Saturday, January 14, 2012

SOPA & PIPA Do the Capitol

In the brothel that is Congress, there possibly has never been a more expensive pay-to-play romp than the marathon escapades of those high priced hookers known as Sopa and Pipa. The lobbyist pimps are raking in and forking over
 the cash, and the voracious congressional johns just can't get enough. SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) and her twin PIPA (Protect IP Act) seemingly have taken up permanent residence in the decadent chambers of the House and Senate, respectively. They are the 21st Century D.C. madams. 

Sopa had originally been booked as a quickie earlier this fall, but bill sponsor Lamar Alexander (R-LA) abruptly pulled back on the scheduled vote, saying the process needed to be more drawn out to give more experts a chance to languish in the details. The process, with its endless parade of pro and con lobbyists and their fat wallets,was proving to be way too pleasurable, and could be extended even when Congress withdrew for its long winter break. 

 At first it appeared that a climactic vote this month might be inevitable. But the White House chimed in just this morning, urging more "study." (read: more lucrative can-kicking, more K Street pimps to help rewrite the legislation from scratch, more money for the bottomless partisan campaign war chests and individual bank accounts).

Sopa and Pipa, in case you haven't heard, were created by the Hollywood money machine, ostensibly to prevent illegal downloading of movies from foreign filesharing websites such as The Pirate Bay. From Wikipedia:

The originally proposed bill would allow the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as copyright holders, to seek court orders against websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. Depending on who requests the court orders, the actions could include barring online advertising networks and payment facilitators such as PayPal from doing business with the allegedly infringing website, barring search engines from linking to such sites, and requiring Internet service providers to block access to such sites. The bill would make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a crime, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison for 10 such infringements within six months. The bill also gives immunity to Internet services that voluntarily take action against websites dedicated to infringement, while making liable for damages any copyright holder who knowingly misrepresents that a website is dedicated to infringement.
Opponents of the bills, and they are legion (mega-rich Google and Facebook among them), have a whole laundry list of complaints -- enactment would result in suppression of free speech; would constitute a threat to websites that host user content, leading to de facto government censorship without due process; would expose users of even legitimate uploaded content to potential criminal charges.  Additionally, say critics, the proposals on their face are ineffectual against piracy. And then there's that lack of transparency we have come to expect under the current regime: 
Brooklyn Law School professor Jason Mazzone warned, "Much of what will happen under SOPA will occur out of the public eye and without the possibility of holding anyone accountable. For when copyright law is made and enforced privately, it is hard for the public to know the shape that the law takes and harder still to complain about its operation." (Wikipedia).
ProPublica, meanwhile, is living up to its name by launching a tool for us to track the tawdry exploits of Sopa and Pipa as they slink through the  maze of soundproof rooms in the D.C. whorehouse. It's called SOPA Opera, and through it we can discover just how bipartisan the corruption truly is. Says creator Dan Nguyen: 
SOPA Opera's tally of congressional supporters and opponents is based on factors including whether they've sponsored the legislation, whether they've voted for it in committee and their public statements about it. For each legislator, we're tracking what they've said or done so far about SOPA. We're also tracking campaign contributions to each legislator from the entertainment and Internet industries (using data from the Center for Responsive Politics).
Using the API and data from OpenSecrets [9] and the Center for Responsive Politics, we included the reported campaign contributions (as categorized by OpenSecrets [3]) from the "Movies/Music/TV" and "Computers/Internet" industries for the 2008 to 2010 election cycles. 2012 is not yet available through the OpenSecrets API yet. The totals here may differ compared to other SOPA-tracking sites because of the different timespans involved.
While many other groups, including labor unions and pharmaceutical companies, are also joining the SOPA/PIPA debate. We focus on the entertainment and computing industries because they have so much at stake financially and therefore have the biggest incentive to use money to influence politicians.
What's in your congressperson's wallet?  Is your rep in SOPA or PIPA's little black book?

Speaking of which, at least one professional lady is very much against the anti-piracy legislation, fearing that it might have the nefarious and unintended purpose of shutting down her own website, called "Diary of an Escort."  (Hear that, David Vitter? And no, I am not providing a link, even though the site is very discreet and tasteful and non-pornographic).

Lawmakers and lobbyists could take a tip from "Thierry", a pimp who dishes on the niceties: 
Before the start of the session, it is very important for you to make sure you have the cash available for the beautiful lady (politician), not paying an escort (pol) upfront is very disrespectful. You should always make sure you have enough money to cover the time scheduled.... and some extra because you might find that you arrive you are so charmed.... you might want to spend more time with her then expected.
Under no circumstances should she have to ask you for her donation. Payment must be made before all sessions begin. Instead of handing her the money when she walks through the door, it is better etiquette to place the money in a visible envelope that is in an obvious spot where she can see it when she walks in.


Denis Neville said...

Reddit's SOPA Blackout

“Reddit, the current king of all social media sites due to its massive, influential community and ability to send out hundreds of thousands of hits to a single post, is doing its part to help stop internet censorship law SOPA with a display of force.”

Blog reddit, “We will be blacking out reddit on January 18th from 8am–8pm EST (1300–0100 UTC).”

The Reddit blackout is perhaps the greatest “money where your mouth is” moment in the entire anti-SOPA campaign so far…But unfortunately, it’s not enough…Google and Facebook must follow, says Paul Tassi at Forbes,

and “If Facebook Won't Stop SOPA, We Can Do It For Them,”

Valerie said...

Luddite that I am, I can't make a very meaningful comment on this issue. However, I DO know that this legislation helps big corporations protect their private property and there are a lot of more important issues I would like Congress to be focussed upon - like limiting corporate power.
Personally, I don't download anything that I am not allowed to download but I don't really care if someone else does. It is kind of like the hackers - I used to think that was a bad thing when a hacker got into a secure corporate computer system and created mischief. Now I just see them as guerrilla tactics. And I certainly don’t see huge corporations as particularly law abiding and deserving of my outrage on their behalf.

Valerie said...

Truthdig also has an article on this subject if anyone is interested in further reading.

Fred Drumlevitch said...


I think it all boils down to three main issues:

1) While I have a basic belief that intellectual property does deserve protection, my sympathies are significantly reduced by the consolidation and monopolistic practices of many of these companies, and their enlistment of government support for those actions.

Consider the progression of exclusivity (selected examples, from Wikipedia): Under the U.S. Copyright Act

of 1790: 14 years, 14 year renewal
of 1909: 28 years, 28 year renewal
of 1976: 75 years, or life of author + 50 years
of 1998: 95/120 years, or life of author + 70 years

Add in the various actions designed to prevent even the traditional “fair use”, plus draconian punishments for infringers, and I have little sympathy for these corporations. Similar to Valerie’s position, I’m not using pirated content, but I take offense that the forces of so-called law and order in this country have been, and are, more interested in protecting the fantasy of Mickey Mouse than they were/are interested in protecting homeowners from being evicted as a consequence of the vaporware financial fictions of Wall Street.

2) One might label a second issue — the assorted consequences listed by Karen such as internet censorship and suppression of free speech — as “unintended consequences” of protecting intellectual property, but that doesn’t reduce the potential adverse effects. And upon consideration, I believe that those consequences are likely not inadvertent. The government, the corporations, and the plutocracy are becoming increasingly aware of the potential power of public information related to their activities, and I consider it a virtual certainty that they are intent on preventing Wikileaks-type information spread, by gaining legal control over all hosting websites and use of the internet, nowadays the fundamental dissemination mechanism for such information.

3) Political corruption of legislators advancing these bills. Since Karen has already addressed this, I won’t say much beyond noting how insidious financial contributions are. In the recent attempted acquisition of T-Mobile by ATT, we saw all sorts of non-profit organizations one would think unconnected to these telecom players coming out in support of the takeover. It turns out that they were connected — via donations made to them by ATT. See:

Fred Drumlevitch said...

With Karen’s permission, old stuff related to the “Brisbane Trampled by Thundering Herd” thread (now closed to new comments):

@Denis Neville, Zee, Valerie, The Black Swan, and all:

I’ll echo Zee’s thanks to Denis for the Rosen articles excerpts and pressthink links. And I agree with Denis on the importance of humor, and satire via political cartooning. Years ago I use to physically clip good political cartoons from the newspaper; now, of course, it takes only a few clicks to find and save them. However, Ted Rall has severely criticized political cartooning as it now is:

I agree with Zee’s addition of “data or evidence” to my comment, and with his point that objectivity even in science is a myth. (For those who don’t have the scientific background that Zee has, and are interested in the subject of objectivity in science that he referred to, the classic book, still relevant, is “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, by Thomas S. Kuhn; however, it has spawned other books that purport to explain what Kuhn meant!)

I agree with comments by Valerie and The Black Swan on the failings of NPR and PBS. The way they have too often bent over backwards (or is it forwards?) for far-right conservatives, sacrificing proper journalism in order to keep their small percentage of Congressionally-approved dollars flowing, is obscene.

@ Karen:

Re your statement “… I am perfectly happy to be a poor blogger in my dotage. People can complain all they want (and they do). But nobody can fire me.”

Correct. In that regard, I like the succinctness of that old A. J. Liebling quip I’ve referenced before: “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one”.

Zach said...

@Black Swan

I think you may be mistaken about Paul's position on Iran nukes.

Valerie said...

Just read a brilliant slogan carried by an Occupier (conveyed in a comment by FranG on Bill Moyers blog) in response to Mittens saying those of us who aren't rich are envious - "I don't mind you being rich. I mind you buying my politicians." Great isn't it?

Denis Neville said...

SOPA, the “Bring the Chinese Internet to America” Bill

“SOPA would put us on a par with the most oppressive nations in the world," Sergey Brin, Google co-founder.

Internet censorship by country:

SOPA has been absent from mainstream news coverage. All the major media corporations owning TV stations are on record supporting SOPA. Quelle surprise!

While major media outlets have largely ignored the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, they have covered repeatedly and at-length Tim Tebow, Casey Anthony, Kim Kardashian's divorce, the British Royal Family, and Alec Baldwin being kicked off an airplane.

But Stephen Colbert explains SOPA:

Jonathan Zittrain, et. al., take “A Close Look at SOPA,” exactly what it does and how it does it… why its principal mechanisms make for poor law.

But former Senator Chris Dodd is vehemently defending SOPA with the same argument that despots have been using to justify censorship for years, “Chris Dodd's Defense of SOPA Makes Him Sound Like a Despot”

Ah, the revolving door between corporate and political elites.

On Jan 18th, websites will go dark to protest the internet censorship bills.

Anonymous said...

I’m not lawyer enough to read the actual SOPA legislation and understand its full implications.

However, I do trust Laurence Tribe to be able to understand the bill and its hidden pitfalls, and I also trust his intellect and values enough to accept his judgement regarding SOPA. He opposes it, and so do I.

Prof. Tribe has posted a 23-page letter on the Web in which he expresses his opposition to SOPA, which you can find here:

But you don’t have to be a lawyer and wade through the entire 23-page letter; Prof. Tribe’s objections are summarized in the first four brief and easy-to-understand pages of the document.

I encourage you to have a look at Prof. Tribe’s summary of this sweeping bill, and, while reading, keep The Law of Unintended Consequences in mind.

Anne Lavoie said...

Thanks for another good one, Karen! And we know that we'll all get screwed in the end. The Internet will be controlled by the corporate government for the benefit of maximizing profits at the expense of freedom. Capitalism is so predictable.

So where/who is Obama in this scenario? Is he the Whorelord?

Apparently, if we are to believe his lying lips, Obama is opposed to parts of both bills, which sounds to me like the crumbs he is brushing off the table to keep his base from totally starving, before he goes on to sign the bills when passed. His hands are tied - to money. When the Chamber of Commerce is for these bills, can there be any doubt they will pass? Obama didn't even threaten a veto, as he did with NDAA before he signed that.

Unless we shake up the entire system, we are all going down the tubes. The Democratic Party is tied to big money just as much as Republican Party. The Duopoly should be named the Capitalist Party.

To switch to a sports analogy, if we want to see new teams emerge, we need free agents and a fan base that is not blindly loyal to a couple of teams who are owned and run for the benefit of investor profits. Fans are voters who sign up as season ticket holders for the team of their choice, even though the game is rigged. They don't care as long as they see a good fight, like fake wrestling. They go home entertained and the owners and investors go home richer. Personally, I would prefer to see a publicly owned team that plays for the love of the sport/country.

So please, don't buy those season tickets. That sends a powerful message. We can't expect anything to change unless we change our own behavior. It may be too late already, but hope does Spring eternal.

Dump the Duopoly. Occupy!

Jay - Ottawa said...

SOPA and PIPA came from respectable families, once upon a time. Can we rescue them?

SOPA springs from the idea that writers, musicians, and all the technicians behind them in publishing, the film industry, bands and orchestras and recording studios who bring that art to the public deserve fair pay for their intellectual property and technical skill.

PIPA wants to tinker with free access to the means of communication, especially for the 99% who can’t afford to be gouged every time they want to read a book, watch a game or listen to a diva or a rapper.

There is a balance point between the virtuous concerns behind SOPA and PIPA, a balance point that could be reached by reasonable people who aren’t prostituting themselves to the richest johns.

Alas, the industries built up around the artist and communications crowds can’t leave it at that. And the people in Congress, poor dears, can’t afford to live on their salaries alone. And the public that sucks up all that learning and entertainment has one rationale or another to steal the work of writers, musicians and other creative artists.

Enter the lawyer hacks and the lawmaker crowd who will now pull the desires of SOPA and PIPA even further apart. The most successful entertainers and their corporate backers will get more, and their admirers among the masses will get less, or have to pay more to one side or the other, while having leveling innovations like the web made more restrictive.

Forget about making the entertainment corporations less greedy. Forget about making people everywhere less larcenous when it comes to remunerating creative people. The crucial point for applying pressure for a square deal for all would be where the rules are made, i.e., Congress and the Courts.

Once again, it comes down to campaign reform and the corporation-monster-person thing put together by the Supremes with Citizens United. If the chief executive and members of congress could learn to get along on their salaries alone, different personalities might be attracted to public service, reason might prevail and the prostitution on all sides would end. SOPA and PIPA and their many sisters would never be pimped by the lobbyists. Who will live so long as to see that day?

Maybe the judiciary is the place to apply pressure? And that Bernie Sanders Amendment? See what happens on January 20 on the steps of the Supreme Court and at courthouses around the country. Will the courts get the message? Can enough exasperated people stick together long enough to make the PTB an offer they can’t refuse?

Occupy the Courts!

The Black Swan said...

thanks for the video, I hadn't seen that before. I think Ron Paul's position is more nuanced than blanket support for an Iranian nuclear program. Unfortunately NPR didn't get into that, they just said that he supports Iran building nuclear weapons. Which isn't exactly true, he just doesn't think we should interfere with Iran and thinks they have a right to build weapons, especially considering the neighborhood they are in and the USA's past dealings with nuclear powers. But ultimately, they aren't building nukes, Leon Panetta said so! And this is what NPR failed to mention, this what all the media fails to mention! So we will go to war once again under falsified information. It is sad. And once SOPA and PIPA pass, and websites like this one get shut down, we will have less ability and opportunity to inform ourselves and rally against an evil and corrupt system.

Denis Neville said...

Debating SOPA on Up w/ Chris Hayes

NBCUniversal Executive Vice President Richard Cotton made the case for SOPA. Opposing SOPA was Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Access @

Just as Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, Bank of America, Western Union, et al. strangled WikiLeaks, there was also the suggestion to simply cut websites off from all sources of funding instead of using the courts to force search engines and ISPs to block websites.

There is another letter by Marvin Ammori, who is an internationally recognized lawyer whose expertise is in Internet and media law, freedom of speech, and cybersecurity law, and who served as counsel on some of the most important cases involving the Internet, media, and the 21st Century First Amendment, that also argues that SOPA and PIPA would violate the First Amendment.

Will said...


Love the exotic dancer silhouettes! It looks like a bunch of them jumped from truckers' mudflaps on the Beltway and decided to have a rockin' party at the Capitol building.

P.S. And now for the real reason for my post today. Just wanted to say I like it when you close down the comment sections of previous posts after a period of time. It saves me (and I'm sure many others) the trouble of constantly searching to see if people are adding to old conversations. Thanks!

Zach said...

I've often wondered.... NPR is publically funded by all of our tax dollars. Why do we expect that it should reflect only a liberal view? You know...shoe on other foot considerations

Denis Neville said...

@ Zach – “NPR is publically funded by all of our tax dollars;” Why do we expect that it should reflect only a liberal view?

No, actually only 5.8% of NPR’s funding comes directly from federal, state, and local government sources. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a non-profit corporation created by an act of the United States Congress, funded by the United States’ federal government to promote public broadcasting, contributes another 10.1 percent. Thus, only ~16 percent of NPR’s funding coming directly or indirectly from government sources.

NPR actually receives a lot less money than people think it does. Membership drives, which disrupt regular programming, are frequent.

NPR’s ‘liberal bias’ (the faux news right wing political squawk box) is controversial; facts about NPR funding are not.

Bill Moyers Responds to CPB’s Tomlinson Charges of Liberal Bias: ‘We Were Getting it Right, But Not Right Wing’:

“We’re seeing unfold a contemporary example of the age old ambition of power and ideology to squelch — to punish the journalist who tell the stories that make princes and priests uncomfortable.”

“I came to see that news is what people want to keep hidden, and everything else is publicity…investigative journalism could not be a collaboration between the journalist and the subject. Objectivity was not satisfied by two opposing people offering competing opinions, leaving the viewer to split the difference. I came to believe that objective journalism means describing the object being reported on, including the little fibs and fantasies, as well as the big lie of people in power.

“In no way — in no way does this permit journalists to make accusations and allegations. It means, instead, making sure that your reporting and your conclusions can be nailed to the post with confirming evidence.”

“Without a trace of irony, the powers that be have appropriated the Newspeak vernacular of George Orwell’s 1984. They give us a program vowing no child will be left behind, while cutting funds for educating disadvantaged children; they give us legislation cheerily calling for clear skies and healthy forests that give us neither, while turning over our public lands to the energy industry. In Orwell’s 1984 the character Syme, one of the writers of that totalitarian society’s dictionary, explains to the protagonist, Winston, "Don’t you see? Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050 at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we’re having right now. The whole climate of thought," he said, "will be different. In fact, there will be no thought as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking, not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness."

The Doktor said...

Well I see Rupert the fossilized dinosaur turd expressed his fuming fulmination with President Obama's rejection of the current bill- perhaps hope still remains...
This account exemplifies what Washington has become, that's for sure. Karen's being being a little rough on the hookers though... I really don't think they deserve the comparison.
Corporations literally EXPECT our government ( that they don't want to pay for, but "we the sheeple" are forced to fund ) to go out and enforce their wishes and collect the profits that they contend they're due. Furthermore, anyone who should be bold enough to assert that individual rights equal corporate rights (let alone trump) shall be punished by the enforcement arm of this government. Which shall also be paid for by said individuals (sheeple). That's what really bothers me about corporate types, they exploit individual achievement every chance they get, while constraining individual choices at every turn. These concepts are rooted in conservative collectivism- while they hypocritically proclaim fealty to Ayn Rand, a soviet defector who wrote ridiculous fictional accounts of impossible outcomes from improbable scenarios employing foolish caricatures of cartoonish sadists.
I'm seriously pissed at President Obama and the Democrats for going along with this garbage but there was a time when they fought for individual rights... if only we could rekindle that spark!