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the internet does not need a guard dog

a long time ago, i came across a really interesting piece about the mistakes people make in training their dogs, particularly those who are interested in having a companion who also serves as a form of protection for the home. the author [and i apologise that i can't remember her name] made the point that training a dog to defend its territory by attacking unknown intruders is a recipe for disaster, because a skilled thief will know easily enough how to dispatch with an animal, but a relative, friend, postal worker or emergency care worker will not. so training a dog to be aggressive is likely to result in some pretty horrific damage while doing nothing to address the problem of safety.

i've been reminded of that story a lot lately as i've heard about the draconian legislation currently before the u.s. congress, because i suspected that s.o.p.a. and p.i.p.a. were similar to the guard dog- endangering bystanders while doing little to resolve the larger problem. those who engage in large-scale internet piracy will know how to get around these rules. in fact, it seems that anyone who can find out an i.p. address would be able to circumvent the system proposed by these acts, but content providers- particularly start-ups without deep legal resources- would not.

the appalling vague wording of the acts makes it possible for sites like reddit, metafilter, fark [whose page you should really check out before it goes back to normal tomorrow], even google, mozilla [firefox] and facebook, which allow a diverse base of users to link to content they neither produced nor host, to have their domain name blocked and their advertising stopped. and far from stealing, these places are often doing content producers a favour by including them in listings and links. why else would we all have clickable buttons under our posts to make it easier for you to share them on these sites? if someone shares my stuff, i'm flattered. if someone steals from me, i'll try to address it personally, but even if i were protected by legislation, i wouldn't have the financial resources to launch a legal campaign against a really big copyright violator.

there's the rub. who does have the financial resources to make this legislation work for them? the people who want to push the bills through- giants of the entertainment industry. these people have spent a lot of money lobbying politicians and mounting advertising campaigns [largely focused on convincing the public that what they're really concerned about is the loss of american jobs because of piracy] to ensure that final say over what you can and can't see on the internet is determined by the people who brought you the debt ceiling crisis and gigli.

and just to be clear, no one is saying that content theft is ok. but a piece of legislation written by those who don't understand the internet advised only by those who have a financial interest in restricting its content is not the answer. 

here's a page indicating things you can do to help ensure that this legislation ends up in the trash bin where it belongs. 

here's a great little infographic on what the legislation is and what its dangers are.

here's a document summarising the p.i.p.a. and the concerns about it.

and you should definitely check out the oatmeal's protest, because it [like all of his stuff] is made of awesome.

and finally, here's a video that explains the basic problems with the legislation:






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i agree, smedley [or, smokers totally saved our planet in 1983]

so this conversation happened [via text, so i have evidence and possibly so does the canadian government and the nsa].

dom and i were trying to settle our mutual nerves about tomorrow night's conversion screening, remembering that we've made a fine little film that people should see. which is just about exactly what dom had said when i responded thusly:

me :: i agree smedley. [pauses for a moment] did you get that here?

dom :: no?

me :: the aliens who were looking at earth and then decided it wasn't worth bothering with because people smoked even though it was bad for them?
come to think of it, that might mean that smokers prevented an alien invasion in the seventies.

dom :: what ?!?!?

me :: i've had wine and very little food. [pause] but the alien thing was real. [pause.] well, real on tv.

dom :: please eat something.

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