec, 102 and US directed sites as discussed in Sec. 103.

    And, no, I’m not a legal IP expert. I do have a whole lot of experience writing and reading Federal law, though. I know what applies where and what doesn’t. Sections 102 and 103 are quite separate.

    So, CGE, I can’t agree with your assessment of the laws as written as of yesterday.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Permalink
  22. In specific:

    “X holds that A is true
    X is a legitimate expert on the subject.
    The consensus of experts agrees with X.
    Therefore, there’s a presumption that A is true.”

    “Although certain classes of argument from authority do on occasion constitute strong inductive arguments, arguments from authority are commonly used in a fallacious manner.”

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Permalink
  23. Don – Section 102 begins with this:

    (a) Definition- For purposes of this section, a foreign Internet site or portion thereof is a ‘foreign infringing site’ if–

    This means that 102 is only applicable to foreign sites (which, as we have discussed, is somewhat poorly defined because in SOPA, it relies solely on domain names).

    Unfortunately, as you point out, section 103 does exclude use of the term “foreign,” but it does go to great lengths to define what makes a site “dedicated to the theft of U.S. property.” The definitions described in i. and ii. of this section impede the idea that it can be used to apply to “any” website. The fear that YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Wikipedia could ever all into this category is ludicrous and would take an incredibly malevolent interpretation of the bill as it is written.

    There is nothing in either of these bills that says domestic websites can be blacklisted because of a single instance of user-generated violation of copyright law.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink
  24. For the sake of furthering the conversation, I’ll say maybe I’m wrong on that. Let’s discuss 103:

    (i) the U.S.-directed site is primarily designed or operated for the purpose of, has only limited purpose or use other than, or is marketed by its operator or another acting in concert with that operator for use in, offering goods or services in a manner that engages in, enables, or facilitates–
    (I) a violation of section 501 of title 17, United States Code;
    (II) a violation of section 1201 of title 17, United States Code; or
    (III) the sale, distribution, or promotion of goods, services, or materials bearing a counterfeit mark, as that term is defined in section 34(d) of the Lanham Act or section 2320 of title 18, United States Code;

    I’ll assume we can agree that none of these sites qualify here. Now, onto the second half:

    (ii) the operator of the U.S.-directed site–
    (I) is taking, or has taken, deliberate actions to avoid confirming a high probability of the use of the U.S.-directed site to carry out acts that constitute a violation of section 501 or 1201 of title 17, United States Code; or
    (II) operates the U.S.-directed site with the object of promoting, or has promoted, its use to carry out acts that constitute a violation of section 501 or 1201 of title 17, United States Code, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement.

    This basically says you have to actually try, as a site operator, to foster an environment of piracy. You have to go out of your way to make sure it happens. It’s not just a matter of “not doing enough,” to prevent pirate activity, but having the clear intention of enabling it.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink
  25. Iron Knee wrote:

    Um, well, apparently even existing law was enough to allow the feds to take down and, even though the sites did not explicitly foster an environment of piracy.

    I hope your socks are tasty!

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Permalink
  26. Don wrote:

    “is taking, or has taken, deliberate actions to avoid confirming a high probability of the use of the U.S.-directed site to carry out acts that constitute a violation of section 501 or 1201 of title 17, United States Code…”

    I might point out that a deliberate action could be a decision by the site manager to not verify each and every posting on a site to determine if there is an infraction of the IP rights as outlined in the two cited sections of 17 USC. This is pretty squishy territory. So, no, it doesn’t basically say that as a site operator one would have to overtly foster an environment of piracy. It does say that one must allow such an environment to exist through action or inaction.

    One last thing I’d like to point out. At some point an agency of the administrative branch of our government will create and enact regulations implementing this act, provided it is passed. Those writing those regulations know that they have a pretty free hand in what those regs say as long as they aren’t outside the scope of the act itself. As one who has written such regulations (in the field of natural resources, not IP law), I know how flexible that can be.

    By the way, CGE, I have noted that you are not in favor of passing either law and I applaud you for that.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Permalink
  27. Describing the operation of the site and relations with users the indictment noted, “For much of its operation, the Mega Conspiracy has offered an ‘Uploader Rewards’ Program, which promised premium subscribers transfers of cash and other financial incentives to upload popular works, including copyrighted works, to computer servers under the Mega Conspiracy’s direct control and for the Conspiracy’s ultimate financial benefit.”

    The charges certainly seem to say they were.

    Clearly this means that if SOPA passes we can say goodbye to Wikipedia and the free exchange of ideas forever. Perhaps you’d like a bite of my meal?

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Permalink
  28. No, I’m definitely not in favor of these laws. I’m just not sure what to think about the fact that the consequences have been simplified and exaggerated in order to gain support for opposing them.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Permalink
  29. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    I never once said that you have no ground on which to challenge that statement. In fact, I specifically *encouraged* you to challenge that statement! 🙂

    I simply encouraged you to challenge it with people who know what they are talking about. I was even kind enough to look up the contact info of 3 experts for you.

    But if trying to improperly label what I’m saying as a fallacy and being victorious over non-lawyers on the internet in a discussion about law lets you feel like you are right, more power to you. 🙂

    Small side discussion (again, I love logical fallacies): there are 3 specific instances where arguments from authority become fallacious. 2 of them are already listed, being that they violate the 2 principles from the article. The 3rd is not explicitly listed, and hinges on the fact that arguments from authority are necessarily inductive arguments instead of deductive. This fallacy happens when I declare that an expert’s positions on matters that they are an expert in is infallible. In other words, if I were to say that because these people are law professors, they MUST be right and you MUST be wrong.

    If you take a few moments to re-read what I wrote, hopefully you will see that I have not done any of these 3 things.

    Friday, January 20, 2012 at 6:03 am | Permalink