Why All Those Sites Are Dark Today

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Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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  1. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Doug Mataconis did a nice writeup with both sides of the issue fairly represented. It leaves me thinking that yes, something more needs to be done — but not SOPA, not PIPA.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      Actually, I don’t see much discussion of the “pro” side beyond “rightsholders want their rights protected”.

      Significant parts of SOPA deal with the ways in which rights infringement is monetised–specifically, by Google Ads letting file-hosting services make money from people coming to their sites to download infringing files.  The sites make money from showing the ads, Google makes money for serving the ads, and the worst you can possibly do to the file hoster, given the safe-harbor provisions of the DMCA, is ask them to take the file down.  Which they do–after receiving, reviewing, and processing a properly-formatted DMCA request that identifies the specific file.  No blanket declarations–you can’t just say “take down all copies of this movie”, you have to say “take down file0235689.mkv” and do a separate one of those for every instance of infringing content.  Two files with the exact same name require different DMCA takedown requests if they’re stored in different places by the hosting service.  And the site (and Google) get to keep all the money they made while this identification and notice-submission and processing was going on.

      Same deal with medications.  There’s more going on here than just “Motion Picture Ass. Of America wants to kill the Internet” or “Big Content wants to make sure it gets your money”.  Google has a specific business interest in the current state of affairs, and SOPA is directly aimed at that business interest.Report

  2. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    I like the idea of businesses shutting down to protest legislation that will impose costs on them.  I think that hospitals should shut down to protest EMATLA, manufacturing businesses should shut down to protest CPSIA, automobile factories should shut down to protest CAFE…Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      [Atlas shrugs.]Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        True.  It will be interesting to see how all the people who mock the idea of Going Galt will interpret this.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          DD,

          plenty of people actually do go galt, or something like it. Kibbutzniks to Harmonists to Amish… they simply walk away from society, and build a new one. Ya might call it an American Tradition.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

        [Atlas shrugs.]

        I know for a fact that Jim Wales is an Ayn Rand fan.  He and I used to discuss Rand on the Usenet newsgroup alt.philosophy.objectivism back in the mid-90s (along with Will Wilkinson!) before we all went on to varying degrees of fame and fortune.Report

  3. Avatar North says:

    Well Obama has promised to veto it if it gets through the Senate. I honestly can say that if he caved on this issue I’d very very seriously consider not voting for him in the election.Report

  4. Avatar Jeff says:

    “I like the idea of businesses shutting down to protest legislation that will impose costs on them.”

    This is a bit more draconian than merely “imposing costs”.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      Verifying that the site in question does not primarily exist to provide infringing content is hardly draconian.  People who run pawnshops have to do quite a lot to ensure that the goods they hold and sell are not stolen.  If they sell stolen goods by accident they don’t get to keep the money from it.  And yet there are still pawnshops around.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Draconian… Is it draconian to disable your property, which you paid a fair and honest price for, under the claims of dishonest behavior — without disclosing such facts? Furthermore, is it draconian to fail to disclose that your property has been rendered unworkable — to the point where you would have to pay money to discover that fact? And without legal recourse, as well?

        Oh, ye of little faith in the darkness and greed within men’s hearts.

        Read more about the people you stand beside — before they turn on you.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          Welcome to the world that every business not on the Internet has lived in since forever.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            So, let’s take this to a realm you’re familiar with.  Handguns. Do you object to bullets that can only be used by certain handguns? And that the manufacturers should have the right/obligation to determine which guns/owners have committed crimes, and be able to revoke your privilege to use your gun. Which You Bought? – Without Disclosing this to you, nor providing you with any remedy to get your gun working?

            (I’ll use cars, if you prefer.)

            These people have an extreme aversion to property rights, as law and common law define them, and they will go to extreme lengths to protect their intellectual property rights, as the cost of revoking your own rights to your property.

            Jim Baen stood against these creeps. I know which side I’m on.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              None of what you’ve listed here is anything like what SOPA requires at all.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                *smirk* yes, SIR, it doesn’t. I said earlier,

                “Read more about the people you stand beside — before they turn on you.”

                I believe the Bluray example cited above amply describes how paranoid and avaricious the people you are “standing up for” are.

                They certainly aren’t the creators of these francises. Think Anno cares if people pirate Evangelion (new or old)?? He’s too busy making money off blow up sex dolls, and other things that TRUE FANS buy.Report

  5. SOPA, as far as I can tell, seems like a bad idea.  But these websites going black gives me the creeps.  What happens if there’s another piece of legislation that they disapprove of, are they going to engage in some sort of virtual general strike to encourage us to write our congressperson?  What if there’s a beneficial (to them, or enough of them) rent-seeking piece of legislation that they decide to go dark until we cave in?

    I’m exaggerating, of course, and in more ways than one.  I realize these sites exists for themselves and not for me, and I realize that the protest against SOPA is probably a rare instance of a lot of sites agreeing whereas they might not otherwise agree on much of anything.

    There’s just something about all this that reminds me how we, or at least I, have grown much more dependent on computers and the ‘net in the last 15 years or so, and it’s a reminder to me of something that has always been true:  we don’t control our own destiny and we depend on others who don’t depend on us.

    I love the internet; I love the blogosphere; and I think it all is a net good.  But it’s not an unalloyed good, and it comes at a cost.

    I apologize that these remarks are a bit off-the-cuff and maybe even sloppy.  It just scares me.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      we’re human. we organize for our beliefs, do things together. If they were doing some sort of fucking rentseeking (say trying to get sales tax lifted on internet sales), YOU would call them out on it. And then I’d probably call them out on grandstanding… And everybody would probably just shrug and give them a little less credit next time (like when Piro had a hissy and threatened to stop writing Megatokyo simply because someone thought a plot point was implausible)Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      Of the various sites that participated in yesterday’s demonstration, I can’t think of a single one that didn’t have an effective workaround that would allow you to access its content anyway.  Yes, including Wikipedia.  Many didn’t have any impaired functionality at all.

      All of which means that the action yesterday, and similar ones of its type, are limited-use weapons.  The next time around, more people will know about the workarounds.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

      I think this is what troubles me about cybervigilantism like Anonymous that works on a very shakey set of principles to try to force its agenda through. Disabling or destroying web infrastructure is a great way to fuck up a lot of lives really quickly…

      That said, it did show the strength of just how damaging a web censorship provision like the ones in SOPA and PIPA would be. Let’s hope this builds the legislative momentum for OPEN.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        … last I checked, “give me porn” isn’t a set of principles. And yet, that’s caused more damage to the web than Anonymous has. Anonymous hacks, it doesn’t use c4.

        (yes, in my world, wardsmith, the death of a black goldfish can shut down a datacenter. And this is why most corporations don’t employ cultists (okay, maybe calling feng shui a cult is a bit of a stretch… but! this guy was treating it as one.))Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        Unless Wikipedia is on a server hosted outside the USA, there’s nothing that SOPA would have done to it.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          still waiting for your response to my commentary on the bluray spec. Did I make such a good point that you decided not to say anything? 😉Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          I’m not so sure about that.   SOPA wanted the right to poison DNS entries.   Hope I’m not telling you something you know already, forgive me if so, but DNS has some security problems.   The databases aren’t part of the protocol.   The master databases for DNS are run by InterNIC through ICANN but above them all is the US Department of Commerce.  InterNIC controls the definitive databases for DNS through the US government.

          If the US government decided to poison DNS, that’s a worldwide problem.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            Requiring that certain addresses not be resolved is only “poisoning DNS” if you insist that any regulatory interference in technological function is anathema.Report