Wednesday, January 18, 2012

An Insane New Law That Must Be Stopped!

In his spellbinding and righteous book: Who Will Tell The People: The Betrayal of American Democracy, author William Greider correctly eviscerates the basis of many of the laws passed in this country as either "hollow" (i.e. they work only against the interests of the majority, leaving loopholes for the 1% to escape) or outright execrable. The latter having been hatched within a venal and squalid electoral system in which money is regarded as "free speech" and corporations can render our congress critters no better than supplicants or whores. In other words, an entrenched system of legalized bribery undermines the whole edifice of our national integrity.

Many such egregious and rancid corporate laws have been spawned in recent decades, ranging from The Bank Holding and De-regulation Act of 1984, to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and the more recent Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, which was essentially an enormous piece of corporate welfare for Big PhrmA. But not many of these can compare to the one now being prepped for unleashing on a large unsuspecting citizenry known as The Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA.

In actual fact there are two bills that need to be reconciled. The one in the House is known as "SOPA" and the one under consideration in the Senate is called the "Protect International Property" Act, or PIPA. The law's promoters all extol the primary benefits to accrue from their passage which is to "tackle the problem of foreign-based websites that sell pirated movies, music and other products". (WSJ, today, 'New, Old Media Battle Over Net Rules', p. B1)

Indeed, in its hectoring editorial today against the nasty pirates ('Brake the Internet Pirates') the Wall Street Journal understandably sounds off against the need to protect U.S. consumers from "bootleg movies, TV shows, video games, books, music as well as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, fashion, jewelry and more". And no rational person has much to quarrel with here.

Where the problems seep in, is in the unintended consequences of the laws being proposed. At the heart of this then, are consequences for example from passage of PIPA, whereby Wikipedia may have to shut down completely (it's dark now in a 24 hour protest against this odious legislation) if all embedded links to existing copyright protected material are outlawed. The law's powers are such, indeed, that "court orders" can be issued (say by the Justice Dept.) to require search engines like Google to disable links to targeted "violator" sites. Indeed, it is conceivable that the reach of the law is such that it can demand Google "disinfect" all its links and remove -clear them if they lead to other sites which have copyright protected content.

Sen. Mark Udall is now looking askance at this abomination, and observes (correctly, I believe) that (Denver Post, today, p. 12A)

"This could be a bill looking for a problem...three things that concern me is that it would kill free speech, it would kill innovation and undermine Internet security efforts. The government could censor Internet search results and encourage lawsuits by private parties"

Colorado's other Senator, Michael Bennet, an original supporter of the bill (after receiving $370,000 in campaign donations from the entertainment industry through the 3rd quarter of 2011, according to the same D. Post report) has also backed away. His staffers say "they didn't understand the rush to vote on it, without hearing from stakeholders".

Well, the rush is to shut speech down to enable the corporate media machine to grind us under! Indeed, Hunter Walk - director of product management at Google's Youtube, has built web tools on his own time to carry out the fight against SOPA and its sick sister, PIPA. As noted in today's WSJ (ibid., p. B2):

"I saw a news report that said the debates were being under-reported by news networks that were owned by corporations supporting the bill".

Indeed, and many of these have links to the entertainment industry which - let's face it - is anxious to make up for lost profits after all its dvd sales have crashed! Meanwhile, Mr. Walk has set up a clearinghouse for information at:

Which I invite every reader to see.

Fortunately now, the good guys - those of us who inveigh against the reach of the Corporatocracy in whatever form it takes, including foreclosing speech under the rubric of "intellectual property rights protection"include the operators of not only Wikipedia, but Google and Facebook. Indeed, most tech companies realize they are in great peril if either of these horrific laws passes.

Meanwhile, the "old media" corporatists out to protect their interests are caterwauling like stuck pigs, with one video film maker evidently whining (WSJ, p. B2) that "piracy puts my company in jeopardy of losing everything we have built up over 26 years."

Well, ok, obviously, Chinese producers of bootlegged movies and videos hanging around Guangdong province need to be stopped. But will you also go after ordinary bloggers who merely post some neat Youtube songs, or vids, or links (e.g. of clips) to movies?

THAT is where we have to draw the line! Go after the offshore pirates, by all means, but leave ordinary folks alone who may only occasionally link to content for their blogs or websites and earn not one cent of profit from any of it. These are the "unintended consequences" that are in the cross hairs of most of us and which we must have removed from any proposed legislation, I don't care how many millions Hollywood, or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has bestowed on any legislator, under whatever guise.

Meanwhile, the WSJ editorializers can screech all they want that:

"The e-vangelists seem to believe that anybody is entitled to access any content at any time at no cost- open source".

And you have that exactly correcto, buddy boys! So long as we're not making any profits or even money from use of content, say to further information and spread knowledge on our blogs, websites, you have no freakin' business sticking your noses in. Open source, meanwhile, is here to stay. At least one major refuge in a corporate world determined to not only stifle speech, but ensure anyone who attempts to have his say will go into debt paying for overpriced content to achieve it. In other words, adding another 200 million debtors to those already paying on over-priced college tuiton loans, homes or what have you.

All of this needs to change and now is the time for everyone on the side of the "angels" to make that stand.

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