Digital freedom

Why is the logo on this site black today?

6 months, 80 posts, 1,500 comments, 100,000 visits… I managed to stay out of politics, being narrowly focused on a single goal: bringing down copyright trolls and their business model. And instead of writing this post, I would probably spend my time reporting news, good or bad, from our battlefield, but one particular event made me articulate my opinion on PROTECT IP/SOPA bill that is being pushed through Congress these days.


Yesterday I received a public tweet from @PiracyCensorsUs , an entity that presents itself as “…the artists, the filmmakers, the authors, the photographers, the musicians whose work is being stolen by digital pirates so they can profit from our work”:

I don’t know anything about this organization; it does not even have a website, which is odd. Most likely it’s an MPAA’s astroturf, maybe not, but to be honest I, don’t care. What was disturbing is the premise of the message, a well formed opinion that what I’m doing is somehow wrong and opposite to their goals of fighting large-scale commercial copyright infringers. That can’t be farther from truth: if they read all my and my guest’s posts and numerous comments, they would be surprised to find out that not even once did I encourage breaking the law. I fight against widespread law abuses, against predatory practices that some cynical lawyers use while pursuing easy money, disregarding an unacceptable level of collateral damage — the pain of innocents who are being wrestled to pay thousands of dollars for the deeds they never committed.

And yes, I’m sympathetic even with those who indeed committed alleged infringement and found themselves in the state of frightening uncertainty. I strongly believe that the punishment they face is grossly disproportionate, hence unconstitutional. I don’t have the right to break the law, but I do have the right to question its fairness.

As anyone who has some understanding of Internet technologies and copyright law, I was already strongly against SOPA, which is bound to break the Internet, trump privacy rights and prompt abuses far worse than the ones I’m fighting against. After reading the twitter message, I realized that my 6-month work, as well as the emerging community, is under a threat. Why? Because I defend those accused of copyright infringement, so it is not implausible that some ignorant copyright maximalist, without trying to understand what this site is about, declares it a facilitator of copyright infringement. Even those who fight on a similar frontier, against Righthaven, tend to jump to the conclusion that I’m just a petty thief, so what do you want from others? Or it can be a cunning troll lawyer, whose “business” was seriously damaged by all the exposure, and who definitely wants to silence me. Enacting this bill makes it possible to censor this site out based simply on allegations.

You think that my fears are unfounded? Look, this summer a French judge ruled that a site was dedicated to infringement simply because… its URL contained the word “torrent”. So I can’t afford underestimating ignorance, stupidity or malice of certain groups and individuals. The broad definitions and vague language in the SOPA bill will only fertilize these “virtues”.

This bill is wrong, probably the worst anti-piracy bill ever. I don’t want to reiterate all the dangers of it, you can read about them all over the Internet and make up your mind if you have not already done so. I can talk only for myself, and besides the fears of being censored, here’s another reason why I’m against SOPA: even theoretically assuming that I knew nothing about this bill a priori, its supporters’ arguments cannot convince anyone who can research various sources of information and is capable of critical thinking.

I definitely respect filmmakers, authors and musicians regardless of their position on copyright: I trust their professionalism and expertize when I need to know how to write a movie script, or set up movie scene lights, but…

Ignorance is our worst enemy.



Today, four years after this post was published, I checked the @PiracyCensorsUs twitter account. It was not a great surprise to find that its tweets stopped on 1/16/2015, a day after SOPA died. I guess MPAA decided to stop writing checks to astroturfs, so the question if piracy indeed censors us was not that important to begin with.

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9 responses to ‘Why is the logo on this site black today?

  1. Well said, SJD. Another insightful post.

    This is not a forum for those who wish to break the law, or for those who believe that the very idea of copyright protection is antiquated. In fact, I have close friends who are musicians who have been personally hurt by piracy…the minute a new CD hits the torrent sites the sales fall off a cliff. These people are not millionaire rock stars, they are people who make a meager living doing what they love. They deserve to be paid.

    The people who do NOT deserve to be paid are scumbag attorneys who have no real interest in fighting online piracy. They see the Internet as an ATM that they are able to use by scaring people who have little knowledge of the law of the underlying technologies to extort money from people irrespective of guilt or innocence.

    If somebody shows me a way to ensure that true pirates are made to pay up they will have my support. What I will NOT do is settle with the Troll. I would rather pay an attorney twice what the Troll is demanding to fight this in court.

    Keep up the good work.


  2. Well said SJD…it should not be the role of laws made by congress to determine what is right and wrong but the arguments and case law that would be made in a court of law.

  3. My school which is a technology school allowed me to put posters pertaining to this bill. I have no issue with legislation to stop copyright infringement, but the shoot first ask questions later is not the way to go. Changing the DNS system and putting up a great wall around America is nothing but censorship. Today is known as Internet Censorship Day. I am glad you decided to write a piece about this issue. This bill will do absolutely nothing to stop piracy , but will ultimately affect the livelihood of many legitimate tech companies. I guess we can go back to using carrier pigeons and the USPS.

  4. This proposed legislation is a sad reminder that money drives many of our laws. I’m talking about the greed for money and the power that comes with it. This proposed law was started by special-interest groups and will do NOTHING to stop piracy. The legislators who back this do not understand the technologies and only know who is making donations to them. As SJD stated, with legislation so poorly written, sites such as this one and mine face possible censorship. I do not condone piracy, but that wouldn’t concern a Troll from throwing out some allegations to shut us down. The Trolls already throw out allegations with little proof while laughing all the way to the bank. If you haven’t already done so, use the EFF to send your legislators messages not to support this legislation.

    DieTrollDie 🙂

  5. SJD, it took me two times reading your article before I realized that you were the victim of some agency or group flagging your site to be blocked. This really irks me — the work you do for internet users is priceless. It just reminds me that those dogs “guarding” the gates of intellectual property are the politicians and the corporate thieves themselves. I represent many people, so many of whom do not even know what bittorrent is, let alone do they infringe copyrights. Yet, many do not have the funds to even consider defending themselves, and when they speak to the plaintiff attorneys, all they hear back is “tough luck, pay up or we’ll come after you.” This is simple bullying, and them flagging your site is one more example of bullying. Perhaps someone such as MJR can help you on what is clearly soon to be a first amendment issue of silencing those who wish to speak out against copyright trolls and the like.

    • Rob, thanks for your words, but no, I was not a victim of someone who wanted to silence me… yet. I just articulated my fears that this can happen if a bill like SOPA is passed.

      Although I remember one suspicious incident in June when WordPress has blocked me because someone had reported my blog as spam. Fortunately, the guys at WordPress are caring and easy to reach, they re-enabled it in no time. But I’m not sure they will do it again when facing a dilemma: to block a minor blog or to bear liability for not acting on allegations.

  6. Just who do these scum think they are? To openly accuse an innocent of wrongdoing and then attempt to shut you up is not only a despicable breach of law it’s also a breach of basic Human Rights – something that’s on the wane in the USA I notice.

    You guys have work to do. Not only to defend your rights against these unsubstantiated attacks, but also to RETAIN what little rights you have left.

    The alternatives to such a fight are not good either I’m afraid.
    Saying nothing simply allows the CopyWrong Cartel to get their way 100% with their paid-for puppet politicians.
    Or you can give up the fight by giving up your Homeland and emigrating – but they’ll still pursue you anyway, with their wrongful laws, corrupt legal practices and false allegations.

    My heart goes out to y’all in the so-called Land of the Free.

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