The moron U.S. Congress was on the verge of killing the Web

(Note: Comments on this entry begin here.)

There have been many fascinating things to write about, and a bunch of readers’ comments from a couple of days ago not yet posted, but I was preoccupied with computer-related things all day Wednesday, and also (I know this may be hard for some to believe) just not in the mood for blogging.

Meanwhile, the anti-copyright piracy bills that were stopped in the Congress on Wednesday as a result of widespread outcry are much worse than I had realized. Must reading is Adrian Hon’s article in The Telegraph, posted at Here is the key passage (with the incorrect spelling “US” changed to “U.S.”):

According to these acts, if a U.S. site (or a foreign site that has its domain name registered in the U.S.) is found to be “committing or facilitating the commission” of copyright infringement, then, on the request of a rights holder, it is subject to seizure in a way that many scholars believe violates due process, depriving people of a fair hearing and suppressing free speech.

It gets worse. If the targeted site is not based in the U.S. and thus cannot be seized, then the following actions must occur:

1) U.S. sites and search engines must remove all links to the foreign site
2) U.S. advertising services must no longer serve ads linking to the site, or display ads on the foreign site
3) U.S. payment networks must cease all transactions between the foreign site and U.S. customers
4) U.S. service providers to block access to the foreign site via DNS blacklisting

In other words, a rights holder would be able to accuse a website anywhere in the world of facilitating piracy simply because a user posted a comment linking to a file sharing site, and the site would completely vanish from the internet. Anyone using any U.S.-based search engine (which includes pretty much everyone in the UK) would not be able to find it, and anyone in the U.S. would discover that typing in its URL would lead to nowhere.

It’s absolutely unbelievable. How could such an insane, tyrannical bill have passed a Senate committee on a unanimous vote? Our legislators are idiots.

Long-time VFR readers may remember how, a few years ago, VFR was forced off the Web by the single complaint of a single person to whom I had sent a group e-mail. He complained to my hosting service (instead of simply writing back to me and asking me to take him off my mailing list), and as a result the hosting service took VFR offline with no warning to me. I only got the site back online as a result of several days of humbly begging and pleading.

Now imagine that a single complaint from a single person who claims that his copyright was violated by site X can result in site Y being taken off the Web and vanishing because of a single link at site Y to site X, even though site Y had nothing to do with the copyright infringement. This is the tyrannical madness that the U.S. Congress was prepared to foist on the world, if it hadn’t been stopped by Wikipedia’s strike and the protests of other major Web entities.

- end of initial entry -

Kathlene M. writes:

About the anti-piracy bill: It’s interesting to see how the tech industry (which heavily supports Obama) trumped Hollywood (also big Obama supporters) this time. I see that Drudge has a link to an article about angry Hollywood moguls refusing to give any more campaign contributions to Obama because of the defeat of the SOPA legislation. SOPA became a battle between one pro-Obama industry against the other pro-Obama industry.

I’m sure right now the Obama Re-election team has cynically figured that there’s more money available from Silicon Valley (which has been doing rather well lately) than from Hollywood (which has not been doing as well lately). Since I live in Silicon Valley, I’m aware that most if not all the tech tycoons and their workforce support Obama and the Democratic Party. Billionnaire Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook—who was against SOPA and PIPA—is an Obama campaign donor who had considered hiring former White House spokesman Robert Gibbs back in April 2011. Silicon Valley money has poured into Obama fundraisers.

So I’m mixed about the outcome of SOPA. Yes, it sure seemed to be draconian legislation that went too far in trying to combat online piracy of copyrighted material. On the other hand, libertarians are fooling themselves if they think that Google, Facebook and other internet giants have hoi polloi’s “freedom of speech” interests at heart. They don’t and those internet corporations, especially Facebook, do and can censor anyone they deem too controversial. Silicon Valley has cashed in a favor from Obama for all that they’ve done to elect him. The tech tycoons don’t want the government to control their freedom, but in the end would have no qualms about the government controlling ours.

Mitchell B. writes:

Your plaintive cry:

“How could such an insane, tyrannical bill have passed a Senate committee on a unanimous vote? Our legislators are idiots.”

Yes our legislators are idiots … and cowards and liars and thieves and left-wing fascists and communists. They are in fact the deadly enemies of their own country. However, they didn’t pass this bill in the Senate committee because they were too idiotic to understand what is in it. They know precisely what’s in it and they love it. I’m sure they view this outrage as merely a first small step in controlling and censoring a forum that they are all horribly afraid of and that they hate with every fiber of their criminal beings. I’ve read the whining excuses so many of them have put forth to justify this blatant attempt to shut us up, and everything they said about the bill and its supposed “virtues” was a complete lie. They’re not even bothering to hide their contempt for us. They are honestly hurt and offended that we would dare take issue with their evil work. Something rather drastic has to happen pretty soon to turn things around or Obonzo, his goons and their congressional familiars will succeed in turning what’s left of the U.S. into Soviets ‘R Us. This is no joke.

Alexis Zarkov writes:

Mr. Auster asks, “How could such an insane, tyrannical bill have passed a Senate committee on a unanimous vote? Our legislators are idiots.” The answer is simple and obvious: industry lobbying. Both parties are for sale, and will pass anything that will get them campaign contributions, or stock tips. Such stock tips make for a clever end run around the law as Congress is exempt from laws against acting on inside information. BTW I sent VFR advanced warning of the net-destroying bills a few weeks ago before all hell broke loose with Wikipedia and other sites staging a blackout in protest.

Everyone should call his Congressman and do whatever is necessary to stop the madness. I think this is one time when it’s not necessary to be polite.

LA writes:

I doubt very much that the senators who approved this bill understood how insanely draconian it was—that it could result in the arbitrary, senseless killing of websites. After all, what rational purpose, even by those sinister leftists who want to stop conservative speech, would be served by a scenario in which, say, Wikipedia is suddenly taken offline and is “disappeared” because in one article it had a link to a website which among its vast number of entries had one entry in which copyrighted material was improperly quoted?

Also, if the legislators had consciously supported all the terrible implications in this bill, would they have backed away from it the instant there was strong protest and said that the matter needed closer study?

Now I have always regarded the Web as a pretty free realm and I freely quote from all kinds of sources, always with links and citations of course (unlike many bloggers who mindlessly copy articles without link or source or author’s name). I suppose that I may be technically violating copyright laws by quoting newspapers. I remember how astonished I was a few years ago when I brought some materials to a copy place, Kinko’s, and they told me they would not make a xerox of a newspaper article because that would violate copyright. I was utterly flummoxed by that. Now if there really are such ridiculous laws, for the most part people ignore them, yet if someone wanted to enforce them strictly, I suppose that all quoting and copying and sharing of published material would cease. I couldn’t quote the New York Times or National Review any more. I couldn’t copy a newspaper column along with my interspersed commentary. Talk about that “chilling effect” of which liberals are constantly warning us! The Web would just dry up.

LA continues:

To take a common, familiar example, let’s say that you’re running a conference, and you want to put together a packet of materials including newspaper and magazine articles on the conference topic to distribute to the attendees. If you xerox the newspaper articles (sorry for using the transitive verb “xerox” in the generic sense, I’m an old fashioned kind of guy), are you violating federal copyright law? Then how could the packet be put together? Are you required under the law to write a letter to each and every publication whose article you want to copy, and get their formal permission to copy it? That would be insane. I don’t think anyone would do that. I think people would just go ahead and make the copies they need. But perhaps they are all in violation of federal law and could be in trouble is the government began to enforce the law strictly.

Here’s the most basic point: Don’t newspapers and authors want their articles to be widely read and discussed? But how can they be, if copying a mere newspaper article is against the law?

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 19, 2012 12:23 AM | Send

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