The Pushback Has Come

  When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, “This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know,” the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything — you can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him. Robert A. Heinlein

The Pushback

If you’ve never heard of SOPA or PIPA, I’m jealous of you.  And if you’ve never heard of SOPA or PIPA – two very bad ideas making their way through the US Senate, you’re asleep even as the people in power try to strip your rights from you.  And I can’t let you sleep anymore.  So, pardon me, this is going to edge into politics.  Live with it.

So, what are SOPA and PIPA?  Over the last two/three election cycles, not to mention over the last fifteen to eighteen years it has become clear that the mainstream media has competition and they can no longer have everything the way they wish.  I have greeted the fact that people have other sources of news with relief, but I knew the pushback would come.  Politicians – and the main stream media – have a lot invested in shaping narrative.  I expected something like SOPA and PIPA.

Unfortunately these two bad ideas walking are far worse than that.  Not only do they strike at my right – at your right – to post presidential goofs or speeches that show the larcenous nature of representatives, but they also strike at my right to make a living with no reference to gatekeepers and people who will certify that I’m allowed to speak.  … or write.  If these two bills pass, your right to post your own work on Amazon (or anywhere else) is done for.

Don’t believe me?  Read here: This was written by a friend of mine, who read the bill so others didn’t have to.  It is not as bad as I thought.  It is, in fact, FAR WORSE.

Note that being ACCUSED of having copyright material in your book is enough to shut down the SITE offering it.  Can Amazon certify that no one who posts there has stolen anything?  Of course not.  And we’ve already heard of people who put up – without permission – compilations of other people’s work.  Under SOPA or PIPA that would be enough to shut Amazon down, instead of – as should be – going after the culprits.  Worse, I (and every other writer alive) have been accused at times of plagiarizing, or even “copying” other works.  The accusations are usually just stupid and made by people who don’t realize you can use the same title, a similar plot line, or even terms used by another author without plagiarizing (yes, if you use them all at the same time, there MIGHT be a problem, but I mean one or the other per work.)  One of these people setting up a complaint would be enough to shut up a site carrying indie work, while it’s “investigated” (and when are these investigations, done?  Particularly as there would be thousands if not millions) by our benevolent regulators.

You know what that means – it means that before you put anything up, you’d have to have it “certified” as not infringing copyright by some sort of gatekeeper – say, publishers.  Who could also, of course, “ensure” that you had the “right” quality and opinions and … everything they’ve been doing for decades.  This would give them the chance to “educate” the reading public again – and aren’t you readers looking forward to this?

Yes, there’s been – remarkably bipartisan – complaints about this, but, as Bill Reader posts in the linked article above, it’s perfectly possible that the intention was ALWAYS for SOPA to fail and PIPA to go through, doing essentially the same.  Also, Lamar Smith, whom Glenn Reynolds pithily identifies as R-Hollywood, has vowed to get PIPA through.

Guys, make no mistake.  First, our representatives are too disconnected from the online world to fully know what they’re doing.  Frankly, almost anyone over forty who is not actively involved in  a field that calls for net-savvy is.  So, they have this vague idea that “people need protection” and are blundering where angels fear to tread.  Second, they are receiving donations from Hollywood and I WOULD BET the publishing industry too, and being told they have to do something.  Third, these bills give them maximum power over what you see, what you read and ultimately what you think.

Making them understand they can’t get away with this is like making sure an alcoholic won’t drink from a bottle in front of him.  It can be done, but it will take a lot of effort and possibly force.  Oh, yeah, and eternal vigilance.

You shouldn’t even be surprised.  Dave Freer and I told you for months that the pushback would come.  And it has come.  Why should you be surprised?

I’ll add only – to those of you who’ve read my space opera – that something like this – in case you didn’t notice that the internet as such doesn’t exist in that future – was predicated into the future history that creates the regime of the Good Men, with their manipulation of the truth.  I won’t claim any particular foresight, because it didn’t take any.  For tyranny to survive, the ability of people to speak MUST be abridged if not outright stopped.

This is not a partisan issue, it is an issue of the future and its enemies.  Contact your representative and stop the enemies of the future.  And then vote out anyone who sponsors or in other ways supports this monstrosity.

38 responses to “The Pushback Has Come

  1. Susan Shepherd

    I’d been aware of the ( SOPA or PIPA ) = easy way to censor practically anybody, but I hadn’t even thought about it in terms of screwing self-publishers (and freelancers of other sorts, from cover artists to filkers who put their nerdy songs up on their blogs). Thank you for talking about it here.

    Actually, thanks for this blog in general. There’s such a wonderful blend of personal anecdotes, writing-related commentary, history and publishing/book-related stuff here, and I know it takes time out from your day to write these posts. So thank you!

  2. Thanks for letting us know.

  3. Oh, and it doesn’t matter *where* in the world you, or your words, are!
    If the offending site can be accessed from the USA, these Bills propose to permit the takedown of sites hosted *anywhere* – no matter what the National Government for the country says on the matter.

    i.e. If the site is in the UK, it could be taken down without any chance for the UK Government to say otherwise; or for them to prevent it happening – even if it’s a government website!

  4. Wow, today’s the day is it? Way up here in the frigid North I had only heard small rumours of this going around. But the Canadian Gov’t is basically useless on tech issues. Hell they can’t even get their own websites running right.
    I have no sway with your politickers, but as VERY interested and concerned Canadian just north of y’all, let’s go see what I can do about this from up here, considering more than 50% of the sites I use EVERY day/hour/etc. are US based and involve exactly the kind of material you are referring to, fan-fiction, freelance writing and blogging, and on.

    Thanks for the useful rundown on this Sarah, it’s the first I’ve seen a comprehensive post on the topic. Usually it’s just a black screen with links to protest sites.
    Anyhow, back to what they pay me for here.

  5. Unfortunately, my Representative is, in fact, “SOPA” Smith, so for the first time in my life I will not be voting for the Republican for Congress. If he gets a Democratic opponent who is for the whole Bill of Rights and not just portions of it, I’ll vote against him, as freedom is more important that partisanship. Otherwise I’ll sit this one out.

  6. Yeah, I posted that Heinlein Quote on my Google+ page today, and for the same reason you did, Sarah.

    These bills are even more horrible than I thought. And their passing and full enforcement would make our Internet on a par with China. Perhaps even more restrictive, in some ways.

    I am going to quote from a videogame that scarily dovetails well into this. From Alpha Centauri:

    As the Americans learned so painfully in Earth’s final century, free flow of information is the only safeguard against tyranny. The once-chained people whose leaders at last lose their grip on information flow will soon burst with freedom and vitality, but the free nation gradually constricting its grip on public discourse has begun its rapid slide into despotism. Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.
    Commissioner Pravin Lal, “U.N. Declaration of Rights”

  7. I live in Canada not the States. I first heard about this on the weekend, and I am terrified of what these bills will do if they pass. I’m all for anti-piracy but not censorship, and if these bills pass, they can and will fundamentally change the internet, and not in a good way. No matter where you live in the world you should care about this issue. Talk to everyone you can and spread the word. These bills can’t be changed they have to be killed and buried.

    This is a quote from Wikipedia’s learn more page for the blackout.
    I don’t live in the United States. How can I help?

    Contact your local State Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or similar branch of government. Tell them you oppose SOPA and PIPA, and any similar legislation. SOPA and PIPA will affect sites outside of the United States, and actions to sites inside the United States (like Wikipedia) will also affect non-American readers — like you. Calling your own government will also let them know you don’t want them to create their own bad anti-Internet legislation.

    There is a petition being hosted by with signatures from all over the world. It currently stands at just under 1.5 million. How many will it take to stop the bills. In the last 20 minutes there have been 15,000 additional signatures.

    • Killed and buried, at the crossroads, with the political careers of everyone who votes for them through the heart. It’s more than my chance at a livelihood they’re taking away. It’s the future, and the freedom of thought of my children and grandchildren. Yeah, it IS that important.

  8. I predicted this three years ago, in one of my earliest writings on copyright.

    I’m up to about 150K words on copyright issues now. Every time I think I get on top of things, something else pops up. I wrote about the “War on General Purpose Computing” in September of 2010, long before Cory Doctorow gave his speech on the subject.

    When you look at the basics, everything that is happening is logical, from the viewpoint of the large media conglomerates. The only way to stop this is to change Copyright Law so that Copyright becomes non-transferable except by inheritance. Those who want to use a copyright would then lease it for a limited period of time, say six years, with no automatic renewals allowed.

    This would put the creator in the drivers seat.



    PS: You can read my copyright stuff on my website.

    • I’m for renting copyright, yes. I’m also for making it creator’s life plus25 years. My sons want more, they can work for it. And families wouldn’t be able to sit on rights — see, for instance how hard it is to find the work of Simak!

      • Shucks, ‘taint hard to find Simak’s work — I’m sitting with a box full of it at my knee. Might be willin’ ter sell it to yuh, too, as the Deranged Daughter seems innerested in other folk (Ah swan, y’ try an raise ’em tuh ken good frum bad writin’ and whatta they do? Go off on Manga!)

        “Course, as I only received ther right to READ those books, not resell ’em, making this offer over ther interwebs might be a vyo-lation of SOMA, or Pippy Longstocking or whatever. The same folks as what give us ther TSA ‘ll prob’ly step up and accord the interwebs the same level of judgement an’ discretion they gives airline passengers. Mebbe ah oughtta jus’ burn them books right now; cain’t sell ’em and the shelves ‘re gettin’ almighty crowded … Beloved Spouse has thet gleam in the eye that alwus arises when ah suggest there might be a chance of seein’ floor anywar in this heah house …

        • shoot me a price and titles via email. I have a lot of Simak, but not ALL of it. And I raised young ones with my perverse tastes so the name of Simak is sacred onto the older one. BTW under follies of youth, how come I thought that They Walk Like Men was anti money? It’s clearly anti fiat-currency. I wuz a dumm*ss

          • T’ain’t fer sale, but I will happily instruct my executor to note your interest. Offer was for purpose of illustration only. I might be willing to give them away. – good grief, a quick check shows 18 titles, with Werewolf Principle yet to be re-filed, and since they run to the end of the box there might well be more in the next … and cover prices running fifty, sixty cents. Doubt I could get a nickle from a used book store and would likely be astonished at what they would bring over the interwebs. No, not for sale but I promise they will be somedays yours — in my household same rules apply for kittens, puppies and books: free to caring come, not ever for sale. Heck, you won’t even have to wait on my Will, as I don’t plan on dying until I’ve caught up on my reading, and heat death of the universe is likely to come first. Thing is, now I’m wanting to re-read. See what you gone and made me do?

        • Damn. Now I’ve got to go dig his books out of the boxes in the basement and re-read them. Been too long.

          Great writer.


      • Life plus 25 seems not unreasonable to me, though some of my Canadian sparring partners would scream at you in rage. John Degen seems to think that the creators great-grandchildren should still be collecting.

        For anyone who wants a sure cure for insomnia (and remember it mostly covers the Canadian situation) my copyright writings are here. Hopefully they mostly make sense. The long gun registry one I know will not translate to the politics of any other country.


        • You know, the PURPOSE of copyright is to stimulate more creation. Having no compensation for writing means I won’t write, or at least I won’t write READABLE (why bother? I can write for myself.) After I’m dead it’s highly unlikely I’ll be writing anything — spiritism not withstanding. If I did well enough, I’ll leave my kids a bucketfull of money. If they want more, they can make it themselves. Yes, I know tons of writers who whine about his, but it’s bokum

          • The whole issue of corporate ownership and residual rights seems to be involved here. Howzabout a compromise — life + 25 is free, a small annual fee gets you perpetuity.

          • And there goes another chunk of words on Copyright. I know that this post has already annoyed some people in Canada. The local RIAA affiliate hates me.

            They don’t realize how badly the laws they want would hurt them if they were enforced. It would kill Canadian music.


  9. Seems to me that if you’re in the gatekeeping business there is always a vested interest in seeing fences built, and built good’n’high. Basic economics teaches that limiting access to a market is one tool monopolists use to extort higher prices.

    For an industry with Hollywood’s record of “fair” treatment of its creators (look up Cliff Robertson’s obit or Wiki) to pose as protector of creators’ rights ranks right up there on the chutzpa scale with Col. Sanders as defender of chickens and Ray Kroc as protector of cattle. I expect the publishing industry’s record is no less shameful, merely less public.

    • Ayup. Actually they take lessons from Hollywood. Also, their claim that they’re protectors of GOOD writing… Don’t make me laugh. The story Deann is comparing to Cold Equations in the “free short story” tab above is probably not that good, but clearly a lot of people like it. I could never sell it, so I threw it in to make up the size in my collection eight years ago…

  10. Thanks for posting this, it is something everyone needs to be aware of.

  11. Problem is, Sarah, TMK there aren’t any recall procedures for Congress.

    • I would mutter about lampposts, but then someone will think I’m ADVOCATING it. Let it be said, though, that I’ve often thought it would be good to have a ruling class in living terror of the populace. Maybe we’re TOO civilized?

      • It says something that when a tea-partier tosses tea bags over the White House fence they go full-on hissy fit, but shrug off multiple smoke bombs from the occupants. A cynic might suspect there was astro-turf to provide a safe bleed-off of citizen hostility.

  12. As I said on the Bar, when the “USA PATRIOT Act” was being debated….
    It may be time to water the Tree.
    I always found it both interesting and rather comforting that no one needed to be told which Tree.

  13. Pingback: Classical Values » A rare request to my readers

  14. :

    ‘Smith dismissed Wikipedia’s blackout as a “publicity stunt” and said his committee would continue the markup of SOPA in February. ‘

    “What are you going to *do* about it?” [“Boss” William Marcy Tweed]

    “*I’ve ‘seen too much’? All I’ve seen are a bunch of low-foreheads who think they can change the world with Dreams and Talk. It’s too late for that — if you’re not willing to act, then give me a break, and shut up.” [Ben Richards, _The Running Man_]

  15. Heard a short headline on the news today that Congress “put it on the backburner”, which probably means it got to much bad publicity, so the will stall off and see if the furor dies down; and if it does they will bring it back up.

    • I doubt they will bring it back up. Bury enabling language in the back of a 2,400 page continuing resolution, enact some regulations largely achieving the same effect, get a few judicial interpretations imposed … there’s more than one way to boil a frog.

      • No man’s life, liberty or fortune is safe while our legislature is in session.
        — Benjamin Franklin

        • For disdain of Congress, none perhaps holds greater than Mark Twain:

          Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.

          Congressman is the trivialist distinction for a full grown man.

          All Congresses and Parliaments have a kindly feeling for idiots, and a compassion for them, on account of personal experience and heredity.

          The lightning there is peculiar; it is so convincing, that when it strikes a thing it doesn’t leave enough of that thing behind for you to tell whether–Well, you’d think it was something valuable, and a Congressman had been there.

          It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.

          It is the foreign element that commits our crimes. There is no native criminal class except Congress.

          Whiskey is carried into committee rooms in demijohns and carried out in demagogues.

          …I never can think of Judas Iscariot without losing my temper. To my mind Judas Iscariot was nothing but a low, mean, premature, Congressman.

          [ ]

  16. From the webcomic Everybody Loves Eric Raymond, the episode GPL killed the MPAA star