Thursday, December 15, 2011

So the internet might be dead by the end of the day today

Hey, all four of you who read this site.  

If SOPA passes today, that may be the end of this blog.  Just FYI.  If it does pass, I'd have to likely not just stop posting, but may need to pull this blog and the archives of League of Melbotis offline.  And forget tumblr.

Basically, its going to make 95% of what I do and talk about here not just a risk to me (of a felony, not just a law suit), but to any of you who might link back to me.

I've written to my congress people, but they're from Texas, so if anyone is waving a $20 bill their direction, they'll be insisting Jesus pre-ordained SOPA and anyone who doesn't love the bill hates America.

So, you know, now would be a good time to write your local congressperson and see if you can't shake the tree a little.  

Funny.  This really wasn't how I was expecting to end this blog (I assumed one of us would die while saving orphans from a submarine fire), but The League is not going to jail for posting pictures of Superman online without the express written consent of the NFL or whomever.

I think the good folks at Get Your Censor On can help fill in some of the blanks.

Enjoy your internet full of nothing but Kim Kardashian updates.  



J.S. said...

I'd like to say that I would totally defend you against any lawsuit or criminal action that arises from this action. But I'm totally not going to do that. It might make me have to do work for free.
Good luck!

Simon MacDonald said...

It makes me sad that the people running things have absolutely no concept of how the internet works. It also makes me sad that if SOPA passes that Canada won't be far behind with similar crappy legislation.

The League said...

I'm not sure it would matter if they understood or not. Surely someone on their staff can brief them. The internet does not buy influence.

cardboardbelts said...

I am not under the impression that the legislation significantly alters the current copyright laws, but I do believe it adds more to Internet enforcement measures. As a result, I believe the fair use defense would still be available to the typical user. So I'm not sure you would need to take down your entire site even if SOPA passed. Granted, the fair use defense is pretty unpredictable, but unless you are down-right infringing for commercial purpose or publishing unpublished material in bad faith -- I don't think you have much to worry about.

Granted, service providers may be more inclined to err on the side of caution; so there is the likelihood of over-inclusion. It's bad legislation to be sure but I don't think it's the "gamer's worst nightmare" or the "end of the Internet" by any stretch.

Simon MacDonald said...


"service providers may be more inclined to err on the side of caution"

That's the big problem right there. There are sites that have been effectively taken down for copyright infringement claims for over a year with no due process. There definitely seems to be a presumption of guilt in these cases and it is difficult for a one man show like Ryan here to use the fair use defence if someone like Time Warner (DC Comics owners) says he is infringing on their content.

The League said...

Simon's point is exactly what I'm concerned about. I post images and content all the time with no prior written consent (and I did actually seek it from DC a couple years back and received no response, no doubt for their own legal reasons).

As Simon says, its not the law that's necessarily the problem, its the liability that no carrier will want to potentially incur or the fact that its going to be a felony if I do get selected. Sure, I can wind up in front of a jury of my peers, but why would I want to do that? Its the same reason I LIKE to smuggle weapons, and I likely won't see it enforced, but if I do get busted, its going to be a real chore to deal with.

Universities, btw, are going to become a major target as SOPA is the culmination of efforts I first heard about in 2003 at EduCause where Jack Valenti sat on a stage in front of 20,000 university IT folks and told them the MPAA and RIAA were going to sue universities just for having the pipe that carried illegal content to students.

This has the potential to get ugly, and, as Simon sez, I don't have the time or resources to push back just to argue the point whether I'm engaged in fair use or not. The bottom line is that it IS bad legislation being written by lobbyists, and there's no reason to sit back and think of England if there's even a chance we're opening ourselves up to a corporate run and approved internet.

cardboardbelts said...

Right, I know. I'm not unaware of the policy concerns and chilling effects of this legislation -- I have taken a few copyright law and digital copyright law courses at UTLaw. What the public can hope for is that the courts can approach possible defenses (such as fair use) with a more rule-based doctrinal approach rather than their current case-by-case approach. It'll be slow-going, for sure, but I think this "end of the Internet" is a bit ridiculous.

As I said before, I'm not saying SOPA is a good or even harmless law. I'm just saying that the media propaganda surrounding SOPA (on both sides) is a bit alarmist; I mean, come on, I've read crap equating it to the Chinese Firewall.

I am more than happy to chat about copyright law and policy with you in person sometime -- it's a definite area of interest of mine. :)

J.S. said...

I know it's not exactly analogous, and as a fellow blogger I have a lot of sympathy for the little guys with SOPA concerns, but there definitely seem to be some parallels between the internet usage covered in SOPA and some of the music industry issues that were going on back during the Napster lawsuit (which also involved some concerns about copyright being interpreted in too broad a fashion). In that situation, of course, the music industry ended up shutting down some wholesale distribution channels, but even now you can still listen to plenty of embedded music on the internet through Youtube and other sources (so long as the poster isn't trying to do something that just steals and distributes music).
Anyway, I have concerns about SOPA, but I think the concerns might be getting blown out of proportion a bit. Not to say that it's necessarily a well crafted piece of legislation, though....

The League said...

We can talk about it anytime, but it doesn't mean you shouldn't write your congress person and insist on better legislation or legislation not written by industry lobbyists.

The "slow-going" is the part that should worry anyone. That's going to land a lot of people in jail and unnecessarily curb freedom of speech, fair use, etc... And anytime we need to "hope" the courts will make the right decision, I think we have a problem with the legislation to begin with.

The League said...

As per my own concerns: The way this bill is written, linking to or posting streaming content such as the video from a few days ago of the dogs with spooky eyes happened to have some Christmas music in the background. According to the bill, I could potentially be at risk for getting my Youtube account and Blog shut down.

And, of course, leaving up dozens of posts attached to streaming content puts me in jeopardy. Maybe not on a felony level, but enough to get blocked. These are the specific sorts of examples that make me look at the last 8 years I've been doing this and saying "I am going to get my ass landed in jail".

Simon MacDonald said...

@The League

I don't think you'd end up in jail but your blog could disappear overnight. For me that would be a horrible thing as I've been using my blog to talk about technology things I'm into and that's led me to getting offers to speak at conferences, write articles and books. Without that blog people wouldn't know about me and my opportunities for career advancement would be limited. All because I may have posted a video of Anna singing to a Taylor Swift song.