Stopping SOPA, the online piracy act that would stifle the Internet

It seems like every day someone wants to create a new law to inhibit freedom, whether it’s freedom of speech or to assemble peacefully or to release purported “classified” government documents as does WikiLeaks. Today, it’s SOPA, the bill in the House, with its corollary bill in the Senate, the PROTECT IP Act. They both desire to “Protect the intellectual property market and corresponding industry, including [and this is a reach], the jobs and revenue, necessary to bolster enforcement of copyright laws especially against foreign websites.”

Ironically, the mass of technical ins and outs of SOPA come from this linked Wikipedia, free encyclopedia, piece. So check it before they’re outlawed or you and I are arrested; you for reading my piece, I for writing it and using some Wiki intellectual property, i.e. invaluable information. The article states “that unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content [is] a crime, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison for 10 pieces of music or movies [streamed] within six months.” That’s a bit draconian, wouldn’t you say? Five years in the big house for watching films and downloading music?

In fact, “Brooklyn Law School professor Jason Mazzone warns that, “Much of what will happen under SOPA will occur out of the public eye and without the possibility of holding anyone accountable. For when copyright law is made and enforced privately, it is hard for the public to know the shape that the law takes and harder still to complain about its operation.” If you get five years for the above, downloading War and Peace could bring you a life sentence in a gulag.

In essence, this is really an attempt at privatizing the Internet, i.e. information generally speaking, which probably will strangle the Net with regulation. Opponents of this bill rightly include Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, LinkdedIn, eBay, Mozilla, Reddit, the Wikimedia Foundation, and human rights organizations such as Reporters without Borders, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ACLU and Human Rights Watch.”

Think of what the Internet would be without these great search engines, Social Media sites, free reporting of RWB and the conscience of the ACLU, reminding us these bills are a violation of free speech and a free Internet in the extreme, more no-no’s from our whacked corporate capitalists to inhibit learning.

Also for no charge come the bill’s advocates from Wiki: “The Stop Online Piracy Act was introduced by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) [Where else?] and was initially co-sponsored by Howard Berman (D-CA), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), Steve Chabot (R-OH), John Conyers (D-MI), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Elton Gallegly (R-CA), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Timothy Griffin (R-AR), Dennis A. Ross (R-FL), Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Lee Terry (R-NE). As of December 17, 2011, there were 31 sponsors.”

Of all this names, Representative John Conyers is the one that doesn’t fit. He is a man who spent his life in the civil rights movement with Dr. King and fought for freedom for black Americans every step of the way. C’mon John, join this march for Internet freedom. As you know, “A mind is a precious thing to waste.”

Among the main list of groups that support the Stop Online Piracy Act are “organizations that rely on copyright, including the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, Macmillan US, Viacom, and various other companies and unions in the cable, movie, and music industries. Supporters also include trademark-dependent companies such as Nike . . .” In this case, they’re not saying, “Just do it;” oops, is there a charge for that? Of course, MacMillan is the text book publisher that changes a chapter of a text book every semester to raise the prices of text books for struggling students accordingly.

Max Keiser, the RT.com economist with a sense of humor pointed out [and I’m paraphrasing] that Hollywood movies make their money in outlandish production budgets which eat up box office receipts, the rest going to pricey stars and executive producer rake-offs, leaving little or no taxable profits. This explains in part why the films are so dumb and dumber. One Godfather wasn’t enough. We needed three. One Harry Potter wasn’t enough. We got eight in a boxed gift set. If it the plot worked once, it’ll work a thousand timezzzzzzzzzzzz. Excuse me. So that might be they’re real problem.

I think everyone in the U.S. has an instinct to protect their property, but the Internet has taught the world to produce and share differently, at least most of the writers, artists, citizens who use it to work for the “common good,” i.d. a freer dissemination of their work or observations to help inform people. Look that up under FDR. Not everyone gets it.

Ironically “Both the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce support H.R. 3261, and many industries have also publicly praised the legislation.” Can the unions really be afraid that the Internet will cut into its members’ incomes? That seems totally far-fetched and just another push in the direction of repression.

If the AFL was so worried, then why didn’t the musicians union, for instance, crack down on the use of synthesizers in the recording business, which could produce the sounds of a full orchestra with one musician sitting at a keyboard synthesizing the sounds of violins, horns, woodwinds, etc? Why did auto unions stand by as the entire process was robotized, scaling down the work force significantly to save money. And why did they allow entire car companies to go south for cheap labor?

Interestingly, “On September 22, 2011, a letter signed by over 350 businesses and organizations—including NBCUniversal, Pfizer, Ford Motor Company, Revlon, NBA, and Macmillan US—was sent to Congress encouraging the passage of the legislation in 2011. Fightonlinetheft.com, a website of The Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy (a project of the United States Chamberpot of Commerce Global Intellectual Property Center[76]), cites a long list of supporters including these and the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Governors Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Attorneys General, the Better Business Bureau, and the National Consumers League.

Tell me what does the Fraternal Order of Police have to do with this list, unless it’s to exercise their members paramilitary violence for instance against the Occupy Wall Street Movement trying to spread the 1%’s wealth on behalf of the 99%? Do you see the direction in which we’re going here, including the association of the various legal associations? We’re going towards more repression and towards a locked-down, “shut up and move on” police state.

What’s more, “On November 22 the CEO of the Business Software Alliance (BSA) expressed concerns about the bill, saying that “valid and important questions have been raised about the bill.” ‘He said that definitions and remedies needed to be tightened and narrowed, but “BSA stands ready to work with Chairman Smith and his colleagues on the Judiciary Committee to resolve these issues.’” Well, the software industry may have some legitimate complaints. But, really, without a free Internet they’d probably go out of business. Think about them Apples, guys!

“On December 22, Go Daddy, the world’s largest domain name registrar, stated that it supported SOPA.] This prompted users from Reddit to organize a boycott. In addition, Jimmy Wales announced he would transfer all Wikimedia domains from Go Daddy. The same day, Go Daddy rescinded its support, with its CEO saying, “Fighting online piracy is of the utmost importance, which is why Go Daddy has been working to help craft revisions to this legislation—but we can clearly do better . . . Go Daddy will support it when and if the Internet community supports it.”

So, Go Daddy is trying to limit, what, the creation of more domain names and sports sponsorships that a healthy free Internet could supply and support? Is that their thinking? Or do they prefer television? After all, these are the people that brought and continue to bring you the Super Bowl, that cultural and advertising landmark it is. Its annual advertising and network sponsorship runs in the hundreds of millions. But, what if someone excerpted a two-minute recap of the game or some good plays on the Internet? Do they owe Go Daddy? And/or go to Sports Nut Prison for it?

Top that with, “In January 2012, the Entertainment Software Association announced their support for the SOPA legislation. L’Oréal, and Acushnet Company did as well. P.S. When was the last time you downloaded a movie from the Internet to watch on a small computer screen? And L’Oreal is a cosmetics company, so what’s the problem? Someone will cut and paste their images? I doubt it. This is the Congress inviting sheer corporate madness one more time.

“Both the AFL-CIO and [the notoriously conservative] U.S. Chamber of Commerce support H.R. 3261 and many industries have also publicly praised the legislation . . .”

“On December 22, Go Daddy, the world’s largest domain name registrar, stated that it supported SOPA. This prompted users from Reddit to organize a boycott. In addition, Jimmy Wales announced he would transfer all Wikimedia domains from Go Daddy. The same day, Go Daddy rescinded its support, with its CEO saying, “Fighting online piracy is of the utmost importance, which is why Go Daddy has been working to help craft revisions to this legislation—but we can clearly do better . . . Go Daddy will support it when and if the Internet community supports it.”

“In January 2012, the Entertainment Software Association announced their support for the SOPA legislation.”

In other words, all the deep pocket organizations, many of which invest heavily in television advertising to sell their products are trying to take a swing at the Internet. And what about many unions of those who produce commercials, films, TV, games, software, that might be used in whole or part on the Internet? What’s their reason besides outright repression or greed?

The Internet, as is, is reshaping America by its largely unbiased presentation of news, including, yes, some of the more conventional or outright biased, fascistic news companies, like Ruppert Murdoch’s Fox news online.

But, as a humble scribe I can’t stress enough how much the free availability of news services, even Fox, and foreign information sources help you and I understand the very problem I’m writing about. Repression comes in many forms and SOPA and Protect IP throw a two-punch combo for it. They should be resisted like a line in the sand that can’t be crossed by the fat-cats; those who want to keep you ignorant for one reason or the other or even to imprison you if you’ve been caught 10 times in six months [or some other arbitrary number] reading, writing or enjoying previous copyrighted material, whether its texts, music, film, games, software on another website.

Bottom line, if they want a fee up front, they can ask for it. If you don’t want to pay it, move on. There’s a real simple way to end the problem, to turn the Internet into one vast marketplace, with a ongoing price war to win viewership.

In fact, one complaint by one dork, could cause a great site to be closed down and the darkness descend like a curtain till it abounds. If I had a buck for every site that ever picked up one of my 700 articles, or part of them, or even payment for the original articles, which were done pro bono (for the common good), it would be a tidy sum. But hey, no complaints I say. It’s been a blast—and an education, which is what the Internet is all about. Giving and getting life-sustaining and protective information, news and entertainment. Beyond that call in the clowns!

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer, life-long resident of New York City. An EBook version of his book of poems “State Of Shock,” on 9/11 and its after effects is now available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on politics and government as Associate Editor of Intrepid Report (formerly Online Journal). Reach him at gvmaz@verizon.net.

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