You may have noticed the black banner atop the Virginia Right! Logo in the header section of this blog.
Today, the internet has gone on strike. Millions of websites have either gone dark like Wikipedia or have added protest banners and links like we have at Virginia Right!
SOPA and it’s bastard sibling in the Senate called PIPA. While the goal of these bills are ostensibly to protect the rights of the music and video industry, there is no doubt that the fallout will be more internet websites are wither shut down or raked over the coals by the big Hollywood lawyers in court.
The Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act will grant even more power to the money hungry entertainment industry, which has already run over the “little people” in what amounts to nothing more than legal extortion.
Now, we are all for protecting the rights and property of those in the entertainment industry. But the fact is, this legislation will allow anyone with money to harass and financially ruin blogs and websites that provide information and services to millions and millions of online users – most times free of charge.
Political blogs, like Virginia Right! could be threatened with legal action because a comment with a link to a site in violation of the law is all the proof they would need to shut us down.
And the volume of spam comments and attempts to slip in a link promoting anything from Viagra to Porn to Pirated Music is staggering. I use a couple of tools to limit the flood, specifically Akismet, which filters spam comments automatically and a Captcha plug-in that makes you input a few letters or numbers that prove you are a human. In addition, I run my comments through IntenseDebate which also filters spam.
And the spam comments still manage to get through.
So, just how much spam are we talking about? A Look at my WordPress dashboard will give you an idea:
320,460 spam comments have been automatically discarded by Conditional CAPTCHA.
That is a total of 466,839 potential lawsuits waiting to happen. Even under existing law!
The Digital Millennium Copyrights Act has allowed the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to siphon off money under threat of lawsuit from businesses and individuals who have, for many of then, unknowingly broken the law.
And the teeth in the DMCA are substantial. SOPA and PIPA are intended to give the big Hollywood media type more power, which will include the power to censor and ruin anyone they please.
How effective is the DMCA? Consider this from a 2007 case that used the DMCA to charge a woman with piracy:
DULUTH, Minnesota — Jammie Thomas, a single mother of two, was found liable Thursday for copyright infringement in the nation’s first file-sharing case to go before a jury.
Twelve jurors here said the Minnesota woman must pay $9,250 for each of 24 shared songs that were the subject of the lawsuit, amounting to $222,000 in penalties.
They could have dinged her for up to $3.6 million in damages, or awarded as little as $18,000. She was found liable for infringing songs from bands such as Journey, Green Day, Aerosmith and others.
But the most telling proof that this is nothing more than a legal scheme that allows media types to shakedown the public, have a look at this statement fromthe RIAA attorney.
“This is what can happen if you don’t settle,” RIAA attorney Richard Gabriel told reporters outside the courthouse. “I think we have sent a message we are willing to go to trial.”
In other words, pay up or else! Who would want to risk a potential ruinous lawsuit when you can pay a few grand to make them leave you alone? Even if you had done nothing wrong, could you take the chance?
That is the crux of the matter! You need not truly violate the law to be in jeopardy.
There are thousands of horror stories just like this one. Computer illiterate grandparents who use the internet to send email to distant children and grandchildren who allow the visiting darlings to play games on Grandma’s computer are shaken down when the kids loaded Napster or some other sharing software without Grandma’s knowledge, and potentially without the kids intending to do such a thing.
The industry “spies” are constantly searching for violators. And when they find them, they offer them a choice. Pay a few thousand dollars for your crimes or face a jury award of potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars.
And the horror stories go on and on.
When I first heard about this horrible bill that will be used to hush the free speech of anyone not agreeing with Michael Moore and the Hollywood left, I was sure that Constitutional minded Senators and Congressmen would see through this left wing attempt extort money and quite those who they decide to censor in the name of stopping online piracy for what it is.
And those on the left, such as Moveon.Org are equally concerned that big money on the right will do the same thing.
Is there any doubt that when Virginia Right! and Moveon.Org line up on the same side of an issue that this is a major problem?
I was shocked to learn that Virginia Republican Congressman Bob Goodlatte was behind the SOPA bill!This is an incredible erosion of the First Amendment! And for a Republican to be sponsoring this, let alone writing and supporting it, is unconscionable.
The Roanoke Times writes:
Goodlatte is a co-sponsor and outspoken defender of the Stop Online Piracy Act, which has sparked an extensive online opposition campaign.
The Roanoke County Republican says the bill will give copyright holders more tools against websites that offer illegal or counterfeit versions of their products, whether it’s software, streaming music or even physical goods.
“This is all about violations of criminal laws and giving law enforcement new tools to enforce those laws,” Goodlatte said.
Opponents, however, say the bill is drawn too broadly and will impede free trade and speech on the Internet.
New tools? More like “Shock and Awe” in the hands of the Entertainment Industry!
And just what could make a Republican sponsor a bill that takes away rights and allows an industry to run roughshod over the public?
What else, money! Godlatte’s top donors are from the TV/Movies/Music industry, lawyers and lobbyists! This has the appearance of Chicago style pay-for-play legislation that we see from President Obama and his Progressive buddies.
Look at Goodlatte’s donor list from Open Secrets:
I also have a bit of personal experience with the down side of these laws designed to “protect” the entertainment industry. Back in 2003, I was one of 5 plaintiffs representing a proposed class action lawsuit against these same entertainment industry lobbyists that have successfully provided the proper incentive to have Goodlatte do their bidding. The case involved one of the coolest devices that I have ever seen called ReplayTV. It was TiVO before TiVO. Only better.
ReplayTV users were loyal and enthusiastic about the product. But the entertainment industry attacked the manufacturer relentlessly over a couple of the best features of the product.
This thing recorded shows just like any other Digital Video Recorder, but it marked the beginning and end of each block of commercials. So, when you watched the show, it was commercial free. And hour long show took just 40 or 45 minutes start to finish.
The Entertainment folks were not pleased. They thought I should be forced to watch commercials, or at least made to go through the hassle of fast-forwarding.
The second cool feature was allowing you to record on one device and then send it to another over the internet. Did you miss an episode of your favorite show? No problem. There was a private website that allowed you to request the show from others and it would be sent overnight. And it took hours to receive a show in those days.
The Industry hated this feature, and I never used it like that. But I did send shows from one of my units at one home to another at a second residence we maintained at the time 65 miles apart. Sort of like recording a VCR tape at one place and viewing it at another. I believe this was completely legal.
As was skipping ads. “Innovation” such as “product placement” in the shows themselves evolved to get around this. But I preferred to skip commercials for other reasons. I grew tired of explaining items like “Summer’s Eve” and Kotex to my kids. And the constant bombardment of ads featuring millions of calories was not something I thought were doing me any good. They were probably responsible for at least 20 extra pounds.
I was selected by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) as one of 5 persons to represent the ReplayTV owners in the suit because I was not using my systems in any way that was not perfectly legal and for my own private use.
And yes, the EFF is a San Francisco based “digital ACLU” inhabited and staffed by mostly left leaning lawyers who work pro bono.
Isn’t it odd that both the DMCA and SOPA have forced me to align with groups like Moveon and the EFF that are 180 degrees out of phase with my politics.
That means it is pretty bad.
The DMCA was upheld. My suit was dismissed. ReplayTV is out of business and my DVR is now as dumb as a rock.
Innovation was crushed, jobs were lost and perfectly law abiding citizens were denied their rights all in the name of stopping piracy.
I did not stand by in 2003 and I will not do so in 2012.
So, what can we do?
First and foremost, my Congressman Eric Cantor has decided that the bill will not go forward – without a consensus. Neil Stevens has a good summation on this at Redstate:
We celebrated Monday when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor effectively signaled the death of SOPA, the Stopping Online Piracy Act. Cantor said the Internet censorship bill would not see a vote until there was consensus on the matter. As long as Darrell Issa, Justin Amash, and Jason Chaffetz are on the case there will be no consensus on sweeping Internet censorship, so Cantor’s position basically kills SOPA this Congress.
This was a well earned victory for conservatives, and we owe the above allies thanks for sticking up for our values against formidable opposition. Barack Obama refused to pledge a SOPA veto even in the face of a massive petition from his supporters. Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith sponsored the bill, and notable tech leaders like Marsha Blackburn co-sponsored it. Well-funded groups like AFL-CIO, MPAA, and RIAA all lined up behind it.
It took everything we had to be heard on this. Our movement could hold nothing back. Erick Erickson himself had to threaten a primary challenge to Blackburn, and he was right to do it. But we got our way, and we should be glad.
But today, as SOPA protests go on across the Internet, we should be aware that there are a few lingering pockets of resistance, and be mindful of them.
But it ain’t over yet!
Click on the black censorship banner above and send a message to Congress.
Call Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte at (202) 225-5431 and let him know that you do not appreciate him taking money from the big Hollywood Lobbyists and that he needs to drop his support for this bill and shred and burn the pieces as that is what his bill will do to our Constitution!
And, most importantly, contact Col. Karen Kwiatkowski (pronounced ka-tao-skee) especially if you live in Virginia’s 6th Congressional District. Karen is challenging Goodlatte in the Republican Primary in June and she can use your help! And please click on the “About” link on her site so see the impressive credentials this lady brings to the table.
I don’t live in the Roanoke – Shenandoah Valley area so I will not be able to vote for Karen.
But Virginia Right! can and does enthusiastically endorse Karen Kwiatkowski for Congress. Bob Goodlatte’s work on behalf of Hollywood money is something that must be stopped.
And Karen is just the person to stop him!
(Note: I contacted Bob Goodlatte’s office prior to writing this to see if the tremendous outpouring of protest against SOPA had convinced him he was wrong. So far, there has been no response. If I receive one, I will update this post.)