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18 January

Time for some people to get a clue. Time for others to get to work.


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18 January: a number of prominent websites shut down for all or part of the day. This was done in protest against the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) sponsored by Texas representative Lamar Smith.

But it wasn't done solely in protest - it was done as a bit of a free educational service as well.

For sites like Reddit (shutdown 12 hours) and Wikipedia (shutdown 24 hours) will mostly likely have to shut down for real if SOPA ever passes into law.

SOPA is currently weak in the knees. But minor setbacks have never worried the DC lobbyists. There have been similar acts close to being passed into law in the past - and now there's SOPA. And should SOPA fail then there's sure to be another abominable acronym turning up right around the corner.

Some people will never learn. Not only because their grasp of Internet technology and the wider issues at stake is so staggeringly feeble but also because their pockets are too well lined by the vested interests who keep an eye on them.

The objective of SOPA is to come to the aid of Hollywood and damn the torpedoes. Hollywood's film industry, represented by the Motion Picture Association of America, want file sharing to stop. And they're prepared to shut down the Internet to achieve their objective.

Sites linking to torrents or other information to download Hollywood IP are to be targeted. These sites will be required by SOPA to police their own social media pages to make sure no such information is directly or indirectly available.

Does this sound a bit like the kangaroo trial of the Pirate Bay?

The proprietors of the Pirate Bay ran a tight ship. They cooperated closely with police authorities in Sweden. They had moderators constantly on the lookout for criminal activity. And when alerted to such activities by their moderators, the proprietors of the Pirate Bay contacted the Swedish police and had them come in and handle things.

Copyright infringement of Hollywood was not a criminal matter in Sweden because copyrights from Hollywood aren't valid in Sweden or the EU. So when confronted (some would suggest bullied) by Hollywood and other IP interests abroad, their replies proved firm. As no law was being broken, the Pirate Bay would not interfere. End of story.

Of course Hollywood didn't settle for that. They got the required paperwork from their producers and actors and directors so that copyright was transferred to the plaintiffs in time for the trial. Not in time for the actual period of investigation of course, but that was a minor detail the puppet court in Stockholm skied deftly around.

Hollywood interests have previously tasked mercenary organisations with the harassment of private individuals in an attempt pour decourager les autres. This was something akin to pillaging a village, beheading a few of the villagers, and sticking their heads on posts outside the perimeter. Lives were deliberately ruined in an effort to salvage small percents of the total revenue for Hollywood's property. There was no proportionality, nor was any sought; the tactic was to intimidate pure plain and simple.

A link from one personal website to another. Provided in all innocence. Then one day that second site links to a third site. Again in all innocence. And then one day again that third site suddenly links to the successor to TV Shack. All three sites are now in violation of SOPA and can be shut down.

SOPA makes it impossible for Google to function. As was pointed out in the trial of the Pirate Bay, Google offer the same service as torrent trackers - the links are still out there.

SOPA makes it impossible for Facebook to run, for Digg to run, for Twitter to run. But what's worse is if those sites don't immediately close down then they run the risk of severe penalties if anyone on their sites deliberately or inadvertently links to another site which in turn links to another site which has a link to IP Hollywood claim the copyright on.

The student behind the magnificent TV Shack now risks ten years in a maggoty US prison cell for running a site - much like the Pirate Bay - that only had links to but no actual contents of Hollywood IP.

Hollywood's own Hulu offers the same content as was offered by TV Shack, and for free as well, but Hollywood won't let people outside the US see all that glory. No - they have to pay through the nose for it.

Hollywood opposed the advent of television. They took their case to the US capital. Television was going to destroy Hollywood. But television remained.

Hollywood came out with Cinemascope to counter the perceived threat of television. Abnormally wide aspect ratios unobtainable in the home.

Now Hollywood brought back 3D movies. They want to give people a reason to keep going to the cinema, even with the digital revolution making things so easy in the home.

A representative of Hollywood interests once asked Rick Falkvinge what he thought they should do: technology had caught up to them, caught them with their knickers down, they were looking at the retirement of their cash cow. What should they do?

'Frankly I don't know', Falkvinge told them. 'But you'll figure it out. You always do.'

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