January, 2012

Who lost SOPA?

Legislation The blame-storming in Hollywood over the failure of SOPA and the Protect-IP Act has begun. MPAA chief Chris Dodd offers a half-hearted mea culpa in the New York Times, acknowledging a “perception problem” for the industry. But he pins most of the blame on “irresponsible” technology players like Wikipedia, Google and Reddit for stirring up the natives with their blackouts and black propaganda.

More darkly, many in the media industry are blaming President Barack Obama for the loss, accusing him of a stab in the back for siding publicly with Silicon Valley after Hollywood had raised millions for his campaigns. One time SOPA and PIPA supporters in Congress who went wobbly in the face of public pressure are also coming in for scorn.

Most of the problems the media companies have had over SOPA and PIPA, however, have been self-inflicted. Read More »

Why Concurrent Media did not go black today

Legislation There were, as best I could tell without an engineering degree, sound engineering reasons to oppose the DNS-blocking provisions of the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act. An enforcement mechanism that relied on maintaining a security hole in the Domain Name System, just as Internet engineers around the world were implementing a long-awaited fix for that hole, seem pretty self-evidently a bad idea. Especially so since the enforcement purpose itself could be so easily defeated by the simple expedient of typing in IP addressed directly.

There were also, again as best I could tell, serious ideological and societal implications that flowed from that enforcement strategy. Insofar as DNS blocking in the U.S. would encourage the adoption of alternative systems for resolving IP addresses, which were not subject to U.S. jurisdiction but which more Read More »

SOPA slips away

Legislation You knew something was up when both Lamar Smith and Patrick Leahy, respectively the chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, each issued statements Friday (Smith, Leahy) saying they would remove the DNS blocking provisions from their own signature anti-piracy bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House, and PROTECT-IP in the Senate. On Saturday, the rest of us found out what was up when the Obama Administration posted a statement on the White House blog saying it would not support any legislative measures “that tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet through manipulation of the Domain Name System (DNS).”

And with that, the copyright industries’ biggest prize was lost. Read More »

Stopping SOPA still a long shot, and yet…

Copyright Opponents of the Stop Online Piracy Act over at Reddit, the crowd-sourced news aggregator, are trumpeting their role in getting the high-profile Congressman and conservative hero Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to, apparently, flip-flop on his support for the bill. In a statement issued Monday, Ryan said that, “While H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act, attempts to address a legitimate problem, I believe it creates the precedent and possibility for undue regulation, censorship and legal abuse.” As a result, he added, “I do not support H.R. 3261 in its current form and will oppose the legislation should it come before the full House.”

Ryan had been targeted by activists at Reddit largely because of his high profile. They launched “Operation Pull Ryan” last month and endorsed his Democratic challenger, Rob Zerban, in an effort to deny Ryan reelection in 2012 over his “support” for SOPA. Zerban, in fact, was quick to praise Reddit in a post on the site Monday calling Ryan’s seeming change of heart, “an extraordinary victory” that will “send shock waves…throughout the establishment in Washington today.” Read More »

What happens in Vegas

Las Vegas — The first annual International CES opens here this week and is expected to attract somewhere north of 140,000 gadget makers, press, politicos, and buyers and sellers of stripes, to say nothing of your humble correspondent. Normally this time of year, those same folks would be attending the Consumer Electronics Show here. But the organization that puts on the show, the Consumer Electronics Association, has decided to drop the reference to “consumer electronics” in the name of its signature confab. From now on, the “CES” in International CES won’t actually stand for anything. It’s just the group of three letters people have been using as a handy abbreviation for the Consumer Electronics Show since it stopped being the Radio Manufacturers Show sometime in the 1960s.

The “rebranding,” as the marketing folks say, comes as the show is in fact experiencing something of an identity crisis, underscored last month by word that Microsoft would no longer send its CEO to keynote the confab after this year and would significantly scale back its participation in the show. To longtime show-goers, Microsoft’s decision to drop out is no great loss. Neither Steve Ballmer, nor Bill Gates before him, had said anything worth hearing at Microsoft’s traditional night-before keynote in years. And much of what they did talk about often turned out to be vaporware (Spot watch, anyone?). Read More »

Who is winning the SOPA fight?

Copyright Only a few months ago, it appeared that supporters of the Stop Online Piracy Act had the votes to whisk the bill through the House Judiciary Committee and get it to the House floor before anyone really noticed what was happening. The bill was sponsored by both the chairman and ranking member of the committee and was the top legislative priority of major U.S. industries with a history of generous campaign contributions. The skids seemed more than amply greased.

For all that, however, SOPA’s supporters weren’t quite quick enough. Opponents raised enough alarms that a Judiciary Committee hearing last month expected to be a mere rubber-stamp markup of the bill turned into a contentious, two-day marathon that only ended when Congress itself adjourned for the year. Nearly 70 proposed amendments were offered and the committee barely got through a third of them before chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) reluctantly brought down the gavel. Read More »