Thursday, January 19, 2012

DoJ proves SOPA and PIPA not needed, seizes Megaupload

Yesterday I wrote "If SOPA or PIPA passes Megaupload would be kicked off the internet." Today the United States Department of Justice kicked Megaupload off the internet [DoJ][WSJ][TF]. Yes that's right, without SOPA or PIPA the US government was able to shutdown a foreign "rogue" site. How foreign? Datacenters in the US, Canada, and the Netherlands were raided. Charges were brought against 7 people who are citizens of Germany, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Estonia, Turkey, Hong Kong, and New Zealand -- none of them US citizens. Four of them were arrested in New Zealand.

How did this happen without without SOPA or PIPA? The same way all federal cases happen, a grand jury issued an indictment. In 2010, over the Thanksgiving weekend the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized 82 domains, and a year later admitted some were a mistake. And Thanksgiving weekend of 2011 they seized 150 domains.

So the DoJ has done a great job in proving that SOPA and PIPA are not needed. Not only can they seizes domains, property, and arrest those involved with foreign "rogue" sites, they can do it all without due process. Killing a business and then having a trial (or not even having a trial in the case of Dajaz1) is like executing a suspect and then holding a trial to convict them. Even if Megaupload is found not guilty, they will likely never recover from having $50 million in assets seized, the company has been killed but not convicted.

This kind of skirt around due process makes sense in some cases. If you suspect someone is a terrorist and has a bomb in their backpack it makes sense to arrest them and blow up their backpack, then hold a trial. Hundreds of lives are at risk if a bomb goes off, destroying a $30 backpack does little harm, it's fair.

The DoJ have been so brainwashed by the RIAA and MPAA that they think pirated entertainment is as dangerous as terrorism. In 2010 Universal Music Group made $5.7672 billion in revenue. Maybe Megaupload cost them $100,000 in revenue, so without Megaupload UMG would have made $5.7673 billion. No one is dying because of Megaupload. Of course the DoJ doesn't say it cost them $100 thousand, they say Megaupload cost the industry over $500 million. They use funny math for that, like when Arista Records requested damages of $150,000 per infringing file. Or that every download of a movie costs the industry the $45 retail price of a Blu-ray disc. Realistically the amount that piracy actually costs the entertainment industry is tiny, and probably less than the amount they spend on the MPAA and RIAA.

Seriously, SOPA and PIPA are not needed. Laws and legal processes already exist to protect intellectual property. What we really need is a law to protect due process, like the Due Process Guarantee Act that Dianne Feinstein introduced. That act protects due process for terrorist suspects. Yet Dianne Feinstein is sponsoring PIPA. Apparently she thinks terrorist deserve more rights than web site owners. Guess who I'm not voting for next Senate election.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA, PIPA, and Due Process

By now hopefully everyone in the US has heard about SOPA and PIPA. But why are these laws bad? Isn't it good to eliminate rogue sites dealing in illegal goods? Of course it is, but that's why we have courts and due process.

Procedural Due Process protects individual against laws by allowing them a fair opportunity to affect the result of a judgement, in other words people have the right to their day in court. The DMCA eliminated due process by allowing content owners to have content removed from sites without going to court. The copyright holder issues a DMCA Takedown notice and the websites are obliged to remove the content.

That may seem fair, except the media companies (i.e., the backers of SOPA and PIPA) have been abusing the DMCA to take down content the do not own, for example YouTube videos they disagree with. SOPA and PIPA extend this ability to remove content by allowing the copyright owners to remove entire sites from the internet.

The backers of SOPA and PIPA will tell you they only target foreign rogue sites. But who is to say what is rogue? DailyMotion is foreign (French), and they probably have rogue content uploaded by users. Should the whole of DailyMotion, a French site, be eliminated from the internet because a US media company doesn't like them? No. Megaupload is foreign (Hong Kong), US media companies clearly think Megaupload is rogue, even if they are a legitimate business that responds to DMCA Takedown notices. If SOPA or PIPA passes Megaupload would be kicked off the internet. That's censorship. We already have copyright laws and courts to enforce them, we don't need to eliminate due process.

So what if media company wrongly kicks DailyMotion or YouTube off the internet, DailyMotion or YouTube could sue the media company or service providers that helped them, right? I mean we're talking about millions or billions in revenue. Nope. The laws are written so the media companies and service providers cannot be held liable.

The Khan Academy has an excellent video explaining SOPA and PIPA, I highly recommend watching it:
What SOPA and PIPA are at face value and what they could end up enabling

If you don't believe me that media companies abuse the DMCA, read these news articles:
Viacom uploads videos from Kinko's, then sues YouTube over them

Universal Music removes Megaupload Song from YouTube, claiming they own the copyright, even though they don't

Warner Brothers issues takedown notices to Hotfile for content they don't own

Contact Congress to voice your opposition.