Pirates, SOPA and a Choice for Freedom

Rarely do I get involved in political haggling on THM ~ I am to worried about people to worry about policy.  Every so often, though, a political thing comes into my frame of reference and bothers me.  Today is just that day.

A few weeks ago, I was contacted about the “Stop Online Piracy Act,” a bill in Congress is about to be heard by our legislators that has the potential to impact how we as American’s use the internet.  My hosting company, WordPress, first alerted me to the problem of SOPA and it’s sister bill, PIPA.  I’m providing links below so that you can figure out what all this means to you ~ and why Google, Mozilla, Amazon, FaceBook, YouTube, WordPress ~ they’re all warning us that there is a dark cloud looming over creative freedoms.  Just so you’re aware, many of the Internet’s leading providers, including Wikipedia, are planning a blackout on Wednesday to protest the infringement of American citizens’ rights and the governments intrusion into the private sector.

The audience at THM covers 74 countries and many languages, reaching thousands of dedicated subscription, email and RSS readers each week.  I need to recognize for our “offshore” friends on the Asian continent as valuable, honored members of the TM community. For you in China, I am going to apologize in advance for the Chinese references in the article that I am using here – the censorship that you face as a community honestly terrifies me.  The hacker problem that THM experienced a few weeks ago from a Chinese source isn’t a reflection of your life or your culture.  Know that we love and support you as people here at THM.

The following comes from the Rush County Tea Party, written by none other than that fabled hubster of mine, Brian Rodgers.  In this, he and I are united, and urge you citizens of the US to join our side.  It’s in honor of this day in the US celebrating the freedom of being an American ~ black or white, red or yellow, rich or poor, North or South, rural or city ~ that we’re talking about SOPA today. MLK didn’t give his voice and freedom so that a country could later loose it’s right to free speech, to make our own decisions and to not have our lives legislated to us.  Celebrate freedom by calling or writing your national representatives and reminding them that they still work for you.  For those of you in congress who stumble across my words… no matter how long you’ve had your roots planted in the ground, you had best remember that you have a temp job.


The Real Threat To America: S.O.P.A

by Brian Rodgers

The “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011″ is set for a Senate cloture vote on Jan 24 at 2:15pm. It’s unlikely the majority of the Senators have read the bill.  I have and this bill is a mess.  It is difficult for me to determine where to start to discuss this bill, but here goes.

The bill authorizes the Attorney General to commence uni-lateral action against “non-domestic”persons violating the US intellectual property rights.  If allowed to become law, the Attorney General has the sole discretion to shutdown online domain names from being accessed from the United States. Does this sound familiar? It should. China has been doing it for years.

The US Congress has taken a page out of the Chinese censorship playbook. Under the proposed bill, the Attorney General will have the ability to block content(so they believe) from coming in and out of the US from any location in the world. They will do this by forcing domain resolvers to exclude the offenders domain from being resolved in the US. This opens up a floodgate of network security issues I won’t get into, except to say China’s method of censorship is much more secure and effective.

The Great Firewall of China, as it has come to be known as, uses Internet Protocol (IP for short) as its choice of censorship. It stops traffic at the gate.  Under the Senate Bill, all a US citizen, protected under the first amendment, has to do is change to a foreign domain name resolver or just enter the desired destination IP address. It is just a little inconvenient.  And if you are a pirate of intellectual property, then you are used to being inconvenienced a little.

Property of US companies and individuals have been leaving this country for years.  Property is sold, given freely, or stolen. Laws are already on the books to protect companies from theft of Intellectual Property.  The problem is the international community doesn’t enforce or honor these laws. This bill is an attempt to do what the diplomats can’t get done at the expense of American freedoms.

The Patriot Act is an example  of where freedoms have been given up in order to protect America. But is it necessary for Americans to give up freedoms for the record and pharmaceutical industries?  The Government cannot protect the record companies from technology theft.  Amazon, Google, Microsoft, to name a few, have been protecting the record companies for years but there’s not enough worldwide enforcement results to satisfy the failing record companies business models.  I recently prevented the theft of mp3 audio from one of our websites that was being stolen by a Chinese website. The Chinese are a persistent bunch of folks. The government didn’t tell me too, I just did so because it was the right thing to do.

The music industry has already created their enforcement giants to protect property from pirates.  You way know some pirates that are real close to you. Ever sing Happy Birthday to your children? Then you have violated US Intellectual Property laws.  You owe royalties to a company called American Society of Composers, Authors, & Publishers (ASCAP).  The rights for the song are owned by Time Warner and yield two million dollars per year to the company. Want to be legal? You can’t just buy the rights to that song, you must purchase ALL the artist and composers ASCAP represents. They are quite expensive with one year minimums. Forget about negotiating with the rights owner directly, they can’t talk to you because they are under contract from ASCAP.  ASCAP is not the only rights entity you will have to deal with, some others are Broadcast Music Inc (BMI), SESAC, and CCLI to name a few.  As you can see, bureaucracy is alive and well in the record industry which makes it a natural fit to add our government to the list.

This bill is an attempt to enforce internationally an out of date system for paying for intellectual property. The current system discourages creativity, rewards pirates, and punishes the general public. If these laws were enforced in the US, Youtube, the platform where average Americans express their creativity,  would have fallen the same fate as Napster.

But wait, why limit this bill just to Intellectual Property? Let’s tell Americans where they can and can’t buy their prescription drugs from.

The US is home to the greatest free market on the planet.  That will no longer be the case under this bill. It seems the government has determined pharmaceuticals manufactured outside of the USA are not as safe and effective as those manufactured here in the United States.  Therefore, as citizens we can no longer buy them off the internet.  Safe and effective is the responsibility of the FDA.  Isn’t this a customs issue for the FDA?  How is this bill going to help their efforts?  Regardless, the internet has nothing to do with this problem. A phone call is all it takes to get what is needed from anywhere in the world. Fax machines? Credit cards. Still US Customs issue. This portion of the bill is just a waste of ink and an infringement on US Citizens rights to a free market for healthcare.  If the FDA & US Customs can’t handle, then how is the IT world going to fix?

Is Congress willing to tell seniors that they can do longer order their prescription drugs from the internet in order to say money?  Pricing for prescription drugs varies a lot. I have noticed it pays to shop my prescriptions to different pharmacies.  I would argue that most of the drugs coming into this country were manufactured here in the first place. A little known fact is that US drug manufacturers export their product  to foreign countries for a fraction of what they charge here in the US.  A portion of that product, is diverted back to the US and sold cheaper to US citizens particularly the products coming from Canada and Mexico. They are not suppose too, but they do.  Others are manufactured overseas and brought here.  Our free market at work.

I’d like to find out where our Indiana Senators stand on this bill.  Unfortunately, they are on recess.  Senator Lugar was asked to meet with a group here in Indiana opposed to the bill, but he said he was just too busy to meet with them. We are all familiar with Lugar’s track record on having time for constituents.  It appears he may be a yes vote.  No word from Senator Coats (nothing but recordings).

The erosion of personal freedoms has to start somewhere.  Its time to take a stance and not allow further erosion of personal freedoms we Americans have come enjoy.  The China’s approach to protectionism will ultimately fail for them.  I can’t believe we are considering it here.  Do not believe that this bill only applies to “non-domestic” individuals.  It effects everyone of our freedoms we as Americans have come to enjoy.  Just tell your Congressmen NO.

Note From Alison:

As of my press time, the SOPA act has been put on hold in Congress.  Hold does not equal defeated.  Hold does not affirm your rights.  Find out more by reading the legislation, researching what is going on and contacting your representative.  If WordPress chooses to participate in the Internet Blackout, please understand that THM will, although housed independently, join our internet community in protesting this infringement on American civil rights.  We don’t support the violation of copyright law, and hope that you will not either.  Buy your movies, music and other creative items/pharmaceuticals responsibly, and support our own innovation in this country.

Link to the actual Bill – Read it here.

Learn more about Stop American Censorship.  You will need to scroll the entire page to see all of the sections of this site.

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