What’s This About Pirates?

By: Grainne Rhuad

So, what did the SOPA/PIPA blackout achieve?

First of all, anything announced that has to do with internet and internet freedoms gets the attention of most people using the internet.  There are precious few people who want restrictions placed on their internet activity and those who do belong in one of two categories.

  1. Government /Law enforcement agencies-because they need laws-at least superficially to go after people.  Especially people in other countries. 
  2. Large Corporations and Industries like Music and Film licensing ones and Media outlets who want to make money off of people’s work.  Being able to give away your own work for free or sharing music, stories etc. with your friends really puts a dent in their pocketbook.

News of the shutdown seemed to bring retaliation from hackers who claimed credit for attacking the Justice Department’s website. Federal officials confirmed it was down for hours Thursday evening and that the disruption was being “treated as a malicious act.”

‘A loose affiliation of hackers known as “Anonymous” claimed credit for the attack. Also hacked was the site for the Motion Picture Association of America.”

P.S.-I love how the news outlets discribe and downplay Anonymous…scared maybe?

It seems to have worked however since a postponement has been called by SOPA’s author which will be discussed in a moment.

Whose Minds’ did it change?

It didn’t initially seem as if it changed anyone’s mind.  Those who were for SOPA/PIPA got up bright and fresh this morning and arrested people in New Zealand in exactly the manner SOPA lays out should be acceptable to us. 

4 people from the company Megaupload.com including the founder Kim Dotcom and 4 of his executives were arrested in New Zealand for breaking piracy laws in Virginia where one of their servers is located.  Even though they hadn’t broken any laws of New Zealand where they legally reside and at least Kim Dotcom is a dual citizen of Germany and Finland, The U.S. wanted extradition and received it.  Of the other three defendants two were German citizens and one is Dutch. 

Other people whose minds weren’t changed ranged from Musicians themselves to most of the U.S. representatives voting on the bill. 

In a bit of strangeness.  Robin Davey, an Independent Musician lately of the group Bastard Fairies, Writer and Award Winning Filmmaker. Came down on the side for SOPA.  Stating in an article he wrote for GizmodoPeople have further been led to believe that music holds no worth, and can be shared or streamed at little or no price. Piracy will remain as prevalent as ever having seen the legal alternative settle so low, and the artists, content owners, and creators suffer even further as they try to cope with ever diminishing returns.” 

See he is concerned with losing money on his creative potential, which is interesting as his band The Bastard Fairies has given away complete and partial albums for free as well as created music by inserting rap and reading around stolen beats from other artists.  In fact, complete songs produced by Robin Davey are pirated. 

But early this morning Senator Harry Reid (D- Nevada) went public with the following statement:

“In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT I.P. Act.

“There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved. Counterfeiting and piracy cost the American economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs each year, with the movie industry alone supporting over 2.2 million jobs. We must take action to stop these illegal practices. We live in a country where people rightfully expect to be fairly compensated for a day’s work, whether that person is a miner in the high desert of Nevada, an independent band in New York City, or a union worker on the back lots of a California movie studio.

“I admire the work that Chairman Leahy has put into this bill. I encourage him to continue engaging with all stakeholders to forge a balance between protecting Americans’ intellectual property, and maintaining openness and innovation on the internet. We made good progress through the discussions we’ve held in recent days, and I am optimistic that we can reach a compromise in the coming weeks.”

Also, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) announced on Friday that he will postpone consideration of his Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) until there is wider agreement on the controversial legislation.

“I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns regarding proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy,” Smith said. “It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products.”

Just in case you didn’t know, Smith was the author of SOPA and its most vocal proponent. He had repeatedly said the bill did not need to be changed and accused the critics of “spreading lies.”


Do the Internet Outlets in fact have any power?

This is a question I was looking for in this whole Blackout.  Pretty big companies joined the blackout.  Like Google and Wikipedia.  Granted, they didn’t entirely Blackout, their services were still availably but they were pretty clearly supportive, one had to get around their front page to go to anything else.  The message was there.  People use both of these sites every day, several times a day and they will most likely continue to do so, however it didn’t initially seem as if they held much sway in this case.

People went about business as usual the day after and even the day during.  Most News outlets declined to participate and very many individuals commenting in social forums made light of the attempt to sway the government in their decision making.  A fact that at very least shows the lack of confidence the people have in those who govern them. 

Yet in light of the above statement from Sen. Reid and others today it would seem that the public outcry and new type of boycotting did have the effect intended.  Lawmakers took note and at least slowed down to take a better look at this particular set of laws. 

This is in and of itself is a sort of victory.  Yes this sort of protest works.  Particularly it seems if some big names are behind it.  Google and Wikipedia-A big thanks to you. 

Who is hurt by this thing called Piracy?

The people the lawmakers will have us believe are hurt by piracy are individuals who have created things, like art, music, literature, research.   However as we all know by now, at least here in the U.D. an “individual” can be a Corporation thanks to “Corporate Personhood”. 

Other people piracy could potentially hurt are those artists particularly musicians who are just starting out who have been known to have their material swiped off of sites such as YouTube and lately Mac’s Cloud application. 

Most for- sale download sites like ITunes, Amazon and Barnes&Noble make it clear that you are purchasing copyrighted material.  Their TOS already addresses the issue that SOPA and PIPA seek to put in place making them redundant.

It’s not like the early days of Napster where music is freely shared and nobody gets a piece of the pie except the one 13 year old whose mum bought him/her a CD for the holidays.  Although, Spotify raises some of these questions again…but there again their TOS is pretty clear.

Others who claim to suffer from piracy are those like J.K. Rowling who gets really pissed off at any fan fiction using her characters.  I frankly think this is in bad form.  If you have inspired a new generation to write with your characters as a jumping off point you should be quite proud.  Instead she has been quite litigious in her approach to dealing with anyone and everyone.   


Who is helped by it?

With 150 million registered users, about 50 million hits daily and endorsements from music superstars, Megaupload.com was among the world’s biggest file-sharing sites. According to a U.S. indictment, the site, which was shut down Thursday, earned Dotcom $42 million in 2010 alone.

Although the company is based in Hong Kong and Dotcom lives in New Zealand, some of the alleged pirated content was hosted on leased servers in Virginia, and that was enough for U.S. prosecutors to act.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which defends free speech and digital rights online, said in a statement that the arrests set “a terrifying precedent. If the United States can seize a Dutch citizen in New Zealand over a copyright claim, what is next?”

Alleged piracy seemed to help this company quite a lot as it was reported they had 150 million registered users and about 50 million hits daily.

Along with the arrests the company’s New Zealand Bank Accounts were frozen in amounts that equaled over $10 million dollars.  Also seized where rare vehicles like a Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe valued at over NZ$500,000.and various pieces of fine art.  So it seems they were making a pretty penny off of this thing called piracy.  Most of which was of Motion Pictures. 

The foreseeable trouble with this case is the films were uploaded by other registered members. The company, much like Napster did not put them up for sale nor did they upload them.  They simply offered a membership fee enabling people to share more content.  They were also supported by the very people they were supposedly pirating from.  Music industry giants like Black Eyed Peas and Jamie Foxx participated in videos supporting the service. Although after the arrests most parties denied it.


Besides being trance inducing…it’s pretty clear from the video they can’t deny they were a part of the commercial.

Is there a different, better-ish way?

Is there a way for us all to be happy, share content, practice writing, create fan fiction/videos/cartoons while making everyone happy and not costing artists money?

I think the answer is maybe. 

I say maybe because it will require less greed on the part of the J. K. Rowlings of the world.  A lot of artists whose books, movies, music sells on the internet were in fact against the bill and issued statements to that effect. 

Artists against SOPA including Trent Reznor, OK-Go, Neil Gaiman, and more wrote an open letter decrying the bill.  Many artists and celebrities added Stop SOPA to their twitter accts. The difference is these are people who are actively connected to their audience.  They make use of the new ways of communicating and encourage others to emulate them.  They very often give away their works for free.  This is because they have moved with the times and know the best way to get your work out to the people is to let them know about it.  If they love it they will pay.  We see this work very often at places like Bandcamp where naming your own price for music, even if it’s zero very often nets musicians more than they would get from the record companies.  People understand the work that goes into producing something and mostly they are willing to pay for it.  Name your own price works because of that and because of this trust in the artist-fan relationship nobody needs to worry about Piracy.

What have we learned in the last few days?

What I’ve taken out of this whole experience is that unexpected people care about unexpected things.  I never would have thought Robin Davey gave a shit about piracy.  I also never would have thought that the author of SOPA would listen to the world of the internet.  I am pleasantly surprised in that.  I went into this year feeling pretty good about the world in general.  Yes it’s in pretty bad shape and yes we are losing choices daily.  It’s definitely not 31 flavors out there anymore.  But we do still have the choice to stand for something.  And sometimes we are heard.  Which is really nice.  But what’s more important than being heard is standing up, because integrity is everything. 

Also pirates are not all bad, sometimes they take what is on offer and give it away to those who will improve on things and make them better.  It’s really the very wealthy and non-creative people who are most afraid of pirates, because they can’t make anything new.