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The Morning Grumpy – 1/18/2012

Filed under: Morning Grumpy

Only one piece of news for you to consume during your morning grumpy today.

1. Today, Reddit, Wikipedia, and hundreds of other large websites will go dark in protest of two proposed laws making their way through the halls of Congress. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House of Representatives and the PROTECT IP Act (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (PIPA) in the Senate. What are these bills? I’ve written about them several times, but in case you missed those articles, here’s a quick explainer video.

Don’t like videos? Well, here’s an infographic for you. Click the image to “Embiggen” or visit this site to see it in its full enormous glory.

The Senate version of the bill is co-sponsored by both Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Sen. Chuck Schumer. Go ahead, contact them and tell them to leave the Internet alone.

Sergey Brin, the Co-Founder of Google had this to say about SOPA and PIPA.

In just two decades, the world wide web has transformed and democratized access to information all around the world. I am proud of the role Google has played alongside many others such as Yahoo, Wikipedia, and Twitter. Whether you are a student in an internet cafe in the developing world or a head of state of a wealthy nation, the knowledge of the world is at your fingertips.

Of course, offering these services has come with its challenges. Multiple countries have sought to suppress the flow of information to serve their own political goals. At various times notable Google websites have been blocked in China, Iran, Libya (prior to their revolution), Tunisia (also prior to revolution), and others. For our own websites and for the internet as a whole we have worked tirelessly to combat internet censorship around the world alongside governments and NGO promoting free speech.

Thus, imagine my astonishment when the newest threat to free speech has come from none other but the United States. Two bills currently making their way through congress — SOPA and PIPA — give the US government and copyright holders extraordinary powers including the ability to hijack DNS and censor search results (and this is even without so much as a proper court trial). While I support their goal of reducing copyright infringement (which I don’t believe these acts would accomplish), I am shocked that our lawmakers would contemplate such measures that would put us on a par with the most oppressive nations in the world.

This is why I signed on to the following open letter with many other founders – http://dq99alanzv66m.cloudfront.net/sopa/img/12-14-letter.pdf

The letter was co-signed by the founders of Netscape, Yahoo!, Twitter, YouTube, Mozilla, EBay, LinkedIn, Flickr, Paypal, Craigslist, The Huffington Post, Wikipedia, and Blogger. We can trust them or we can trust Senators and Representatives who know little about the core functionality of the Internet and have been influenced by $94MM of entertainment industry lobbying in the last year.

Fact Of The Day: The first Google Doodle was in honor of the Burning Man Festival of 1998.  The doodle was designed by Larry Page and Sergey Brin to notify users of their absence in case the servers crashed.

Quote Of The Day: “My atheism is true piety towards the universe and denies only gods fashioned by men in their own image, to be servants of their human interests.” – George Santayana

Bible Verse Of The Day: “If two men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity.” – Deuteronomy 25:11-12

Song Of The Day: “Tell Me A Tale” – Michael Kiwanuka (Can’t stop hitting repeat on the iPod)

I’m feeling quite a few songs right now, thought I’d share more than just one today.

Song Of The Day, Part 2: “Nosferatu” – Wise Blood

Song Of The Day, Part 3: “This Head I Hold” – Electric Guest (Guaranteed to soon be in an ad for Apple or a quasi-cool sub-compact card)

Follow me on Twitter: @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chrissmithbuffalo[@]gmail.com


  • Here’s a quote from Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian on CNBC: “Why is it that when Republicans and Democrats need to solve the budget and the deficit, there’s deadlock, but when Hollywood lobbyists pay them $94 million dollars to write legislation, people from both sides of the aisle line up to co-sponsor it?”

    I imagine it was a bit rhetorical…

    And what does the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America)have to say about the planned protests across the interwebs?!

    ““Only days after the White House and chief sponsors of the legislation responded to the major concern expressed by opponents and then called for all parties to work cooperatively together, some technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging.

    It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information use their services. It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today. It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests.

    A so-called “blackout” is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals. It is our hope that the White House and the Congress will call on those who intend to stage this “blackout” to stop the hyperbole and PR stunts and engage in meaningful efforts to combat piracy.”

    By the way, who is the Chairman and CEO of the MPAA?! Former Senator and current fucktard Chris Dodd. Of the people, for the people, by the people? Not so much…

  • Jesse

    Keep up the good fight.

    But one wonders why, when the Internet is concerned, it’s all “hands off!” and “no regulation yay!” but in pretty much every other walk of life, you guys advocate all sorts of regulation from our benevolent leaders?

    What, they don’t know nothin’ about the ‘net, but they do know everything about food safety, airline safety, taxes and the economy, business cycles, energy, education, etc etc etc.

    • Alan Bedenko

      Freedom of speech is a constitutional right.

      Providing a poor education, an unsafe aircraft, and tainted food is not a constitutional right.

  • Mike Chmiel

    Jesus Christ, what a weak argument.

    Do you really need someone to lay out the difference between freedom of speech and safety?

    Easily the dumbest thing I have read all week.

  • Bbill

    Shorter Right Wing rhetoric: We support tainted food, unsafe airplanes, financial malfeasance and oppose education. etc etc etc.

  • Jesse

    It’s interesting that you dummies think I’m right wing.

    And you don’t understand the argument therefore it’s weak? I want to know why it’s so hard to be consistent: You guys can somehow trust that “government knows best” in terms of just about every other aspect of life, but when the Internet is concerned, suddenly they “know little about the core functionality” and thus shouldn’t screw with it.

    There’s quite obviously a difference between freedom of speech and food or airline safety: One of those categories requires actual technical expertise. Congress is mangling the other one right now.

  • Jesse, from a high level, I understand your point. Why do we demand regulation of other industries while demanding limited regulation of this one, that we like and use. I get it.

    However, in this case, we’re not just dealing with free market principles. This is an issue of speech, information security, privacy, and equal protection. Sure, there are issues about a fair playing field for all entities in the internet marketplace and the industry has done well by policing themselves and regulating access. But, the larger issue is the government stepping in to limit basic rights, which is not regulation.

  • Consistency isn’t possible because not every situation is the same. If you can make a good argument for people’s right to fly in unsafe airplanes and eat tainted food, I’d like to hear it. This is more of a freedom of speech issue.

    I don’t think that the best argument against SOPA is that the government doesn’t understand the internet and therefore shouldn’t regulate it, anyway. My bigger problem is with the fact that there’s no due process in place for a site that gets taken down. SOPA/PIPA would do away with the protections in place for owners of user-driven sites like Craigslist. There’s a complaint about “Pradda” purses being sold on there, and the whole site’s taken down with no recourse for the owners of Craigslist.

    There are other, excellent arguments out there against SOPA, including the way in which sites would be blocked (through something called “deep packet inspection,” which I guess amounts to internet providers snooping through everyone’s online activity), but other people have made them much better than I could. Visit americancensorship.org and read the article for more on the tech side. This is a terrible bill that deserves everyone’s opposition.

  • Eisenbart

    I am going to just come right out and say I think this has nothing to do with freedom of speech. I think this is a power move over money between the people who “built” and provide the internet, the distributors of entertainment and information on the internet, and the entertainment industry. All are crying victim and all want a bigger pot of money. We all know the copyright infringement has always been out of control, except now it getting easier and easier to do and self regulation is a joke.

  • Jesse

    @Chris: Thanks, your response makes the most sense. That’s just not what the anti- guys are using in their arguments (that the Congresspeople don’t have a clue and shouldn’t just be representing big media blindly).

    @Alan: There’s a huge gap between NCLB and “poor education”. An enormous gap between TSA and “unsafe aircraft”. And a smaller but still obnoxious gap between the raw milk / locavore movements and “unsafe food”. For someone who claims to argue nuance, your response is plain douchebaggery.

    • Alan Bedenko

      I wasn’t talking about the TSA. I was talking about the FAA and NTSB, which are also presumably seen as a totalitarian instrument of government oppression and unsound money.

      The fact remains, however, that the government has the authority and ability to regulate matters that are not constitutionally protected behavior. That’s why we get up in arms about, e.g., SOPA/PIPA, and not the confiscatory tyranny of the Department of Education.

  • Jim

    “The fact remains, however, that the government has the authority and ability to regulate matters that are not constitutionally protected behavior.”

    It does? Really? Where does it get this authority? And where does it end? If ever?

    BTW, the government has been regulating (read: eroding) those so-called constitutionally protected behaviors for years now, and more rapidly in very recent history. Are you not paying attention, purposing looking the other way, or you don’t really give a flying fig?

    And you’re a lawyer. Then again, so is Obama. Nevermind.

  • Jesse

    @Alan: Give the snark a rest for 30 seconds. Go back and read my original point: I’m not saying “we should have no regulation! Utopia!” because that would be stupid.

    What I am pointing out is your acceptance of Congress’ regulating life in spheres other than the ‘net is curious given your revulsion to them doing so here. You are suggesting we rely on “experts” (Tim Berners Lee, maybe?) to define how the ‘net should run and that politicians should keep their hands off because they’re dumb and paid for by industry.

    You don’t think the exact same argument could be made for pretty much every other thing they get their hands into??

    If they can’t get “Congress shall make no law” right, what makes you think they can get something actually complicated like healthcare correct?

    Again, no zany anarchy dreams here. Just the thought that perhaps you should be as skeptical in other arenas as well.

  • Measures should be taken to limit content piracy, but this particular piece of legislation was crafted by the entertainment industry to solely benefit the entertainment industry. They paid a lot of money for it, too.

    ISPs, content providers, aggregators, networking organizations, industry regulators (ICANN, etc.), FSF, entertainment companies, telcos, security experts, and others should be involved in the construction of a sensible piece of legislation. This bill represents the worst of lobbying influence and it limits basic constitutional rights. Completely unacceptable.