News Roundup for 12/12/11

YouTube's logo?

-Headline of the Day-
"Legal expert says online piracy bill is unconstitutional."

Imagine a law so broadly and stupidly written that a couple of kids singing Birthday by The Beatles could get YouTube shut down. Now stop imagining it, because it's not an entirely imaginary scenario. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is currently being bounced around in congress and would do just that. According to the report, "The bill would empower the Justice Department and copyright holders to demand that search engines, Internet providers and payment processors cut ties with websites 'dedicated' to copyright infringement." What does it mean to be "'dedicated' to copyright infringement?" Who knows? It's not defined, but since YouTube probably gets hundreds of copyright infringement notices a day, you could easily argue that it's a piracy site by SOPA's standards.

Like I said, broadly and stupidly written.

But Lawrence Tribe, a legal scholar with the Harvard Law School says that the very basis of the law is unconstitutional, since it calls for "prior restraint" -- the suppression of speech before a case goes to court. In other words, the punishment is handed down before the trial -- which is bad. And, of course, there's that whole "broadly and stupidly written" thing.

"Conceivably, an entire website containing tens of thousands of pages could be targeted if only a single page were accused of infringement," Tribe says. "Such an approach would create severe practical problems for sites with substantial user-generated content, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and for blogs that allow users to post videos, photos, and other materials."

You know, sites like the one you're looking at right now. Real terrible piratey stuff.

And, of course, there's the whole question of whether law enforcement should be involved in copyright policing at all. Copyright infringement has traditionally been a civil crime, policed by lawsuits. Changing it to a criminal offense and having law enforcement police it would save media companies a lot of money, while shifting that cost to the taxpayers. In short, it's a permanent bailout for people who don't even need a temporary one -- seen a lot of starving media execs lately? Me neither, so what problem is it that we're solving here again?

But hey, it's already passed the House, which is run by Republicans who oppose burdensome, big-government regulations and corporate bailouts -- right up until the point that they don't. It's the Senate, run by supposedly big-government regulatin', baily-outy Democrats, that's holding things up here.

Here's hoping they hold it up forever. (The Hill)

-Merry Christmas to some!-

Click to embiggen

To the rest, good luck. (MSNBC)

-Bonus HotD-
"Crappy Retail Chain Lowe’s Sorry If Anyone Is Upset They Hate Muslims."

Bigots were unhappy that Lowe's advertised on a show that portrayed American Muslims as not-insane. So Lowe's pulled the ads. Now they're in trouble with the not-insane -- who are most people.

The moral of this story: always tell bigots to fuck off. Every time. (Wonkette)

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