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More, More, More

I am honored by two recent reviews of Free Ride. On his Copyright and Technology blog, Bill Rosenblatt discusses the book as a counter-narrative to the conventional wisdom (which he calls The Script). And in a CNN.com commentary, Andrew Keen calls Free Ride “one of the most impressive of this year’s non-fiction books, amid respected works by Tyler Cowen and James Gleick.

I am also happy to share a new Spin.com interview. And I will leave you with one of my final comments to the reporter who did it: “Google is not Woodstock; it’s a technology company.”

Indeed.

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Discussion

100 thoughts on “More, More, More

  1. Excellent wording – “Google is not Woodstock; it’s a technology company” — is both simple and profound. Describes our situation spot on.

    Congrats on the reviews and interviews. You deserve to do well with this book.

    P.S. I believe that first comment to the Spin.com interview sums up the ‘Free’ movement mentality nicely as well…

    Posted by James_J | December 23, 2011, 12:09 am
    • I would hardly qualify that immature reaction typical for the ‘Free’ movement to be honest. While writing this from my Linux laptop, I can only marvel at what the FOSS has done for the world.

      Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | December 23, 2011, 8:42 pm
      • I think there’s a big difference between the free software movement and the free culture movement. Software is suited for collaboration on a mass scale, because it can always been improved and it doesn’t need a point of view; it’s an iterative process. Art doesn’t work the same way.

        Posted by roblevine1 | December 25, 2011, 6:01 pm
  2. I agree that works of art are usually built upon in a different way than software, but the concept behind the licenses is much the same. Whether an artist feels its in his/her own best interest to use such a license is completely up to him/her.

    Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | December 27, 2011, 7:41 pm
    • There are other differences in how we _view_ art and software, although I’m not sure these are intrinsic characteristics of them. One is that software is usually best when it is designed by a large group and tested rigorously; art generally isn’t. That’s why the phrase ‘designed by committee’ isn’t a compliment when, in fact, Linux _is_ designed by committee and it’s actually quite good. The other is that, because software is a tool, most people find it desirable to make sure as many people as possible can have it. When it comes to artwork, I don’t think there’s the same imperative; we want everyone to have access to some art but not necessarily particular works. Think of it this way: The idea that a word processor would be unaffordable strikes many people as a problem, but the idea that Iron Man 2 would be unaffordable does not. There’s a technology tradition of wanting to give everyone access to tools, and this is a good thing. When it comes to movies, it seems a bit silly.

      This is part of the reason I think very nice people from the technology world have well-meaning suggestions for the culture business that are naive, and in some cases harmful. I was going to include this idea in the book, but I could not nail it down in any concrete way – it would just be speculation in a book that I wanted to be more based on facts.

      Then again, maybe I’m wrong on this. It’s hard to wrap my head around it in a way that feels conclusive since it has so much to do with attitude. And I guess it differs among media as well. Most people feel that everyone should have access to books, whether or not they can afford them, but I don’t think people feel that way about, say, pop music – even though you could argue that a Bob Dylan album is much more culturally important than a Twilight novel.

      At this point I should probably make this into a blog post.

      Thoughts?

      Posted by roblevine1 | December 28, 2011, 4:42 pm
      • Well, let’s first distinguish between copyright infringement and users of creative commons licenses. It’s clear that infringement of Iron Man 2 is unacceptable, and that it’s very unlikely (and probably not a good idea either) that it would be released under a creative commons license. That however does not imply that there are no good circumstances for using a creative commons license.

        I for instance am an amateur musician (church organ). Since I don’t care about making money on my recordings, but would like to see them spread as far as the interest of people goes, I have no trouble releasing them under a creative commons license. That way it’s clear to others what I do and don’t allow with my recordings, without having to worry about writing my own legal language to do so.

        Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | December 28, 2011, 7:42 pm
      • If you’re ever curious about the difference between art and software, go listen to the new creative commons band fronted by Richard Stallman with Larry Lessig playing lead guitar, Eric Schmidt on drums, Mark Zuckerberg on bass, Sean Parker on the keyboard/vocals, and Corey Doctorow as a backup dancer. After giving their music away for free with Creative Commons licenses, it was discovered that giving it freely in no way harmed their record sales! Ergo, all musicians would be well off using the CC licenses! :)

        Posted by stephan | December 31, 2011, 6:20 pm
  3. There is a Richard Stallman speech (http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/copyright-versus-community.html) that really clicked with me about the current “content landscape”. The information age in a way resembles the world before the printing press was invented. I’m not going to go into detail on why this is so because he says it better than I can.

    But before the printing press, copyright didn’t exist. It it probably wouldn’t have made much sense anyhow. Regardless art was created, but via sponsorship (from governments and other “wealthy” entities). I can see “art” will start to go to back to this kind of economic idea for better or worse.

    Posted by M | December 29, 2011, 12:44 am
    • Actually, we already have such an economic model for “art” creation firmly in place – we call it “advertising”.

      Posted by Faza (TCM) | December 30, 2011, 1:41 pm
      • Yes indeed. “Advertising” and “sponsorship” are basically the same thing. Even in the Middle Ages you can argue that when the church or some powerful duke commissioned a work of art, there was often some kind of promotional motive behind it.

        This of course has some somewhat serious disadvantages, the artist is no longer really free to do his own thing but rather appeal to the sponsor’s wishes. Although copyright is not too different (ie. the successful often have to cater to the popular idea of art in order to make sales, and not always what they think is good art).

        I’m really conflicted if this is a good or bad thing. Maybe it is neither.

        Posted by M | December 30, 2011, 6:52 pm
    • The problem with patronage is that what governments and other wealthy entities are willing to support tends to be fairly limited. They support works for ideological reasons (it promotes some agenda they have), or to gain status among their fellows, or because it’s deemed worthy. They don’t support material because there’s a lot of people who might like it.

      Things like movies, jazz, comic books, animated cartoons, sitcoms, reality shows, rock and roll, and genres such as romance, detective stories and science fiction exist only because it turned out there was an audience for them and pragmatic business people seeking to make a profit saw commercial opportunity in supplying that audience.

      Patronage works if all you want is high art, but if what you want is a smorgasbord with both opera and garage bands, works of critically acclaimed literature and cheap pulp thrillers, portentously important television shows and dopey sitcoms, then it falls short.

      Basically, patronage allows the economic elites to dictate the culture of an entire society. While some might find such an idea attractive, I’m not one of them.

      If we’re going to loose copyright, I would prefer to try and replace it with something that preserves the diversity and egalitarian culture it helped foster rather than retreat to something like the aristocratic model it replaced.

      Posted by zbekric | December 31, 2011, 2:48 am
      • Perhaps you can replace copyright with something like an copyright-collective type organization but funded with taxes on Internet access.

        Posted by M | December 31, 2011, 11:08 pm
  4. M: “But before the printing press, copyright didn’t exist. It it prob ably wouldn’t have made much sense anyhow”

    Actually, intellectual property as a concept was around MUCH much earlier than the ‘traditional’ printing press [1440].
    The Chinese had a “printing press” of sorts centuries before the West knew of technology (and had actual Laws about unauthorized reproduction of books in 1068). There was an actual Battle [Cooldrumman] fought in 561 A.D. over intellectual property… so to say it was invented with the Wests’ printing press is to not know your history.

    You should really read Levine’s book (on whose blog [about the book btw] you are commenting on, i might add…)

    Even so.. are you really suggesting we go back to incredibly repressive ways of life that brought us those conditions? Or just that artist do…?

    Posted by James_J | December 31, 2011, 5:35 am
    • I’m suggesting that you really have no choice in the matter – it’s the way things are headed.

      Copyright enforcement requires a certain amount of mass surveillance (and apperently prior restraint of expression) of what people do on the Internet (and maybe in their private homes) and quite frankly this kind of thing is contrary to our principles of liberty. So you end up with a largely unenforceable law.

      I argue that SOPA (assuming it passes, high profile content-producing companies like Sony and Nintendo are dropping support for it even today) will not be effective at all against piracy because it doesn’t go far enough with it’s filtering provisions. DNS filtering is not intrusive enough, not draconian enough to have any effect. This kind of filtering is easy to get around and there is already easy to get software like MAFIAAFire and SOPAFire that gets around DNS filtering and will render any judge’s orders impossible to enforce.

      And that’s only today. Consider the new Manager’s Amendment that basically says DNS filtering provisions do not trump measures designed for improving cybersecurity. Once DNSSEC with its CNAME record tampering detection becomes standard in web browsers and operating systems it will totally undo SOPA for good. What you might end up with is something like the DMCA, hated by technologists and (apparently) content producers alike (for very different reasons of course).

      On top of this, you basically have people, even high profile people (like high level EU officials) that are starting to view copyright itself as oppressive. Arguably copyright was a very uncontroversial law before the Internet existed. No longer.

      I’ve seen the anti-copyright rhetoric get much stronger in the past few years. It’s no longer just about methods of copyright enforcement (what the more “civilized” organizations are against) like DMCA. People are flat out saying that copyright shouldn’t exist at all.

      The principle argument on why copyright shouldn’t exist is without it, filesharing gives access to all the world’s content (books, music, movies, software, etc.) to all the world’s people regardless of how rich or poor they are. Even if you were a billionaire you could not effort the “product” pirates have access to. There is something almost magical about that, and it drives the political opinions of many to be anti-copyright.

      I came here to try and find pro-SOPA and generally pro-copyright people, because I wanted to see the arguments of “the other side” (I’m a Reddit/Slashdot reader, btw). But it’s hard to find pro-SOPA and even pro-copyright people on the Internet. Almost any other political debate (Israel/Palestine, Choice/Life, Libertarian/Liberal) on the Internet you will find both sides in every forum. But finding pro-copyright people on Web 2.0 sites is rare, and even semi-active sites like this (with centrally moderated comments – Web 1.5?) I had to really dig for.

      Posted by M | December 31, 2011, 9:42 pm
      • There’s alot of misconception about what SOPA will and won’t do. (most all the misconception is being heavily pushed by the very MultiNational Technology Conglomerates that benifit from free content)

        You should read this balanced article on the subject, that adresses most of the criticism levied:
        http://www.itif.org/files/2011-pipa-sopa-respond-critics.pdf


        Without copyright.. eventually there will be very little in the way of new books, movies, music, ect. for the world to have “access” to, as there will be no incentive to invest the time and money to create it…

        As a content creator– from a family of content creators.. i (we) just want something resembling a level playing field. The staus quo isn’t such. Of course super-powerful companies like Google et al want content as cheap (or free) as possible to sell ads against, and US ISP’s currently don’t have any incentive to lift a finger concerning piracy, as ‘free’ content is a major draw to their buisness of attracting and keeping customers.

        The DMCA (written pre-Napster, btw) IS the problem.
        Big Tech companies, and startup content raping companies [GrooveShark et al] absolutely love the DMCA (though, they complain in public, they’re laughing their asses off behind closed doors…). Besides the fact that the DMCA doesn’t address offshore sites (even if it did work for onshore).

        Robert has an excellent sentence in his book which i’ll paraphrase here:
        It would be unfortunate for the US to invest in building an Information Economy… just to find out that information is without value…

        For innovation to happen, there needs to be a balance struck between rights managment and openness. It’s not an either or proposition, and the faliure to compensate creators will ultimately hurt innovation in all areas, as we all depend on one another. (though Big Tech companies like Google tend to say theirs is the only Innovation that matters…)

        Posted by James_J | January 1, 2012, 3:46 pm
      • “Without copyright.. eventually there will be very little in the way of new books, movies, music, ect. for the world to have “access” to, as there will be no incentive to invest the time and money to create it…”

        See, if I didn’t know about Creative Commons and open source I might agree with this statement. But their existence seems to prove it wrong. People will still create regardless of filesharing or not. Maybe not as much, but at least for music and textual content (eg.. Wikipedia) it is amazing how much totally free stuff is out there (legally even).

        Consider that you are asking people to trade access to hundreds of millions of songs, movies, books, software etc. that has already been made. You are asking people en masse to stop utilizing free access what basically amounts to the total sum of human knowledge and culture that already exists.

        What do you offer in return? Only the possibility of content produced faster in the future. Content that may I add, you believe they should only consume in extremely small and artificial limited quantities based on entirely on their economic status. That just doesn’t seem like a good trade.

        And you might put your hands in the air and say “but it’s the law, everyone must follow it!!”. But the point is (and I take this from the site you linked) 25% of all content on the Internet is copyright infringement. That shows me that people really don’t have respect for this law at all.

        I don’t think the “these people don’t know what they do” argument really works either. Sites with names like “The Pirate Bay” are one of the most popular torrent sites on the Internet. Sites which proudly say they are totally against copyright law, and go as far to believe copyright law is one of the most unethical and immoral laws in existence (a violation of human rights!). And they believe this so strongly that they formed an entire political party around the idea. A political party with no other platform at all except the single purpose of eliminating copyright law. A party that I may add, is becoming among the most popular in the EU and actually has parliament seats.

        That should tell you about what way things are going.

        Either we continue to fruitlessly try to fit this failed idea of copyright into the information age, or we come up with a better system for monetizing content, one that at it’s core should not disrespect the act of filesharing.

        Posted by M | January 1, 2012, 10:50 pm
      • Consider that you are asking people to trade access to hundreds of millions of songs, movies, books, software etc. that has already been made. You are asking people en masse to stop utilizing free access what basically amounts to the total sum of human knowledge and culture that already exists.

        I’m sorry, but who’s asking this?

        The vast majority of human knowledge and culture is in the public domain. Project Gutenburg has been going since 1971 and, to the best of my knowledge, no-one has been arguing that it should be condemned or even scaled back.

        The problem is that most people aren’t interested in that stuff. What they want is the current material. So the fact that over 95% of all human knowledge and culture is freely available is not enough to satisfy them. That’s why people would rather devote their time and energy to cracking the copy-protection on “Iron Man 2″ or finding ways around the provisions of SOPA than scanning and proofing old public domain texts. If they directed that amount of energy to the majority of human knowledge and culture, archive sites like Project Gutenburg would be much bigger and better.

        The entire idea of “public domain” is a product of copyright law. Prior to that, publishers regarded their rights to material to be a standard property right which was perpetual. It was only with copyright law that the idea was established that copyright existed only for a limited time, then material entered into the public domain. That was the trade-off — eventually all of human knowledge and culture would be available to everyone, it would just be copyright for a period in order create commercial value so those producing it could make a living doing so.

        The basic problem with the anti-copyright view is that it’s asking content creators to work for nothing. They’re expected to create material for others’ consumption because… well, the best reason offered is because they’re obsessive-compulsive and would rather work on creating content than on earning a living to support themselves and their families. Further, the argument seems to be that consumers should be allowed to take advantage of that. All in all, it’s a rather odd position for people ostensibly concerned with human rights to advance. I can’t help but be reminded of Aristotle’s argument that some people are just naturally slaves… Or some guy who’s drugged a girl’s drink saying that she didn’t object to having sex…

        Now, you may well be right. We may well be headed into a future where copyright disappears. In which case we may go back to a patronage system, where those with wealth an power use art simply as a means of promoting themselves and their agendas. That’s how it worked in the Ancient and Medieval worlds, so the past 400-or-so years may just be a historical blip in which, due to an odd conjunction of culture, economics and technology, things worked a little different. If that’s the case, then we’re at the end of an era, and all we can do is note it’s passing.

        Posted by zbekric | January 3, 2012, 5:52 am
      • The public domain has been robbed over the years by endless copyright extensions. So no I don’t agree that the public domain is a substitute – maybe if copyright lasted 14 years like it used to.

        Posted by M | January 4, 2012, 1:57 am
      • The public domain has been robbed over the years

        What’s been removed from the public domain?

        You’re just complaining that things you want haven’t been added to it yet.

        The point remains: the public domain currently contains over 95% of all human culture and knowledge. So your claim about how copyright limits people’s ability to access “the total sum of human knowledge and culture” is wrong.

        So no I don’t agree that the public domain is a substitute – maybe if copyright lasted 14 years like it used to.

        Well, since the opposition is to any means of enforcing copyright, it seems a little pointless to discuss how long it should be. Let’s say it was fourteen years — how would you enforce that?

        Also, you’re ignoring the whole point about how copyright underlies the business model that pays the creators of content. Unless you’re proposing a viable alternative for paying those people for the activity, you’re basically asking them to work for nothing.

        Care to address that?

        Posted by zbekric | January 5, 2012, 4:30 am
      • I’ve addressed it:

        “Perhaps you can replace copyright with something like an copyright-collective type organization but funded with taxes on Internet access.”

        Posted by M | January 6, 2012, 1:45 am
      • “Perhaps you can replace copyright with something like an copyright-collective type organization but funded with taxes on Internet access.”

        Okay. You’re seriously advocating that there should be a tax on internet access.

        I can see various issues with this:

        (i) You already regard copyright as limiting people’s access to knowledge and culture based on economic status and consider that a bad thing. By raising the cost of internet access, wouldn’t your proposal exacerbate that problem, limiting the access of the economically disadvantaged to everything on the internet, not just material currently under copyright?

        (ii) Given that such a tax would raise the cost of internet access, it would be regarded as an attack on free speech with all the current opponents of things like SOPA (as well as many others) campaigning against it. How do propose to deal with or neutralise that opposition?

        (iii) A tax would apply to all internet-users equally, both those who consume material produced by content creators and those who don’t. Wouldn’t those who consume only a little such content regard it as unfair that they are being asked to subsidise those who consume a lot? Whatever else you can say about the current copyright system, it does work on a user-pays basis; the only people who are being asked to pay for copyrighted material are those who consume it, while those who choose to not consume don’t have to pay at all.

        (iv) Since taxes are nationally based, the amount that would need to be collected would be proportional to the number of content creators living in a country, not the amount of content consumed. Thus countries with a high concentration of talent would need to collect more in taxes than countries with fewer content creators. If the low-tax countries are also large consumers of content, then wouldn’t their consumption effectively be subsidised by the tax-payers of the big production countries? An international version of the problem alluded to in the previous point.

        (v) While the collection of such a tax can probably be folded into current tax-collection regimes, disbursing the funds would require a bureaucracy and system, which would add to the costs, requiring the tax to cover that as well as what is paid to the content creators. Wouldn’t this make content more expensive than it is under copyright, thus increasing the economic barrier to access?

        (vi) How would the funds collected by the tax be distributed? Equal shares to every content creator? Or would those who create more popular content be paid proportionately more, as happens under copyright?

        (vi-a) If it’s equal shares, then why confine it to content creators? Why not just establish a guaranteed income for everyone, no matter what they do? Such a proposal is likely to engender a great deal of opposition; how do you propose to deal with that opposition?

        (vi-b) If it’s proportional based on popularity, then wouldn’t the government agency responsible for disbursement have to keep track of the rate at which specific content is downloaded and shared, so as to determine its popularity? And wouldn’t that require a level of surveillance and monitoring far greater than anything proposed to date? Not only would such a level of monitoring raise the costs of the scheme (thus necessitating a higher level of tax) but would also be extremely intrusive and could easily be turned to purposes other than rating the popularity of content. What safeguards would you propose to prevent such a system from being perverted? Further, given the level of intrusion, such a system is likely to trigger an even bigger level of opposition than things like SOPA do; how do you propose to deal with that opposition?

        Those are only the things that occur to me off the top of my head — and I’m not suggesting that they can’t be solved — but they need to be addressed if anyone is to regard your suggestion as anything more than a flip brush-off and way of avoiding the question.

        Posted by zbekric | January 7, 2012, 12:25 am
  5. It’s interesting that the ITIF just tries to wave a magic wand by saying: “The opposition to SOPA just consists of internet extremists” while being unable to find even a single expert in the field supporting their position. Certainly, the results of SOPA may or may not be as bad as claimed depending on how the courts interpret the law, but the impact on certain technology is clear. Whether or not you find that impact acceptable for this latest attempt to reduce online infringement is a different discussion.

    I agree that copyright is certainly an important tool to promote the creation of new works. Whether it’s the only or even the best tool for the job is up for debate. Personally I think it’s going to be very hard to enforce the law when soon you’ll be able to carry a copy of every book ever written on a USB stick. SOPA’s not going to change that either, so we really should be looking for a better way to deal with this. Perhaps a first step is to get people to actually respect the law again, and I seriously doubt if the continuous expansion of it over the last decades is helping in that regard.

    Companies skirting around the edges of the law has always been a problem of society, with society often fighting back by boycotting such companies. With the way people feel about the content industry however, people would sooner applaud these companies! Within a democracy, that’s a pretty dangerous situation to be in. You see this in Europe, where one-issue parties wanting to (almost) do away with copyright actually manage to get seats in parliaments. Such a thing was unthinkable 10 years ago.

    I think in order to turn this around, we need to at least reign in the extremists on the pro-copyright side. I’m not talking about Robert Levine, whom, although I may often disagree with him, holds a pretty balanced view on the whole issue. I’m mostly talking about the RIAA, MPAA, IFPI, and similar organisations. While these organisations rule the debate, you will find many people listening to the extremists on the other side as well.

    Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | January 1, 2012, 7:28 pm
    • Well I am a professional software developer that software that works heavily with the TCP/IP stack. I guess that makes me a “content creator” as well, but the pro-SOPA people don’t seem to realize that technology companies are just as much if not more content creators then the proponents of the bill.

      I read through SOPA and the DNS filtering provisions (which are vague) and I do not see how this will make any dent in piracy at all.

      I think pro-SOPA people really don’t understand the architecture of the Internet. The Internet using TCP/IP is a stupid network with smart endpoints. All the connection management and messaging on the Internet happens in the communicants, not in the network itself. Contrast this with X.25 or POTS (the phone system) which is a smart network with stupid endpoints (ie. most of the connection management occurs in the network itself, landlines phones are pretty passive devices).

      This was a specific decision in the creation of the Internet, not everyone agreed with it at the time IIRC. A consequence of this is that the network in the Internet is basically a dumb pipe. People think ISPs have some magical ability to know everything that is going through their network, but the fact is everything above the network layer gets cloudy. Actually, every time you go to a website that is “secure” (HTTPS), you are explicitly hiding what you are doing from your ISP (and anyone else in the middle). For all they know, that could be BitTorrent traffic downloading the latest Lady Gaga song or something.

      Thus trying to police content in a network designed like the Internet is an exercise in futility.

      Posted by M | January 1, 2012, 8:34 pm
    • Interesting you refer to artist collectives as extremists. I’ll give you that the RIAA didn’t do any favors for the music industry– and as an independent artist myself, they don’t directly represent me. They [MPAA, ect] aren’t trying to rewrite the law, they’re encouraging current laws being enforced, and methods to do so.

      We need to go after the big commercial pirate outlets, not the individual downloader. (exactly what SOPA would enable)

      As far as laws like SOPA and such.. i doubt they will stop infringment, but that isn’t the goal. The hardcore pirates will always pirate. Nobody considers them customers, and shouldn’t cater to their whims. The average Joe, on the other hand, wouldn’t bother pirating if there were inconveniences / speedbumps put in place. As it stands, you don’t even have to ‘try’ to pirate, as you’re two clicks away from free illegal content. (much of which has the aire of authenticity, as there’s big “Ads by Google” banners plastered all over the pages)

      The goal should be, and is, to cut piracy to a managable level. To where a sustainable competitive market can emerge. As it is, it’s nigh impossible to find any investors when there is soo much uncertainty in the market.

      when you say that the MPAA and IFPI “rule the debate”… that’s laughable..

      Posted by James_J | January 1, 2012, 10:06 pm
      • If you think only the RIAA is doing such things, then you haven’t been involved in the BPDG less than a decade ago.

        The speed bump argument… I remember that from the discussion about anti-circumvention laws. 13 years later, and there’s not a single song or movie where TPMs have prevented their free availability on the file sharing networks. The DNS provisions of SOPA can be defeated by a few lines of software (already available) or a single change in your IP settings. That’s not a speed bump; that’s a rabbit dropping in the way of a monster truck. It won’t have any impact on infringement, let alone cut it down to a manageable level.

        Perhaps it’s laughable to you, but I find it pretty sad that companies like the RIAA, MPAA, Google, Microsoft, etc. have our politician’s ear while the voice of more balanced people like Robert are practically ignored.

        Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | January 2, 2012, 10:55 am
      • Yep. SOPA relies on trying to police quasi-centralized DNS system. Not sure if they even thought the problem of that out.

        The thing is, DNS filtering is NOTHING like DNS “takedown”. Which is persuading a registrar to revoke a domain name – not possible unless that registrar is located in the US). Little do people know that the US only has sovereignty on a small amount of TLDs (us, gov, mil, etc.). The com,net,org, namespaces are actually international. Obviously US govt has zero control over other countries TLDs like ru or uk. SOPA was conceived as some kind of magical legislation to allow the US to control the TLDs and registrars of other countries (rogue countries who allow rouge websites such as the rest of the free world).

        But let’s go into the problems of SOPA’s approach some more. You hit the nail on the head when you say how trivial it is to get around.

        When you initially connect to the Internet, your computer (or home router) sends a DHCP request to your ISP which replies with a information like your IP address, the location of the next hop, and the location of a DNS server (usually under the control of the ISP).

        There are problems with this: the DNS server the ISP suggests you use is just that – a suggestion. You don’t have to use it, in fact for awhile I was using an alternative DNS server myself from a company called OpenDNS. Use a DNS server not under US jurisdiction (like of some respectable foreign ISP), and SOPA is done.

        But it goes deeper than that. I also question the logistics of implementing DNS filtering “nationally”. It might work in China where there is like 2 government owned ISPs and that’s pretty much it. But in the USA there are tens of thousands of ISPs and DNS servers all over the place (and more are being added and removed all the time, hell YOU could run a DNS server if you wanted).

        I’m sure there are some around where the system administrators of the machines wouldn’t even know how to implement DNS filtering (it’s not obvious especially in software like BIND).

        You basically have to coordinate something incredibly complicated akin to trying to get the whole nation to switch over to the metric system or something (maybe slightly less complicated, but not as close). This is just to get even one domain “filtered” nationally.

        The fundamental thing is the Internet is not some kind of entity you can just point a finger at and tell it what to do. That’s because it’s not centralized. It’s literally just a bunch of random networks and computers, talking the same protocol (the Internet Protocol) that just grew originally. There is no obvious static structure to it at all. When you go to Starbucks on your laptop, you just “changed” the Internet’s topology.

        The only thing resembling a central structure is ICANN/IETF, but they really have no power over how people use the Internet. They only define the basic protocols and global constants (both I mention, work using the honor system, the IETF isn’t going to send a SWAT team to your house if you implement TCP/IP wrong).

        I don’t think the SOPA people get it. They are used to the world of mass media. Probably explains a lot (and why they don’t own Google or Facebook).

        Posted by M | January 3, 2012, 1:18 am
  6. Happy New Year, Mr. Levine

    happy new year everyone!
    May this be the year that progress is made… progress that can make everyone involved unhappy (cause that’s when you know it is fair!)

    Posted by James_J | January 1, 2012, 10:12 pm
  7. The thing is that M & Peter don’t take into account… the VAST MAJORITY of people aren’t tech nerds.

    That you -being sofware engineers- probably don’t know many people who couldn’t compile the source code they just wrote in assembly language, after debugging. (if you know what that means, you’re exactly who i’m talking about).
    The vast majority of the public are concerned with convenience. People, in general, are quite lazy.
    If you’re talking about all the ways it can be defeated.. then why are you even concerned?

    BTW.. it would be much much easier to prove someone knowingly accessed an illegal site if they went through the trouble to circumvent the standard measures..

    I believe that the vast majority of funding for these sites too, comes from US citizens and credit/ads. Cut off that, and see how much they’re in it for some communist utopian ideal… or more likely? the money…

    Posted by James_J | January 4, 2012, 12:11 am
    • Installing a plug-in for firefox is probably easier than getting P2P software to work, and the vast majority somehow managed to get that done. It’s not like all that filesharing software came with their computer. We’re talking about people here that managed to find, install, configure, and run P2P software, and then managed to search, find, and download the songs/movies they wanted. That’s what that vast majority can do these days.

      If I was pro-infringement, then the ease of defeat would remove my concerns. Since I’m not, my concern is that despite these measures not putting even a dent into infringement, it does a lot of collateral damage to people and companies who have not broken the law. People don’t have a right to infringe, but since I’m not infringing I should not have my rights to free speech, privacy and property violated so the entertainment industry can make yet another failed attempt to reduce infringement.

      Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | January 4, 2012, 8:36 am
      • >>>I should not have my rights to free speech, privacy and property violated

        True. But would laws like SOPA – I can’t talk about SOPA, because it’s still changing – do that?

        Let’s take those in order:

        In the US, where free speech is much stronger than it is in Europe, I can’t think of a court decision that held copyright enforcement as unconstitutional for free speech reasons.

        As far as privacy, the same applies – in the US. In Europe, privacy is a much more fundamental right, and I don’t know European law as well. We’ll see.

        Privacy is an interesting argument, at least. But any idea that SOPA would violate any kind of property right is purely in your imagination. As far as DRM, which is what I assume you mean, the US court called the idea that DRM violates rights “an extravagent claim” – it didn’t even take it seriously.

        It’s totally fair if you _believe_ that copyright enforcement violates your rights. But you should be aware that courts – which, in the US don’t take any kind of campaign donations from companies (at least on the federal level) – do not agree. You can argue that they should – even that they will. But so far there’s no a lot of evidence that this is the case.

        Posted by roblevine1 | January 4, 2012, 9:24 am
  8. If the AG takes down entire sites based on allegations on what other users may be doing on (part of) that site, and without a full trial, sites that I may use to publish my own material, the government is violating my rights to free speech. Please note that many who oppose SOPA don’t claim that rogue sites should not be taken down, but that due process (meaning a full trial; not an ex-parte hearing) should be given, and that it’s questionable that this should result in measures that need to be taken by parties not a part of that lawsuit.

    Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | January 4, 2012, 9:37 am
    • Also, SOPA severely limits me in my capacity to write software and design hardware that may be used to circumvent the measures taken to counter “rogue sites”. It also requires non-involved companies like DNS providers and payment companies to invest their own money to implement measures based on lawsuits they are not a party of, and as such have no influence on.

      Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | January 4, 2012, 9:47 am
      • There are many reasons to dislike SOPA, which I have not endorsed or condemned. My point is that US courts do not agree with the idea that _laws like this_ violate your rights. (Obviously, no court has ruled on SOPA itself.)

        As far as circumvention,but that’s not a right. The idea that it is is an “extravagent claim” – that’s straight from a US court decision. As far as investing money, every business has to invest money in a variety of ways to ensure that it operates in compliance with the law. Gun stores have to do ID checks. Liquor stores have to monitor the ages of their customers. Restaurants have to make sure the food they buy is safe to serve. And all of them have to shovel the snow off their sidewalks, provide a safe environment for employees and customers, and adhere to dozens of other regulations. Welcome to the civilized world!

        We can certainly disagree about how _much_ responsibility those businesses ought to have. But the idea that they should have no responsibility is not a legal argument – it’s a Ron Paul campaign slogan. With great profit comes great responsibility.

        As far as AG takedowns violating free speech, my guess is that this would depend on a number of factors. It gets complicated, and no one really knows for sure, and anyone who says they do is either guessing or lying. Requiring a full trial is absurd, since most of these sites aren’t subject to US law (and you’re really talking about a lawsuit, not a ‘trial,’ since these might not be criminal charges). At the other extreme, takedowns based on accusations without backup could indeed violate free speech (although I’m not sure if US free speech laws apply to foreign sites, anyway). A good law would require something in between. Hopefully, we can balance the extremes we’re presented with and get there.

        Posted by roblevine1 | January 4, 2012, 10:54 am
  9. As stated before: please note how many companies who originally supported the concept and ideas behind SOPA, are against the law as written. This law really should be brought back to the drawing board before it’s being voted on, and this time make sure they actually invite the people who know what will and will not work to solve the problem. It really irks me to no end to hear a politician say: I don’t really know what these nerds are talking about, but I think they’re wrong.

    Circumvention is not a right, but I do have a right to free speech, and that includes the writing and publication of software, even if that software may be used by someone to circumvent this law. Many general purpose tools already available on the market for years could even be considered circumvention devices under this law. It also includes the right to publish my own works, and that’s going to be damn hard if every company that provides a platform for this has to adhere to the standards that the RIAA and MPAA require. Yes, I know that’s not your vision, but I doubt our visions are being heard by those politicians anyway.

    Yes, companies have to invest money to make sure they adhere to the law, but that’s different from having to invest money in order to take measures against other companies of which the users may or may not be obeying the law.

    As for responsibility: I don’t see anything in the law to limit it to companies that have the profit to make such investments. These responsibilities count for every DNS, search engine and payment company, independent of its size, and for every company that allows free user generated content, independent of its profits, and it’s money they have to invest because other companies or even users of other companies don’t adhere to the law.

    As for this being US law without jurisdiction: what if this were France proposing such a law over violation of French law. What if this were China or Iran, over violation of their laws? Sure, most payment companies these days are American, but considering the changing world economy, how long do you think that will last? Somehow the US is very angry when other countries propose similar laws, but it’s ok for them to do it? What kind of signal does that send out into the world?

    Again, I, and many people and companies currently opposing SOPA understand and even agree with the goals behind SOPA. We just think SOPA is a very bad way of going about it.

    Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | January 4, 2012, 11:39 am
    • >>>Circumvention is not a right, but I do have a right to free speech, and that includes the writing and publication of software, even if that software may be used by someone to circumvent this law.

      At least in the U.S., you don’t. You think you should. But you don’t. There’s a big difference.

      Posted by roblevine1 | January 4, 2012, 5:33 pm
      • I think that’s up for debate, and might make an interesting court case. Personally I found the following article quite interesting in that regard: http://btlj.org/data/articles/vol15/tien.pdf

        If you’re right though, do remember that we’ve had generic tools to handle DNS failures for a long time, simply in case a DNS fails. These tools work no differently from specific anti-SOPA tools, and as such will be used to circumvent SOPA. Should such tools suddenly become illegal?

        Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | January 4, 2012, 7:04 pm
  10. >>>I think that’s up for debate, and might make an interesting court case.

    When it comes to anti-circumvention as embodied in the DCMA, it’s NOT up for debate because it ALREADY made an interesting court case. See: “Universal City Studios Inc. v. Corley.” U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit. Majority opinion by Judge Jon O. Newman, November 28, 2001.

    In the US legal system, this set a precedent that makes it the law of the land. That doesn’t mean it can’t be overturned, or that courts won’t see SOPA differently. But it’s not really up for debate from a legal perspective.

    Posted by roblevine1 | January 4, 2012, 8:10 pm
  11. Pieter, a few points i want to address:
    1) sure, there’s people/companies against passing the law (that isn’t a surprise), there are also alot of companies and organizations that support the law:
    Here’s a huge list

    2) you keep saying that “If the AG takes down entire sites based on allegations on what other users may be doing on (part of) that site..”
    Yet.. nowhere in SOPA is language that resembles your fear. Can you point it out? have you read the bill?
    SOPA won’t “Take down” anything. the site remains. There won’t be a ‘block’ simply “based on allegations”.. there’s a pretty long process to get to that point, and only the most egregious of sites would even be candidates.

    3) “but I do have a right to free speech, and that includes the writing and publication of software, even if that software may be used by someone to circumvent this law.”
    err.. there are alot of things that you can’t do, and these restrictions still don’t violate the First Ammendment.
    You Can’t: commit harassment, defamation, incite a riot, distribute privileged communications, publish classified material, or trade secrets, or copyrighted works, ect, ect, ect.

    “Free Speech” is just a smoke screen.
    The whole notion is right out of the “Winning the Web” publication, which basically states: if you can’t win the argument with facts.. divert the conversation to “civil rights” (whether or not they even apply) to mobilize the populace against what ever you’re fighting.

    Posted by James_J | January 5, 2012, 12:42 am
  12. 1) Seems that list is indeed the incorrect one.

    2) Do you know the definition of due process? An ex-parte hearing after which your finances are cut off certainly does not comply. As to your question: yes, I have read the Bill.

    3) SOPA is a law that makes the creation, publication and use of a general purpose network tool to counter DNS network failures illegal. I argue here that that violates the first amendment.

    Posted by Pieter | January 5, 2012, 3:08 pm
  13. There is a very substantial process in which blocking US credit payments and DNS blocking is at the very end of… You make it sound like someone points and the site falls down…

    I suppose who/what you’re making those tools for, and how you market them. It doesn’t prohibit the creation of them one bit.
    If you’re creating a tool to specifically skirt a law you don’t like, than yeah… i can see how you’d get into trouble, but in no way could you be blocked from making them

    Posted by James_J | January 6, 2012, 6:12 pm
    • What you don’t seem to understand is that since SOPA requires a DNS to act like a network failure, there’s absolutely no technological difference whatsoever between a general purpose tool to handle DNS failures, and a tool specifically designed to counter SOPA like DeSOPA. If your only definition of what defines illegality in these tools comes from how they are marketed to the public, then your law is useless, because everyone who develops a tool specifically to counter SOPA will simply market it as a general purpose tool to handle DNS failures. Hence, either both will become illegal, or you’ve just created a law that accomplishes absolutely nothing.

      Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | January 7, 2012, 10:11 am
      • What you don’t seem to understand is that since SOPA requires a DNS to act like a network failure, there’s absolutely no technological difference whatsoever between a general purpose tool to handle DNS failures, and a tool specifically designed to counter SOPA like DeSOPA.

        I was reading Paul Vixie’s column COICA and Secure DNS in which he talks about developing Response Policy Zone technology (RPZ) to quarantine sites distributing child pornography and malware such as viruses, and programs that can take control over an infected computer. Towards the end of the post he says:

        I’ve been asked by several people whether ISC’s Response Policy Zone technology (referenced above) can be used to implement government mandated DNS blocking, for example to protect Hollywood against intellectual property theft or to protect children against abuse by the distribution and viewing of Child Abuse Materials or to protect a society against content deemed dangerous by its government. Sadly my answer to this is a qualified “yes.”

        I say “qualified” because while I can agree that it’s worth perturbing the whole Internet ecosystem to wipe out a domain that’s being used for the distribution of Child Abuse Materials I simply cannot agree that this level of perturbation is warranted for the protection of intellectual property. One form of perturbation that I’m especially concerned about is wiping out a domain name that’s being used for both malicious and non-malicious purposes.

        He’s saying that it would be possible to block pirate sites along with those dealing in child porn and malware, but that he’s opposed to doing so. This suggests that the problem isn’t technological, but ideological.

        Are you saying that he’s wrong? And the same tools that could be used to get around anti-piracy measures can also be used to get around those directed against child porn and malware distribution? And that, in effect, child porn, malware and piracy can’t be stopped or significantly slowed down?

        If that’s the case, then the whole thing may resolve itself. Once the internet is established as being a haven for child pornographers, spammers, and distributors of malware, people will start avoiding it and the piracy problem will evaporate all by itself.

        Either that or we’ll have to change social mores to accept things like child pornography, spam and malware that usurps control of your computer as being valid and legitimate.

        Posted by zbekric | January 8, 2012, 7:03 am
    • Btw, where exactly is that substantial process defined exactly? Does it work as well as it did for Dajaz1.com?

      Also: Who gets to do the pointing? Is it any copyright holder or just the big boys like the MPAA and RIAA?

      Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | January 7, 2012, 10:14 am
  14. He’s right, but no one claimed that DNS blocking can’t be implemented. It was just claimed that DNS blocking as currently required by SOPA cannot work properly together with DNSSEC. There are alternative choices to be made that could work with DNSSEC, but it would require international agreements if you want foreign DNS providers to cooperate in stead of splitting off from the US. Parts of the EU government have already shown displeasure at the US plans for SOPA, so that may not be all that likely.

    In the article he also states:
    “Nevertheless the raw uncomfortable truth of the matter is that any form of mandated “DNS blocking” whose goal is to make certain domain names unreachable will be indistinguishable from the result of a Secure DNS failure — and a failure is a failure is a failure.”
    which is exactly what I’ve been saying above: these DNS blocks show up as DNS failures, which means that general purpose tools designed to deal with DNS failures automatically work around DNS blocks as well.

    It’s not like the internet is a haven for lawless behaviour; it also provides great new ways to find and prosecute those who break the law as well. In the case of child pornography, we’re willing to pay the price in order to bring these people to justice. Copyright however is mainly a civil offence, which means that the decision to pay the price lies with the copyright holders. In many cases, the price is higher than the gain, so they’re not willing to pay it.

    Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | January 8, 2012, 10:03 am
    • So, basically, it is possible but the people who know how to do it don’t want to for ideological reasons.

      This really suggests that all the talk of technical issues is just an on-going attempt to muddy the waters and distract attention away from the real agenda — which, as far as I can tell, is an attitude that some people’s rights just don’t matter.

      Actually, I’d go further than that in some cases: some people don’t matter, if M’s glee at the prospect of destroying those people’s lives and making them suffer is anything to go by.

      If SOPA won’t work, why not suggest a system that will. Not necessarily one that will preserve copyright, just one that will enable people who create content to actually make a living, pay their bills and support their families while doing do.

      I really don’t understand why something like that is considered such a bad thing.

      Posted by zbekric | January 9, 2012, 7:35 am
      • Selective reading FTW. :)

        Is it possible to implement a DNS block? Of course it is.
        Is it possible to implement a DNS block like SOPA requires? Yes, but not without breaking DNSSEC.
        Is it possible to implement a DNS block without breaking DNSSEC? Yes, but not properly without international cooperation, which at this point is very unlikely.
        Is it possible to implement a DNS block that’s in any way effective to reduce infringement? No. Any and all DNS blockage can be defeated by a few lines of code, e.g. a browser add-on or any other general purpose DNS failure handling program, or one small change in your IP settings (a step-by-step explanation for dummies should take about 5 lines of text). Both are easier to do than installing a P2P program.

        As for your question: “If SOPA won’t work, why not suggest a system that will.”, I think the answer is:
        http://mimiandeunice.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/ME_431_OfferSolutions.png
        Just because there’s no good solution in sight (yet), doesn’t mean we should adopt a bad one.

        Personally I believe it’s only going to get harder to enforce copyright, so I’m starting to become more in favour of legalisation of non-commercial copying in return for levies/taxes.

        Robert: Your blog is blocking my comments under my Facebook account again.

        Posted by Pieter | January 9, 2012, 8:25 am
      • It’s not selective reading; you’re contradicting yourself.

        You’re saying Yes it is possible to implement a DNS block, but No it’s not possible to implement a DNS block.

        As far as I can tell the only valid interpretation of a statement like that is: Yes it is possible, but we don’t want to.

        If it’s possible to do it when it involves issues techies care about — like child pornography and distributors of malware — why does it suddenly become impossible when it comes to issues that techies don’t care about, like copyright?

        Or, to put it the other way round, if it can’t be done to stop or reduce piracy, why is it suddenly possible to do it to stop or reduce child porn and malware distribution?

        The selectivity of these technological hurdles just doesn’t make any sense. Which suggests that the hurdles aren’t technological, they’re ideological. Which actually makes perfect sense given the vitriol the anti-copyright crowd keeps spewing at content creators.

        Posted by zbekric | January 10, 2012, 7:25 am
      • As for your question: “If SOPA won’t work, why not suggest a system that will.”, I think the answer is:
        http://mimiandeunice.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/ME_431_OfferSolutions.png
        Just because there’s no good solution in sight (yet), doesn’t mean we should adopt a bad one.

        This cuts both ways.

        If you have nothing to replace it with, why are you so determined to tear down a system that has been working fine for three hundred years and which has been refined through a process of case law and periodic legislative revisions.

        There’s a perfectly good solution in sight and it’s already in place. Tearing it down in favour of nothing is just stupid.

        Posted by zbekric | January 10, 2012, 8:53 am
  15. Once again: No!

    You seem to be under the impression that a DNS is some magical central point that you can simply change, and then everything will be fine. There are about 250 root servers, and probably 100s of thousands of DNSs all over the world, and many are added or removed every day. Hell, I could run one on this laptop if I wanted to.

    Sure, you could require by law that all American DNSs block a certain name from resolving (good luck enforcing that against every kid running one on his home computer, but let’s leave that argument aside). Anyone who uses those DNSs would get the message that the IP address wasn’t found. This however would not stop anyone who:
    1. Adds those names to his host file or any other name resolver on his/her computer.
    2. Uses a DNS outside the US.
    3. Uses a program to work around DNS failures (they usually use multiple DNSs from all over the world; see 2)
    In other words: steps easier to take than installing and configuring a P2P program. It won’t reduce infringement.

    Also, the DNS changes required by SOPA would hurt DNSSEC. There are probably alternative ways to do it without hurting DNSSEC, but those will result in isolation of the US DNSs unless you can get the rest of the world to cooperate. Somehow I don’t see the EC/EP allowing the US AG to control which site names will and will not resolve. They’re already quite angry over US control over certain parts of the internet.

    As for using it to reduce child porn: it’s not being any more effective there. People who want to get it can still get it. You’re just reducing the chance that someone accidentally runs into it. People don’t generally install P2P programs and download the latest movie by accident.

    For the rest: see the above list.

    Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | January 10, 2012, 9:10 am
    • Once again: No!

      You seem to be under the impression that a DNS is some magical central point that you can simply change, and then everything will be fine.

      Well, that would be because people like you, who presumably know what they’re talking about, write things like:
      Is it possible to implement a DNS block? Of course it is.

      Now, I’m really not sure why you take me interpreting “Of course it is” as not be functionally identical to “Yes”, but it’s taking hair-splitting to a whole new level.

      Sorry, I obviously I should have written:
      You’re saying Of course it is possible to implement a DNS block…
      Is that better?

      And if DNSSEC is incapable of dealing with that, then maybe it’s time to replace DNSSEC with something that works better and doesn’t seek to reduce a whole chunk of the population to slavery. Actually, no, it’s worse than slavery. Masters were obligated to feed, shelter and provide their slaves with the tools they needed to perform the tasks required. Content providers are not only being denied payment for their labour like slaves, but they also being asked to provide all that stuff for themselves.

      You’re obviously impressed with this shiny new technology, but it’s really just coming across as a bigger, nastier form of oppression, so I’m not sure what the value in preserving it is.

      Posted by zbekric | January 11, 2012, 8:11 am
  16. Please remind me: which system has been working fine for three hundred years, and why would I want to replace it if it does? If you’re talking about copyright, and it’s working fine, then why are you asking for a new law? I thought the whole problem was that it is NOT working fine right now, because it’s almost impossible to enforce against home infringers. It works quite well against companies who infringe, so I don’t see any reason to alter anything there. Against natural persons however it’s a nightmare to enforce, so rather than proposing a whole set of bad ways to fail in enforcing them, and cause a lot of collateral damage in the process, I’d prefer a licensing/levy system.

    Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | January 10, 2012, 11:04 am
    • Please remind me: which system has been working fine for three hundred years, and why would I want to replace it if it does?

      Copyright. Statute of Queen Anne dates from 1710, just over three hundred years ago.

      As to why you want to replace it, I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking.

      If you’re talking about copyright, and it’s working fine, then why are you asking for a new law?

      To aid in enforcement. New ways of evading copyright require new ways of checking that evasion. When criminals develop new tools, law-enforcement needs to follow suit.

      If the collateral damage of those new tools is less severe than reducing an entire class of people to effective slavery, well that’s the trade-off then. Maybe they should have designed the system better in the first place.

      You’re argument, on the other hand, is coming across as: since criminals have these new tools, we should just abandon copyright and not replace it with anything. Why you think that’s a good idea, again, I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking.

      I’d prefer a licensing/levy system.

      You know, you could have said this above when I asked “If SOPA won’t work, why not suggest a system that will”, rather than being a smart-arse with the link to the cartoon.

      Posted by zbekric | January 11, 2012, 8:20 am
  17. Now, I’m really not sure why you take me interpreting “Of course it is” as not be functionally identical to “Yes”, but it’s taking hair-splitting to a whole new level.

    Actually, it has more to do with the question you’re trying to ask:

    If you’re asking me if it’s possible to implement a block list at a DNS, then of course the answer is: yes, but the way SOPA is written such a block list will clash with DNSSEC, and it won’t reduce copyright infringement.

    If you’re asking me if it’s possible to implement a block list at a DNS that doesn’t clash with DNSSEC, then the answer is: yes, but it requires changes to SOPA, and you’ll probably run into trouble on an international level, and it still won’t reduce copyright infringement.

    If you’re asking me if any DNS block will in any way effect copyright infringement, then the answer is: no, because working around it is easier than installing and configuring a P2P program.

    And if DNSSEC is incapable of dealing with that, then maybe it’s time to replace DNSSEC with something that works better and doesn’t seek to reduce a whole chunk of the population to slavery.

    Actually, DNSSEC is a new technology developed to deal with cyber terrorism. If you want to sacrifice it in order to implement DNS blocks, then I won’t be your strongest discussion opponent.

    You know, you could have said this above when I asked “If SOPA won’t work, why not suggest a system that will”, rather than being a smart-arse with the link to the cartoon.

    Actually, I did, but you may have stopped reading after the cartoon. :) Still, I get this “if this legislation won’t work, you come up with something better or we’ll implement it anyway” argument a bit too often, and that cartoon shows all too well why that’s really not an acceptable argument in a discussion. There are plenty of arguments against a license/tax/levy system as well, but that never excuses accepting bad legislation simply because there’s no good solution.

    Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | January 11, 2012, 11:03 am
    • Actually, it has more to do with the question you’re trying to ask:

      Given the amount of effort you put into deliberately misunderstanding the question, I doubt that it’s possible to frame the it in such a way that you won’t just recite another version of your “Yes it can, no it can’t” nonsense.

      Still, let’s try:
      If it’s possible to block sites offering child porn and malware, why is it not possible to block sites offering pirated content?

      Actually, DNSSEC is a new technology developed to deal with cyber terrorism. If you want to sacrifice it in order to implement DNS blocks, then I won’t be your strongest discussion opponent.

      I’m sorry, but this makes no sense at all. Why does fighting cyberterrorism require that various sites be allowed to continue offering and profiting from pirated material? I just can’t see the connection.

      If anything, I would have thought that fighting cyberterrorism would require the capability to block access to certain sites. How does not being able to do so aid in the fight?

      Actually, I did, but you may have stopped reading after the cartoon.

      You mean you were serious? I thought you were just giving the question the same smug brush-off M did.

      Still, if that’s your answer, you’ll find a series of questions that I addressed to M when s/he raised the same notion. Since that post was already up, I figured that if you were serious you would address at least some of the issues raised.

      Posted by zbekric | January 16, 2012, 8:22 am
      • Given the amount of effort you put into deliberately misunderstanding the question, I doubt that it’s possible to frame the it in such a way that you won’t just recite another version of your “Yes it can, no it can’t” nonsense.

        Well, if you’d understand how DNS worked, perhaps my answer would be more clear as well. Perhaps I should devote a comment to it sometime, perhaps that would help clear the mist.

        If it’s possible to block sites offering child porn and malware, why is it not possible to block sites offering pirated content?

        You mean from a DNS or a DNSSEC point of view?

        From a DNS point of view, it would work about the same: not at all. If you want it, the block doesn’t stop you, but at least you won’t accidentally walk into it. Since people generally don’t accidentally download the latest Hollywood movie, the impact would be none against infringement.

        From a DNSSEC point of view: In order for it not to bother DNSSEC, you need international cooperation. Where such a thing is relatively easy for child porn, foreign countries aren’t about to put the ability of site blocking over allegations of infringement in the hands of the US AG.

        If anything, I would have thought that fighting cyberterrorism would require the capability to block access to certain sites. How does not being able to do so aid in the fight?

        DNSSEC is designed to work against man-in-the-middle attacks: cyber criminals pretending to be a DNS in order to send people to fake sites. To prevent such a thing, the answers to DNS requests are signed. Since a local DNS is unable to do that, they can’t change a DNS answer without your DNSSEC rejecting the answer: DNSSEC cannot distinguish between a cyber attack and local DNS blockage.

        That would leave the option open for the US to break off from the global DNS root (or since the US controls many of them, for the world to break off from the US), and block it at a root level. That however would have a huge impact on the working of the internet. Again, without really having any impact on infringement, because people can simply use a DNS outside the US to get around it.

        You mean you were serious? I thought you were just giving the question the same smug brush-off M did.

        I found M’s response not worthy of attention.

        Still, if that’s your answer, you’ll find a series of questions that I addressed to M when s/he raised the same notion. Since that post was already up, I figured that if you were serious you would address at least some of the issues raised.

        I haven’t read that part of the discussion yet, but I’ll take a look at it. Perhaps I can come back with some answers. :)

        Posted by Pieter | January 16, 2012, 12:05 pm
  18. Get rid of the ‘safe-harbor’ clause in the DMCA.

    BOOM. DONE. Problem solved.

    Posted by James_J | January 15, 2012, 11:32 pm
    • Why would getting rid of a clause in a US law have any impact on foreign sites?

      The only thing it will accomplish is that it’s almost impossible to create a site that allows user generated input. Perhaps Google would love that gift of monopoly, but I think a lot of new artists would hate you for it.

      Posted by Pieter | January 16, 2012, 12:45 pm
  19. Still, if that’s your answer, you’ll find a series of questions that I addressed to M when s/he raised the same notion. Since that post was already up, I figured that if you were serious you would address at least some of the issues raised.

    There’s a rather large amount of questions up there. Could you point me to a specific post, or would you mind gathering the question you still have in one new post for me to answer?

    Posted by Pieter | January 16, 2012, 1:06 pm
    • Well, if you’d understand how DNS worked…

      Sorry, but this is an old rhetorical device. When you lack the knowledge to argue the point, change the basis of the discussion to a field in which you do have the knowledge.

      Been there, done that. No matter how much reading I do in the technical field, I have yet to come across a passage that actually explains why DNS requires content creators to not get paid for their work. And that is the only pertinent question here.

      Everything I’ve read about DNSSEC suggests that:
      (i) despite all the claims to the contrary, it’s not designed to improve national security;
      (ii) despite all the claims to the contrary, it’s not even designed to improve internet security;
      (iii) it’s designed to prevent “man-in-the-middle” attacks and that’s it.

      As such, the answer to the question: Is it possible to block access to sites offering child pornography? is: No, DNSSEC requires that people have free access to such sites.

      The answer to the question Is it possible to block access to sites distributing malware? is: No, DNSSEC requires that people have free access to such sites.

      And the answer to the question Is it possible to block access to sites offering pirated content? is: No, DNSSEC requires that people have free access to such sites.

      The odd thing is that DNSSEC is designed to facilitate trust by establishing authenticity. Since pirated content is inauthentic by definition, one would have thought that marking sites offering such content as “untrustworthy” would have been fairly straightforward. After all, the entire protocol is designed to make it difficult to connect to certain sites.

      Yet, somehow, that does not seem to be the case.

      There’s a rather large amount of questions up there. Could you point me to a specific post, or would you mind gathering the question you still have in one new post for me to answer?>

      That’s just the basics; the stuff that occurred to me off the top of my head.

      Personally, I think spending fifty-odd comments discussing those issue would be much more interesting than going around and around the DNS circle again and again. But, apparently, I’m the only one who feels that way.

      Still, you want a single question, let’s take number iv.

      Since taxes are nationally based, the amount that would need to be collected would be proportional to the number of content creators living in a country, not the amount of content consumed. Thus countries with a high concentration of talent would need to collect more in taxes than countries with fewer content creators. If the low-tax countries are also large consumers of content, then wouldn’t their consumption effectively be subsidised by the tax-payers of the big production countries?

      Just as an added point, since the more creators a country has, the greater the amount of tax it needs to collect, wouldn’t that create an indirect social pressure against content creation by the broader population, thus effectively reversing the intent of the system.

      How would you modify the proposal to address that issue (or bundle of issues)?

      Posted by zbekric | January 17, 2012, 8:12 am

  20. Sorry, but this is an old rhetorical device. When you lack the knowledge to argue the point, change the basis of the discussion to a field in which you do have the knowledge.

    That’s an odd reasoning: SOPA supporters request changes in DNS without understanding how DNS works, nor if such changes can actually work, and then blame us for telling you DNS doesn’t work that way.

    A good telecom network is based on trust between the user and its requested service. You’re requesting to break that trust, since you do not trust the user (and possibly for good reason), yet do not realize that it’s impossible for a network to distinguish between your requested break, and a break of a malicious attacker (cyber terrorism). That’s exactly why I claimed before that one of the main problems about SOPA is that it forces a DNS to act like there’s a network failure.

    As for your claim regarding DNSSEC: a man-in-the-middle attack is exactly the type of (national) security risk DNSSEC was requested for by the government. Sending people false DNS information can be used for all kinds of large scale fraud operations. If you want to sacrifice that for your perceived advantages (I think they’re practically 0) at enforcing copyright, then you can take it up with them.

    I’ll work on that DNS post soon; hopefully that will help clear things up.

    The odd thing is that DNSSEC is designed to facilitate trust by establishing authenticity.

    Authenticity of the DNS information, yes. It just establishes the connection between a name and an IP address. A DNS has no knowledge whatsoever of what’s at that particular IP address.

    Since taxes are nationally based, the amount that would need to be collected would be proportional to the number of content creators living in a country, not the amount of content consumed.

    I disagree, on the presumption that such taxes will be distributed on a global level, and not just under the local creators. Europe already has many such levies on empty media, cd/dvd-burners, etc. to pay for the “home copy exception” we have in our copyright. As such, the amount collected is proportional to the population of the country.

    The total annual revenue of music, video and games is less than $300B. Distributed over 1B internet connections (there’s closer to 2 I believe) that’s $25 per month, and that’s assuming all paid for entertainment would no longer be paid for. A large part however is live performances and cinema, which I doubt will disappear (those parts are actually growing atm), and many people will still pay quite handsomely for the convenience of particular carriers (a HD with a movie generally doesn’t make a nice present). You could possibly legalize non-commercial natural person infringement for $10 per month, and still make a fortune on the side providing all sorts of online services. Those services could be better than anything infringers can provide, because you don’t have to skirt around the law.

    Anyway, it’s just a thought. It’s not perfect, but it might be a lot more effective and less costly than trying to reduce infringement.

    Posted by Pieter | January 17, 2012, 2:06 pm
      • Ok, let’s give this a try. :)

        Computers on the internet are identified by their IP number, a combination of 4 numbers ranging from 0 to 255, e.g. 194.28.157.162. Since the human brain doesn’t handle remembering such numbers too well, the name space was developed, and databases were created that hold the connection between a name, e.g. http://www.piratebay.com, and its IP address 194.28.157.162. It is possible to match multiple names to one IP address.

        The function of a DNS is to answer requests from other computers asking for the IP address connected to a name or the name(s) connected to an IP address. When a computer asks a question, the DNS checks its database, and sends back the answer if it knows it. If not, it checks with other DNS servers to see if they know the answer. At the top are the root servers.

        The DNS is a fundamental part of the internet; without it most people wouldn’t know how to navigate it. Attacks on the DNS can therefore cause serious security issues. What if someone managed to change the database entry of a bank to be connected to a server he owned? He could then pretend to be the bank, and clean out other people’s accounts with the information they provide (thinking they’re connected to the real bank). DNS is very vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks: someone on the network pretending to be a DNS providing the requester (which may be another DNS server) with false information. For this security risk DNSSEC was developed (over a rather large time, as usual with such standards).

        DNSSEC solves this issue by signing the DNS answers. Obviously, only the root servers should be allowed to do this, because if every ISP could do this then so could an attacker.

        Now enter SOPA’s (former?) request to block DNS to e.g. TPB.

        Without the use of DNSSEC, such a thing would be relatively easy (though there’s of course cost involved). Every US ISP could simply force its DNS entry to TPB to return either a false or no IP address, and the computer would tell the user it doesn’t know where to find TPB. Note that sending no IP address would result in the computer trying the next DNS server in its list until it finds one that does return an answer. It cannot distinguish between a DNS not answering due to a block and a DNS not answering due to a network problem.

        With DNSSEC however we have a problem. Since ISPs can’t sign their answers, they can’t send a signed version of a false IP address. The computer will assume that there’s a man-in-the-middle attack, and mark this DNS server as not secure, and look for one that is. The alternative would be to set the false entry in the root server, but since those work closely together on a global level, the US would isolate itself from the rest of the world. This would be a serious disruption in the fundamental workings of the internet.

        So, can the block be implemented? Yes, but every possible way it can be done comes with its own set of problems, and either DNSSEC will not function properly or the US will isolate itself from the rest of the world.

        Now the next question: will it work to reduce infringement? The answer is: no. If my computer noticed my DNS having trouble, it will automatically switch to another one, and if all the DNS servers in the US have the same problem I’ll switch to a European one, or a Japanese one, or … etc. Changing DNS servers can be as simple as entering a new one in my IP settings (could be done automatically by a program people download from the internet), adding a browser plugin, etc. I could also enter the IP addresses I need in my host file (which can also be done automatically by a program people can download from the internet). All in all, it would be trivial to work around a DNS problem. Anyone who can install and configure a P2P program can also change their DNS settings. There’s already at least 2 browser plugins out there that do exactly this.

        Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | January 18, 2012, 11:59 am
  21. That’s an odd reasoning:

    It’s an observation.

    Pretty much all the things I’ve read commenting on SOPA avoid the subject of piracy and copyright entirely. They blather on about everything else but. After a bit it becomes obvious that these people have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. So they keep trying to change the subject.

    Take the two links you offered.

    The term “piracy” appears in first one only in the name of the act. No where else is it discussed. In the second it’s mentioned twice: once in the name of the act and once in a passing mention of “web site dedicated to piracy or infringement” when describing redirection.

    The term “copyright” is a little more interesting. The first page starts a little better, pointing out that copyright holders need protection from online infringement. It then abandons that subject to blather on about DNS. Again. Other than that, the only time the term appears on either link is in the copyright notice at the bottom of each page.

    There is absolutely no discussion on either post about the actual problem. None. Zip. Zero. Nada. Instead all we get is non-stop efforts to change the subject.

    Attempts to get back to the subject, such as asking “Well, then, okay, how would you deal with piracy?” or “If copyright is unenforceable, what should we replace it to support content creators?” just get brushed off and ignored. And then it’s back to changing the subject. Again. And again. And again.

    I’m perfectly willing to stop talking about DNS. But apparently every single question anyone asks just leads back to talking about DNS.

    How do we compensate content creators? DNS.

    How do we combat piracy? DNS.

    What should we replace the copyright system with? DNS.

    Why do pro-piracy advocates figure they should get paid for their efforts, while demanding content creators work for free? DNS.

    How is piracy, which is the theft of someone else’s speech, suddenly defined as free speech? DNS.

    Why should the internet be exempt from the rule of law? DNS.

    It really doesn’t take any great insight to notice that there’s a pattern there.

    SOPA supporters request changes in DNS without understanding how DNS works, nor if such changes can actually work, and then blame us for telling you DNS doesn’t work that way.

    Well, when those opposed to piracy get told things like “Is it possible to implement a DNS block? Of course it is.” they probably think that what they’re being told is valid. They don’t realise that such statements are just bait and switch, used to set them up for the change-the-subject routine.

    DNS doesn’t work that way. And yet, now we get the announcement of DNSSEC, specifically designed to prevent DNS from working that way. So, while criminals have managed to get it to work that way for years, it’s utterly impossible for law enforcement to use the same approach.

    Well, since it’s apparent that DNS is the answer to everything, then why does DNS mandate that content creators work for nothing? Seems a rather odd requirement for a technical standard. Instead of telling me how DNS works, tell me why it has that requirement built into it.

    Posted by zbekric | January 17, 2012, 10:10 pm
    • Let’s be clear: it wasn’t the tech community that came with DNS changes as an answer to infringement. SOPA iintroduced that as a solution, and all we’ve done is try to tell you that DNS cannot be used to reduce infringement. The question then became: well, what _can_ we do with DNS, so we told them, and are told that that is not enough. Well, perhaps they shouldn’t have asked the question in the first place then?

      So again, to be clear: No, DNS blocks cannot be used to reduce infringement.

      If SOPA supporters wanted to know what can technologically be done about infringement, then perhaps they should have asked us to the discussion table before they started writing the law? We could have told them immediately that using DNS blocks was a bad idea, and we could have had some discussions about what can and what cannot work.

      Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | January 18, 2012, 12:10 pm
      • Let’s be clear:

        Okay. Clarity is always good.

        The question then became: well, what _can_ we do with DNS, so we told them, and are told that that is not enough. Well, perhaps they shouldn’t have asked the question in the first place then?

        Actually, the question then became well, what _can_ we do to solve the problem of infringement?

        When the tech community said you can’t use DNS that way, I believed them. Okay, can’t use DNS; what can we use?

        It’s just that it turns out that DNS is the tech community’s idée fixe. Once they get started on the subject, there’s no way to stop them.

        Either that, or as I suggested above, it’s a deliberate rhetorical strategy to derail the discussion and focus it on something the tech community — who are opposed to copyright for unknown reasons of their own — can argue effectively. It works especially well when they can spend a lot of time patiently and slowly explaining how DNS works over and over until the people they’re talking to get tired of being patronised and leave.

        The tech community then declares victory and assumes that somehow they have defeated the idea of copyright. Whereas all they’ve done is just avoid it.

        If SOPA supporters wanted to know what can technologically be done about infringement,

        Been there, done that. Got told a lot about DNS. A lot. Between being told to stop whining and accusations that I’m just greedy – from people who think that they should be paid for the use of their time, effort, skills and labour, but that content-creators shouldn’t.

        So, what have we learned from the tech community?
        * That DNS is the answer to everything;
        * That content-creators are just a bunch of cry-babies;
        * That “greed” is one of those irregular verbs — you know: I (tech people) just want to be paid what I’m worth, you’re a greedy pig, and s/he (content-creators) are avarice personified.

        Just a guess here, but possibly the later two things are why the tech community didn’t get invited to the table.

        Posted by zbekric | January 19, 2012, 8:32 am
  22. I disagree, on the presumption that such taxes will be distributed on a global level

    So, if we just assume that taxation works differently to the way it actually does, the problem just goes away. How is that different to you’re comment about people requesting changes to DNS?

    First, taxes are collected nationally, not internationally.

    Second, some countries are net content importers, others exporters. Up until about 1900, the United States was a net importer. Since then, it has become a net exporter.

    Third, historically, countries which are net importers have sought to avoid paying for the material – often by ignoring foreign copyrights. Thus, Charles Dickens sold very well in the United States, but got nothing for it; Mark Twain sold very well in Canada and, similarly, got nothing for it.

    The reasons for this are quite simple: countries that are net importers see paying foreign copyright holders as a drain on their economy and foreign currency reserves. They see it as a transfer or wealth from them to the country the creators are from. So they seek to avoid doing so.

    Why do you think that behaviour will change?

    There’s a whole bunch of fairly obvious legal, political and economic issues here that you’re just ignoring, which suggests to me that you’re not taking the question seriously.

    Either that, or the answer somehow involves DNS. Again.

    Posted by zbekric | January 17, 2012, 10:12 pm
  23. So, if we just assume that taxation works differently to the way it actually does, the problem just goes away. How is that different to you’re comment about people requesting changes to DNS?

    I didn’t claim that the taxation would be done internationally; I proposed that the distribution of the tax collection would be internationally. That’s exactly what’s done in Europe at the moment. We have collection agencies that collect the levies, and then distribute them internationally. Of course that means that net importers of content pay more than they receive, but that’s no different from how the economy already works. As said: we’ve had this setup in Europe for decades.

    Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | January 18, 2012, 12:04 pm
    • As said: we’ve had this setup in Europe for decades.

      Good point. Even during the cold war GEMA (in West Germany) and AWA (in East Germany) worked quite well together.

      However, at the same time, in the US the courts rejected a suit by Shostakovich and other Russian composers objecting to the use of their music in films like Iron Curtain (1948). In fact, Twentieth-Century Fox didn’t even pay for the use, maintaining the music was in the public domain — and the US courts agreed with them, declaring that the only possible reason Shostakovich and others could possibly object to the use of their work or expect payment for it was for reasons of ideology.

      So, such a system could work. However, I think the circumstances need to be right. Europe shares a history of copyright co-operation starting with France, who pioneered the idea of universal copyright — basically by unilaterally deciding to honour the copyrights of foreign creators, granting them the same protection under French law as French creators and then using that as a moral argument to establish a series of reciprocal treaties with other states. And the various states of Europe have created a Union, suggesting that on a pretty basic level they want to work together.

      There are also other parts of the world where it could work. The various members of the British Commonwealth have similar political cultures and a history of co-operation, so tax exchanges between them may also be viable.

      But, as the Russia-US example shows, in some cases such a system can flounder on the rocks of political differences.

      Still, it’s a start.

      So, let’s move on to question (ii):

      Given that such a tax would raise the cost of internet access, it would be regarded as an attack on free speech with all the current opponents of things like SOPA (as well as many others) campaigning against it. How do propose to deal with or neutralise that opposition?

      Posted by zbekric | January 19, 2012, 10:36 am
      • But, as the Russia-US example shows, in some cases such a system can flounder on the rocks of political differences.

        It might not work in some countries, but let’s be honest: I doubt those countries will care much about SOPA either, neh? I think it might at least be worth considering. :)

        Given that such a tax would raise the cost of internet access, it would be regarded as an attack on free speech with all the current opponents of things like SOPA (as well as many others) campaigning against it. How do propose to deal with or neutralise that opposition?

        Personally I doubt it will come that far; we’ve already had many reasons for increase in cost of internet access, so I don’t see why this one would be considered any differently. Governments could even decide to include it in their general taxes rather than on internet access. We’ve done that in the Netherlands with what used to be called “kijk-en-luistergeld”; a tax that you had to pay if you owned a tv or radio. That was never taxed on usage either, just on possession, and they figured practically everyone had one anyway, so why not include it in the general taxes in stead of having to check every household for tvs and radios? I think the same could go for internet access these days.

        Even if there would be protest (I’m sure there’ll always be people complaining), at least it will not be nearly the magnitude of what you’re currently facing. SOPA really is a very very bad idea.

        Posted by Pieter | January 19, 2012, 1:17 pm
  24. On a different note: if SOPA is needed, why can’t I find a single proponent to give me a list of 5 sites that SOPA will stop?

    Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | January 18, 2012, 10:01 pm
    • Megaupload, Rapidshare, Hotfile, Depositfiles, Megashares.

      One, two, three, four, five.

      Posted by zbekric | January 19, 2012, 10:42 am
      • You are aware that due to the definitions in SOPA, none of those actually fall within the scope of SOPA? These sites will not be stopped by SOPA; please try again?

        Posted by Pieter | January 19, 2012, 1:09 pm
      • You are aware that due to the definitions in SOPA, none of those actually fall within the scope of SOPA? These sites will not be stopped by SOPA; please try again?

        You are aware that those sites are fed by link sites that do fall within the scope of SOPA and, once those link sites are down, the sites mentioned will either:
        (i) close down due to a lack of traffic leading to a loss of income;
        (ii) stop hosting infringing material because due to the lack of links it will stop being profitable — and if that happens, there’s no reason why they should close down.

        It’s a fairly standard law enforcement technique to disrupt the money flow illegal activities depend on.

        I think part of the problem is that those opposed to SOPA think that the purpose of the bill is to close down sites rather than stop piracy, despite the fact that the name of the bill is the Stop Online Piracy Act. If a site stops supporting and profiting from piracy, then it’s been stopped by SOPA, whether it stays up or not.

        Posted by zbekric | January 19, 2012, 11:37 pm
  25. Ok, let’s give this a try. :)

    Okay, let’s talk about DNS. It’s obvious you will not be deterred.

    The alternative would be to set the false entry in the root server, but since those work closely together on a global level, the US would isolate itself from the rest of the world. This would be a serious disruption in the fundamental workings of the internet.

    Do you mean that there would be a serious disruption in the fundamental workings of the internet because of the false entry in the root server? Or because the US would isolate itself from the rest of the world?

    If it’s the first, it seems rather silly to institute a change that makes the internet so fragile. I mean, the US isn’t the only government in the world. What if another government — say Iran, or North Korea, or Russia, or China, or whoever the current boogyman is — decides to do that? They could easily disrupt the fundamental workings of the internet and bring the whole thing down at minimal cost to themselves.

    Actually, it wouldn’t have to be a big country. Chad could do it. A terrorist group could do it. A lone disgruntled engineer could do it. An angry, technically savvy teenager could do it; certainly be a bigger protest than shooting a bunch of people at their school would be.

    Seems an odd way to fight cyberterrorism; handing potential enemies a weapon like that.

    If it’s the second, well, as far as I can tell, the US is already pretty isolated from the rest of the world. Not sure why a bit more isolation would be such a bad thing. There are parts of US popular culture that I’ll miss for awhile, but somehow I think that I and the rest of the world will cope.

    The answer is: no. If my computer noticed my DNS having trouble, it will automatically switch to another one, and if all the DNS servers in the US have the same problem I’ll switch to a European one, or a Japanese one, or … etc.

    Except that if the US is isolated from the world, you won’t be able to switch to a European one, or a Japanese one, or whatever.

    This does not follow from your previous prediction.

    So, what you’re basically saying in your roundabout way is that if that DNS blocking will work, even with DNSSEC. It’s just that there’s the intermediate step of the US becoming isolated from the rest of the world — which you say will automatically follow the implementation of something like SOPA.

    Or are there browser plugins for getting around the isolation as well? If so, then the possible isolation of the US becomes rather moot.

    Posted by zbekric | January 19, 2012, 8:05 am
    • Do you mean that there would be a serious disruption in the fundamental workings of the internet because of the false entry in the root server? Or because the US would isolate itself from the rest of the world?

      The second of course; root servers are among the most protected assets so I’m fairly certain that it’s not very easy to insert false entries there. I understand that this doesn’t bother you, but it does bother a lot of people in the tech industry and in the government, even if they have nothing whatsoever to do with infringement.

      Except that if the US is isolated from the world, you won’t be able to switch to a European one, or a Japanese one, or whatever.

      We’re talking DNS isolation here, as in; the US DNS servers do not communicate with DNS servers outside the US. That doesn’t prevent a user from selecting a DNS outside the US or using a plugin of course. That’s why I said that no matter which DNS solution is used, it won’t stop infringement.

      PS: Robert, my facebook account is being blocked … again …

      Posted by Pieter | January 19, 2012, 11:56 am
      • The second of course; root servers are among the most protected assets so I’m fairly certain that it’s not very easy to insert false entries there. I understand that this doesn’t bother you, but it does bother a lot of people in the tech industry and in the government, even if they have nothing whatsoever to do with infringement.

        So you’re saying, despite all the claims to the contrary, it won’t break the internet. It will just isolate the US.

        Well, why doesn’t the tech community say that it will isolate the US rather than lying and saying that it will break the internet?

        That doesn’t prevent a user from selecting a DNS outside the US or using a plugin of course.

        So it won’t even isolate the US.

        It won’t break the internet and it won’t isolate the US.

        You’re going to have to explain DNS again because according to your current explanation, neither of the dire consequences of DNS blocking you and the tech community predicted are actually going to happen.

        Since the two reasons offered for opposing DNS blocking turn out not to be true, I have to ask: what’s the real reason?

        That’s why I said that no matter which DNS solution is used, it won’t stop infringement.

        Which would be why I and others have responded with
        Okay, what can we do to stop — or at least slow down — infringement?

        Of course the only answer we get is more talk about DNS.

        Posted by zbekric | January 19, 2012, 10:35 pm
  26. @Zbekric,

    Actually, the question then became well, what _can_ we do to solve the problem of infringement?

    It should have been, but that question was never asked, at least not by those who were trying to push SOPA through. In stead, they just told us that we must be lying about DNS, because although they didn’t understand this DNS thing, they knew it would work.

    It’s just that it turns out that DNS is the tech community’s idée fixe. Once they get started on the subject, there’s no way to stop them.

    Well, it’s still not permanently out of the bill, is it? Senator Leahy is still planning to have it studied.

    Actually, there’s a lot wrong with SOPA, even with the DNS provisions removed, like how a site can be delisted from search engines and excluded by payment companies without being able to tell their side in court. Even worse: that practically everyone involved is immune from damages should a court later determine that the injunction was wrong. This immunity even exists if actions are taken without a court order. Let that sink in for a moment…: You can own a perfectly legal business, yet without a full trial or even an ex-parte trial you can be delisted and financially ruined, and even if you manage to financially survive long enough to get a court to overturn the injunction there’s no way you can claim any damages! Do you still wonder why the EP is up in arms over this law?

    The tech community then declares victory and assumes that somehow they have defeated the idea of copyright. Whereas all they’ve done is just avoid it.

    Actually, many in the tech sector, especially software/game houses are very much in favour of stronger copyright protection, but even they oppose SOPA. Nintendo, usually one of the most aggressive fighters against anything that even reeks of infringement is opposing SOPA, because they realize it will hardly do any good, but a lot of harm.

    If SOPA supporters wanted to know what can technologically be done about infringement,

    If they did, they should have invited us to the discussion table, but even now that’s not happening.

    Been there, done that. Got told a lot about DNS. A lot. Between being told to stop whining and accusations that I’m just greedy – from people who think that they should be paid for the use of their time, effort, skills and labour, but that content-creators shouldn’t.

    I’m sure there are some idiots out there that feel this way, but that’s not the general position of the tech industry. Many even originally signed on to the idea of a SOPA like law, but are now opposing what SOPA turned out to be. There’s even an alternative proposal on the table that does carry the tech support.

    Posted by Pieter | January 19, 2012, 12:11 pm
    • It should have been, but that question was never asked,

      I’ve asked it. Repeatedly. On many different forums. So have others — I know, because I’ve seen them do it. Also repeatedly.

      None of us ever got a straight answer. Instead it was what turns out to be the standard litany of You don’t understand DNS, you’re just whining and you’re greedy pigs.

      In stead, they just told us that we must be lying about DNS,

      Well, given according to your earlier post it turns out that the claims about how DNS blocking will break the internet and isolate the US aren’t true, that’s not an unreasonable conclusion to reach.

      When someone repeatedly tells you things that turn out not be true and which they obviously know aren’t true the usual term used to describe that is “lying”.

      Let that sink in for a moment…: You can own a perfectly legal business, yet without a full trial or even an ex-parte trial you can be delisted and financially ruined, and even if you manage to financially survive long enough to get a court to overturn the injunction there’s no way you can claim any damages! Do you still wonder why the EP is up in arms over this law?

      What you just described is how piracy works. You can can own a perfectly legitimate business creating desirable content, yet without any sort of trial or court order pirates can take that content, claim all the money it generates and you can be financially ruined.

      It’s fascinating how that side of the story gets ignored and contemptuously dismissed in this discussion.

      So, while I appreciate the need for safeguards to prevent innocent parties from being hurt, I’m also aware that the law defines infringing actions quite clearly, requires that an injunction must be sent to the party owning the site and the party has the right to contest the order in a court. These are pretty much the standard protections available in Anglo-American law, and they’ve been found to be quite adequate over the past several hundred years. Actually, if you believe the British, they’re the envy of the world.

      If some third party ends up putting an infringing link on a site without the owners knowledge or permission, then the site owner would have a case against the third party. It would be like an innocent landlord discovering that some tenants have built an illegal drug lab in a unit they are renting. The police will close down the lab and probably lock down the unit as a crime scene, but they will not prosecute the landlord and the landlord can pursue the (former) tenants for damages.

      I’m sure there are some idiots out there that feel this way, but that’s not the general position of the tech industry.

      I think you seriously underestimate the number of idiots. Some of them are just better spoken than others, but the underlying attitudes generally turn out to be the same. Why, I have no idea.

      There’s even an alternative proposal on the table that does carry the tech support.

      I have missed this, despite asking about alternative proposals on assorted fora. Can you provide a link?

      Posted by zbekric | January 19, 2012, 11:24 pm
      • I’ve asked it. Repeatedly. On many different forums. So have others — I know, because I’ve seen them do it. Also repeatedly.

        You’re right, and that shall be my next post. Be patient for a moment longer while I respond to your answers (including DNS…) in this post.

        Well, given according to your earlier post it turns out that the claims about how DNS blocking will break the internet and isolate the US aren’t true, that’s not an unreasonable conclusion to reach.

        I’m afraid that’s a matter of understanding the involved technology, or in this case perhaps my lack of ability of explaining it. If you want to implement without hurting DNSSEC, you’re forced to do it in the root servers. This will cause fracturing of the world’s DNS system, which to the telecom industry certainly qualifies as “breaking the internet”.

        What you just described is how piracy works. You can can own a perfectly legitimate business creating desirable content, yet without any sort of trial or court order pirates can take that content, claim all the money it generates and you can be financially ruined.

        I won’t argue with you there. The only question is: can you devise a law that effectively solves this issue, while preventing huge collateral damage to legitimate businesses? SOPA and PIPA do neither.

        I have missed this, despite asking about alternative proposals on assorted fora. Can you provide a link?

        http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/12/02/alternative-to-sopaprotect-ip-would-deal-with-online-pirates-like-wikileaks/

        Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | January 20, 2012, 10:10 am
  27. Actually, there’s a lot wrong with SOPA, even with the DNS provisions removed, like how a site can be delisted from search engines and excluded by payment companies without being able to tell their side in court. Even worse: that practically everyone involved is immune from damages should a court later determine that the injunction was wrong.

    That’s patently untrue.
    There is a court hearing before ANY type of action is even considered.
    And if the allegation turns out to be false, the person (copyright holder) making the accusation is responsible for court AND lawyer costs of the company/person being accused…

    Try again..

    Posted by James_J | January 19, 2012, 10:02 pm
  28. So you’re saying, despite all the claims to the contrary, it won’t break the internet. It will just isolate the US.

    That depends on how you define “breaking the internet”. I’d say telecom operators in general would be quite upset if there was a DNS split between the US and the rest of the world. Again though, it depends on the choice of implementation:
    1. Implementation on ISP level: break DNSSEC.
    2. Implementation on DNS root level: break the DNS chain by isolating the US.

    So it won’t even isolate the US.

    It will isolate the US on a DNS level, not on a network level. The network still exists, and can be reached as long as you can find the proper IP number belonging to a certain name. If the US DNS servers won’t do it, just use a European one.

    Which would be why I and others have responded with
    Okay, what can we do to stop — or at least slow down — infringement?
    Of course the only answer we get is more talk about DNS

    Point taken: I’ll write some more on infringement problems without mentioning DNS in a next comment. In the mean time: how about you tackle our other concerns with SOPA/PIPA? It’s rather hard to discuss solutions when you’re dangling a sword over our heads.

    Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | January 20, 2012, 6:58 am
  29. You are aware that those sites are fed by link sites that do fall within the scope of SOPA and, once those link sites are down, the sites mentioned will either:

    Sorry, but wrong. The remedies you mean only apply to foreign infringing sites (though must be implemented by domestic businesses), and under the definitions in SOPA no .com, .net, .org, etc. site qualifies as such.

    Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | January 20, 2012, 9:54 am
  30. Actually, the question then became well, what _can_ we do to solve the problem of infringement?

    Ok, let’s get to this question. It’s a tough one for sure, and I doubt we’ll have answer anytime soon in this discussion. We’ve already had a lot of failing technological attempts like TPM and rootkits, and laws like the DMCA/EUCD. Truth of the matter is: it’s only going to get harder to enforce copyright. It won’t be long before you can carry the world’s literature on a USB stick in your pocket. Give it a few more decades, and we can do the same with every picture, song, and movie ever made. How do you stop infringement in a world like that?

    Looking towards that future, we either have to give up all privacy, to allow people to check our homes, computers, etc. to check for infringement or we have to come up with an alternative to enforcement of copyright against non-commercial infringement, and use a different way to make sure artists get paid. I believe we’ve already briefly touched on the subject of levies and taxation on this forum, but I do think in the long run it would be the better solution. Infringement by companies can still be handle in the courtroom, where it belongs.

    Still, that’s the future, and this is now. So what can be done? You know, aside from the obvious: make sure that you provide the product the customer wants to buy. There’s certainly a large quantity of infringement to blame on market failure. Yet, freeloaders will always exist, so let’s discuss:

    Let’s start with sites like YouTube:
    They control the file format of the files on their servers, so if the copyright holders provide proper signature files they can be used to help find infringing material, as has already been shown by their content ID system. Such a system however is complex and expensive to design, so if we want new startups to use such a system as well, we should consider having one developed by the government, and provide it for free to companies that want to set up a YouTube like site. Combined with the DMCA (and similar laws, e.g. EUCD in Europe) this could lead to swift removal of infringing files.

    Then there’s cyberlockers:
    These sites do not control the file format of the files on their servers, so automatic detection becomes a lot harder. The least we could do however is to do automatic hash checks on files that received a DMCA notice. That will still allow slightly modified files to be uploaded, but at least they’ll have to put some work in it as well.

    Sites like TPB:
    We can certainly deny payment to such sites, but you’d have to take care of that on a global level (WIPO?), and make sure that due process is taken into account to prevent abuse. TPB however has been found illegal in several countries already, so should qualify.

    Communication technologies:
    This is a serious problem that cannot be fixed I’m afraid. Without encryption, DPI (which is quite expensive I might add) might have helped a bit, but as long as we allow private communication between two parties you cannot prevent infringement via such technology. There’s no way we can outlaw this; heck, the US government’s even paying for the development of tools needed for it to give people in China and Iran the freedom to speak their mind anonymously.

    Keep in mind however, that the sites currently targeted by laws like SOPA and PIPA are already yesterday’s news. TPB’s already switching to magnet links, most bit torrent clients don’t need trackers anymore, and could easily be extended to distribute and search for torrent files. In the end, providing good legal alternatives to illegal downloads remains the best way to combat infringement. The profits in the movie industry are certainly encouraging. That, and perhaps add in a license/levy/tax system, and simply legalise the whole thing. After all: the goal here is not to prevent infringement, but to make sure the artists get paid.

    Let’s discuss some more, shall we? We may disagree on many things, but at least I promise to answer truthfully, and try to explain the technological possibilities and impossibilities to the best of my abilities.

    Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | January 20, 2012, 10:36 am
    • The last few days have convinced me that the tech industry are the biggest bunch of bullshit artists on the planet. They just flat-out lie through their teeth.

      On that basis I had prepared responses to the various threads of conversation we had going, most of them pretty snarky.

      However, re-reading them, I decided that they weren’t helpful. So I’m not posting them. Instead I’m going to focus on this message with the idea of advancing the conversation in a productive manner.

      This is an initial response to the first part of your post. I’ll get to the rest of the post after a bit more thought (and some sleep).

      Ok, let’s get to this question. It’s a tough one for sure, and I doubt we’ll have answer anytime soon in this discussion. We’ve already had a lot of failing technological attempts like TPM and rootkits, and laws like the DMCA/EUCD. Truth of the matter is: it’s only going to get harder to enforce copyright. It won’t be long before you can carry the world’s literature on a USB stick in your pocket. Give it a few more decades, and we can do the same with every picture, song, and movie ever made. How do you stop infringement in a world like that?

      Okay, I really think this is looking at the problem from the wrong end. It’s basically saying: “How do we return to the way the world was before the rise of computers, when copying was harder and so easier to control.” I think we both agree that’s not going to happen, and in many ways it’s not even desirable.

      I think we need to go back to real basics. Copyright was introduced for a reason. It wasn’t just a governmental whim. Various governments had granted monopolies in the past, usually when kings need an injection of cash, and selling someone the exclusive right to import nutmeg or to produce playing cards or whatever was a quick way of raising the money. It’s a lot like privatisation currently; cash-strapped governments sell off assets to private interests, who then proceed to make money off them by charging fees for services that were formally free of cost, or raising the fees on services offered.

      Copyright falls into that category. It’s a government-granted monopoly, but unlike other monopolies it has survived for hundreds of years. Why?

      I think it’s because it had certain features.

      First, it was universal. Everyone had copyright to their original work. Automatically. It wasn’t confined to a few, it was open to anyone and everyone who wanted to join.

      Second, it gave creativity value — and I mean real value, survival value. People who were good at it could make a living at it. They could support themselves; it was no longer just a hobby or a selfish indigence, but became a sign of industry and productivity. A few could even become rich.

      This encouraged many to try. Not all of them succeeded; the arts have long been a tournament economy, with many entrants and few winners. But having lots of entrants meant that there was lots of different types of works. It produced a form of natural selection, in which art could constantly adapt to the changing conditions and preferences of society.

      Third, it created a feedback mechanism which transferred information from the consumers of content to the creators. It did this in two ways.

      One, things that became popular (best-sellers) told creators what consumers wanted and encouraged not only the original creators but also other creators to produce more of that type of work. This can be dismissed as just changing fads and fashion and appealing to the lowest common denominator, but the system wasn’t trying to tell people what they should like, it responded to what they did like.

      Two, it signaled not only breadth of consumer desire (how many people wanted something), but also depth (how much they wanted it). This meant that even things that weren’t widely popular could still find effective audiences. Aficionados of jazz (just to take one example) could indicate how much they wanted it by the fact that they were willing to pay higher prices for new jazz albums rather than spend their money on cheaper albums featuring other types of music. Creators of such content would know that while the audience might be small, it was dedicated and their desire for the material was not just a passing whim.

      Fourth, the combination of these factors made the system broadly democratic. Culture responded to the desires of the population and even segments of the population. Not everyone could get exactly the sort of content they wanted, but they could get something close, and different groups within a population could have their individual tastes catered to.

      Fifth, it was of limited duration. Eventually all work would become part of the public domain.

      The combination of these five factors meant that copyright achieved it’s stated goal (as contained in the titles of various Acts establishing it) of serving the social good. It meant that culture was continually renewed and people’s lives enriched.

      Please note, restrictions on copying are not essential to this. Copyright focused on creating a monopoly on the right to produce copies as a way of achieving these other ends, not as an end in itself. Personally, I think it was a brilliant solution, because it was simple, adapted to existing contract and property law — with any differences between intellectual property and real property left to individuals to work out through negotiation and, when that failed, through the courts — and fit into existing human sentiments — not only did creators already feel that their work was in a sense their property and they had certain moral rights to it and how it was used, but other people recognised such feelings as a valid.

      I think any future solution needs to have these features. It needs to be universal and open to everyone, it needs to give creativity real value, it needs to provide for a feedback mechanism that will signal what people want and how much they want it, it needs to be broadly democratic, serving all parts of the population, and finally it needs to expire after a reasonable interval.

      Further, I think any solution needs to be relatively simple so anyone can understand it, it has to allow for how people use and exchange cultural artifacts and it can’t be be hard-wired into the technology because the future may create situations in which it needs to be changed and doing so should not be something that breaks the system.

      The economic aspect of allowing creators to survive and support themselves is important, but I think the above criteria would be required even in a future in which we all have magic replicators that can provide all our material needs and so we don’t need to earn money to survive. The encouragement and feedback mechanisms of copyright are currently economic, but are things that would need to be carried forward into any non-economic model.

      While this discussion focuses on creative effort, I think many of the features identified would also apply to research and development, which use patent laws to achieve similar ends.

      That, I think, lays out the parameters of the problem. I don’t know what the solution is, but that’s the shape of the hole I think the solution has to fit into.

      Thoughts?

      Posted by zbekric | January 21, 2012, 4:17 pm
      • I certainly agree with your general view; the main problems are:
        – How to set such a thing into law?
        – How to enforce such a law?

        I think in itself, the concept of copyright law is brilliant, however due to the increase in duration and scope on one hand, and the evolution of technology on the other hand, it slowly moved from a law that regulates behaviour between companies to a law that encroaches on the every day life of normal citizens. The fixation on the “copy” made perfect sense in a day and age when making a copy was a big investment, but it creates huge problems when every thing we do with digital media contains the making of a copy. Some simple examples: when I watch a dvd on my dvd-player, a copy is made in the internal RAM of the machine. When I view a webpage, not only is a copy made in the RAM of my computer, but several copies may be made as part of the caching mechanisms that reduce the internet traffic.

        I think by removing the “copy” from copyright, and keep the publication and distribution right, we’d already take one problem out of the equation: what people do within the comforts of their own home is legal.

        Another issue is the enforcement of copyright law. When copyright law applies to behaviour between companies, enforcing copyright generally isn’t an issue. Sure, it takes up court time, but in the end such disputes can be resolved. The problem resides mostly in the enforcement of copyright when it comes to the private communication between two people. As Arjen Kamphuis once wrote: Internet, Privacy, Copyright; Choose Two. As long as you have an internet with open protocols (so anyone can write applications) and we allow private (encrypted?) communication between people, enforcing copyright becomes next to impossible. It’s either technologically infeasible or so expensive that the cost outweigh the benefits.

        That’s why I have started considering the concept of legalization of what is now non-commercial infringement by natural persons. It certainly has its drawbacks, and it would indeed make sense to see if we can embed all the advantages of copyright that you mentioned, but I believe in the end it has a lot more chance of being successful than trying to enforce copyright law against natural persons. Question remains what kind of compensation is required by society to make such a thing possible, and in what form this should take place.

        Posted by Pieter | January 23, 2012, 10:00 am
      • The fixation on the “copy” made perfect sense in a day and age when making a copy was a big investment, but it creates huge problems when every thing we do with digital media contains the making of a copy.

        Unlike the French and, to an extent, German copyright traditions, Anglo-American copyright has always had a strong economic focus. It’s less about making copies and more about using those copies to cause the copyright holder material harm.

        If you want to make copies for your own personal use, no harm. If you start selling those copies or giving them away (thus destroying the market for the legitimate copies), then you have violated their rights.

        As such, the standard tech argument that digital technology is constantly making copies really doesn’t hold up. So my DVD player makes a copy in the process of playing a DVD. Big deal. I’m neither selling that copy nor giving it away. It happens simply as a part of the process of using the product — and disappears once I’ve watched the DVD and switched the machine off.

        As such, copyright is essentially a sale right: only the rights holder has the right to sell copies of a work. Others don’t.

        This approach gives us three levels of infringement:
        I. Those who make copies and use them to make money; we can call this group “pirates”.
        II. Those who make copies and give them away to strangers as an act of generosity; we can call this group “file-sharers”.
        III. Those who make copies and give them to friends and family.

        As far as I can tell, those in the first group pretend to be part of the second group, and both pretend to be just misunderstood members of the third group.

        The first thing to do if we’re going to have an honest discussion is to recognise that pirates aren’t file-sharers and file-sharers aren’t people just making mix-tapes for their girlfriend. An individual may move from one group to another, and back again, but the activities are different both in scope and impact.

        As Arjen Kamphuis once wrote: Internet, Privacy, Copyright; Choose Two.

        Well, in all honesty, I think the internet will be the one that goes in the long run. At least in its open form.

        People will quite rightly resist the loss of privacy and, if content-creators can’t sell copies of their work, they will move to business models where they can get paid.

        One approach will be a patronage model, where wealthy companies and individuals sponsor creators to produce work which is then given away. Of course, such patrons will exercise influence over the content (even if only of selection, deciding what to sponsor and what not) and will expect the product to support their image and agenda. At the low end, this will be advertising; at the high end, it will probably prestige projects that grant the sponsor bragging rights.

        Another approach will be content creators moving into “walled gardens” where they produce works for specific gadgets or platforms, probably with elements tied to specific features of the gadget or platform, so that copies will not work as effectively (or at all) on competing gadgets and platforms.

        These walled gardens, of course, are what will break up the open internet into a series of separate fiefdoms, each controlled by a tech company — and I mean a tech company that makes platforms or gadgets; Apple rather than Google.

        There will still be a wild internet, but in terms of content it will be a farm system for the other two models. A content creator’s career plan will be to create a big enough buzz with the work they offer on the wild internet to get noticed and picked up by patrons and/or invited to join the various walled gardens.

        The wild internet may be overseen by government agencies and organisations that will collect a tax or fee on internet connections (or something) and distribute the money to registered content creators as a way of supporting the arts, similar to the way government arts bodies offer grants currently.

        It might be argued that leaving the wild internet (and possible fee or tax-based royalties) would involve a loss of independence for content creators, but in a sense content creators have already shown they are willing to make that bargain, as seen by the deals routinely made with assorted publishers, film studios, record labels and the like.

        I may be wrong, though. Privacy may be the thing to go.

        Companies like Google and Facebook have business models that increasingly depend on eliminating privacy and, if they can get enough people to go along with that, it may be privacy that we loose. Of course, Google doesn’t seem to have much interest in supporting copyright either (quite the opposite, in fact), so in the end we may get only one of the three. I think people will resist that though.

        Copyright as a legal right may disappear early on, but since content creators will need to get paid in some way if they are to survive, the underlying problem for which copyright was a solution will not disappear.

        Posted by zbekric | January 26, 2012, 6:41 am
    • So what can be done? You know, aside from the obvious: make sure that you provide the product the customer wants to buy. There’s certainly a large quantity of infringement to blame on market failure.

      Just a quick comment on this.

      If content creators aren’t producing material that the customer wants, then why is it being pirated?

      Some pirates seem to be working out of ideological commitment and are systematically creating files of material to get it all available on-line. As an example, the Digital Comics Museum is offering scans of old American comic books that have fallen into the public domain — the publishers went out of business and the copyrights weren’t renewed. Obviously, there are also comics of similar vintage where the copyrights were renewed and which aren’t in the public domain; the comics published by DC Comics (featuring Superman, Batman, etc.), for instance. If you hunt around pirate sites you can find files containing scans of old DC Comics. The people who create those are clearly driven by the same impulse as the contributors to the Digital Comics Museum site; they just want all this old material to be available.

      Now, I suppose you could attribute this to market failure. While DC Comics has a reprint program in place, the volumes are coming out slowly and are expensive — there’s only a limited audience for the material and preparing the comics for reprint often requires a lot of labour-intensive restoration, even when using the latest technology.

      Alternately, you could argue that DC Comics should sell scans of the old comics themselves through venues like iTunes. I once suggested that they could offer them at cover price (generally 10 cents), but had it explained to me that Apple mandates a minimum price point of 99 cents.

      However, I don’t think explanations like that work for the vast majority of files found on pirate sites. The material is current, readily available from various legitimate sources and, given the lack of care evident in the files, not created by people who have much interest in the material at all. Instead, I think it’s clear that those uploading the files are primarily interested in cashing in on currently popular work through one means or another (ad revenue, fees for enhanced download access, etc.).

      As such, I think there’s a small amount of infringement that can be blamed on market failure, but the vast majority — and I do mean vast majority — is pure criminal infringement driven by the same impulses that drive other criminal enterprises: greed.

      Posted by zbekric | January 22, 2012, 3:35 am
      • I think it has less to do with what they produce, but more with the way they offer it to their customers. It also has less to do with price than it does with quality and convenience. Certainly, freeloaders aplenty, but there are also many customers who simply aren’t served. I think you can already see it in how an industry sees you:
        – To most companies, you are a customer.
        – For a tech company, you are a user.
        – For an entertainment company, you are a consumer.
        A consumer is rarely king.

        I myself for instance am a pretty good customer for the entertainment industry. I think I spent over 2500 Euro on books and movies last year, and that’s not including going out to the cinema nor my spending on computer games. It’s safe to say that I don’t mind paying for my entertainment.

        What I find most irritating is the following:
        – Windowing and region coding of movies and tv series, that force me to wait a long time for media to become available for purchase in the Netherlands, and pay a lot more than if I could have bought it in the US.
        – Region blocking for purchase from online stores; many legal alternatives are not yet available in the Netherlands, and I’m not allowed to buy them outside the country due to licensing issues.
        – TPM/DRM on almost everything, which deeply restrict what I can do with the media that I purchase, and as such make the media less valuable for me. It also includes the risk of losing access to my purchases when the store I bought them from goes under.
        – Non-standard services that don’t work under Linux. I’m sorry, but if your online store cannot handle open internet and encoding standards, you’re doing it wrong.

        Posted by Pieter | January 23, 2012, 10:14 am
  31. The first thing to do if we’re going to have an honest discussion is to recognise that pirates aren’t file-sharers and file-sharers aren’t people just making mix-tapes for their girlfriend. An individual may move from one group to another, and back again, but the activities are different both in scope and impact.

    I fully, agree, but such distinction should also be put into law to prevent fines of up to $150,000 per infringement to be used against teenagers sharing a few songs or to prevent large companies getting away with a $20,000 fine for taking source code that doesn’t belong to them.

    Well, in all honesty, I think the internet will be the one that goes in the long run. At least in its open form.

    I’m not so sure to be honest. I think the telcos will strongly resist laws that would require them to replace recently installed network components just because the entertainment industry doesn’t like their capability to prevent infringement. The cost of such an action could also be astronomical.

    People will quite rightly resist the loss of privacy and, if content-creators can’t sell copies of their work, they will move to business models where they can get paid.

    Well, that’s been a general remark from the public all along: perhaps it’s time to look at new business models? Some artists have managed to find some very lucrative ones that aren’t influenced whatsoever by the existence of infringement. That’s not to say that such a thing should become the new law of course.

    Another approach will be content creators moving into “walled gardens” where they produce works for specific gadgets or platforms, probably with elements tied to specific features of the gadget or platform, so that copies will not work as effectively (or at all) on competing gadgets and platforms.

    That will work to some extend, but it would create a market for infringement, because not everyone is willing to switch platform just for a few new movies. It’s likely that such works will be stripped from their garden, and distributed openly for all platforms. Kind of like what happens to dvds and blu-rays. All their anti-copying is only bothering honest customers, because the infringers never even get to see the TPM/DRM, because it’s already been stripped by a few smart people.

    These walled gardens, of course, are what will break up the open internet into a series of separate fiefdoms, each controlled by a tech company — and I mean a tech company that makes platforms or gadgets; Apple rather than Google.

    I find that rather chilling to be honest. We’d just be exchanging one gate-keeper for the next. Considering how companies like Apple and Amazon treat their suppliers, I’m not so sure the artists will benefit here.

    I may be wrong, though. Privacy may be the thing to go.

    Somehow I doubt that. Certainly, people continue to give out more of their private information via all kinds of social platforms, but the privacy meant by Arjen has to do with private (encrypted) communication. No amount of DPI can distinguish between legal and illegal data once it has been encrypted.

    Copyright as a legal right may disappear early on, but since content creators will need to get paid in some way if they are to survive, the underlying problem for which copyright was a solution will not disappear.

    On that we do agree. I think the discussion should focus on “how do we make sure artists get paid?” rather than “how do we prevent/reduce infringement?”. Copyright is a means to and end after all; not a goal in itself. Somewhere along the line, the RIAA/MPAA forgot that.

    Posted by Pieter | January 26, 2012, 12:07 pm
  32. I think the telcos will strongly resist laws that would require them to replace recently installed network components just because the entertainment industry doesn’t like their capability to prevent infringement.

    I don’t think it will be laws and the entertainment industry. I expect the big players in the entertainment industry will disappear, leaving the lobbyists of the tech industry unopposed, thus removing the possibility of legislative action.

    I think it will be other tech companies.

    Despite the gosh-wow nature of most gadgets, the only reason for most people to want an iPad is as a content consumption device. You can use it as a portable computer, but it’s nowhere near as good as a laptop in that regard. Such devices are designed as content delivery systems.

    It’s early days, but as the number of devices multiplies and the differences between them will be things that matter only to the technically inclined, the obvious basis on which people will decide between them will become the content they offer.

    Given competition, some manufacturer will start offering content exclusive to their device. To prevent other device manufacturers from pirating that exclusive content, they will find ways of tying it to features included only in the devices they manufacture, creating a walled garden. If the content is sufficiently compelling, it will draw sales away from other devices.

    Other tech companies will then follow suit and start offering their own exclusive content. This will lead to competition in which content-creators will work directly for tech companies, or will form their own businesses who will then contract to provide exclusive content to tech companies.

    Most of internet activity will move into these various walled gardens, with the wild internet left as a supplement to the various content fiefdoms — kind of like community access television is currently — and something primarily used by the poor and those who can not or will not buy into one of the walled gardens.

    Result: fractured internet.

    If there is any legislative impact, it will probably be further down the line, when governments might mount anti-trust cases against various tech companies with their own whole-owned production companies (vertical integration) arguing that such arrangements stifle competition. Similar to the way the Hollywood studios were forced to divest themselves of the cinema chains they once owned and used to screen their products.

    If that happens, though, it will be a way down the track.

    Some artists have managed to find some very lucrative ones that aren’t influenced whatsoever by the existence of infringement.

    Some artists have decided that art isn’t really what they want to do and have switched careers, becoming peddlers of t-shirts, novelty shot glasses and the like.

    I have worked for a company that makes sports uniforms, corporate wear and promotional items. It’s a full-time business and relatively prosperous. And while it employs graphic artists, it’s not really in the content creation business.

    I have no problem with artists who think they can do well in that particular trade, but what they’re doing is basically getting a day job to support their artistic endeavours, which become a part-time activity. It’s really no different to becoming a taxi-driver or something — except that you occasionally get to use your art.

    As such, it’s not really a new business model. It’s an old business model that artists have used for a long time and which they generally hoped to escape from once their art took off and found an audience.

    It’s likely that such works will be stripped from their garden, and distributed openly for all platforms. Kind of like what happens to dvds and blu-rays.

    I suspect that’s because tech companies don’t care when the material belongs to others, but when it’s their cash on the line, I think they will find a way of tying it down — either technically, legally or some combination of the two.

    If they don’t, and the big entertainment companies who bankroll major productions like movies and television shows and support creators during the often lengthy process of creating content have all disappeared, then they better hope that there’s lots of people who are willing to buy a gadget just to watch cat videos and listen to poorly produced pod casts.

    I find that rather chilling to be honest. We’d just be exchanging one gate-keeper for the next. Considering how companies like Apple and Amazon treat their suppliers, I’m not so sure the artists will benefit here.

    Oh, it will suck for the artists. However, given the general contempt shown for their welfare so far in this discussion, it’s a little late to start worrying about it now.

    They will probably be a little better off than the Foxconn workers who put together Apple’s iPhones — or, at least, I doubt that as many of them will try to commit suicide.

    Somehow I doubt that. Certainly, people continue to give out more of their private information via all kinds of social platforms, but the privacy meant by Arjen has to do with private (encrypted) communication. No amount of DPI can distinguish between legal and illegal data once it has been encrypted.

    Oh, I doubt it as well. But we shouldn’t underestimate Google’s determination to make money. If what’s standing between them and higher profits is your encrypted data, I think they will devote the resources to cracking the encryption — and to convincing you and the world that it’s in your interests that they are doing so.

    Maybe they’ll organise an anti-encryption internet blackout. Wikipedia could run banners saying “Can you imagine a world in which all knowledge is encrypted and only the chosen few have access to it?” Others will point out that encryption violates free speech — don’t ask me how, I still don’t understand how stealing the words of others counts as free speech, but they’ve made that argument.

    I think the discussion should focus on “how do we make sure artists get paid?” rather than “how do we prevent/reduce infringement?”.

    The only thing that stops me from wholehearted agreeing with this is the fact that every time I try to discuss “How to make sure artists get paid?” I end up in another lecture on how DNS works — and I’m really tired of listening to apocalyptic warnings about what would happen if we go against the holy dictates of a thirty-year old technology.

    Instead, I’ve decided that since DNS is God and copyright infringement is apparently His sacrament, I should try to figure out how things will go within that context. It’s not pretty, but as the recent anti-SOPA protests have shown, most people don’t care. They think reducing content creators to a status of servitude is a good thing and something not only to be devoutly hoped for, but actively pursued.

    Learning that has shown me that there really aren’t any good answers here.

    Posted by zbekric | January 28, 2012, 7:30 am
  33. I don’t think it will be laws and the entertainment industry. I expect the big players in the entertainment industry will disappear, leaving the lobbyists of the tech industry unopposed, thus removing the possibility of legislative action.

    I think that will have a lot more to do with tech companies like Apple and Amazon offering something to creators that the record and publishing industries have forgotten: a platform on which they will get a large share of the profits while retaining their copyrights. The record companies are so busy trying to keep their business model afloat that they resist a lot of opportunities for new sources of revenue.

    Given competition, some manufacturer will start offering content exclusive to their device. To prevent other device manufacturers from pirating that exclusive content, they will find ways of tying it to features included only in the devices they manufacture, creating a walled garden. If the content is sufficiently compelling, it will draw sales away from other devices.

    Sorry, but I don’t see this happening, unless they combine the content integrated with software. Any form of media can, and will, otherwise be platform shifted, as it always people. Most people don’t like being locked into one platform forever, and so a market will exist for platform shifting technology.

    Result: fractured internet.

    Well, if it did come to pass, it would be fractured technology. The internet itself is rather agnostic in that regard. That’s both the strength, and the weakness of the internet. Its open structure allows new businesses to arise from garages, but at the same time makes it very hard to prevent people from breaking the law.

    Some artists have decided that art isn’t really what they want to do and have switched careers, becoming peddlers of t-shirts, novelty shot glasses and the like.

    That’s one way, but most music artists for instance were making their money touring anyway. There’s not that many musicians making their fortunes selling CDs; those profits usually flow towards the record companies. To many musicians, a CD is just a promotional tool to get people to come to concerts.

    I suspect that’s because tech companies don’t care when the material belongs to others, but when it’s their cash on the line, I think they will find a way of tying it down — either technically, legally or some combination of the two.

    I seriously doubt it. It’s technologically impossible to lock down non-software, and legally is hardly an option either. Those who infringe generally don’t care if they have to break 1 or 2 laws to do it after all.

    If they don’t, and the big entertainment companies who bankroll major productions like movies and television shows and support creators during the often lengthy process of creating content have all disappeared, then they better hope that there’s lots of people who are willing to buy a gadget just to watch cat videos and listen to poorly produced pod casts.

    I doubt that will be a problem either. As the sales in the entertainment industry show: in spite of all the infringement, people are still willing to spend their money on entertainment. There’s just a shift from buying recorded media to live performances and going out. That’s why I also believe that if there was some magical way of preventing infringement, it still wouldn’t bring more money to the entertainment industry. They often complain that infringement is costing them billions of dollars annually, but it’s not like the people are sitting on billions of dollars currently not spent on entertainment. They’re just spent differently.

    Oh, it will suck for the artists. However, given the general contempt shown for their welfare so far in this discussion, it’s a little late to start worrying about it now.

    I don’t believe you will find me showing contempt for artist’s welfare. I even often lobby for stronger protection of artists vs publishers. I just don’t believe that laws like SOPA and PIPA will do anything to solve the issue, yet they do cause huge collateral damage. As such, they’re simply bad laws.

    Oh, I doubt it as well. But we shouldn’t underestimate Google’s determination to make money. If what’s standing between them and higher profits is your encrypted data, I think they will devote the resources to cracking the encryption — and to convincing you and the world that it’s in your interests that they are doing so.

    I wish them lots of luck with that. :) Don’t forget it’s the same encryption we use to keep our bank secrets safe. I’m sure current encryption will be broken, just as new encryption will be available by the time it does.

    The only thing that stops me from wholehearted agreeing with this is the fact that every time I try to discuss “How to make sure artists get paid?” I end up in another lecture on how DNS works — and I’m really tired of listening to apocalyptic warnings about what would happen if we go against the holy dictates of a thirty-year old technology.

    Well, perhaps you shouldn’t be the one to bring up DNS to begin with then. :) It wasn’t the tech industry that tried to put DNS blocking into law without consulting the experts. If you don’t bring it up, I’m sure we can promise to do the same. :)

    Learning that has shown me that there really aren’t any good answers here.

    That’s quite possible, though it may highly depend on the questions you ask, and whether you’re willing to accept the answers you’ll get. Most (non-corporate) techies are surprisingly honest, but sometimes there just isn’t a good technological solution to a problem. At that time, consider if perhaps you should redefine your problem or find another (non-technical) solution.

    Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | January 30, 2012, 8:56 am
  34. I think that will have a lot more to do with tech companies like Apple and Amazon offering something to creators that the record and publishing industries have forgotten: a platform on which they will get a large share of the profits while retaining their copyrights.

    What copyrights? The entire discussion is about getting rid of them, remember?

    And why would Apple and Amazon do that if, when they get a hit — the next Harry Potter, say — Sony and Google can just rip it off and start offering it themselves? Not only would that cut into Apple and Amazon’s sales, but Sony and Google would actually come out ahead, since they would enjoy the profits from the material without any of the costs of paying for it’s creation.

    Even if other companies play nice and don’t rip off the content, then the pirates most certainly will. That’s what they do. Leaving Apple and Amazon having to justify a business model in which they spend money to develop content and then receive little to no financial benefit from it.

    Obviously, giving the artists “a large share of the profits” will be easy when there are little to no profits. Well, except to the pirates, who can make do on a low profit margin since their costs are zero.

    Well, if it did come to pass, it would be fractured technology. The internet itself is rather agnostic in that regard.

    I’m sorry, what happened to the broken internet? You remember, the internet that was so fragile that DNS blocking would irrevocably break it? Now, suddenly, it’s become much more robust. Odd how that works.

    To many musicians, a CD is just a promotional tool to get people to come to concerts.

    To many authors a book is an end product to be sold. To many film-makers, a movie is an end product to be sold. To them, promotional touring is just something they have to do help sell copies, it’s not an end in itself.

    Using a product as a promotional tool is a valid business model, but it’s not the only possible business model. Well, at least, it wasn’t.

    As the sales in the entertainment industry show: in spite of all the infringement, people are still willing to spend their money on entertainment. There’s just a shift from buying recorded media to live performances and going out.

    Which is good for performers, not so good for creators.

    We may be on the verge of a golden age for circuses and sideshows – well, except that their attendance figures area actually dropping — but for writers, film makers, composers, etc. not so much.

    I don’t believe you will find me showing contempt for artist’s welfare.

    You keep defending pirates. If that’s not showing contempt for the welfare of artists, I’m hard pressed to think of any other word to describe it.

    I even often lobby for stronger protection of artists vs publishers.

    This is kind of like arguing for stronger constitutional protections for the Aztec citizenry against the depredations of the priestly and aristocratic castes. It might be a valid cause, but it’s all rendered moot by the arrival of the conquistadors.

    It’s also a classic divide-and-conquer strategy. Get artists fighting with publishers so they can’t unite in the face of a common enemy like piracy.

    How about lobbying for stronger protection of artists and publishers vs. pirates? Once we’ve established that, we can worry about the details of artists vs. publishers.

    Well, perhaps you shouldn’t be the one to bring up DNS to begin with then. :)

    I brought it up, I was told it wouldn’t work, I believed that, and said “Okay, then, what should we do?”

    The only reply I got was more explanations about how DNS works. Like I said, for tech-people it’s an idee fixe; once they’re started on the subject, there’s no way to get them off it.

    It wasn’t the tech industry that tried to put DNS blocking into law without consulting the experts.

    Well, I guess they figured that if Google could block access to specific sites in China since 2006 without breaking the internet, and ISPs throughout Europe can block access to the Pirate Bay on court orders without breaking the internet, and Google again could block access to all the sites on the .co.cc domain without breaking the internet, and Australian ISPs could voluntarily block access to the “worst of the worst” child pornography sites without breaking the internet, then they probably thought that the evidence pretty much supported that it was possible to block access to sites without breaking the internet.

    Who knew that just because it had been done in the past it would suddenly turn out to be impossible to do in the future. Well, except for those on-going examples (I believe Google has stopped blocking sites in China, the rest of the examples remain current). Not being experts, they didn’t know that the limits of the technology tracked so neatly and precisely with the ideology of the pirates. Silly them.

    If you don’t bring it up, I’m sure we can promise to do the same. :)

    I’ll believe that when it happens.

    At that time, consider if perhaps you should redefine your problem or find another (non-technical) solution.

    I never asked for a technical solution. I outlined what copyright accomplishes and asked how can we keep those benefits when the mechanism (a restriction on copying) is no longer viable. Any proposed solution can be technical, non-technical, or a combination of the two.

    It’s just the DNS obsession that keeps you focused on the technical.

    Posted by zbekric | February 2, 2012, 8:54 am
    • What copyrights? The entire discussion is about getting rid of them, remember?

      It is? Who’s arguing for getting rid of copyrights? What we’re discussing is the legalisation of making copies for natural persons, and for non-commercial purposes only. In return for compensation of course. There’s little to no problem enforcing copyrights between companies; even the GPL gets defended quite well in court.

      I think the rest of that first part was written under the assumption of completely getting rid of copyrights, so I’ll leave it be.

      I’m sorry, what happened to the broken internet? You remember, the internet that was so fragile that DNS blocking would irrevocably break it? Now, suddenly, it’s become much more robust. Odd how that works.

      Setting up walled gardens doesn’t change the general structure of the internet; it’s an end-point decision.

      Which is good for performers, not so good for creators.Which is good for performers, not so good for creators.

      That’s true, and it will likely result in new contractual obligations between creators and performers.

      You keep defending pirates. If that’s not showing contempt for the welfare of artists, I’m hard pressed to think of any other word to describe it.

      When and where have I been defending pirates? I don’t condone infringement. I just don’t see how laws like SOPA will bring a solution to the table, yet I do see how legitimate companies will be hurt by them.

      It’s also a classic divide-and-conquer strategy. Get artists fighting with publishers so they can’t unite in the face of a common enemy like piracy.

      Is it? I regularly hear artists complain about the strangling contracts they get from publishers, and even many artists complain how those hurt them a lot worse than infringement of their work.

      How about lobbying for stronger protection of artists and publishers vs. pirates?

      You already have a huge amount of protection in copyright. The problem is enforcement of such laws vs natural persons, and the laws needed for that do far more bad than good. As such I argue for alternatives.

      Who knew that just because it had been done in the past it would suddenly turn out to be impossible to do in the future.

      Fracturing DNS wasn’t killing, just annoying, when DNS was an insecure protocol, but due to cyber terrorism our government (and I guess the rest of society too) want to shift it to a secure protocol: DNSSEC. DNSSEC cannot differentiate between breaking DNS for cyber attack purposes, and breaking DNS for copyright enforcement purposes, and so putting DNS blockage into law leaves us with a huge security problem.

      It’s just the DNS obsession that keeps you focused on the technical.

      Not really. So far we’ve had TPM/DRM, BPDG, DPI, and all kinds of obligatory protocols being pushed by the RIAA/MPAA. You may not care about the technical solutions, but it’s exactly those that get pushed by the RIAA/MPAA via the (inter)national treaties, so it’s those that get the focus in the debates surrounding copyright enforcement. For examples: You cannot manually check all the videos uploaded to YouTube, so you automatically get down to technical solutions.

      Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | February 4, 2012, 9:04 am
  35. “I regularly hear artists complain about the strangling contracts they get from publishers, and even many artists complain how those hurt them a lot worse than infringement of their work.”

    Really? Are you some sort of artist representative? You deal with artists day-in ,day-out? I thought you worked in Tech…
    Who are these artists you speak?
    I love my publisher(s). Even the co-publishers. They’re out promoting my work. In return they get a cut.
    Pirates just take the whole cut…

    “You already have a huge amount of protection in copyright. The problem is enforcement of such laws vs natural persons, and the laws needed for that do far more bad than good.

    Can you see how one would be confused as to your stance? You claim to not have a problem with copyrights… just with the enforcement of those rights…?
    That’s kinda like saying you’re not racist… you just don’t want a black family moving next door..

    Posted by James_J | February 10, 2012, 2:30 am
    • Really? Are you some sort of artist representative? You deal with artists day-in ,day-out? I thought you worked in Tech…

      I do work in tech, but I’ve also been doing copyright lobbying since 2000, and in that capacity I have been talking to artists (mostly musicians) quite regularly. Hans Dulfer for instance is a famous Dutch musician (yes, the father of), and has told me some very interesting experiences with the record industry. It’s pretty close to this story: http://www.salon.com/2000/06/14/love_7/

      Can you see how one would be confused as to your stance? You claim to not have a problem with copyrights… just with the enforcement of those rights…?

      No, how is that confusing? I’m not saying I have a problem with people enforcing their copyrights, far from it. I just agree with Robert that it’s very hard to enforce copyright against natural persons, since there’s such a large amount of people infringing on copyrights these days, with many technology platforms that can be used for infringement. It’ll only get to get harder too, with trackerless bit torrent clients with P2P torrent searches and encrypted communication. Sites like TPB will soon be completely obsolete.

      Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | February 11, 2012, 9:52 am

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