Dear Congress, guess what? We already have copyright laws.

Dear Congress, guess what? We already have copyright laws.

Summary: What you need to do, my dear politician friends, is to stop listening to the lobbyists and start listening to the innovators.

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I know some of you in Congress are baffled by all the fuss us Internet geeks are making about your precious little SOPA and PIPA. I know some of you think you're protecting intellectual property and all us digital types just want to freely do whatever we want online, without regard to who owns what.

You are incorrect and misinformed.

In fact, most of us digital types make our living from our intellectual property. When some sleezebag in a foreign country republishes this article (and does so over, and over, with slightly changed wording using a tool called "spinning"), that criminal will be stealing money I'd otherwise use to feed my family.

Most of us make our living online. And, for the record, we're the ones who have given you what little economic boom we have left in this country after your buddies at the banks and the mortgage companies tried to pick your constituents clean.

I can speak personally about how demoralizing it is to find a digital product I spent years creating -- years with little sleep and bills to pay, years missing the social life I'd otherwise have had, years of actual, true sweat equity -- being sold on a foreign web site, without a dime coming to me or my family.

I can also speak personally about the frustration of having to make the choice of whether or not to support customers who paid real money for the software I wrote, but paid it to someone I had never met, someone who didn't have my permission to sell it, someone who kept all the money, stealing my hard work. In the end, I chose to support those customers, because I felt it was the right thing to do.

So let me make it clear that we, the people of the Internet, understand software piracy and we hate the scum who steal our work. But just because we dislike the people who steal our work doesn't mean we want you to dismantle the foundations of the most astounding human creation since the wheel.

When your legislative ancestors were in Washington, they actually did some good. They wrote laws, they created agencies, and they set up systems that would, in fact, stand the test of time. We have copyright law, with lots of depth and nuance. When someone steals our intellectual property, copyright law comes into play.

International copyright law is more complex, but even there, we have a Commerce Department, we have international treaties, and we have enforcement procedures.

The reason we, the people of the Internet, have pushed back so hard on SOPA and PIPA (and will continue to do so, even though you'll inevitably try to sneak something nasty in somewhere else) is that we know we have laws that can be used to protect us.

We also know that SOPA and PIPA and their ilk aren't designed to protect artists and writers, musicians and producers, programmers and filmmakers. We know SOPA and PIPA are designed to line the pockets of the lawyers and lobbyists at the MPAA and the RIAA.

After all, while we were creating the greatest communications transformation since the Tower of Babel, your MPAA and RIAA friends were terrorizing grandmothers and college students, bullying them into turning over their remaining life savings or college tuition savings, just so your friends could increase their war-chest, strike fear into the hearts of their loyal customers, and all those lawyers could get paid their $500/hour rates.

We, the people of the Internet, may not have the normal infrastructure for influencing politicians, but we have the ability to communicate in ways that will take your breath away. We invented this stuff, we can reach billions of people in a heartbeat, we can shock voters into awareness with an impact you can only dream of, and our power will only get stronger.

You, and countries like China and Belarus and Iran can try to squelch us, but we will route around. And, sadly, so will the criminals. So if you ever try to legislate an ill-advised technical fix to a societal behavior problem, it won't work. People are infinitely adaptable, and just as we will adapt to keep the lines of communication open, so too will the criminals.

What you need to do, my dear politician friends, is to stop listening to the lobbyists and start listening to the innovators. No, we're not going to wine and dine you with the fancy lunch you've been promised by the lobbyists, but if you listen to us, we might allow you to go back to Washington for another term.

Do not try to break the Internet. It was designed to survive nuclear war for a reason. It is stronger and more resilient than you can possibly imagine, and it will fight back.

We the People of the Internet, in order to form a more perfect world, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish that you shall not muck with our pipes.

See also:

So, what do you think? Should Congress wise up? Heh, there's a leading question! TalkBack below.

Topics: Piracy, Browser, Enterprise Software, Legal, Security

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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Talkback

88 comments
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  • RE: Dear Congress, guess what? We already have copyright laws.

    Well stated, my friend. Well stated.
    augenj
    • RE: Dear Congress, guess what? We already have copyright laws.

      @Greywoof
      +10
      hkommedal
      • RE: Dear Congress, guess what? We already have copyright laws.

        @hkommedal
        +10, +100...

        David, that matches my sentiment exactly.

        Congress - please have the Executive Branch (ala the DoJ) enforce the copyright laws we have on the books before introducing new ones. If the DoJ isn't enforcing the laws passed by Congress, then you have the authority to question the Exec Branch on it, and if they refuse to enforce the laws you passed, then impeach where necessary. Constitution is there for a reason... But instead of following that, its more fun to pass more laws...
        admiraljkb
  • RE: Dear Congress, guess what? We already have copyright laws.

    And this becomes even worse when you are not a US citizen or live in the US, see how these corrupt politicians in one country try to regulate the rest of the world as if we didn't exist.
    Think about it, China, Iran, Venezuela and Cuba can censor whatever they want, it only affects their own people who can decide how long they will take it, but it does not really affect people from other countries, if SOPA and PIPA pass, the rest of the world will have to either sit and silently accept what one small group in one country decides, or find a way to bypass the US and do our own.
    You might say: go ahead, you filthy foreigner and do your own, but this would set the US on the fringe of the internet and would make you lose even more jobs, plus it would be a painfull startover.
    We all need a free internet and we'll get it regardless of what these money mongers do.
    willfordcr
    • RE: Dear Congress, guess what? We already have copyright laws.

      @willfordcr
      Exactly.
      hkommedal
    • RE: Dear Congress, guess what? We already have copyright laws.

      @willfordcr
      If these laws had passed, the US would have been an online 3rd World Country overnight. Not to mention the number of jobs lost. Our whole economy is internet based now, not Hollywood based. Lose the internet, and it's all gone. In the US entertainment industry, isn't Hollywood smaller than the video game industry economically? But they obviously have more friends in Washington than the video games industry...
      admiraljkb
  • all very well

    but you wouldn't happen to have a suggestion or two in there somewhere? some ideas for a solution? some new approach to help stem the tide of thievery? <br><br>i ask because the people of the internet seem to be leaning ever more toward theft with little to no moral misgivings. as long as they can type out a few words about the bad lawyers and the evil industries then they have no qualms about taking from you or musicians or actors or janitors and secretaries and gaffers and lighters and engineers and key grips and...<br><br><br>i'm not talking about some bad bad group of professional criminals. i'm talking about college kids and neighbors. those people of the internet. when average joe netizen has all the justification he needs with a sentence or two about corporate greed then it's a bigger problem than just the pro's.
    oneleft
    • RE: Dear Congress, guess what? We already have copyright laws.

      @oneleft

      Casual theft is just part of the cost of doing business in human society. The goal should be to reduce it, but the idea of nobody doing anything dishonest will never happen.
      DonRupertBitByte
      • exactly

        @DonRupertBitByte <br>except "casual" theft has never before been defined in the millions. when you reach those kinds of numbers i think a new adjective is called for.
        oneleft
      • RE: Dear Congress, guess what? We already have copyright laws.

        @DonRupertBitByte as stated below this casual theft has reach very large numbers.The question not being addressed by these type of legislative measures is why are so many people choosing to break the law. I am an optimist. I believe most people operate on a higher moral plain than pure self interest but when the burden [financial] exceeds the perceived value of the desired product people look for alternative ways of meeting the desire. Most people do the right thing because it is the correct way of acting, so why are so many of these same people choosing to ignore/disregard their moral compass? We don't need more laws, the product producers need a different business plan. Google figured out a way to make money giving stuff away for free. People might not like it but that is the new benchmark for business.
        carlson1@...
      • RE: Dear Congress, guess what? We already have copyright laws.

        @DonRupertBitByte

        Why is everyone so obsessed about the thieves? This has nothing to do with the thieves. These are the people that called VCRs the Boston Strangler and compared themselves to a poor woman alone at home. This was NEVER about piracy. It doesn't target pirates. This is about abrogating due process and violating first amendment rights. Period.
        tkejlboom
    • RE: Dear Congress, guess what? We already have copyright laws.

      @oneleft Solution Lower the price, Make it easier to move movies from DVD to CAR to IPAD.

      Let parents (and you know what little kids can do to a dvd/cd) make a digital copy of their movies. Digtal copy and Ultraviolet are not consumer friendly.

      Quite simply - stop treating the paying customer as a potential criminal.
      Bodazapha
      • RE: Dear Congress, guess what? We already have copyright laws.

        @Bodazapha

        It's not even about price. I think paying $3.99 to stream a bad movie is absurd. Did I steal it? No. Read a book. Go to codeyear and sign up to LEARN something. For $3.99 you can subscribe to TIME for like 6 months. It's like a week for digital delivery of the NYTimes. Ride a bicycle. Go to the gym. If you're an American and you're reading this, you're probably fat. In short, it has nothing to do with piracy. If the industry wants to have a expensive product constrained to shoddy distribution channels, I will exercise a legal alternative for the use of my time.
        tkejlboom
    • RE: Dear Congress, guess what? We already have copyright laws.

      @oneleft The laws are in place. It is up to the institutions to prosecute. Mind numbing censorship at a whim by the U.S. government is akin to enacting The Patriot Act permanently on the internet (and watch out, because the government is trying to make that permanent as well when it was originally intended to be a temporary enactment). <br><br>So instead of going through the normal channels and the legal system, we enact judge, jury, and executioner based on full government discretion. Gee, how could that possibly go wrong?<br><br>The DMCA is in place to protect the average citizen. It is down to the private institutions to seek out and take down the offenders. Do you think torrents sound like a real good choice when the MPAA is sending sniffers in there to catch you pirating a movie? I sure as hell wouldn't risk it.<br><br>Americans should think before they hand over all power to the government. That is what places like China and North Korea are for. If you like government ruled and enforced societies, go move there. We are already seeing our freedoms sink as the government chooses to give itself control over our education, our health care, our guns, our privacy (The Patriot Act), and now you propose we hand over the internet to them too?<br><br>I know some enjoy the prospect of the government micromanaging every facet of our lives and working for the entertainment industry (and every other industry eventually) bi-proxy, but for them, I say: Just move to one of the aforementioned countries. They are already well down the path you propose, and should be to your liking.<br><br>We are losing America, and it is the fault of people justifying government control for "a good cause." There is NEVER a cause "good enough" to justify handing over our basic rights, or governmental enforcement and control over the citizen outside of the judicial system.
      thoiness
      • oh dear

        @thoiness <br>exactly who is your rant directed toward? <br><br>" If you like government ruled and enforced societies, go move there."<br>"and now you propose we hand over the internet to them too?"<br>"justify handing over our basic rights, or governmental enforcement and control over the citizen outside of the judicial system."<br><br>you got that from my post did ya? i somehow indicated to you that that's my stand? wow. i had no idea that's what i was saying. thanks so much.
        oneleft
      • RE: Dear Congress, guess what? We already have copyright laws.

        @thoiness - sorry, but the DMCA is there for one purpose only. To make RIAA and MPAA rich like they once were. Laws like SOPA are meant to further solidify those 2 organizations stranglehold on the "average citizen". Its so simple, but yet you are a mile off m8....

        I agree that our freedoms are being eroded one by one and very slowly so we don't notice it. It's time to make the government for the people and by the people, not for big corporations and conglomerations to tell us how to live.
        smashandgrab
      • RE: Dear Congress, guess what? We already have copyright laws.

        @oneleft My post is a general address to any who would defend Draconic laws such as the ones proposed (you being the first I came across). The quotes you pull are to put into perspective the severity and slippery slope of the laws in question. <br><br>I ask the question back to you: you didn't get all that by reading my post?<br><br>edit: Actually, you just proved the entire point of my original post which you failed to comprehend while skimming. It's a process of erosion, and whether you knowingly participate in it, or inadvertently participate in it, if you defend it, you are a part of the problem this country faces.
        thoiness
      • RE: Dear Congress, guess what? We already have copyright laws.

        @smashandgrab I must admit I haven't read the DMCA entirely, but as it stands, it does not give full power to the government as judge, jury, and executioner, but instead provides a means for those that own copyrights to take legal action against those that pirate their works, and gives the defendant an opportunity to either defend or remove said works.<br><br>This protects more than just the interests of the RIAA and the MPAA.
        thoiness
      • defend?

        @thoiness
        "a general address to any who would defend Draconic laws such as the ones proposed (you being the first I came across).'

        you got that from my post? you got from my post i'm defending this?
        you care to enlighten me how you did that?
        oneleft1
    • RE: Dear Congress, guess what? We already have copyright laws.

      @oneleft

      Yeah, well, I accuse you of stealing cars. You sir, are a car thief. You should go to prison. You are scum. In fact, lets codify it into law. It should be a law that if I see anyone driving a car, I can decide if I think they're a thief, take their car for myself and send them to prison for up to five years.
      tkejlboom