SOPA News Round-Up

Here are some useful stories posted today from around the web that address the proposed SOPA legislation:

Brin says SOPA puts US on par with oppressive nations

Former DHS Assistant Secretary Stewart Baker On SOPA 2.0: Still A Disaster For Cybersecurity

Do any real people support SOPA?

Takedowns and Lawsuits Have Already Started in the Fight Against SOPA

Brad Burnham Explains Why SOPA Must Be Stopped

Stop SOPA. Save the internet.

Don’t forget to make your voice heard! Go here to contact your congressional representatives.

SOPA Will Take Away Your Kanye West Lipdubs and Macramé Sons of Anarchy Flickr Account!

The political cartoonist David Rees got pissed off about SOPA enough that he came out of retirement to create new anti-SOPA comics above and here (there’s a lot more censorship yuck-it-ups there than the one that I posted above). Today’s the day–tell your congressional representatives that this kind of big-business-wants-to-rule-the-internet crap is unacceptable!

Roundup of Anti-SOPA Coverage

As I mentioned yesterday, please let your representatives know that you do not want the Internet censored using a system similar to that used in China, Iran, and Syria. This is what the Internet Blacklisting legislation known as SOPA and Protect-IP would do. We should respect support copyright, but we should not support copyright to the detriment of all other speech, including fair use, online. The Internet is still in its infancy and it is developing in new and unexpected ways. SOPA and similarly restrictive laws will stifle that development and the empowering possibilities that might have been. Read the coverage below to learn more about what SOPA and Protect-IP mean for American citizens and the Internet. Then, go here to send a message to your representatives.

Stop the Great Firewall of America [New York Times op-ed]

SOPA Won’t Stop Online Piracy, Would Censor Everyone Else [Time]

Thoughts On The House Judiciary Committee’s Hearings On SOPA [TechDirt]

At Web censorship hearing, Congress guns for “pro-pirate” Google [ArsTechnica]

A Look At Three Popular Sites That May Be In Trouble Under SOPA [TechDirt]

More And More People Speak Up Against SOPA [TechDirt]

New Study From Booz & Co. Shows That SOPA/PROTECT IP Will Chill Investment In Innovation [TechDirt]

Sweet sanity: 75% of Americans say infringement fines should be under $100 [ArsTechnica]

American Censorship Day, Tell Congress that You Don’t Want the Internet Censored!

Today is the ad hoc American Censorship Day. Why? A committee in the House of Representatives has stacked their deck of experts 5 to 1 in favor of the SOPA, Stop Online Piracy Act. Even though this law could radically change the way the Internet works in the US (so that it can be restricted in the same way that it is restricted in China, Iran, and Syria), many congressional members support this law and they do not want public dissenting voices to be heard during committee. Techdirt has coverage of the hearing today here.

SOPA and Protect-IP are intended to put the thumbscrews on online discussion, fair use, and entrepreneurship. This infographic explains the potential effects of the bill if made law.

This is another example of our elected officials catering to outmoded big business. Big media wants to consolidate its control over the Internet, because those companies are unwilling to adjust their business models to the here-and-now. Instead, they want to flex their money-muscle and reconfigure the Internet so that they remain on top. I suppose this is the logic of capital. Increased regulation helps diversify the market, which leads to benefits for consumers. Conglomerates and virtual monopolies do not want this. Instead, they want to solidify their own position by hijacking the democratic process and putting laws in place that not only gives them added control over the primary medium of discourse but also further criminalizes previously non-criminal acts.

Go to the American Censorship Day website here, and send an email (or even better–call them!) letting your representatives know that you are against SOPA/Protect-IP.

PROTECT-IP is a Raw Deal for Online Netizens, Promotes Corporate Enforced Censorship

It has been covered in many places, but I would recommend that you steer your browser to Ars Technica to read about the new PROTECT-IP bill: Revised Net censorship bill requires search engines to block sites, too. It is a new attempt by the culture industry’s elite (i.e., big money) to lower their overhead incurred by suing copyright offenders. It is also a salve to their wounded pride when they have repeatedly failed to effectively use existing law to censor the Internet and enforce media consumption of their wares.

PROTECT-IP is a broadly based law that will make US business interests liable for non-compliance with the censorship of online sites deemed to be infringers. This would mean credit card processsors would not be allowed to handle their transactions and online advertisers would be prohibited from advertising for or on those sites.

Perhaps more significantly, PROTECT-IP would effectively make Google an online censor, because the law would prohibit search engines from providing links to infringing sites. There would also be more troublesome interventions of the law that would block DNS entries for infringing sites. My trouble with this is what constitutes infringing? Even though this is narrowly defined in the proposed law, I know from our nation’s ongoing experiment with DMCA, these qualifications could be perverted to include sites that are targeted for other reasons (squashing discourse, preventing negative views, etc.).

I understand that copyright and trademark holders deserve their due. However, I strongly disagree with having a law like this one that circumvents the full application of law and enforcement via the courts. Let’s be clear about something regarding this law: Big media and Big trademark holders want this, because they believe that it will increase their profits in two ways: 1) it will force people to buy their official products (this is a contentiously debated argument that is dependent on more variables that the prevention of copyright violations), and 2) it lowers their cost of enforcement via the courts by placing them within the framework of enforcement and their actions can impel other businesses to act virtually on their behalf. This law is purposefully designed to empower big business at the cost of other big businesses and more importantly, the rights of individual citizens. We have recently seen how the DMCA can be used to silence discourse online (read here), so I can only imagine how this law might be perverted beyond its spirit of protecting business interests.

TechDirt also has a good summary of the law here.

Get involved by letting your congressional leaders that this isn’t good law, and support organizations that try to preserve individuals’ rights online such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Public Knowledge.

Apple iPhone and iPad Marketplace Censorship, Taking Sex out of Sexy Tech

I believe that Apple has lost their damn minds regarding their arbitrary approval of adult themed apps in the iTunes App Store. When the app store first opened, Apple rejected adult oriented apps (I will not attempt to define what this means, but suffice to say that this is an arbitrary category assignment for particular iPhone apps with the intent to ‘protect the children’–I will refer readers to Lee Edelman’s work, No Future, for more on this categorical thematic), because they had no way at that time to restrict the purchase of age restricted apps. Then, Apple developed a way to categorize and restrict particular apps from being purchased with parental age controls. Now, Apple has backtracked and begun the obliteration of apps with breasts, butts, and tight clothing. Why would Apple reverse course from being progressively minded about the types of apps available? Why would they turn away from the fact that adults buy and use their hardware and buy third party software of all sorts to be used and enjoyed on their products? As reported in the New York Times, Phil Schiller at Apple is quoted as saying:

“It came to the point where we were getting customer complaints from women who found the content getting too degrading and objectionable, as well as parents who were upset with what their kids were able to see.”

Who are these women and why do they determine what other people should or shouldn’t do on their, um, hardware? How are kids seeing these restricted apps on their iPod Touch or iPhone when their folks should implement content age restrictions and not give their kids the damn credit card number?

I agree with Violet Blue that this is an unfortunate turn of events for a company that we both love. Most importantly, she observes here that:

Now that Apple has released the iPad — and importantly, it does not have the cat-flavored Apple OS we know and love — with the iPhone operating system on what is intended to be a reader and tablet computer, it means that Apple has now produced a computer with a very closed system indeed. And a closed *minded* one.

Apple, closed minded? Aren’t they supposed to be guys who think different, or was that only a limited time deal when Steve Jobs first returned to Apple to deliver the company from the technological dust heap? Where is the insanely great opportunities of recognizing the differences between children and adults, and the different ways these two groups do and should (depending on who you ask) use technology? Apple’s draconian and antiquated approach to controlling the marketplace microcosm of the iPhone/iPad app store reveals that they are not only closed minded, but they are also giving into a un-Apple conservative mindset that reinforces Victorian-derived heteronormativity by their reinscription of what is and what is not appropriate for adults to see, and in this case, touch (at least virtually). Apple is, unfortunately, taking the sex out of sexy tech.

More on the app removals, extent of the removals, and responses from axed developers here, here, and here. Not to mention the hypocrisy of keeping the Playboy and Sports Illustrated apps in the iTunes store as detailed here.

Amazon.com, Censorship, and Sales Ranking

I first heard about Amazon.com’s recent foray into Disney-fying its sales ranking and search system from Stacie Hanes’ Facebook link to rydra_wong’s post about the fiasco:  Fail, Amazon. GIGANTIC FUCKING FAIL.  Mark R. Brobst writes about his experience with this new policy here.  Miracle Jones on The Fiction Circus sums is up thus: “Amazon is a Gay-Hating Company for Nazis.”  Slashdot is carrying the story here, which provides a link to Edward Champion’s post that succinctly describes the problem:

It’s been called #amazonfail on Twitter, but it represents the greatest insult to consumers and the most severe commercial threat to free expression that we’re likely to see in some time. Amazon has decided to remove certain books that they deem “adult” from their ranking system. But the “adult” definitions include such books as D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover (Amazon link) (screenshot), Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina (Amazon link) (screenshot), Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain (Amazon link) (screenshot), John Cleland’s Fanny Hill (Amazon link) (screenshot), and numerous other titles. Books that, in some cases, have fought decades to gain literary respectability have become second-class overnight because of Amazon’s draconian deranking policy.

It’s hard to imagine Amazon taking such drastic steps to sideline certain texts in order to enforce an arbitrary moral code.  Who are they trying to protect through these new measures?  According to the email that was sent in response to an inquiry by Probst, Amazon is instituting this new practice “In consideration of our entire customer base.”  I suspect that the “entire customer base” is meant to represent, at least in part, what Lee Edelman theorizes as the Child, always in need of protection and representative of the heteronormative future.  Edelman discusses this in his enlightening, yet highly theoretical work,  No Future:  Queer Theory and the Death Drive, which is no longer sales ranked on Amazon.com either.  

Apparently, Amazon.com has made a weak choice to provide a “safe” browsing experience for folks who refuse to accept reality that contravenes or challenges their view of the world.  Amazon.com, a company that I used to consider one of the good guys for their ease of access to just about anything you would want to read, see, or hear, including works that deal with sex, sexuality, and gender, has sided with those persons who feel self-righteous enough to police what we choose to read, enjoy, and learn from.  Obviously, one may see something that they would not normally want to see or be exposed to on Amazon.com or anywhere else on the Internet, but the mature and responsible person is capable of moving past it and going on about their life.  Furthermore, those persons who truly want to police their children’s access to the Internet can take one of two paths–the more draconian (lock them in the attic) or the more enlightened (teach your children about those things that you don’t necessarily want them to find out about on their own).  Of course, the second path is the more difficult and time consuming, so I suppose I can see why they would rather attempt to lock down the entire Internet as if they owned the place and shove everyone they don’t like or agree with off into the shadows.  Well, I’m someone who has no intention to be shoved anywhere, and I know a whole heck of a lot of other good folks who have no intention of bending over for this one either.

I believe that the demands for boycotts, emails, and phone calls are all steps in the right direction.  However, I conjecture that this is a problem that requires an escalation in the way that we, who I consider other persons who desire an open marketplace for the free and non-restricted exchange of cultural works, demand corporations, particularly those that now have an ever increasing control over the marketplace, to institute policies that promote culture rather than retard it.  I believe that the critical mass that blogging, twitter, and other digital forms of mass communication brings to bear on an event is enormously powerful, and we should (and almost assuredly will) continue reporting on this event as it careens headlong into on-coming traffic.  However, what is the next Deleuze and Guattari nomadic war machine?  Remember, these things have an expiry date following appropriation by the State (and Corporation). 

See the above blogs for further information on the contact information at Amazon.com, and for information on the boycotts.

UPDATE:  Read more on Violet Blue’s tiny nibbles site here.