Saturday, January 21, 2012

Stop Online Piracy Act

I'm betting that unless you have been living under a rock for the past couple of months, you know about the stop online piracy act, more commonly known as SOPA. So I thought I'd make some kind of a comprehensive post about the whole thing for those of you who really can't be bothered with reading for yourself.

The whole thing started with this guy:

He doesn't look like he even owns a computer.

U. S representative Lamar S. Smith who introduced Bill 3261 to the United States House of Representatives on 26th October, 2011.
The whole reason behind SOPA is to make it easier to shut down sites outside of U.S jurisdiction accused of infringing on copyrights, or of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. After receiving a court order, an attorney general could request that, for example, major ad companies would suspend conducting business with said sites and they could also demand that search engines stop linking to that site, effectively killing that site. 
The court order could also state that Internet providers block access to a particular site, making accessing it at all nearly impossible for regular internet users. Unauthorized streaming of copyrighted material for one would land the site owner in jail for a maximum of 5 years. I probably do not have to list all the foreign sites that spring to mind having mentioned this.
Of course people who aren't going along with this for the money have rightly noted that it is in violation with First Amendment, is far too much like internet censorship for anyones comfort and that it also threatens free speech. 
Supporters of the bill included, unsurprisingly, Motion Picture Association of America, media businesses and  the U.S Chamber of Commerce.

"Intellectual property is one of America's chief job creators and competitive advantages in the global marketplace, yet American inventors, authors, and entrepreneurs have been forced to stand by and watch as their works are stolen by foreign infringers beyond the reach of current U.S. laws. This legislation will update the laws to ensure that the economic incentives our Framers enshrined in the Constitution over 220 years ago—to encourage new writings, research, products and services— remain effective in the 21st century's global marketplace, which will create more American jobs."
~Rep. Bob Goodlatte 

Do I have to point out how besides being pretty much bs, this only points out how it would create American jobs and doesn't say a word about the rest of the world that would actually lose their jobs because the US suddenly has power over most of the World Wide Web. Or am I wrong?

On TIME'Techland blog, Jerry Brito wrote, "Imagine if the U.K. created a blacklist of American newspapers that its courts found violated celebrities' privacy? Or what if France blocked American sites it believed contained hate speech?" Similarly, the Center for Democracy and Technology warned, "If SOPA and PIPA are enacted, the US government must be prepared for other governments to follow suit, in service to whatever social policies they believe are important—whether restricting hate speech, insults to public officials, or political dissent."

The way I see it, SOPA goes through and starts messing with sites all over the world, and obviously the rest of the worlds starts fighting back. And while it is nice to know that most countries wouldn't just roll over and wait for America to start fucking shit up, in the end no-one wins. We just end up with something that isn't the free and amazing internet that we enjoy now. It would stop being a place where anyone could express themselves and start being a place where you either express what are allowed to express or risk censorship.

An extreme example of what could be done under the law if it does pass one day is this: let's say for an example that I'm sitting here, writing a pretty innocent blog post. For whatever reason I decide to post something that may or may not be pirated. Or use materials that are seen as being copyright infringing. Upon seeing that, someone decides to report this post. Some U.S attorney general now not only has a theoretical right to take down my blog but also to fuck with blogger itself, because it assisted in streaming materials that were protected under the copyright law.

That is, of course terribly unlikely but the potential for this kind of censorship is there. Technically, nothing actually protects blogger from that happening. Among the sites immediately in danger are Etsy, Flickr and Vimeo. All this to protect major companies (the loaded-with-money-anyway kind) from piracy which will flourish anyway.

In 1998 we got the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which in itself included something called Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act. Said act provided a kind of safe harbor for websites that host content. It made sure that if something is found on a website that hosts, say, videos, the copyright owners would have to make a request to that site who then would have to remove the content in a given amount of time, basically making sure that the host doesn't have to be liable for anything, which makes sense if you think of big video streaming websites like youtube. There is no way all content could be processed to make sure nothing fucks with copyright laws. This is a very sensible act but SOPA would bypass that entirely, stating that if something is hosted on a website that infringes copyright, then the website owner is to blame. That is also one of the things they aren't willing to change when it comes to SOPA.

On 16th of November, Booz & Company published a study that pointed out how 200 venture capitalists and angel investors would stop investing.

This bill does not make it a felony for a person to post a video on YouTube of their children singing to a copyrighted song. The bill specifically targets websites dedicated to illegal or infringing activity. Sites that host user content—like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter—have nothing to be concerned about under this legislation."
~Rep. Smith

 Can I just point out how both YouTube and Facebook host tons of material that directly infringes copyright but I'm sure even Mr. Smith can predict the kind of outcry would follow the murder of either of those sites. Hypocrisy is is a kind of homage that vice pays to virtue.

Here is a video that interprets the vague wording of the bill itself and outlines the kind of damage it could do.

Under SOPA, I'm sure that embedding this is some kind of a felony but as you hear from the video, most everything would be if bill becomes law.

A kind of a interesting snippet, courtesy of wikipedia, is that while campaigning, the dear father of SOPA himself used a photo but *le gasp* didn't actually give credit where credit was due. This is the picture that, under SOPA, would land Smith himself in trouble:

Unlike the creator of SOPA, I am capable of hyperlinking the picture to take you to the original. Photo by DJ Schulte.
From the author: contacted me with evidence that Lamar Smith's website used my image as a background for their website. I have no recollection, nor record of Lamar Smith or anyone from his organization requesting permission to use my image "Mist Lifting Off Cedars". That lack of request does not violate the Creative Commons license although it does show high disregard for creative material producers. What does violate my Creative Commons license though is that I do not see anywhere on the screen capture that the image was attributed to the source (me). It would seem this image was improperly used by the organization of the very author of the SOPA bill that is being debated in Congress.
~DJ Schulte

He says it all, really.

Obviously you all already know or at least can pretty accurately predict what companies are pro-SOPA, namely the ones that rely on trademark names or copyright acts. To confirm what you already suspect then a couple of examples are Viacom, L'Oreal, Nike etc.
Go Daddy, the biggest domain name registrar stated that it supported SOPA but then withdrew when things got heated, promising to only back it if the rest of the internet agreed with it. Which, by definition is never.

On January 14th the Obama administration stated that the White House will not support SOPA as long as it's leading to internet censorship, squelching of innovation or something of the sort. They did, however, encourage all sides to work together and create a bill that could be approved this year.

However the opposition to this law seems much bigger. On the anti-SOPA side we have Google, Yahoo!, Tumblr, Wikipedia, Mozilla Corp., Reddit and many, many more. For example, the entire internet.
On November 22, Mike Masnick of Techdirt posted a detailed criticism on SOPA.

[...] writing that "one could argue that the entire Internet enables or facilitates infringement," [...] The article questioned the effect of the bill on $2 trillion in GDP and 3.1 million jobs, with a host of consequential problems on investment, liability and innovation.
~Wikipedia has collected over 2.7 million signatures against the bill from all over the world.
On December 15th a second hearing was scheduled. Smith proposed a 71-page amendment to address concerns but the opposition stood strong.

On November 16th Tumblr, Mozilla, Techdirt and other major internet companies protested against censorship by displaying black banners over their site logos.

Google also ran an online petition which gained 7 million signatures from the U.S.

On January 18th we got a taste of what SOPA could potentially do with the 24-hour Wikipedia blackout. Other sites, like Reddit, Tumblr, Cheezburger sites, Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, eBay, PayPal and others participated in the protest as well with the intention of spreading awareness. 

On January 17 a Republican aide on Capitol Hill said that the protests were making their mark, with SOPA having already become "a dirty word beyond anything you can imagine."

 In Moscow, a series of pickets were held in front of the U.S. Embassy, two picketers were arrested.

Some SOPA backers complained that the bill was being misrepresented amidst the protests. RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy said, "It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users and arm them with misinformation,"

Of course they'd prefer to not point out that the entire bill is so full of holes and concerns that it is really hard to misrepresent it. 
It is estimated that about 7,000 smaller websites also took part of the protest by blacking their website out or posting something at the proposed legislation.

On January 19th the Federal Bureau of Investigation and US Department of Justice shut down Megavideo, angering everyone. The timing couldn't have been worse, the protests had just been the last day and therefore provoked even more protesting.

"Even without SOPA having been passed yet, the federal government always had tremendous power to do some of the things that they want to do. So if this is what can occur without SOPA being passed, imagine what can occur after SOPA is passed," Brown commented. Some commentators and observers have asserted that the FBI shut down of Megaupload proves that SOPA and PIPA are unnecessary.
~Wikipedia (Really think I can be assed to use other sources? Please...)

The hearings on SOPA were held on 16th November and 15th December. They were scheduled to continue in January 2012, however on 17th of January Smith announced that they would postpone them 'till February. Thanks to the protests on 18th, the plans to advance the bill was postponed entirely. The PIPA test vote, scheduled for 24th January, was postponed as well.

For now, we have managed to put off this law for a while but it is still under consideration so we mustn't let our guard down. Educate yourself, find out why SOPA and PIPA are bad, if you live in the US send a letter to whomever you guys send letters to when your country wants to screw you over, make sure that you don't underestimate your own power. In the end they can't win on our own home turf. Fight against SOPA, please.

This entire post is based on this article: Wikipedia
You can sign the petition in Avaaz: Save the Internet


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hey guys

So the whole "more posts than last year" isn't going too well, is it?
Let me see if I can make it better with this picture of a pink cat.
Picture courtesy of half-crazed me.
Yes, I am aware that this cat isn't probably pink by choice (three cheers for accidentally listening to Pink- Nobody knows while writing this?) and it is really cruel that someone has decided to pour some colorstuff over the kitty but you see this picture is proof that when I told everyone I saw a pink cat running past my window I was not going crazy but in fact did see a pink cat. So there, my life is full of all sorts of interesting things.

Soyeah, there have been some crappy things in my life lately, which I'm not going to discuss on my blog but if it makes you feel better, everything is kind of going uphill I guess. I hope. I think. Yeah. Probably.

I'll give you the footnotes of my life lately just to get you up-to-date in case you want that for some reason.

  1. The olympiad season is sort of starting and I guess I'll let you know about the results as they come in. 
  2. Mah sistah gots herself another dog. She haz two daschunds now. I'll let you know all about that fiasco when they visit in february.
  3. The world won't end. Just thought I'd put it out there.
  4. I started learning French. Horrid language, lazy bastards.
  5. The snow finally came down in Saaremaa as well. Woo fucking hoo...
So I'll try to update my blog every now and again but frankly my life has somehow turned superboring. Or youknow, the things that do happen I can't talk about here... 


Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

So tell me, am I going crazy or didn't I really do one of those deep "trip down the memory lane" kind of reminiscent posts at the beginning of 2011? Didn't I? Cause I could swear, I remember doing one...

Yayyyy, it's 2012!! 353 days until the end of the world! There's a link somewhere on the right side of this post, where all the other links reside that takes you to a 2012 world end countdown clock. You're welcome. Now you can see the seconds tick away until world ends. Cool, Y/Y? 

Okaay, my blog is now officially two years old.

Which is... weird. I mean who'da thunk that I'd be sitting here, writing this? 
I have hit 10 000 pageviews some months ago (according to the blogger pageview counter that I see when I log in, the flag counter was added after the blog had been working for a while already), the 100 post mark fell on my 11th birthday and all in all a good year, no? 

I briefly thought that I would make it a new years resolution to beat the number of posts I made in 2011, but then I figured that why make my own life harder. So Kairi, you are just going to have to bully me into that.
Or whoever else is interested. If anyone is. We shall see.

By the way, fun fact: During this year, I have slept exactly 9 hours. 
So I will try and make some kind of a coherent blog post when I can finally think again but I just figured I owed you this Happy New Year and Woo, Go Me; My Blog Is 2!! post. Savor it, you might not get another one anytime soon.


O sleep, O gentle sleep,
Nature's soft nurse, how have I frighted thee,
That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down
And steep my senses in forgetfulness?
~William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part II (c. 1597-99), Act III, scene 1, line 4.