October 1, 2011
New Bill Would Allow Robo-Calls to Mobile Phones


A bill proposed in Congress last week sponsored by Representatives Lee Terry and Edolphis Towns aims to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to allow “informational calls to mobile telephones and for other purposes.” Basically, it is a bill that would allow robo-calls from marketers and political campaigns (among other entities) to mobile phones.

» via ReadWriteWeb

Dear god, this bill is terrible, robo-calls from telemarketers to cell phones.  Shame on any politician that approves of this bill.  I pray to god this piece of legislation doesn’t get passed.

July 14, 2011
Tech Killing / Entrepreneurship killing Protect IP Bill moving through Senate

It must be pass stupid legislation month in congress or something.  In addition to the idiotic S. 978 Bill, the U.S. Senate is also considering passing the Protect IP Act.  There are a lot of bad things about it that you can read about independently below.

Here’s what you need to know.

People Against the IP Bill

  • Over 50 VCs including Andreessen Horowitz, AOL Ventures, Draper Richards, Greylock Partners, Khosla Ventures, Softbank Capital, Venrock
  • Google
  • Senior Citizens that buy generic drugs online for low prices (the bill would force generic drug sellers to be shut down)

People For the IP Bill

  • The RIAA
  • Microsoft
  • Unions

Take a look at who supports this legislation and who is against it and you’ll understand quickly whether or not this bill is awful or not.  The people supporting this terrible bill might as well call themselves Axis of Evil.

Opposition to the PROTECT IP Act — Hollywood-supported legislation intended to reduce content piracy and block counterfeit goods — is growing among the tech community, with a letter blasting the bill released Thursday by more than 50 venture capitalists from 40 firms that have funded many top Internet companies. They argue that the methods embodied in the proposed law would create untoward burdens and endanger the Internet.

A wide range of Hollywood trade associations and unions disagree, calling the legislation a critical step toward prevention of unauthorized downloading and streaming, problems that have proved near-intractable to date.

Also speaking out in recent weeks against the law is a completely different constituency: groups concerned that the broadly drafted act would endanger U.S. consumers’ access to pharmaceuticals from Canadian and other foreign pharmacies. They contend that such access, which is generally at lower-than-U.S. prices, is vital for uninsured consumers or those with limited coverage.

The Senate Judiciary Committee recently passed the bill, but Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) immediately put a hold on the legislation, on the grounds that the act was “overreaching” and would “damage … speech, innovation and the very integrity of the Internet.”

The bill’s prospects are uncertain: Wyden’s move prevents further action, at least for the time being, and the House has not introduced similar legislation.

In Thursday’s letter, the venture capitalists say the bill will “will stifle investment in Internet services, throttle innovation, and hurt American competitiveness.” They assert three problems:

— The bill burdens “countless Internet services” by requiring sites and search engines to remove links that point to sites offering pirated content.

— The bill endangers the security and integrity of the Internet by requiring DNS providers to block access to such sites. (The Domain Name System is the Internet mechanism that enables software such as web browsers to connect to websites.)

— The bill creates a private right of action that rights holders may use in ways that create significant burdens, even on companies acting in good faith. 

The venture capitalists work at such high-profile firms as Andreessen Horowitz, AOL Ventures, Draper Richards, Greylock Partners, Khosla Ventures, Softbank Capital, Venrock and others. According to an accompanying statement by an organization opposing the bill called Demand Progress, the firms collectively manage over $13 billion and the VCs were early investors in Facebook, Twitter, and Skype, among others.

Demand Progress also said that more than 350,000 people have signed its petitions against the PROTECT IP Act and a predecessor version of the bill.

Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, took particular exception last month to DNS domain blocking, noting that this is the same approach that China takes to censoring websites. Blocking “seems like an appealing solution but it sets a very bad precedent,” he said.

Microsoft, in contrast, supports the legislation, though it suggests that some modifications are necessary to address various concerns.

Hollywood too has been broadly supportive of the legislation, with trade groups such as the MPAA, IFTA,and the National Association of Theatre Owners, and unions such as the American Federation of Musicians, AFTRA, DGA, IATSE, SAG and the Teamsters, all speaking out in favor. The RIAA favors the bill as well.

July 14, 2011
ECA Against Law that would send Gamers to prison for posting videoclips (Senate Bill S.978)

I’m glad to hear that the ECA is taking a stand against Senate Bill S.978, which would send gamers to prison for posting photos and videos of videogames online.

The ECA is busy trying to protect their consumers, which I guess makes them the exact opposite of the RIAA and Hollywood who are trying to imprison their consumers.

Seriously, how can America justify releasing violent criminals because of overcrowded prison systems only to turn around and release a law sending people to prison for posting video clips online of them playing their favorite games?

If it became law, Senate Bill S.978 would amend current copyright law to include not just the unauthorized distribution and replication of copyrighted works (like pirated games and bootlegged movies), but also “public performances by electronic means.” While the bill was intended to make streaming copyrighted material illegal in the same way downloading it through a peer-to-peer service already is, critics are concerned that its wording is so broad as to potentially send people to prison for up to five years for largely accepted behavior.

For example, the bill could cover musicians who upload their own cover performances of popular songs to YouTube or other streaming sites, or gamers who upload their walkthrough videos, speed runs, or machinima.

"There are already strong laws on the books for copyright holders to protect their intellectual property," the ECA said in its statement. "We don’t need this draconian measure that’d make criminals out of millions of Americans who just want to share their enjoyment of their favorite entertainment."

June 30, 2011
Video Streaming will be a Felony Under Senate Bill S. 978

So America has an overcrowded prison system and violent felons are accidentally being released… so what’s the U.S. Senate doing?  They are going to overburden the prison system more by sending people to prison as felons because of online videos.

The bill, S. 978, would make illegal video streaming for commercial purposes a felony punishable by as much as five years in prison if it involves 10 or more instances of streaming copyrighted works over a 180-day period. The retail value of the video must exceed $2,500, or the licenses to the material must be worth more than $5,000.

This bill needs to be defeated. 

  • Five years of prison for posting some youtube vidoes on your tumblog.  Think about that for a moment.  This bill needs to be shut down.

David Graham recently wrote a great piece about this over at Shoryuken.com

According to the bill as it’s currently written, if you engage in “public performances by electronic means” 10 or more times over a 180 day period, and if either the total economic value of those performances exceeds $2500 or the cost of getting the copyright holder’s permission to perform exceeds $5000, then you can potentially get fined and put in jail for 5 years.  Jail.  FIVE YEARS.

Just to hit you over the head with this, that means that if you stream a game like Street Fighter 4 or Starcraft 2 (or a movie or a song etc) only 10 or more times in a full half year, and if you make a bit of money doing it, you either need to have a license from Capcom or Blizzard etc or you risk going to jail.

Amusingly slash horrifyingly enough, it gets worse.  The wording of this bill is so vague that “performance” could count for a crap-ton of what we who understand the internet would consider very different things.  The offense is defined super broadly: “public performance by electronic means.”  That includes live streaming of copyrighted audiovisual works, of course, but it almost certainly also includes recorded YouTube videos of copyrighted audiovisual works, whether they be match vids, game footage/live shot hybrids, movies, TV shows, music, and so on.  Going off other legal precedent, it might even cover embedding an infringing YouTube vid and videos of kids lip syncing to music.

In essence, a bill intended to limit the unauthorized live streaming of films and TV could result in potential jail time for a lot of people doing very different things.  While the bill’s sponsors might not have known how wide-ranging its effect could be at first, they’ve been confronted with that since the text was released and they show no signs of pulling it back.

What about the monetary limits?  Well, they actually aren’t that high.  If you don’t think our major streamers, casters, and uploaders make $2500 over a full half a year, you’re crazy.  Keep in mind, the wording of the bill is “the total economic value of such public performances to the infringer or to the copyright owner.”  Total, meaning revenue from live streaming, plus revenue for replays, plus compensation by a tournament for coming to stream in the first place, and so on.  And economic value, as in not net profit but just the amount of revenue coming in.

Because almost every use of an audiovisual work online can be considered a public performance, this might drastically change how people behave online.  No longer is the penalty for uploading infringing videos just getting shut down or having to pay the copyright owner.  If the vids become popular, you might go to jail.

Now, obviously some companies, including video game publishers like Capcom and Blizzard, tend to take a hands-off approach to the constant unauthorized streams and replays our scenes pump out.  So why worry?  Surely they wouldn’t send us to jail.

But that’s only in a world where the performance right is merely a civil law provision, where the only ones who can bust infringers are copyright owners.  Jamming the performance right into criminal law means that the government gets involved and gets to decide whether to bring charges on its own.  Whereas for now video game publishers can (and usually do) let infringing live streams and replays slide, in the future the government might be able to bring criminal charges regardless of whether the copyright holder says to.  In practice the government tends not to go after infringers unless notified by copyright holders, but if it wants to it can go after infringers anyway.

I don’t want to be too alarmist here.  It strikes me as very unlikely that the government would take the time and money to put someone in jail for streaming a Marvel vs Capcom 3 tournament.  But since this would be a totally new thing, I can’t say for sure; I don’t think anyone can.  I also don’t think it’s a great idea to ever play Russian roulette, regardless of whether the gun has a hundred chambers or ten thousand.

I think the consequences for our relationship with video game copyright holders are obvious.  It would no longer be good enough that Capcom takes a hands off approach to us publicly performing their copyrighted works, because the government could still bust us if it wants.  I can’t imagine that many people would risk jail time by engaging in publicly viewable, easily findable unauthorized performances like tournament streams or popular YouTube vids.  The result might be that the only people streaming or putting up replays are those who have licenses from copyright holders explicitly allowing them to do so.

And I think that would be a disaster for our culture.  It means the gut gets slit right out of our media side, because while having a few big names and groups is great, without voluntary participation by whoever wants to be involved I feel like we’ll lose a huge portion of the vibrant, fast-moving dynamism that I love about our scenes.  Maybe we’ll be able to get permission easily, but in my personal experience it’s been anything but easy for video game copyright owners to grant licenses.