The End of the Blog?

By James Kwak

As you may have noticed by now, Wikipedia’s English-language site is (mostly) down for the day to protest SOPA and PIPA, two draconian anti-copyright infringement laws moving through Congress, and Google’s home page looks like this:

Under existing law (the DMCA), if someone posts copyrighted material in a comment on this blog, the copyright holder is supposed to send me a takedown notice, after which point I am supposed to take the material down (if it is in fact copyrighted).

SOPA and PIPA are bills in the House and Senate, respectively, that make it much easier for “copyright holders” (like the big media companies that back the bill—or, come to think of it, authors like me) to take action not only against “bad” web sites that make copyrighted material available (against the wishes of the copyright holders), but also against web sites that simply link to such “bad” web sites. For example, the copyright holder can require payment network providers (PayPal, credit card networks) to block payments to such web sites (in either category above) and can require search engines to stop providing advertising for such web sites—simply by sending them a letter. That’s SOPA § 103(b).*

Another controversial provision is the one in § 102 that allows the Justice Department to order domain name servers to stop translating URLs (like “”) into the IP addresses that actually point your browser to the web sites you want to go to—essentially without due process. This has been described by some as tantamount to “breaking the Internet” because it would break the integrity of the domain name system that keeps the Internet organized. (For overviews of the bills, see Brad Plumer and the EFF; for the case that it violates the First Amendment, see Mike Masnick, who quotes extensively from and links to Lawrence Tribe’s argument).

Naturally, I was wondering how the bill would affect me. Many people think it would impose a requirement that web sites police not only the content they produce themselves, but the content contributed by visitors (e.g., blog comments), and all the content on all the sites they link to (including links in blog comments). I think this is based on § 103(a)(1)(B)(ii)(I) (don’t you love bill numbering?), which puts your site in the wrong if it “is taking, or has taken, deliberate actions to avoid confirming a high probability of the use of the U.S.-directed site to carry out acts that constitute a violation of section 501 or 1201 of title 17, United States Code.” What does it mean to take actions to avoid confirming a high probability that someone is using your site to link to copyrighted material?

Now, § 103 only allows copyright holders to cut you off from payment networks and advertising, and since we don’t do either one here, I don’t think it would mean the end of The Baseline Scenario. But it could mean the end of every commercial blog, or at least the end of comments on any commercial blog that doesn’t have the staff to police comments and sites linked to in comments. And if it passes, I will at least turn off comments until I can get an opinion from a real IP lawyer whom I trust.

So if you like the Internet the way it is, tell your representatives that you oppose SOPA and PIPA, via the EFF, Google, or Wikipedia. Thanks.

(I know it’s been a slow start to the year on the blog. I had a wedding to go to out of the country and an intensive week of edits on an upcoming book. Things should return to normal slowly.)

* Section 103, in bipartisan Orwellian fashion, is entitled “MARKET-BASED SYSTEM TO PROTECT U.S. CUSTOMERS AND PREVENT U.S. FUNDING OF SITES DEDICATED TO THEFT OF U.S. PROPERTY.” What’s market-based about a system that allows one party to cut off the revenues of another party simply by sending a letter to PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, and American Express?


38 thoughts on “The End of the Blog?

  1. What the public needs is a counter-punch against the advocates of SOPA and other such bills; after all, the payoff for attempting a legislative manuver is potentially high, the risk, minimal; the effort needed to resist is high. The public good requires that such a manuver come at a very high cost; not just to politicians, but also to the original advocates of such legislation. Companies like Disney need to know that advocating expansion of copyholder ‘rights’ against the public will come with a risk.

    An appropriate risk might be counter-legislative action to reduce the lifespan of copyrights; expanded by a process of rent-seeking. If the price of SOPA was a 30 year reduction in the lifespan of copyright – bringing Mickey mouse into the public domain instantly – the corporations would need to think twice about raising these sorts of bills for consideration. The equivalent in the legal world would be that a failed, frivolous lawsuit against non-infringer result in the copyright (or a patent, perhaps?) being lost to the public domain completely.

    That would save us all plenty of trouble.


    However, what most people missed was that the bill effectively sneaks this back into the bill in a much worse form in Section 105, which supposedly grants “immunity” to service providers for taking voluntary action to stop infringement. The true impact of this section was only made clear by Rep. Polis’ attempt to limit it, as he highlighted how this broad immunity would likely lead to abuse. That’s because this section says that anyone who takes voluntary action “based on credible evidence”: basically gets full immunity. Think about what that means in practice. If someone sends a service provider a notice claiming infringement on the site under this bill, the first thing every lawyer will tell them is “quick, take voluntary action to cut them off, so you get immunity.” Even worse, since this is just about immunity, there are no counternotice rules or anything requiring any process for those cut off to be able to have any redress whatsoever…

  3. Perhaps folks should post copyrighted material to the RNC and DNC web sites and then report infringement

  4. Does Congress lack the forsight to see more than who’s going to pay for their next lunch? The abuses are too numerous to expand upon. As soon as this bill passes, I am going to place copyrighted material on the site of everyone I disagree with. Take that free speech. Soon everyone will believe exactly as I do. As long as every other moron doesn’t do the same.

    Of course, the bigger picture is the government passing more laws for law abiding citizens to break. Thus making it easier to control the dissidents.

  5. Nihilism in service to totalitarianism…

    Of course, the road back up from being slammed down into physical decay (roads, hospitals, sanitation services all gone this year as the massive theft continues)

    won’t be dependent on whether the internet has been *broken* by another big bowl of crazy *law*…

    People working for corps sign away all their rights to invention and ideas that came from themselves – the PERSON (corporation) OWNS it all – so the human being in all this is – what?

    Every human being has the RIGHT to make their lives less miserable through HONEST WORK….

  6. Have you checked whether any Congresspeople’s websites (campaign sites, personal web sites, government sites about them, etc.) violate your copyrights? I’m sure that the sponsors of these bills, who are, after all, mere unimportant individuals and therefore probably pirates, would not be overly upset if an important copyright holder such as yourself correctly or mistakenly identified their sites as infringing and requested that they be taken down; furthermore, their hosting providers, who are generally concerned about their liability with respect to copyright law presently and even more so in case these bills pass, are likely to be happy to address any potential issues you turn up if you take the time to look. As far as I can tell from current practice, a cursory look at these sites followed by a complaint should be sufficient, and there seems to be no problem if you make an honest mistake and overlook details such as the actual content of the site in your haste.

  7. Kill “real” currency.

    Print fake money and distribute through subsidies, the tax code and deregulations.

    Stop anything that gets in the way of this greedy, fear mongering, machine.

    New media is a powerful tool that threatens the status quo. The exchange of information without leverage or control is the scariest thing the powerful can imagine. More so than regulating banks or ending peoples united. The internet is a new age platform that moves human evolution forward and to control it is to control society. This is a great threat to me, more than the 7 trillion unregulated swaps market, because it’s the tool we need to join together, share information, and move forward in a greater good sort of way where majority rules.

    Stop all the madness,(I know, I won’t post a link) and join something that end money in politics. It is the bottom line.

  8. If I access “intellectual property” that is presented freely and openly for exposure and distribution, why should It not be a simple matter to be able to redirect that open page. Links to restricted access only open up to the front page which is comparable to a store front window display and it is essentially a service to direct interest to that location where they can make a choice. The block and trade syndicate cartel want it both ways and they want to establish toll booth agency and brokerage over the infrastructure by demanding contingency controls over the elements that essentially become the superstructure of communication. The rudiments of infrastructure should not be held hostage by claims to private property left along the roadway.

  9. What is the REAL purpose of the SOPA Bill??? Are we supposed to be dumb enough to believe these large conglomerates care about the small artist or lesser known writer who is having their work stolen?? The conglomerate music companies have stolen residuals and licensing money from artists (especially black artists such as Bo Diddley and scores of other artists that could be enumerated) for decades. They have even gone so far as to bully and intimidate the artist or writer into putting the company name on their hard work (the same as Universities sometimes get the patents on drugs or technologies which were, yes, created in their labs—but would never have been invented/discovered if not for the individual scientist’s intellect).

    Where does this end?? Is it not enough we have corporations being labeled as people now, because of a 2/3 corrupt Supreme Court that can’t read case law??? Is it not enough we have presidential candidate Mitt Romney who takes tax breaks and subsidies from “big government”, while he himself only pays a 15% rate?? Was Romney b*tching about “big government” when he was taking corporate welfare from the till in the state of Indiana???

    What can we expect from candidate Romney, who feels it’s fine and dandy to take federal tax dollars, but only pays 15% federal tax rate while the blue-collar workers of America pay 35% tax?? Romney says “free enterprise is on trial”. REALLY?!?!?!?!—when Romney takes $37 million from Indiana, and a $50million federal loan for a plant in Kansas City, THAT IS FREE ENTERPRISE?!?!?!?!?! By Mitt Romney’s definition–yes. Romney sees welfare is fine when it goes to the man who pays 15% annual tax rate. Some of us who can read and have a brain to think with, might ask why Romney couldn’t fund those ventures on his own, with his own money or with a private bank loan??? “Mr. Free Enterprise Romney” couldn’t manage to get private funds???

    Mr. Romney, is it “Private enterprise on trial”, or is it really YOUR corporate welfare that is on trial???

  10. Or you can just wait until the rerun where there will be no jobs and no gates and plenty of the right regulators to see a bill created with teeth, done right the first and last time, even if it takes more time. There is no other solution to his aggregate demand for complete control over any and everything, that has been proved.

  11. related:
    The Real News Network:
    Online activists keeping Syrian story alive & Osama’s compound -Pakistan’s new tourist destination

    RSA Animate – The Internet in Society: Empowering or Censoring Citizens?

    RSA Animate – The Internet in Society: Empowering or Censoring Citizens?

    Inside Story – Internet industry at a crossroads

    Inside Story – WikiLeaks Special: Secrecy, Security and Freedom of Speech

  12. An intelligent discussion on the social reality of mass communication networks and captured channels:

    The Dark side of internet Freedom: THE NET DELUSION. BY EVGENY MOROZOV 2011; Public Affairs, NY

  13. Update: the Revolution will not be twittered or televised. It is moving towards closed circuit pay per view.


    Closing the Digital Frontier
    By Michael Hirschorn
    By Michael Hirschorn

    fascinating intro:
    “AS CHRIS ANDERSON pointed out in a moment of non-hyperbole in his book Free, the phraseInformation wants to be free was never meant to be the rallying cry it turned into. It was first uttered by Stewart Brand at a hacker conference in 1984, and it came with a significant disclaimer: that information also wants to be expensive, because it can be so important (see “Information Wants to Be Paid For,” in this issue). With the long tail of Brand’s dictum chopped off, the phrase Information wants to be free—dissected, debated, reconstituted as a global democratic rallying cry against monsters of the political, business, and media elites—became perhaps the most powerful meme of the past quarter century; so powerful, in fact, that multibillion-dollar corporations destroyed their own businesses at its altar.”
    read the rest:
    By Michael Hirschorn

    Welcome to the online version of Howard Rheingold’s The Virtual Community

    Chapter One: The Heart of the WELL
    Chapter Two: Daily Life in Cyberspace: How the Computerized Counterculture Built a New Kind of Place
    Chapter Three: Visionaries and Convergences: The Accidental History of the Net
    Chapter Four: Grassroots Groupminds
    Chapter Five: Multi-user Dungeons and Alternate Identities
    Chapter Six: Real-time Tribes
    Chapter Seven: Japan and the Net
    Chapter Eight: Telematique and Messageries Rose: A Tale of Two Virtual Communities
    Chapter Nine: Electronic Frontiers and Online Activists
    Chapter Ten: Disinformocracy

    Open Thanks to Howard Rheingold
    Please check his site out…informed and creative thinking at its best !


    The title of this book actually appears to have gotten it scrubbed from being posted…why? check it out at the link from MIT Press.
    Published in November 2011, the book by several collaborative authors examines “censorship” in Asia including China and the Philippines. Why the post would disappear from yesterday…
    …well the title is (phonetically so I don’t trigger the big ban : Ax-es-D-nied.

    I did not read the book but it presumably about how the other half doesn’t…ironically…allow certain types of information to be shared…not to compare us…the mighty USA home of the free…with Red China…home of the Commie censors…and all that!

    But you have to admit, it is strange when you can’t even post a title of a book reference on a blog about not being able to post intellectual property…rights!

  17. from the introduction :
    “The technology that makes virtual communities possible has the potential to bring enormous leverage to ordinary citizens at relatively little cost–intellectual leverage, social leverage, commercial leverage, and most important, political leverage. But the technology will not in itself fulfill that potential; this latent technical power must be used intelligently and deliberately by an informed population. More people must learn about that leverage and learn to use it, while we still have the freedom to do so, if it is to live up to its potential. The odds are always good that big power and big money will find a way to control access to virtual communities; big power and big money always found ways to control new communications media when they emerged in the past. The Net is still out of control in fundamental ways, but it might not stay that way for long. What we know and do now is important because it is still possible for people around the world to make sure this new sphere of vital human discourse remains open to the citizens of the planet before the political and economic big boys seize it, censor it, meter it, and sell it back to us.”

    The interesting thing about this statement is that it was published (and therefore recognized quite a bit earlier by the author…if you know publishing timetables…) …it was published in the year 2000 !

    The book is genius!
    Welcome to the online version of Howard Rheingold’s The Virtual Community

  18. @Annie: So I guess we will have to make this PLANET HOME …afterall:

    “Because of its potential influence on so many people’s beliefs and perceptions, the future of the Net is connected to the future of community, democracy, education, science, and intellectual life–some of the human institutions people hold most dear, whether or not they know or care about the future of computer technology. The future of the Net has become too important to leave to specialists and special interests. As it influences the lives of a growing number of people, more and more citizens must contribute to the dialogue about the way public funds are applied to the development of the Net, and we must join our voices to the debate about the way it should be administered. We need a clear citizens’ vision of the way the Net ought to grow, a firm idea of the kind of media environment we would like to see in the future. If we do not develop such a vision for ourselves, the future will be shaped for us by large commercial and political powerholders.”

    Howard Rheingold 2000 AD

    Howard Rheingold
    The Virtual Community:
    (relevant to staying on issue)
    excerpt statement from a decade ago;

    “Because of its potential influence on so many people’s beliefs and perceptions, the future of the Net is connected to the future of community, democracy, education, science, and intellectual life–some of the human institutions people hold most dear, whether or not they know or care about the future of computer technology. The future of the Net has become too important to leave to specialists and special interests. As it influences the lives of a growing number of people, more and more citizens must contribute to the dialogue about the way public funds are applied to the development of the Net, and we must join our voices to the debate about the way it should be administered. We need a clear citizens’ vision of the way the Net ought to grow, a firm idea of the kind of media environment we would like to see in the future. If we do not develop such a vision for ourselves, the future will be shaped for us by large commercial and political powerholders.”

  20. @Anonymous – Hey, if we had known that the Mother Ship was shot down back before the *net* was erected, we could have gone to Plan B, C, D etc….let me guess, you have a problem with some innocent observer species trying to get back *home*…? :-)) We have reports to file about how many billion of years will need to go by before the *elite* advance out of savagery – it at all…? With free will, it looks like they won’t…

    You already LOST the philosophical foundation for shaping the future with the ruling of United Citizens vs. Hillary Clinton…money IS speech and corporations are people, my friends….

  21. And Annie, so are gvts people, making it all that much more problematic, and so Twaining down the Mississippi river I shall go. Rowing boats in tow, not knowing where I will go. But it won’t be by and by.

  22. Professional connections:
    In our 598th issue:

    We Have Every Right to Be Furious About ACTA

    If there’s one thing that encapsulates what’s wrong with the way government functions today, ACTA is it. You wouldn’t know it from the name, but the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is an agreement designed to broaden and extend existing intellectual property enforcement laws to the Internet. Both in substance and in process, ACTA embodies an outdated top-down, arbitrary approach to government that is out of step with modern notions of participatory democracy.
    Post- SOPA and PIPA, What’s Next? No Legislation, More Innovation

    This month’s historic protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) made clear just what the tech community and Internet users are capable of accomplishing when they act together. We keep hearing people ask: What’s next? And where do we go from here? Our answers: We don’t need legislation. And let’s keep moving innovation forward.
    What Does Twitter’s Country-by-Country Takedown System Mean for Freedom of Expression?

    Twitter announced in a blog post that it was launching a system that would allow the company to take down content on a country-by-country basis, as opposed to taking it down across the Twitter system. The Internet immediately exploded with allegations of censorship, conspiracy theories about Twitter’s Saudi investors and automated content filtering, and calls for a January 28 protest. One thing is clear: there is widespread confusion over Twitter’s new policy and what its implications are for freedom of expression all over the world.
    Under Obama, the Freedom of Information Act is Still in Shackles

    On his first full day in office, President Barack Obama issued his now infamous memo on transparency and open government, which was supposed to fulfill his campaign promise to lead the “most transparent administration in history.” In his first three years in office, his administration has instead been just as secretive — if not more so — than his predecessors’, and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has become the prime example of his administration’s lack of progress.
    EFF Updates

    Supreme Court Gets It Wrong in Golan v. Holder, Public Domain Mourns

    Ignoring the pleas of musicians, composers, libraries, archives and public interest groups, the Supreme Court declared that Congress did not violate the Constitution when it yanked millions of foreign works out of the public domain.

    No More Back Room Deals — Users Must Have a Voice in Governing the Internet

    As we discuss the future of the Internet, all stakeholders — including the people who use Internet services and consume, create, and share movies and music — must have a seat at the table. The Internet is too important to be debated, dissected, and possibly disabled in a private meeting.

    Dutch Courts Join Pirate Bay Blocking Bandwagon

    At the urging of the Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN, the Court of The Hague ordered two ISPs to block subscriber access to The Pirate Bay. The two ISPs — Ziggo, the largest cable operator in the Netherlands, and XS4ALL, known for its vocal free-speech advocacy — have until February 1 to block access to a list of URLs and IP addresses specified in the court order.

    Fighting Data Retention Mandates Around the World

    It has been six years since the highly controversial Data Retention Directive (DRD) was adopted in the European Union. Europeans have widely criticized the DRD, and year after year, it has inspired some of the largest-ever street protests against excessive surveillance.

    Interview with Malte Spitz, German Politician and Privacy Advocate

    We interviewed Malte Spitz, a German politician and privacy advocate. Malte is well-known for using German privacy law — which, like the law of many European countries, gives individuals a right to see what private companies know about them — to force his cell phone carrier to reveal what it knew about him.

    Top Concerns of Activists and Data Protection Authorities

    As part of International Privacy Day, EFF asked data protection authorities, politicians, and activists about privacy related issues and concerns for 2012. All of the responses focused on government surveillance or data protection laws.

    The Right to Anonymity is a Matter of Privacy

    Throughout history, there have been a number of reasons why individuals have taken to writing or producing art under a pseudonym. In light of International Privacy Day, we focus on the ways in which the right to anonymity — or pseudonymity — is truly a matter of privacy.

    Department of Justice Misdirection on Cloud Computing and Privacy

    Does using cloud computing services based in the United States create a risk of US law enforcement access to people’s data? The US Department of Justice (DOJ) seems to be trying to placate international concern by saying one thing in international fora; but it says something quite different in the US courts.

    DOJ Wants to Know Who’s Rejecting Your Friend Requests

    In the latest turn in our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for records related to the government’s use of social networking websites, the Department of Justice finally agreed to release almost 100 pages of new records. These include draft search warrants and affidavits for Facebook and MySpace, as well as several PowerPoint presentations and articles on how to use social networking sites for investigations.

    Google+ and Pseudonyms: A Step in the Right Direction, Not the End of the Road

    Nearly four months after first announcing it would support pseudonyms, Google rolled out changes to the account creation process for Google+. The changes will allow users the option of choosing a nickname/alternate name to display in his or her Google+ profile, or choosing a pseudonym which is not linked to a real name.

    Internet Censorship From Around the Globe

    This week’s “On the Media” from NPR describes our Global Chokepoints project and harsh copyright enforcement regimes worldwide.

    Uncensored: A Charitable Project to Support The Open Internet

    In the new ebook “Uncensored”, Internet innovators discuss free speech online after SOPA and PIPA. Proceeds from the ebook will be donated to EFF.

    Musician Jonathan Coulton on MegaUpload

    Musician Jonathan Coulton, who’s made a living distributing music on the Internet, delivers some strong words about the FBI takedown of MegaUpload.

    ISSN 1062-9424

    EFFector is a publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
    454 Shotwell Street
    San Francisco, CA
    USA +1 415 436 9333
    +1 415 436 9993 (fax)

    Editor: Parker Higgins, Activist


    BRADLEY Manning….”…. name is now on a different list – that of over 200 nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize. His nomination was put forward by the parliamentary group called “The Movement” in the Icelandic Parliament. One of its members Birgitta Jonsdottir says Manning deserves the nomination because it’s not a crime to blogger-whistle on war-crimes.

    We second the nomination. Manning’s act of self-sacrifice exposed the deep politics and machinations of the American empire, an act that can only advance the cause of peace.
    from Richard Brenneman:
    Bradley Manning nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
    Posted on 2012 February 6 |

  24. Now while we are acting on the
    MANNING question,…

    How about …




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