Thursday, February 9, 2012

Reaction to the RIAA editorial

This post needs to be said now, not during my regular schedule.  I cannot let this one wait for a few weeks, because the moment of relevancy would be gone.  So for you, my lucky readers, you get TWO articles in one week!  You lucky people, you...

The CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, Cary Sherman, recently wrote an editorial to The New York Times about the SOPA bill that was shelved after the Wikipedia blackout.  He makes quite a few claims which I'm going to pick apart.  Be advised, this rant will be full of bias and verbal lashings.  You have been warned.

From the Editorial:

While no legislation is perfect, the Protect Intellectual Property Act (or PIPA) was carefully devised, with nearly unanimous bipartisan support in the Senate, and its House counterpart, the Stop Online Piracy Act (or SOPA), was based on existing statutes and Supreme Court precedents. But at the 11th hour, a flood of e-mails and phone calls to Congress stopped the legislation in its tracks. Was this the result of democracy, or demagoguery? 

Firstly, this bill was not stopped in the 11th hour.  Depending on where you looked, multiple websites, news groups, and lobbying organizations had mobilized against SOPA and PIPA as early as November, 2011.  On one particular day in December, I was watching the #SOPA hash tag on twitter.  It was averaging 20 tweets a minute, and yet it was still not trending.  Wil Wheaton, a reasonably well known actor, commented on how many hits the hash tag was getting, yet not trending on twitter.  One member of the House of Representatives actually streamed the House Judiciary meetings related to SOPA.  There was a movement prior to January 18.  That was the day that it went from an underground movement to being a public matter.

This next bit is about as much of a pot calling the kettle black as is humanly possible in today's society:

Misinformation may be a dirty trick, but it works. Consider, for example, the claim that SOPA and PIPA were “censorship,” a loaded and inflammatory term designed to evoke images of crackdowns on pro-democracy Web sites by China or Iran. Since when is it censorship to shut down an operation that an American court, upon a thorough review of evidence, has determined to be illegal? When the police close down a store fencing stolen goods, it isn’t censorship, but when those stolen goods are fenced online, it is? Wikipedia, Google and others manufactured controversy by unfairly equating SOPA with censorship. They also argued misleadingly that the bills would have required Web sites to “monitor” what their users upload, conveniently ignoring provisions like the “No Duty to Monitor” section. 

For my own entertainment, and because I'm a glutton for punishment, I sat down one evening and read all of the SOPA bill, in its unedited form.  The "No Duty to Monitor" clause effectively says that the search engines and payment providers are considered in compliance if they do what is asked of them within the time frame specified.  Which, in the case of SOPA, is five days.  Further, it effectively puts websites at the beck and call of the major media companies, with little room for investigation.  What if a website was targeted in error?  The defendant has to go through the courts to get it reinstated?  For a small business, the lost revenue and down time due to litigation would likely be lethal.

Also, with the way that SOPA defines infringing content, the scans of video game covers on Treasure Bin would be considered illegal, specifically because I don't request permission from each publisher.  All of a sudden I'm now allowed to do reviews?  Yeah, I'll pass, thanks.

Considering that this editorial comes from the head of an organization that has won injunctions for hundreds of thousands of dollars against single parents, joined with the Motion Picture Association of America in sending Cease and Desist letters to university printers, and defended Sony when the FTC declared their music CDs had malware on them, amongst other things.  RIAA's record has been less than stellar in the public eye.  I'm not likely to take anything they say at face value anymore.

To finish off this rant, I'm going to issue a challenge to Viacom.  Back in November of last year, Viacom made a bit of an ultimatum: Pass SOPA or Spongebob dies.  Well, SOPA is basically dead.  I think it's time to grab that axe, boys!

See you next week!

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