It turns out America is quickly becoming one of the least free states in the world. Instead of a democratic republic we have turned into a fascist pluto-theocracy.
You deny this simple fact? Where can I start convincing you? How about the thing you’re using right now, the Internet? Government’s the world over are on the verge of taking it away.
PROTECT IP – 2011
What do you think of when you see the acronym “Protect IP?” Do you think of the protection/defense of internet protocol, internet providers, or intellectual property? Good, that means you are a rational person. So why would the acronym itself stand for: Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act? What is the purpose of this deliberately misleading acronym? Well to answer that, you would have to look at what Protect IP (recently changed to PIPA because it’s a less stupid acronym) says. It would make new sets of intermediaries (including DNS servers, ad networks, search engines, and interactive computer services such as social media sites, message boards, or blogs) checkpoints that the “authorities” can police for infringing content or radical ideas. The Attorney General would have the ability to order ISP and DNS providers to blacklist certain websites. Furthermore, copyright owners (the kind with shitloads of money, like the MPAA, RIAA, etc, not your friendly neighborhood artist) would be able to initiate this enforcement process themselves. There have already been cases under the existing framework in which youtube videos of little girls playing or birthday parties were taken down because a copyrighted song was playing in the background. There have even been cases of these big corporations taking down material they don’t even hold the rights to. Bills similar to this are already in effect in much of the middle east as well as China. Even if the intentions of the US government were completely benign, they will be taken as a model for governments everywhere that seek to cut off from their citizens’ content and speech they’d rather not have available. Fortunately immense public pressure prevented this from being passed.
SOPA – 2012
SOPA is more of the same, but worse. It stands for the Stop Online Piracy Act and is the senate version of the house bill PIPA. Who could potentially be against pirates? I want to stop pirates. Pirates are the evil scum of the sea. Who understands the internet so poorly that they think this is a good idea? Lamar Smith, a Texas senator and hypocrite extraordinaire. His campaign website actually used a copyrighted picture until the internet called him out on it. Again, immense public pressure prevented this from being passed. But these small victories are only slowing them down.
PCIPA – 2012
Not a month before PIPA and SOPA were shelved, Lamar Smith crapped out another bill. PCIPA stands for “Protect Children from Internet Pornography Act.” This acronym isn’t as stupid as Protect IP or Patriot and it seems to be for something positive and in no way related to crushing internet freedom. The only people who are against protecting children are monsters. The only people who would be opposed to protecting children from internet pornography (specifically protecting them from being in child porn) are child-molesting monsters. How could anyone ever be opposed to this act? Anyone who reads it all the way to Section 4(a)(h): Retention of certain records by electronic communication service providers. It states that “A provider of an electronic communication service or remote computing service shall retain for a period of at least 18 months the temporarily assigned network addresses the service assigns to each account, unless that address is transmitted by radio communication.” It goes on to state that the records will be secure and private, but that only refers to secure and private from those not in the government. So who proposed this act? None other than Lamar Smith, the same Texas senator who wrote SOPA and received over a million dollars in legal bribes (campaign donations) from the MPAA, RIAA, etc.
ACTA – 2012
ACTA stands for Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. I’m too lazy to write more so here’s a video that nicely consolidates everything I want to say: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmQN93NqqDM
Bottom line about PIPA, SOPA, PCIPA, & ACTA:
The politicians pushing these bills (and writing them) all receive heavy campaign donations from the MPAA, RIAA, UMG, and other Hollywood media giants. They don’t really understand how the internet works, and they don’t really care. These Hollywood giants claim to be heavily impacted by online piracy, but the evidence is simply not there, as you will see if you continue reading. The truth is (as you would expect from a Hollywood giant) they are greedy. They don’t like the fact that any talented asshole with $1,000 can make a movie, post it online, and achieve overnight success. They don’t like that middlemen are growing less and less necessary in an increasingly connected world. They don’t like that the same 6 corporations that control everything on the television, radio, and newsprint have no control over online media.
We can all agree that people who work to make creative works deserve money. “Piracy” (file-sharing) actually helps them make money. How?
For those listophiles, here’s 8 ways filesharing actively helps the music industry
1. It stops fans from buying crap
Thereby performing a sick kind of quality control. Instead of just consuming whatever crap the artists decide to put out that week, pirates make them work to create good stuff. If a movie sucks, it’s not going to get the same kind of press these days as it would before the Internet. People will tell you it sucks. When someone gets something for free and says it sucks, you can often trust them more than a paid critic who probably got comped a weekend at Disneyland to tell people that “Paranormal Activity” was scary.
2. It helps artists who are actually good
Back in the days, we would only hear a musician if he had a record contract. Today, anyone with a computer and some talent can get their work out there. While it is true that wading through piles of junk can be somewhat daunting at times, finding the gem that becomes your favorite song makes it all worthwhile. The bonus is these guys don’t mind if we pirate their stuff. They are just happy to be heard.
3. It resurrects good songs
Every now and then, a song that would have never become popular again gets linked by thousands of /b/tards involved in some sort of sick joke and gets airplay. Without being free to find and listen to such a song, Rick Astley would still be that young white guy from the 80’s who sounded like an old black man. Pirates made him famous again. You’re welcome, Rick.
4. It is a great marketing tool
Most musicians don’t make their money off the actual sales of the album they release. They make it off concerts and merchandising. The more people pirate a song, the more are likely to pay for a live performance or t-shirt. If I found out the Numa Numa kid was doing his thing at the local theater, I would be all over it. Don’t act like you wouldn’t be first in line too…
5. If given the chance, we will pay for good work
Ask Radiohead. Or Nine Inch Nails. Or Shakira. They all released their albums to the net for free and ended up making more money in donations than they would have had they sold it.
6. If it wasn’t free, most of us wouldn’t listen or watch it
How many of the movies you have seen in the last year would you have actually paid for? 1 or 2? Maybe 3? These people are lucky ‘we’ wasted our time on some of their crap. Without piracy, some movies just wouldn’t get seen at all.
7. It stops physical piracy
I know I’m not alone when I say I will never buy a pirated copy of anything on the street. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? If not given the digital opportunity to get things, the real pirates who make money off the stuff would be getting more and more business. Thanks to file-sharing, they get it all from anyone with a hard drive and just a little bit of motivation. File-sharers can shut them down whereas the MPAA, RIAA, or any other organization has problems even making a dent.
8. It stops violence
The aforementioned industry, selling pirated movies on the streets, can lead to people getting hurt. Just like the war on drugs, when something is made illegal and has to move to back rooms and alleyways, bad shit starts to happen. No one has ever gotten stabbed over the internet for copying a movie or song. Because you don’t have to deal with shady people. Those who advocate piracy are generally decent folks who would never hurt anyone. Unlike what the business would be without them.
Second of all let’s fix this common misconception: “Piracy is stealing!”
“Piracy” is not stealing. “Piracy” is sharing. When you steal something, you make it so someone else can no longer have an item. For example, I have an apple, then you steal it from me, I no longer have an apple but you do. Let’s try that example again with piracy. I have an apple, then I make an exact genetic copy of it and give you the copy. Now we both have apples. Unlike counterfeiting, digital copies are exact copies, there is no decline in quality when I share a file with you, and it costs nearly zero energy to produce (unlike the apple). In fact, that is the only way to reproduce digital goods. Media mega-corporations have been claiming that piracy would ruin their industries for decades. They thought the VCR was going to prevent people from going to the movies. They thought cassette tapes would prevent people from ever purchasing music again. They thought CDs and DVDs would be even worse. Is that what happened? Or do people simply want to spend money on quality goods? Let’s now look at each of the main industries who claim to be “victims” of filesharing and look at some facts.
The Movie Industry
Never before has piracy been so widespread and easy. Almost everyone has at least tried an online streaming television site such as megavideo (well not anymore), peer-to-peer filesharing, or torrenting high-quality copies of DVDs. Yet according to this and this ticket sales are about where they were 10 years ago (despite the Great Recession which began in 2007). Furthermore, 2009 was literally the highest grossing year of all time for the movie industry, closely followed by 2010. If the movie industry was being impacted so negatively by piracy, wouldn’t it be reasonable to conclude that fewer movies would be made, or at the very least, fewer people would be buying tickets? But no, the simple fact is (despite the recession) people are paying for movies at about the same rate they were in 1995 (despite the mid-90s economic boom). DVDs/blu-rays remain the top gift choice for virtually anyone. Some televisions programs, such as Futurama, Arrested Development, and Family Guy, only really got popular based on filesharing and word of mouth. The fans of these shows began “buying up a storm” of DVD box sets until it actually became profitable to begin making new episodes. This is a new phenomenon, a phenomenon that would not be possible without the ability to pirate. New episodes of Futurama pokes fun at piracy, having one of the characters give a public service annoucement instructing the viewers to “DO IT”. Why would the writers put something like this in their show? To show their support of anti-piracy laws? No, they know a large portion of their fan-base are active filesharers. Take a gander at the top ten most pirated shows and ask yourself: are the creative forces behind these doing well financially?
The Music Industry
It’s the same thing with the music industry. According to this, and this, people are actually buying more music. They are spending less money because people don’t want physical copies of data anymore. It’s redundant. Why would anyone want a stack of CDs in addition to an ipod full of mp3s? And mp3s don’t cost anything to maintain and sell. Anyone can make infinite copies of them for zero cost. In the past, when you bought an album, you were paying for the vinyl it was made on, the factory that made it, the salaries of the people who work in the factory, delivery drivers, album sleeves, shrink wrap, etc. It made sense for an album to cost $10. Now, the record label is taking all that money that would have been going to real things and just consolidating power. It’s not going to the artist and it should be abundantly clear that the government cracking down on the free spread of ideas is not going to create unique music. Some may claim that “piracy killed the rock star” citing that all the “classics” were written in a time before piracy. I’ve actually had baby-boomers try to argue this with me. I’m sorry but it’s just not true that music “back in the day” is objectively better than now.
The Video Game Industry
There are few demographics that are as savvy about filesharing than gamers. Yet the video game sector is one of the fastest growing industries alive today. Valve developed a program called Steam that is essentially an online store for almost every PC game in existence. Almost all these games are easily piratable. Yet Valve’s (a popular video game company) market value has literally doubled every year for the past 7 years. They make so much money that they recently began giving away one of their most played games for free. And they’re still making money off it. More and more games these days are pay-what-you-want if not outright free. Yet they’re quite the opposite of bankrupt.
So now you know piracy is not an issue, but I’m not quite done with the free internet issue yet. Right next to greedy Hollywood corporations’ side in the restricted vs. free internet discussion, are power hungry governments worldwide who love the idea of suppressing ideas, especially since the 2011 London riots and Arab Spring were made possible almost entirely due to modern social media sites. Twitter has already begun its censorship process, the LAPD is going to start using aerial hovercams drones to spy on civilians, protest is now only allowed in “free speech cages”, and the FBI building a program to track “terrorist-sounding words” on your Twitter, Facebook, and Google Searches. Is this really what the founding patriots wanted?
USA PATRIOT Act – 2001
First of all this stands for Provide Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. Title I: Allows the indefinite detention of immigrants, increased funding for the FBI, increased the size of the National Electronic Crime Task Force. Title II: New surveillance procedure law gives the federal government the right to break into anyone’s home, citizen or not, using “sneak and peek” warrants. Wiretapping restrictions were relaxed, surveillance of packet switched networks were allowed.
NDAA – 2012
NDAA stands for National Defense Authorization Act. Every year a new one is developed, and 2012 is the first year something drastically against the US Bill of Rights (specifically the 5th, 6th, and 7th amendments, learn what are mean on your own). Under section 1021, the US military is given the right to indefinitely detain “covered persons” (lawspeak for someone suspected of terrorism) without a trial. The vagueness of the bill gives the government the right to immediately and permanently silence anyone with middle-eastern heritage, anarchist beliefs, or those who are simply outspoken journalists. Remember, the Patriot Act gives federal agencies the right to enter your home without a warrant. The NDAA would give them the right to kidnap you after breaking in. You may remember that Obama said in his signing statement he was only going back on his threat to veto the bill because changes were made to the it preventing US citizens from being targets of this new legislation. Wouldn’t it be funny if that change was made to this specific bill, then 2 weeks later another bill was written that gave the US government the right to revoke US citizenship for anyone suspected of terrorism?
EEA – 2012
Surprise: that’s exactly what happened. EEA stands for Enemy Expatriation Act. It allows the federal government to revoke citizenship for anyone it deems as a terrorist in Section 2(a). The bill defines a terrorist as anyone who “engages in or purposefully and materially supports hostilities against the United States” and goes on to define hostilities as “any conflict subject to the laws of war.” What are the “laws of war?” Simple rules that are generally followed in wars such as don’t shoot doctors, don’t shoot people waving a flag of surrender, and don’t attack religious places. They are general rules to be followed by everyone at all times, and that’s exactly the point. The EEA’s power lies in its vagueness. Act suspicious and kiss your ass goodbye. I would say kiss your freedom goodbye, but that shit’s been gone for a while.
H.R. 645: National Emergency Centers Establishment Act – 2009
While this ended up not getting passed, it is highly likely that congress will keep on trying to force it through. Why? Because Obama wants it to happen and he will keep trying until it does (after he inevitably gets re-elected). Like every other act listed on this blog, at first glance it seems innocent enough. Basically military bases would have permanent “emergency camps” built in them to house civilians during war or weather related emergencies. Ominously, the bill also states that the camps can be used to “meet other appropriate needs, as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security,” an open ended mandate which many fear could mean the forced detention of American citizens in the event of widespread rioting after a national emergency or total economic collapse. Guess who would be in charge of building these facilities? You guessed it, Halliburton. I hope this is enough evidence that supporting the US government is now a risky endeavor, be it through paying taxes, joining a government organization, or even merely passively accepting things as they are. Look at the pathetic joke are country has become: Santorum and Romney are front-runners, The Daily Show is now one of the most trusted news sources in America, votes were rigged in the Maine and Iowa caucuses against Ron Paul, etc. I hope this is enough evidence for you to join me on my peaceful journey of non-participation.