Internet Activists Take Down SOPA, Goverment Retaliates

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SOPA was a stupid bill crafted by technically ignorant but deep-pocketed lobbyists for the entertainment industry. A number of high-profile websites got together, inconvenienced the general public for a day by taking down Wikipedia and reddit, and managed to get a number of Senators–mostly Republicans–to abandon their support for the bill.

Good for them.

However, the entertainment industry is not like other massive global industries. It is essentially the cultural arm of the United States. The MPAA is traditionally run by ex-government insiders, its most powerful CEO during the heyday of the film industry was Jack Valenti, Lyndon Johnsons former chief of staff. In March of last year, the MPAA wooed former senator Chris Dodd to take the job that TheHill.com calls “the most prestigious job on K Street.” It managed to do that despite Dodd assuring the public that after he left the Seante he would do “no lobbying, no lobbying.”

And yet, on the MPAA’s official blog two days ago, Dodd, posting as “Senator Chris Dodd,” called the blackout by Wikipedia and Reddit “an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and use their services. It is also an abuse of power.”

Wikipedia taking itself offline for a day constitutes “an abuse of power,” but for a Senator to take the top lobbying job in Washington is…what? A patriotic duty apparently.

In any case, today, in apparent retaliation for the internet kids getting a bit too uppity, the US government seized the domain of the largest file hosting site on the internet, Megaupload.com, along with 50 of its other domain names. It also arrested the officers and executives of the company, and indicted them on counts of conspiracy, racketeering, and copyright infringement.

This is the part where I tell you that Megaupload actually operates outside of US jurisdiction. It is run out of Hong Kong, and its officers were arrested there and in New Zealand. In addition, Megaupload historically has acted quickly on copyright and other takedown notices from copyright holders, in much the same way that YouTube does. YouTube has untold thousands of videos that infringe copyrights, and like Megavideo, they take them down whenever those videos are identified to them. A

But Youtube is still here, and Megaupload isn’t. Why?

In part two, I’ll tell you.

 

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11 Responses to Internet Activists Take Down SOPA, Goverment Retaliates

  1. GOTO10 says:

    Because Megaupload isn’t a US based site it doesn’t matter if they comply with the DMCA or not, they don’t receive the legal protections of the safe-harbor clause due to their status as foreigners.

    SOPA’s tag line is that it protects from “rogue foreign websites”. But with this the US Justice Department declares that all foreign websites are rogue websites.

  2. AnarchistMiracle says:

    Well maybe the government has all the sensibility of a petty teenage girl, overreacting to perceived slights involving SOPA by lashing out with no thought for damage or consequence.

    Or maybe Megaupload is actually guilty of a number of crimes, and today’s indictment represents the culmination of months of investigative work by the FBI.

    Which seems more likely? Which do you want to be true? I don’t think there’s enough information to say at this point.

  3. cliche says:

    The only problem with piracy, is that it has become middle class welfare.

    e.g. :
    “Dude, wanna go see Hangover 2 at the theaters?”
    “I just downloaded it, come over and we’ll watch it on my massive screen that I was able to buy with all the money I saved by never paying for entertainment.”

    Software companies, like Microsoft have given up on fighting piracy in countries like China, former communist countries and South American countries, because the pirates in those countries have no money to spend.

    In the west, for people who have the means to pay for everything they consume, their justification is “it’s not good enough to pay for”.
    Obviously, it’s only just good enough for thousands of people to “share”.

  4. Guy Fox says:

    Youtube is practically a utility, like ABC, CBS, ATT, TMZ, and Sex & the City. It’s a brand that has penetrated people’s lives enough that they identify with it like they do with their furniture. Nobody would accept the government coming in and changing the colour of their Pottery Barn ottoman, because they consider it a valuable part of themselves, even if the same factory in Cambodia has shipped thousands of identical units to thousands of their peers. Maybe even more important, the other utility-brands use Youtube to distribute and promote their content. They even draw content from Youtube to broadcast for free on their networks (NB: the converse and morally equivalent practice is exactly what SOPA is meant to prevent), as they’ve done with countless human interest stories before the weather report and Syria’s Funniest Home Videos. Not only does Joe Six-Figure give a miniscule fraction of a $hit about Megaupload (isn’t that some video game the kids play?), but the media conglomerate he and the missus work for wouldn’t mind going 18th amendment on the competition.

    I’m interested in the plot arc, though. A Partial Objects first? I’d really love a “On the next exciting episode of …”-montage with Michael Buffer or Robert Loggia doing the voice-over.

  5. operator says:

    “It is also an abuse of power.” because, as a content provider, you must make your content available until Dodd and his hypocritical ilk decide to take your domain name offline.

    Seems all this SOPA/PIPA hoopla is a little overblown – ICE/DHS can already take over sites and thick WHOIS will ensure pirates and dissidents are easy to track down from their domain registrations – which leads us back to the far more concerning NDAA detention and US citizen execution developments (both without due process or any real oversight) which apply to the far more pressing matters of meatspace existence.

  6. JohnJ says:

    With any luck, this will lead to a dialogue about the nature of intellectual property and how the government should treat it.

    Ah, that’ll never happen. People can’t have an intelligent discussion about anything. It’s always “You just hate (the children, America, Muslims, blacks, the rich, the poor, homosexuals, etc., etc., etc.)!”

  7. Of course I’m against SOPA. That out of the way, here’s the problem: threatening the bullies who are trying to control you only works if you are actually stronger than the bullies. If you’re not, the bullies will take your threats as evidence that they need to be more harsh.

    This is why OWS failed, and why SOPA protests and blackening websites fails: TPTB look at it and say, “do these people really deserve to have freedoms? Can they really be counted on to be responsible?” Note that Dodd called it an abuse of power.

    I admit that I am guilty of this, but the more people remain anonymous on the internet– the less they declare themselves invested in the product– the less the government considers legitimate people to be connected with it. This allows people with a more pressing need to be anonymous freedom to do so.

    • JohnJ says:

      You don’t have to be stronger than the bully. You just have to be able to do enough damage to convince them that it’s not worth the price.

      But when your best attack is a mere annoyance, you’re just going to piss them off.

    • Guy Fox says:

      the more people remain anonymous on the internet– the less they declare themselves invested in the product– the less the government considers legitimate people to be connected with it.

      While that’s probably true, it’s a crappy argument from a legal perspective. Wearing a Keanu Reeves mask while robbing a bank will not immunize anyone against prosecution, and writing bad checks (or bad Paypal or whatever the current manifestation is) under an alias is also small hinderance to law enforcement. Anonymity is the privilege of those presumed innocent. Having to carry papers around to identify yourself is what you get in paranoid authoritarian states like the DPRK, the USSR and Maricopa county.

      Besides, how much effort do you really put into your anonymity? I’m guessing enough to prevent the co-eds down at Dunkin’ Donuts from throwing their underwear at you, but probably considerably less than you’d need to fool an agency with a three-letter acronym. From a legal or executive perspective, anonymity is a red-herring.

  8. vandal says:

    I found the “taking down” of megaupload kind of like how a single cop finally arrests one looter during a mob of looters and people might freak the hell out a bit more but still keep on looting.

    If you really miss megaupload you aren’t tech-savvy in the least. It was rather crummy and there are better options between dropbox or even mediafire (though there’s arguments that mediafire will be next). In fact there will always be some file sharing option on the internet as that is it’s main purpose. Which is part of why the people making this bill come off as so stupid, it’s like demanding regulations to make the ocean less wet.

    But that all feel obvious. Why is everyone upset? Honestly I think if megaupload had been shutdown without the awareness of SOPA/PIPA everyone might go “oh…that kind of sucks, guess I’ll use rapidshare or any other many available file sharing sites”.

    So upon looking things up on wikipedia (omg blackout! greatest thing that did was provide us with http://twitter.com/herpderpedia) megaupload was based in hong kong but actually banned there among other countries. It’s not actually “taken down” so much as the domain name no longer exists and you can still get it through the IP address (apparently this one: http://109.236.83.66/ though I hardly trust that to be true).

    Further I see pictures online painting megaupload as this underdog that sites were friends with, equal with, and now feel threatened at the loss. Which they shouldn’t at all for the formers considering megaupload execs were found in a mansion worth 30million and most were near 40, youngest 30. The raid wasn’t a response to anything done by wikipedia or “uppity” kids but was planned specifically for one of the execs birthdays as best time.

    That’s not to say you might not be threatened. What they’re prosecuted for is copyrighted content being uploaded and shared online. Which is weird to blame megaupload for as I doubt a single exec has sat through their obnoxious multiple hour upload/download wait period with pop up adds in the back. The execs didn’t download/upload a damn music video from ludacris they just provided that sharing ability. You could also share programming files through megaupload, or self made art or something. But seriously, super bass from nicki minaj is pretty good.

    So it’s not that megaupload put copyrighted content out there. They just made it easy for others to do it. Nothing in the codes for the site specifically provided anything specifically illegal. Just kind of nudged it along and encouraged and benefited from others doing “illegal” downloading.

    That analogy I had about arresting a single looter is wrong. It’s more like arresting the main gun seller at a riot because they didn’t stop the people from shooting each other. But that’s not what the gun seller is supposed to do, he just sells guns and profits from the riot. There will always be some gun seller though. So arresting the gun seller to stop the riot is stupid and won’t work. Duh.

    But the people demanding the arrest of the gun seller do it because they were selling bows and arrows are have been losing business without bothering to update to guns. They realize the error and rather than go bankrupt they’ll have the gun seller arrested and start up shop.

    So that’s why youtube isn’t down and won’t be anytime soon. UMG and music industries already have their cut of that gun shop done. Even though you can grab the audio from youtube through dicking around with windows settings (or just use many, many converter sites such as typing “pwn” in front of a youtube video or a 3 after the 2nd w of http://www.youtube.com). Still the UMG is getting some cut and no one else is and they have control over all of youtube to take down any content they feel inappropriate. It’s just not as much wealth to be spread around. You’ll be able to have a good few handful in mansions later but never the multiple industry folks doing it as big.

  9. dribrats says:

    “Goverment”?

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