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"We are on strike, we the men of the mind. We are on strike against self-immolation. We are on strike against the creed of unearned rewards and unrewarded duties."-John Galt

Thursday, January 19, 2012

How SOPA, PIPA, NDAA, MMI, and the DHS are stripping you of freedom

No doubt over last few days you have heard much talk about SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and its Senate companion bill PIPA. (The Protect Intellectual Property Act) Both of these bills give unprecedented power to the government and content creators to seize domains and shutter web sites. Unfortunately, the people writing these laws have no idea how the Internet works, nor do they really care. When your backers are mostly the big Hollywood agencies or entertainment behemoths like MPAA and RIAA, heavy-hitters claiming they want to protect their clients, yet also the biggest infringers on IP rights of them all-and there are millions of dollars in campaign donations at stake, you'll go the extra mile to make your "friends" happy.
For all of the lefts talk of protecting the 99% from the 1% there isn't much discussion of how these laws more often protect the "haves" from....well, everyone else. From patent law, idea censorship, bailouts and tax breaks-you name it-our government uses law, power and regulation to protect corporations from the free market competition that might, under the right circumstance, threaten their longevity. And they do it all under the guise of "protecting" us, yet the little guy rarely, if ever, benefits from any of these protections. More likely, competition and innovation of start-ups or mom and pops are stomped out by giants using government to wield unchecked power. Laws such as these are perfect examples of the government stepping in to pick winners and losers. Rather than the music and movie industry changing with the times, they use government power to stick to the status quo and retain a stranglehold over the entertainment industry.

RIAA already prostitutes existing copyright and IP law to sue college students and dead grandmas for millions. Why the need for more laws? The government swears these new laws wouldn't be abused by them or anyone else. They are simply for the protection of the assets of people and the livelihood they create. Guilty until proven innocent will only be used against foreign criminals that rob these poor corporations blind.....except history shows us a completely different story. Take patent law and the chemical giant Monsanto. Through an abuse of patent law they have successfully sued, for millions, family owned farms accused of illegally growing their genetically modified seed-even when said farmer did not plant the seed and Monsanto willingly acknowledges that fact. How about just this past year when 73,000 web sites were shut down in July with no warning, no day in court. Completely put out of business on order to the ISP from the DHS. Or how about when ICE did it here, here and here? What about the case of Dajaz1.com? That site was shut down and all assets seized for more than a year. Again, no charges were ever filed and no explanation was given. In the Dajaz1 case, ICE acted on the word of the VP of Anti-Piracy Legal Affairs from RIAA, without proof or evidence of violation or infringement of law. In one part of the case, they acted on behalf of an artist not even represented by an RIAA label.
The Dajaz1 case became particularly interesting to us, after we saw evidence showing that the songs that ICE used in its affidavit as "evidence" of criminal copyright infringement were songs sent by representatives of the copyright holder with the request that the site publicize the works -- in one case, even coming from a VP at a major music label. Even worse, about the only evidence that ICE had that these songs were infringing was the word of the "VP of Anti-Piracy Legal Affairs for the RIAA," Carlos Linares, who was simply not in a position to know if the songs were infringing or authorized. In fact, one o f the songs involved an artist not even represented by an RIAA label, and Linares clearly had absolutely no right to speak on behalf of that artist.
We have this history and these facts, yet our government wants us to believe that laws like SOPA/PIPA or NDAA or the Media Monitoring Initiative-where personal and public information of "news anchors, journalists, reporters or anyone who may use traditional and/or social media in real time to keep their audience situationally aware and informed.” will now be tracked and aggregated-are not positioned perfectly to abuse us, the American citizen? They want us to believe they will not be used to silence those that are not in agreement? I'm just not that trusting.

These bills do not stop the criminals they claim to be going after. The censorship regulations written into these bills won’t shut down pirate sites. Those sites will just change their addresses and continue selling pirated materials or others intellectual property; law-abiding sites will face high penalties for malfeasance they likely aren't aware of and can’t possibly control. Through a convoluted set of checks and balances the multi-billion dollar search giant, Google, is protected from infringement claims, but you and I are not. We must know the end-point of links and follow information rabbit holes that touch our sites, as much as three layers deep. If you don't and one person says you are purposefully harboring links or paths to protected content, BOOM, you're out of business. The government and gigantic corporations again swing the crushing sword of the elite, with no one to check their power.

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