Thursday, January 19, 2012

SOPA/PIPA and The Netwar Begins

Today, a full-fledged Netwar appears to have started between the US and hacker groups led by "anonymous" - or someone who wants us to think that's who they are. 

It started when the DOJ hit MegaUpload and apparently shut them down, with no due process of any kind.  At this time, the DOJ ( seems to be under a DOS (Denial of Service) attack and is unreachable.  According to Gizomodo,  the RIAA, MPAA, and Univeral Music are all currently shutdown under attack, too - as well as the FBI and recording label EMI.  The sites under attack are winking in and out, as the waves of attacks break. 

According to the Guardian (UK)
The US government has closed down one of the world's largest filesharing websites, accusing its founders of racketeering, money laundering and presiding over "massive" online piracy.

According to prosecutors, Megaupload illegally cheated copyright holders out of $500m in revenue as part of a criminal enterprise spanning five years.
Which brings us back to SOPA/PIPA.  Borepatch did a great exposure of a security problem with the proposed laws, I want to talk about the philosophical problem. 

It is simply this: the $500 million dollars in damages the alleges is complete BS.  No one can possibly know how much financial damage "stealing" any file caused the copyright owner.  The logical fallacy that every copy is a lost sale goes back over a century, before recording existed, when the equivalent of the RIAA or ASCAP was busting the kneecaps of people who copied sheet music, and it's no more true today.  The examples are trivially easy to construct.  Has anyone ever given you an album that you might listen to, but don't like enough to buy?  If that's an MP3 file of the audio, to the RIAA you've deprived them of sales when, in reality, you never would have spent the money for it. 

To say every downloaded song is a $10 or $15 CD sale that wasn't made completely ignores the pricing power of the market.  Perhaps you would buy it at $5 or $1, but just don't think it's worth what they charge for it. The same goes for movies or any other form of entertainment; it's just not true that everyone who will watch a pirated DVD would have bought the official version. 

In the case of software, can you honestly argue that every person who uses a broken copy of a truly expensive program would have bought it?  In engineering, I've known people who used broken copies of  ~$30,000/seat design programs at home - big name CAD programs are typical.  If it wasn't available as cracked software, they simply wouldn't get the work done (or they'd do it at work, after hours, or in some other way).  They used that software just because it was available, and the purchase price is orders of magnitude beyond what a home user or hobbyist could pay. And I have personally seen situations where the use of "stolen" software resulted in the employee convincing the company to buy the program - a case where stolen software caused a sale; it didn't deny one. 

You see, the folks behind SOPA/PIPA are terrified of the technology.  If I give you a CD and you don't listen to it, it's just one,  but if I make digital copies to post, I can make an unlimited number of them and the last copy is as good as the first.  They are terrified that they will put content up for sale, and no one will buy.  Individual artists are doing well selling songs directly, and avoiding the record label's control.  The companies are terrified that they will lose power and become irrelevant.   


  1. I'm shocked to see the RIAA shut down by a pissed off Intarwebz.

    That series of tubes can be a bitch.

    Although I must say that I liked Fluffy Bunny better than Anonymous.

  2. The only issue I take with what your saying Gray is in the last sentence. The record labels already are irrelevant.

    Personally I havent bought anything from the bastards in years...7 or 8 at least, and Im only 28. Pandora, Grooveshark, and Youtube music videos are more than enough for me.

  3. Monopolies are beneficial to the government, because the government can maintain a controlling interest in them. Just look at General Electric, which has payed no taxes since Obama was elected and manufactures just about everything used by the police and military. The Federal Reserve and the other mega-banks are other fine examples.

    A government could not control the prices and by extension the distribution of goods and services in a free, competition driven market. Indirect socialism used to be called Fascism.

  4. Another key ingredient of Fascism is censorship. Both the SOPA and PIPA bill allow blogs and news aggregators to be shut down. What better way to silence dissent than to do it using copyright as the pretext.

  5. Borepatch - I'm old enough to remember Fluffy Bunny - but only barely.

    And, yeah, the record labels are irrelevant in my life, too. I've held off buying MP3 albums because of my first experience with an MP3 song. The song was fine - until the computer had to be replaced, then I was never able to use it again. I'd rather buy the CDs and rip a new one whenever I feel like it. I am small potatoes to the RIAA and MPAA.

    It really is just another step toward total fascist takeover. Every so often they take a big enough step to wake up their opposition. When they sneak in a few tenths of an inch at a time, they get away with everything.

  6. say nothing about the moral ownership of an artist's work and where any such royalties should really go...