Overestimating Victory Over SOPA/PIPA

It wasn’t that long ago at all that the idea of protest on the web was the sort of thing you laughed at. Casually irritated people taking 13 seconds to sign what might be their actual name to a toothless petition with all the impact of a softly drifting soap bubble was great for shouting at the wind, but the idea that anyone would actually take an online protest or movement seriously was fantasy of the highest order.

And yet, here we are on the far side of the great internet blackout, assuming the internet is entirely made up of Google, Wikipedia and places that aggregate pictures of cats, which I have to admit is a pretty reasonable assumption. The once seemingly invulnerable legislation of SOPA and PIPA that could have changed the web as we knew it is now all but dead, and you can be forgiven for feeling like we can chalk one up for the good guys and pop open the champagne.

Which is exactly the kind of complacent, short-sighted, self-congratulatory lack of direction that will leave us having won a battle and lost the war. While everyone is deciding how we’re going to refocus our illusion of new-found authority in the world of politics and advocacy, the ground will be crumbling under our feet, and when the fall comes I fear it will be a horrible shock, leaving us far worse for a time than we might have been had SOPA just passed quietly in the night as had been intended.

No, the watch-word of today can not be success. It must be vigilance.

The faulty lesson that I fear far too many might take away from the recent success of January 18th is that it succeeded because people made a lot of noise in their online comfort zones. While this sort of focused angst carries an effect within its own echo chamber, the reason that the crusade against SOPA and PIPA worked is that enough people hit ‘em where it actually hurts.

How We Won Round 1

And, in this case, where it hurt was in the risk of politicians being labelled as in favor of censorship and inconveniencing the public during an election year. It would be a huge mistake to consider this a win against the entertainment industry, because those people got up this morning angrier and more motivated than ever. Don’t for a minute mistake capitulation today as forfeiture, and it would be an absolutely critical mistake to think that those who stayed quietly on the sidelines or parroted a tepid rejection of SOPA are anything like allies.

This can’t even really be called a win against the politicians themselves, particularly when being folksy and internet illiterate is practically a platform for some to appeal to a Baby Boomer base. This wasn’t some advancement of an ideology in a technical age. Truth be told half of the people who would have voted on this bill either genuinely have no idea what the discussion is about or actively foster an aura of idealistic, narrow-minded ignorance. This is a world where, “aww shucks I don’t know nothin’ bout this fancy internet, but I do know that this bill stops bad people from stealing from artists” is phenomenal deception for pandering to high paying special interests.

No, what we have here specifically is an accomplishment against specific legislation. This was about making enough noise to fight the right fight at the right time.

And, that’s good. These terrible constructs of law needed to go away, even though by the end SOPA had been gutted and left as toothless as a veteran hockey player. Though the fight isn’t technically over, it’s hard not to see that the PIPA and SOPA are essentially DOA, which is great for today but in the long run means virtually nothing, because the establishment doesn’t think of this as a fundamentally different copyright landscape, but as a surprising upset by chaotic and subversive forces. In short, we won the battle, but we’re still the bad guys and next time Plan 1 will be to do better at shutting dissent up in advance.

“Great, kid. Don’t get cocky.”

I hear people around the web breaking their arms to pat themselves on the back for winning the censorship fight as though it were a thing that was now over. These people are wondering what institution they will next irrevocably change forever, as though they were the first protesters to ever enjoy a transitory victory. That’s not how this works, and as the average American goes back to thinking about Tim Tebow, Steven Tyler and Rick Santorum, what we’re going to see is that the internet freedom fighters are still outgunned, out-organized and outspent on Capitol Hill. If the response from technology leaders and the internet public is the same next time around (assuming they still agree), then we can go ahead and just plan on losing that fight right now.

Already the entertainment industry is doing something far more threatening to politicians than making a fuss at Slate.com. They are pulling millions of dollars away from candidates who pulled support for SOPA during an election year, and they are giving that money to people who will sign anything, give up anything to get a seat in Washington. And, now that Wikipedia is back up and there’s no ominous black box across the Google logo, the people who briefly cared that their normal routine was interrupted have all but forgotten and assume that censorship is dead in America again.

One need only notice that on the very day that internet champions were winning one victory over antiquated ideas about media in the digital age, the Supreme Court handed down a decision saying that Congress could pull public domain works and re-copyright them.

It’s nice that we’ve gotten a taste of what it’s like to have a voice and an impact in the public debate over legislation, but Reddit is far from being an effective lobbying organization or PAC. It’s an aberration that already people are strategizing against. There are angry conference calls happening all over the country where long-established forces are arguing about how to best make sure that what happened yesterday doesn’t happen the next time a copyright protection bill comes around.

This is a fight worth having, but it won’t succeed if it’s just reaction. Minds haven’t been changed. Ideologies are still firmly entrenched, and well funded and organized associations remain as committed as ever to seeing these kinds of bills pass. They are acting in a thousand different ways across a thousand different local, regional and global governments. Every second we spend in celebration of our public relations success is a second where the forces marshaling against a free and open internet recover, reorganize and lay the foundation for the next front in this war.

Round 2 starts yesterday.

Comments

Edwin wrote:

Like LarryC said, this is copyright infringement not theft. If I am not mistaken that's a civil matter and not criminal and doesn't warrant the use of the federal law enforcement and should be left to sue people in a civil court. Please correct me if I am wrong.

I wonder if the issue here is the *conspiracy* to commit copyright infringement and profit off of it.

CheezePavilion wrote:

I've come to feel that piracy is just a convenient excuse for corporations doing what they wanted to in the first place. The reason we can't have nice things and why the future is happening is because we're allowing corporations to avoid the really tough criticism by claiming the only reason they keep hurting us is because of those gosh darn pirates.

Why else would we get broken DRM that seems to only inconvenience the legitimate user? Are these corporations that stupid? Or is it that only a fraction of the concern they express over piracy is honest and genuine, they just know it's a great way to deflect criticism away from the nasty things they want to do to legitimate customers?

I think there's probably a lot of truth to that argument. A lot of these big media companies are definitely run by people who may be good at business but still have no real understanding of their customers. I think a lot of things like DRM stem from that. I could also believe that like many have theorised about SOPA, they're putting forth these frankly insane ideas now in the hopes of getting less insane but nonetheless horrible versions of them passed later when the outrage dies down. From my view though, it still doesn't change what pirates are and how the entitlement of many of them is what drives a lot of the media companies to do what they do. It doesn't make the actions right but I can understand what makes them angry about piracy as a popular concept.

I have a problem with equating pirating to stealing, mostly because the act of pirating leaves the copyright holder with the same property they had before the piracy. Theft of service if it is downloaded from their servers, sure I can see that. I can even see distribution of the content if it violates a contract you've entered into.

Nosferatu wrote:

I have a problem with equating pirating to stealing, mostly because the act of pirating leaves the copyright holder with the same property they had before the piracy. Theft of service if it is downloaded from their servers, sure I can see that. I can even see distribution of the content if it violates a contract you've entered into.

I equate it morally but not legally because if someone is accessing content you're requesting a price be paid for without paying it, you are being deprived of a return on your investment that you are deserving. Yes, we've heard the arguments a million times that not every pirated copy equals a lost sale and while I agree with that, there's no denying that a not insignificant number of sales are being deprived. As I said before, if content is worth consuming, then it should be worth the price of admission. If it's not, then it shouldn't be consumed and by doing so, you're depriving the creators of money they have theoretically earned. And I say this as someone who loathes many large media companies. Maybe this is because I've spent a lot of my career in the service industry and have had client rip me off before and know how badly that stings. Technically, since I provide a "human" service (in this case, on-site computer support), I've technically lost nothing but some of my time when a client refuses to pay up. Nonetheless, my time is worth something and by them not paying up, I've lost the return on the investment of my time I expected. Not a perfect analogue to this situation but I think that's where my sternness on the issue is rooted.

CheezePavilion wrote:

I've come to feel that piracy is just a convenient excuse for corporations doing what they wanted to in the first place.

There's this article in Cracked (I know, but bear with me) which makes a pretty valid point about content in this generation.
Loss of revenue makes content creators that more adverse to risk.

Having said that, I agree with you; the attitude we've seen from content creators is nothing, if not cynical. If a particular content bombs, piracy immediately receives all the blame.

It takes a new level of failure, like Duke Nukem, for content creators to admit blame. And only because every critic under the sun was honest in their reviews.

Parallax Anstraction:

I can sympathize with your outrage. However, moral outrage at creating copies is a recent moral principle - it is not in any official moral system, and I believe it was largely created through the efforts of copyright barons to bolster their influence.

Louis CK shows that piracy is not the harbinger of creative apocalypse, but an indicator of consumer demand. People want to receive their media through digital distribution. Apple, Steam, and GOG show that meeting this demand is profitable. For that matter, Megaupload showed the same thing! If people will pay Megaupload for access to the media its members provide, then they'll pay anyone providing the same service, won't they?

I called Google a media and entertainment company (not a tech company) and that's intentional. It's been quiet and biding its time, but when Old Media gets serious about killing New Media, New Media fights back.

Here's the deal. Technology shows the writing on the wall.

It used to be that storing and organizing data was considerably less expensive than copying it. You bought a book, that's expensive. You place it on a bookshelf - that's practically free in comparison. Technology has turned that on its head. It is now almost trivial to make copies, but it is costly to store it, and even more costly to organize and access it!

There are some crazy people out there who will invest in panels of terabyte hard drives in RAID 0 configuration to store all the thousands of tracks and video they pirate. They'll probably need specialized software just to wade through that in any useful fashion. Let's agree that those guys are significantly fringe elements.

Increasingly, the majority of content consumers will want their content providers to store their content for them - and to provide organization and context software as well. Google is in that business.

You do not want to store all the content in the Internet you ever want to consume. It'd be prohibitively expensive. What you want is to be able to consume your media on demand - this includes both streaming and copy-on-demand services. You will eventually delete that copy yourself as you cycle through your media, at least until you want to consume it again.

Cloud processing and streaming are certainly viable New Media ways of generating revenue, but they are not without their downsides, which is why there is also be copy-on-demand services as well (iTunes is already of this model).

As you see, it not a matter of morality, nor a matter of entitlement. It is purely a matter of technolgy, market forces, and economic activity. Seen with clear vision, this SOPA battle is absolutely a battle of New vs. Old. The eonomic models are fundamentally incompatible. Companies that wiil not adapt to new technologies will inevitably fall to the wayside, in the rest of the world, if America chooses not to step with progress.

There was a time when companies providing gaslight attempted to frame electriity in negative liights as well. Countries firmly in the grip of the old technologies stayed with the old business models and fell behind. A similar paradigm shift is happening now, and this is what this battle is all about.

Nosferatu wrote:

I have a problem with equating pirating to stealing, mostly because the act of pirating leaves the copyright holder with the same property they had before the piracy. Theft of service if it is downloaded from their servers, sure I can see that. I can even see distribution of the content if it violates a contract you've entered into.

It's equated to stealing as a "moral shorthand" or what ever you should call it. Stealing is intuitively immoral, piracy isn't because its consqeuences are indirect and result from collective behaviour, not personal. Equating the two is just an attempt to transfer the morality of stealing to piracy. It doesn't work though, because even if piracy is immoral it is so for different reasons. Copyright as a concept isn't even that well founded in my opinion (because copying information is not generally directly harmful to anyone), which is why moving to a service model makes more sense.

edit: I see now that this is pretty much what LarryC said

Oh man, I tots can see a dead horse getting beaten to a 2nd death.

Consuming stuff that had a cost in its production, be it of a financial nature or of any other kind, without paying for it is wrong. The name is kind of irrelevant. If not even a mother's love is free, why should "Backboned - The Backboning Which Reckons" be?

On the SOPA subject, like rabbit said on the podcast, it's really hard to put the djiin back in the can. In fact, trying to put shackles on stuff people really want is a really bad idea. The Prohibition failed, the war on drugs failed, smoking kills you and yet people still puff.

Why should this go any differently, even if the SOPA supporters win? It's pointless.

It's a question of time until the rest pick up on what Valve and Apple are already doing, and fight piracy with both a superior service and a social contract.

I mean, if I don't pay my favorite artists to keep them fed and clothed and motivated to do awesome works like Bastion, Black Swan and The Picture of Dorian Gray, how the f*ck will I bear existence?

LarryC wrote:

I can sympathize with your outrage. However, moral outrage at creating copies is a recent moral principle - it is not in any official moral system, and I believe it was largely created through the efforts of copyright barons to bolster their influence.

Louis CK shows that piracy is not the harbinger of creative apocalypse, but an indicator of consumer demand. People want to receive their media through digital distribution. Apple, Steam, and GOG show that meeting this demand is profitable. For that matter, Megaupload showed the same thing! If people will pay Megaupload for access to the media its members provide, then they'll pay anyone providing the same service, won't they?

Your argument is a very interesting one and I get a good piece of it and I want to make clear that my strong anti-piracy stance should not be an indication of my support for big media. I think the music and movie industries are scum and were long before piracy was a big deal. But I simply don't agree that a big part of piracy isn't entitled people using a convenient means to get whatever they want for free. People wanting to consume media is a sign of demand but if a lot of those consumers would only watch it if they didn't have to pay for it, that's demand that does very little good for the content creator. This stuff costs money to make and many of the best content creators are the people who don't also need two other jobs to pay their rent. It's kind of like Brad Wardell from Stardock said "If someone is pirating our game, they're not my customer."

I think in Louis CK's case, he's demonstrated that by charging a lower price, you can get a lot more buyers in the door than you might otherwise and if you budget your production accordingly, you can make up for the lower price on volume. Steam sales prove this to a certain degree too. However, his production didn't cost millions to make either and there's been no evidence that a Hollywood blockbuster or AAA console game could be profitable at $5 a pop. And beyond that, his show was still pirated to Hell and gone. So are the indie bundles that allow people to set their own prices. That's the entitlement culture I speak of, the people who will refuse to pay any price, regardless of how low it is or how good a person the content creator is if they can still get a product for free. I've seen tons of these people, I've known several of them. The ones who will pirate music and go "Well, the artist makes all the money off concerts anyway." and then sheepishly look away when I ask what was the last concert they went to. Those are the people I really despise in this scenario but at the same time, those are also the people the content industry can't win against and should stop fighting because in doing so, they make life harder for the people like me who do pay for content.

My opinion on the morality of pirating content (especially when you can easily afford it) has nothing to do with the "copyright barons and their influence". It has to do with someone who has been previously ripped off by providing an intangible service to people who felt they didn't have to pay for it and knowing how that feels. I do sometimes wonder how I'd feel about this had I not been in the service industry all these years.

kincher skolfax wrote:
Pyroman[FO wrote:

But what we've seen was a power play between media giants, and Google/Wikipedia won this round. So now it's media vs. media and the game has changed significantly.

I realize this might sound overly pessimistic — and I don't want to denigrate the efforts of the folks working very hard to oppose these bills — but my major takeaway from yesterday's protests is that giant corporate interests still have control. This wasn't the voice of the people. It was the voice of money. In this case the money just happened to be on the "right" side.

As my friends on the Hill reminded me when I started joining the hoopla on Facebook on Wednesday, the bill was already dead last Friday, well before the protests erupted. That's not to say that the public outroar will make politicians think twice about supporting this bill next time it comes around. But the battle was already won by insider lobbyists... the masses were brought in to salt the ground afterwards.

Noticed this post this morning from Maddox (NSFW in parts).

It was written in his usual douchey-by-design style but he makes some interesting points about slacktivism and that as effective as the anti-SOPA protest was, it was largely so because most didn't have to actually do very much to be a part of it. He also touches on points like the one Elysium made about how this is only one victory in what will be a perpetual battle against corporate interests and the politicians they control. If you can view something NSFW, it's a good read.

Minarchist wrote:

Perhaps a bit off-topic, but as wordsmythe is fond of saying, you're stumbling into my bailiwick. ;)

I am fairly fond of saying that. I'd say "wheelhouse" more often, but that's more of a sports phrase, so I figure archaic British legal terms will play better on GWJ.

The outrage over SOPA and PIPA doesn't have anything to do with copyright control -- it has to do with punishment without due process, something that's been a hot topic in many areas recently.

That's at least where my outrage is coming from.

Insofar as it's worth spending time on the semantics (woo! my bailiwick!) of what old-school crime most resembles file-sharing, I think the fruitful area lies somewhere between water rights and trespass to chattel. In fact, I bet there can be interesting things said about the ancillary damages of pollution and the lost potential earnings due to file-sharing. You've, in a sense, polluted the revenue stream.

This seem ominous to anyone else, or just me?
IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/bLlKx.png)

Parallax Abstraction wrote:

Noticed this post this morning from Maddox (NSFW in parts).

It was written in his usual douchey-by-design style but he makes some interesting points about slacktivism and that as effective as the anti-SOPA protest was, it was largely so because most didn't have to actually do very much to be a part of it. He also touches on points like the one Elysium made about how this is only one victory in what will be a perpetual battle against corporate interests and the politicians they control. If you can view something NSFW, it's a good read.

Man I haven't been to that site in years. At one point I'd read everything there. But it was so long between updates while he was working on his book I kinda forgot to go check it out for a few years.

Parallax Abstraction wrote:

Noticed this post this morning from Maddox (NSFW in parts).

It was written in his usual douchey-by-design style but he makes some interesting points about slacktivism and that as effective as the anti-SOPA protest was, it was largely so because most didn't have to actually do very much to be a part of it. He also touches on points like the one Elysium made about how this is only one victory in what will be a perpetual battle against corporate interests and the politicians they control. If you can view something NSFW, it's a good read.

He had me nodding until he got to the solution, which is... to conduct a boycott? Really? You're complaining about how slacktivists can't be bothered to do more than change their profile picture on Facebook, and now you want enough of them to change their entire lifestyles to put a dent in these companies?

I thought he was going to suggest signing up for Lessig's damned-fool idealistic crusade: Rootstrikers, formerly known as Fix Congress First.

I also think it's unfair and counterproductive to go after "slacktivists." Grassroots organizing is a numbers game. Mobilize a million slacktivists, and you'll get thousands to take meaningful action, e.g. call their Congressmen. In the case of SOPA, it seems to have worked -- Congress was deluged with calls.

Now, would this have happened without the support of corporate titans like Google? Hard to say. If people really care about this issue, they need to join real grassroots organizations to continue to fight the long war.

Luke: Your overconfidence is your weakness.
The Emperor: Your faith in your friends is yours.

Cloud? Cap.

Network power? Throttled or blocked without transparency or recourse to, um, ensure service quality for all, since there's no network neutrality.

Waiting for jackbooted thugs to come and take you away? See above about no due process. How will the gov know? Why traffic monitoring, sniffing, aggregation and sale by your ISP, of course.

We strap the internet to our heads to breathe in the wealth of communities, resources, and entertainment, but most are still so blind to how the handful of carriers that bring it to us are the all-knowing all-controlling jackboots poised to crush our throats without recourse.

And who do they take orders from? Why, everyone they sign contracts with to provide TV service. And really, you think Google is your white knight? Have you seen how they have sold Android's open source soul to the wireless carriers for the sake of Android adoption? Have you noticed how they all want big content in their digital marketplaces? All of that means they don't take marching orders from you.

And until Citizens United is overturned by constitutional amendment, your lawmakers won't necessarily take marching orders from you either.

http://www.wolf-pac.com/

CheezePavilion wrote:
Edwin wrote:

Like LarryC said, this is copyright infringement not theft. If I am not mistaken that's a civil matter and not criminal and doesn't warrant the use of the federal law enforcement and should be left to sue people in a civil court. Please correct me if I am wrong.

I wonder if the issue here is the *conspiracy* to commit copyright infringement and profit off of it.

IANAL, but from what I understand it was that, plus since money is involved RICO came in.

Padmewan wrote:
Parallax Abstraction wrote:

Noticed this post this morning from Maddox (NSFW in parts).

It was written in his usual douchey-by-design style but he makes some interesting points about slacktivism and that as effective as the anti-SOPA protest was, it was largely so because most didn't have to actually do very much to be a part of it. He also touches on points like the one Elysium made about how this is only one victory in what will be a perpetual battle against corporate interests and the politicians they control. If you can view something NSFW, it's a good read.

He had me nodding until he got to the solution, which is... to conduct a boycott? Really? You're complaining about how slacktivists can't be bothered to do more than change their profile picture on Facebook, and now you want enough of them to change their entire lifestyles to put a dent in these companies?

I thought he was going to suggest signing up for Lessig's damned-fool idealistic crusade: Rootstrikers, formerly known as Fix Congress First.

Yeah that's where I thought it was headed too. Gotta get the corporate money out of politics before anything is going to get fixed. And for all the talk about campaign reform the last few years, the (super?)PAC stuff has just opened the floodgates recently and made it worse than ever.

Stele wrote:

Gotta get the corporate money out of politics before anything is going to get fixed. And for all the talk about campaign reform the last few years, the (super?)PAC stuff has just opened the floodgates recently and made it worse than ever. :(

Sign up for Colbert's SuperPAC if you haven't already. The question is how to take that out of the world of performance art and into boots-on-the-ground activism.

This is probably the one issue Tea Partiers and Occupiers would agree on... and yet the chance of uniting around it seems so remote to me.

LarryC wrote:

There are some crazy people out there who will invest in panels of terabyte hard drives in RAID 0 configuration to store all the thousands of tracks and video they pirate.

I hope not! One lost drive, and its all toast.

Two things,
Parallax You pirated my protected work, blatantly copying it and redistributing it without my express consent. I deem each work to be worth $100, per instance of redistribution. I'm willing to settle for a measly $10k if you respond promptly and as a bonus give you an unlimited licesnse to redistribute that work, but no rights are transferable to any other user., I'll accept paypal cash or check

Much more seriously though, I have a hard time taking lose figures from the movie industry, who somehow manage to lose money on nearly every movie they produce, I have serious doubts about any financial claims they make.

Then again, who here hasn't sung "Happy Birthday to You", which last I checked is still a protected work (which is why they won't sing it to you in a restaurant). I'm willing to wager we've all stolen that piece of intellectual property at least once in our lives.

*Legion* wrote:

Legion and MegaUpload sitting in a tree...

Just because companies don't offer the services you want in the way you want, does it allow for illegal behavior. I don't break in into stores because their closing time does not fit my schedule.

I don't swipe broken products for new ones because they warranty does not fit my criteria.

I understand what you're saying, between MegaUpload that offered you the service you wanted and the established channels that don't; we need to find a way to communicate en mass that there is disposable income we are ready to throw their way.

Hobbes2099:

I think they already know. They're trying to force you to consume and spend the way they want, not the way you want. This is essentially what this battle is all about. Note that RIAA often says that digital distribution "devastated the music industry," conveniently ignoring how Apple's presence in the music business is a direct result of meeting the obvious demand they don't want to acknowledge even exists.

These old companies and corporations also make a play of representing artists and of representing themselves as "content producers," whereas they are not. They are generally copyright owners and holders, but the copyrights they own are often purchased from the actual producer, sometimes whether or not they really want to sell.

The reason CK Louis even went online with his content is because he was tired of being screwed out of his own copyrights by these aging media companies. They represent themselves and their own profit interests, not the interests of the artists they hire or purchase from.

Hobbes2099 wrote:
*Legion* wrote:

Legion and MegaUpload sitting in a tree...

Just because companies don't offer the services you want in the way you want, does it allow for illegal behavior. I don't break in into stores because their closing time does not fit my schedule.

I don't swipe broken products for new ones because they warranty does not fit my criteria.

With all due respect, no one will get anywhere with me by equating copying bits with physical destruction of property. There is a difference, as there is a difference between fighting back against a bully with a punch to the nose versus shooting him with a 9mm.

There is a fair discussion to be had on its own merits, without ill-fitting analogies to physical theft and window breaking.

If this is going to just morph into a typical pirating debate, then I'm just going to go ahead and lock it up now. No offense, but I've read this thread too many times to sit through it again.

Legion, I really don't know if I agree with the stance you're taking but it was a very interesting argument and at least gave me an interesting perspective on the issue to consider.

Parallax Abstraction wrote:

Legion, I really don't know if I agree with the stance you're taking but it was a very interesting argument and at least gave me an interesting perspective on the issue to consider.

And I'm not suggesting that my argument means the piracy is 100% justified. (And I am arguing the stance a bit more firmly than I might actually hold it, for the sake of making a point.) But I wanted to make the point that fishing in those waters isn't always necessarily motivated by just wanting to get stuff for free.

It's a bit like the Free software "free as in beer vs. free as in freedom" difference. My motivation isn't to avoid paying for content - I'm not looking for free beer. But what I find distasteful is an industry-wide concerted effort at regression. The future is here, and there are literally no technological roadblocks remaining between us and the ability to stream whatever video content we could possibly want. The only thing preventing that is an industry leveraging their control of the content to impose restrictions on the completely separate business of content delivery. We have customers wanting to buy the content, content delivery companies wanting to buy the rights to the content in order to sell it to those customers, but the content rights holders refuse to sell it in order to impose distortions on the content delivery business. They are intentionally crippling my experience as a customer of streaming content, in order to try and coerce me to continue to be a customer of cable TV and silver video discs.

I admit that I am unfazed by the moral argument when it comes to piracy, at least within the scope of content from the industry groups that make up the big entertainment lobby. Copyright as a concept is (or, rather, was) a two-way street. IP holders get temporary exclusive rights, and in exchange for those rights and their protection by law, the public gets the rights to that content when that temporary time period expires. The entertainment lobby has fought to erase their burden of responsibility, extending copyright to essentially infinity, preventing we the public from receiving the rights to content that we are entitled to. Given the entertainment lobby's lack of interest in living up to their responsibilities of copyright, I am unmoved by arguments pointing the finger at me, telling me that I have to live up to my half of the copyright bargain.

Similarly, the entertainment lobby's willingness to cause incalculable damage to the Internet with legislation like SOPA, in the name of enforcing those infinitely-long copyright rights at any cost, does little to bring me to the "you have to respect their copyrights" table.

Two wrongs don't make a right, and I recognize that. But the combination of (a) the entertainment lobby's systematic dismantling of the purpose of copyright, combined with (b) their use of their stranglehold on those rights to distort how I can view their properties, is sufficiently off-putting to me to no longer have any qualm about turning to bootlegging to "fill in the gaps" where I can't get streaming content legally (Netflix, Hulu, etc). Frankly, I have a big enough problem with (a) that even if they made a "legal IceFilms" overnight, I would still have serious issues with them over copyright. But that would at least be the end of my bootleg viewing, as I would be a day 1 paying customer.

Elysium wrote:

If this is going to just morph into a typical pirating debate, then I'm just going to go ahead and lock it up now.

I was shooting for an atypical one.

I have a paid MegaUpload account, which I used to watched pirated content on IceFilms with the XBMC IceFilms plugin.

Essentially, it's the sort of service that should exist legally for me to pay for and get this content, but does not.

It's not free content I want. It's a set-top box experience that I as an end user want, that plenty of services like Netflix (of whom I am a long-standing digital-only subscriber) would love to give me, but backwards-thinking content holders insist on denying me.

I get the experience I'm looking for in games with Steam, and increasingly so on consoles' online services as well (no doubt the next gen of consoles will come with sufficiently large storage for me to not have to buy discs in stores ever again).

I get the experience I'm looking for in books with the Kindle. I want book, I buy book, I get book, and I start reading book, in literally a span of 20 seconds.

I give money to those that give me good experiences. I spend more money at movie theaters now than ever in my life, because I now live in the Austin/San Antonio area and am surrounded by Alamo Drafthouses.

Likewise, MegaUpload got my money because they (thanks to IceFilms' indexing of their content) offer the kind of "pay and watch All The Things" experience that the technology now exists to provide, but is held back by the large entities who claim to represent the will of content holders.

The reason I have little moral qualm with piracy in cases like this is the fact that piracy is the single most effective way of conveying what we as the users want. Because otherwise, I have two options. One, I buy content in the way the MPAA wants to deliver it to me, which communicates to them that I'm just fine with their way of things. Or, I don't buy at all, which does not communicate to them what I want - for all they figure, I'm just not a potential customer at all.

But users have a third option, which is to build and use bootleg services, set up the way they want. And this has already proven to be an effective way of bringing about progress. We would not have the iTunes Music Store, certainly not to the extent of major label involvement that it has now, if not for rampant music downloading on Napster.

In a perfect world, content holders would sell to anyone wishing to buy, and a competition of services would ensue and the best solution would rise to the top. But services like Netflix exist, want to buy, and are denied a lot of content they would love to add to their offerings, while those services try to use that control to force users to operate THEIR way (hi, HBO GO! F*ck you. I don't buy traditional TV service, and you refuse to sell to me, instead trying to strongarm me into buying HBO off of a TV service).

Crap like HBO GO is why I gave MegaUpload my money and watched HBO shows on it. You refuse to serve me, fine. I'll go to the bootleggers.

The SOPA/PIPA thing wasn't really a "win", Sean is right. What happened is that the blackout was enough to get it on the evening news...out of the playground of the wonks and the geeks, and into the living rooms of Joe American. And as soon as the sponsors of the bills realized that the bright lights were shining on it, they scurried under cabinets like roaches in a coldwater walkup.

It is no more dead than the War on Terror, the War on Drugs, The War on X, where X is whatever the corporate sponsors of this year's congress want there to be a war on.

This legislation will be re-proposed. Under a different name, when there's not an election year gearing up. But to assume it's dead is foolish. These people only believe in "free-market" when they control the market, and they get to decide the value of free. It's a dying business model, and the thrashing of it's massive tentacles may very well sink the boat that can save it.

Take the Megaupload site; this was an insanely profitable endeavor. Some of their business model could be copied by the media companies, and then they too would be profitable. (But the vast majority of their business model was unethical and illegal; i.e., paying uploaders for copyrighted works and the pyramid scheme of their linking substructure...and that's what got them busted. Money laundering, conspiracy to defraud, tax evasion, and international wire transfers without records. Idiots had servers in the U.S. and used paypal for god's sake. They were so far outside the law that I'm astounded it took the feds two years to pull the indictments together. )

But the media companies are currently run by people who were not born in the information age, they didn't grow up with computers, the net isn't part of their constant reality...for them, it's a tool, or a toy...but it's not a way of life; ergo, they continue to fight it, just like they fought VCR players and Tivo-simulacra.

Dinosaurs died; and the current media syndicate is no different than any other dinosaur. Either they adapt, and grow feathers and learn to ride the thermals of the new ecosystem, or they'll be remembered as fossils.

In the meantime, we have to stop them from destroying what has become an imperative tool of the 21st century. We didn't win anything but a public relations coup.

I'd like to emphasize duckideva's point that the goal of the old media is nothing less than the destruction of any capability of anyone on the internet to share and use files - essentially, they want to destroy it. I don't think this implication of the SOPA and the PIPA were accidental.

Additionally, I want to point out that the entities that are supposedly on "our side" are not looking out for our interests, so if they are allies, they should be provisional ones that we watch with eagle eyes.

Apple's recent iBooks legal wording essentially gives them copyright of any textbook work you make on their new software. I was completely floored by it. It's like Microsoft claiming control of any written work typed on Microsoft Word! Bizarre.

It underscores the point. Apple doesn't want to defend consumers. It wants to be a new copyright baron.