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Brett Neely of MPR interviewed me about Sen. Al Franken’s support of the Protect IP Act and the effect this might have on the progressive communities support for him. Progressives have been up in arms over this bill, its vague language and the possibility of a new era of censorship in the US.

We targeted Franken as he’s been a progressive champion, but he decided to support his entertainment industry donors over doing what’s right.

Fortunately, it looks like PIPA and SOPA are dead.

When the entire Internet gets angry, Congress takes notice. Both the House and the Senate on Friday backed away from a pair of controversial anti-piracy bills, tossing them into limbo and throwing doubt on their future viability.

The Senate had been scheduled to hold a proceedural vote next week on whether to take up the Protect IP Act (PIPA) — a bill that once had widespread, bipartisan support. But on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was postponing the vote “in light of recent events.”

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives said it is putting on hold its version of the bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The House will “postpone consideration of the legislation until there is wider agreement on a solution,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith said in a written statement.

Many progressives I know have told me they will no longer give to or help Al in 2014. My hope is most will forget this hiccup in what will likely be Al’s distinguished record in the Senate.

His problem is even his response to our protests may not help his cause. He still fully supports PIPA and barely recognizes our concerns. He characterizes our protests of his support as “misinformation.”

You can read his email below the fold. This is not a good moment in his career.

As you may know, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has decided not to bring the PROTECT IP Act (the Senate’s version of SOPA) up for a vote next week. And since I’ve heard from many of you about this issue, I wanted to take a moment to share why I support copyright protection legislation – as well as why I believe holding off on this bill is the right thing to do.

As someone who has worked hard to protect net neutrality, I understand as well as anyone the importance of keeping the Internet free from undue corporate influence. There are millions of Americans who rely on a free and open Internet to learn, communicate with friends and family, and do business.

At the same time, there are millions of Americans whose livelihoods rely on strong protections for intellectual property: middle-class workers – most of them union workers – in all 50 states, thousands of them here in Minnesota, working in a variety of industries from film production to publishing to software development.

If we don’t protect our intellectual property, international criminals – as well as legitimate businesses like payment processors and ad networks – will continue to profit dishonestly from the work these Americans are doing every day. And that puts these millions of jobs at serious risk.

That’s reason enough to act. But these criminals are also putting Minnesota families in danger by flooding our nation with counterfeit products – not just bootleg movies and software, but phony medications and knockoff equipment for first responders.

We cannot simply shrug off the threat of online piracy. We cannot do nothing.

I have supported the approach Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy has taken in crafting legislation to respond to the threat of online piracy – and I appreciate his leadership on this important issue.

But I’ve also been listening carefully to the debate – and to the many Minnesotans who have told me via email, Facebook, Twitter, and good old fashioned phone calls that they are worried about what this bill would mean for the future of the Internet.

Frankly, there is a lot of misinformation floating around out there: If this bill really did some of the things people have heard it would do (like shutting down YouTube), I would never have supported it.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take seriously the concerns people have shared. And if holding off on this legislation gives us an opportunity to take a step back and try to bring everybody back to the table, I think it’s the right thing to do. This is a difficult issue, and also an important one. It’s worth getting this right.

I strongly believe that we need to protect intellectual property – and protect the free and open Internet. I think most people, even those who have expressed concern about this particular bill, agree. And it’s my hope that we can now build a stronger consensus around how to accomplish these two important goals.

Thanks for reading. And for those of you who have written to me about this issue (even if it was an angry letter), thanks for being honest with me. I’ll always return the favor.


Stop SOPA, stop PIPA

by The Big E on January 18, 2012 · 0 comments

This site has gone dark today in protest of the U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA). This blog joins with sites like Google, Wikipedia, Mozilla, Boing Boing, Reddit and many many others shutting down on January 18, 2012 in protest. The U.S. Congress is about to censor the internet, even though the vast majority of Americans are opposed. We need to kill these bills to protect our rights to free speech, privacy, and prosperity. Learn more at

Furthermore, this blog is going dark because Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar are co-sponsors of PIPA.


When will Sen. Franken come to his senses?

As I’ve been writing about for a month or so now, the Senate is considering the Protect IP Act. The House’s version, SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), won’t fly in the Senate so its the Senate version that matters. These bills will bring about censorship of the internet. The entertainment industry wants to crack down on piracy and isn’t the slightest bit concerned about the consequences.

Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken not only support the Protect IP Act, they’re co-sponsors. I’m not surprised that Klobuchar supports this travesty, but I am still shocked that Franken would support it. Franken has been a champion for the little guy and stood up for net neutrality. But he’s not standing up for the little guy on this one. He’s standing up for corporate greed and this just doesn’t fit. Franken claims he’s supporting it to protect Hollywood jobs. But this is a flimsy and weak argument.

Thankfully, there have been some developments over the weekend. The ability to block ISPs was removed.

In a move the technology sector will surely see as a victory, a controversial antipiracy bill being debated in Congress will no longer include a provision that would require Internet service providers to block access to overseas Web sites accused of piracy.

Rep. Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), one of the biggest backers of the Stop Online Piracy Act, today said he plans to remove the Domain Name System requirements from the Stop Online Piracy Act.

This provision would allow the censors to block any internet service provider if one of their clients ran afoul of this law. All clients for that provider would be blocked. The wording of what constitutes piracy is so vague that shutting any ISP down for piracy would be remarkably easy.

The next good news is that President Obama said he opposes PIPA/SOPA as they are currently written.

The Obama administration raised concerns Saturday about efforts in Congress that it said would undermine “the dynamic, innovative global Internet,” urging lawmakers to approve measures this year that balance the need to fight piracy and counterfeiting against an open Internet.

White House officials said in a blog post that it would not support pending legislation that “reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk” or undermines the global Internet, cautioning the measure could discourage innovation and startup businesses.

Finally, a bunch of Senators came to their senses and switched to opposing PIPA.

It looks like the internet uprising really is having an impact. Senator Ben Cardin — a co-sponsor of PIPA — has put out a press release saying that he won’t vote for the bill as written today, after hearing from many constituents. Oddly, he says he will remain a co-sponsor of the bill, but wants to amend the bill to take into account the concerns he’s hearing.

Similarly, six other Senators, including two co-sponsors — Senators Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley (the two co-sponsors) along with John Cornyn, Jeff Sessions, Mike Lee and Tom Coburn — have asked Harry Reid not to bring the cloture vote he’s promised to bring on the 24th.

When will Sen. Franken come to his senses?


When I started to learn about SOPA and the Protect IP Act that were being considered in the House and the Senate, I was saddened to see that both of my Senators Klobuchar and Franken were supporters and co-sponsors of it. I wrote a short letter to Franken about my dislike for Protect IP and I got a letter back from his office which seemed to have as one of the main reasons for his support of it being the protection of American jobs. So in crafting a reply to that argument I did quite a bit of research.  With that research I ended up creating a lengthy reply that I think helps to show while Protect IP may be designed to protect some industries and jobs in them, it also as it is currently written will have quite a negative impact on many other industries and jobs. The results of what I found in my research are below.  
If you want to see a PDF of this piece with all the footnotes and bibliography, you can get it at my website

Let me make clear I am not against better enforcement of copyright, as long as it is done in a fair and just way both for the copyright holder and the accused party so that they have reasonable means to contest it if they feel they are wrongfully accused of infringement. Any new bill should balance the need of the copyright holder and potential new business’ ability to innovate without there being overburdened with legal worry.  After looking into SOPA and Protect IP they do not seem to fit into that criteria.

From my research I have seen evidence and opinions from lawyers, professors, and others questioning the constitutionality of Protect IP and SOPA, but that is not the case I will be trying to make in this post.  As I wrote above the main reason Senator Franken is supporting Protect IP from what I gather is the protection of American jobs that are harmed by copyright infringement/theft such as in creative industries like music, movies and television to name just a few examples.  With that in mind I will take a greater focus at the harm to American jobs in other technology related industries by this bill that could outweigh or negate the jobs potentially helped by these bills.

The first industry that would be effected that I want to highlight is the internet hosting industry. First some background information and numbers to provide context. The hosting industry is a “very significant component of the 46 billon dollar internet infrastructure market.”  The hosting industry is growing at an average of 20% year after year. The hosting industry as a whole is predominately made up of small to medium sized businesses with them making up 81.4% of the hosting industry.  The hosting industry helps to directly and indirectly create at least 15,000 new jobs each year.  With this in mind the letter from the Save Hosting Coalition says that “Under PIPA, the process required to respond to litigation or a complaint would likely absorb an average small host’s entire yearly profit.”  As the letter points out and from what interpretations I have read elsewhere under Protect IP the hosting industry can reasonably be considered within the term “dedicated to infringing activities.”  Because of that the hosting companies themselves under Protect IP would “face the same liability as those actually engaging in the activity.” If the businesses faced those potential legal and administrative cost it is plain to see how much harder it would be for them to continue operating and take away from their core business of helping customers host their content on the internet.  The final point is that Protect IP would very likely effect the hosting industries ability to attract and maintain their current hosting customers that are from outside the U.S. who choose to use U.S. companies for their hosting infrastructure.

I have two more areas I address in my full piece.  One is looking at how SOPA/Protect IP would impact angel investors/venture capitalists willingness to invest in new start ups.  The other section is about how Protect IP/SOPA could more broadly affect technology companies, and new tech companies that help drive innovation.

If you want to see the rest of my piece please check it out at my website
You can check out my personal site here


The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) going through the US House is a dastardly piece of censorship. It has no chance of getting through the Senate. Unfortunately, the Senate’s version, the Protect IP Act, is not much better and will institute censorship of the internet in the US.

Sen. Al Franken (DFL-MN) has bought the entertainment industry’s argument hook, line and sinker and supports the Protect IP Act.

But here’s the deal: The Protect IP Act will stop innovation.

Steven Blank, from Stanford and UC Berkeley, argues in his post “Why The Movie Industry Can’t Innovate and the Result is SOPA” that the entertainment industry has been wrong about every single innovation which they believed threatened them. Blank demonstrates how they increased their profits with every innovation despite decrying the innovation.

The entertainment industries profits are at record highs and they simply want to increase their profits and are unconcerned about any collateral damage. Their and Franken’s argument that Protect IP Act is to protect jobs in Hollywood is utter bull****.

One of the claims that studios make is that they need legislation to stop piracy. The fact is piracy is rampant in all forms of commerce. Video games and software have been targets since their inception. Grocery and retail stores euphemistically call it shrinkage. Credit card companies call it fraud.  But none use regulation as often as the movie studios to solve a business problem. And none are so willing to do collateral damage to other innovative industries (VCRs, DVRs, cloud storage and now the Internet itself.)

The studios don’t even pretend that this legislation benefits consumers. It’s all about protecting short-term profit.

When lawyers, MBAs and financial managers run your industry and your lobbyists are ex-Senators, understanding technology and innovation is not one of your core capabilities.

The SOPA bill (and DNS blocking) is what happens when someone with the title of anti-piracy or copyright lawyer has greater clout than your head of new technology. SOPA gives corporations unprecedented power to censor almost any site on the Internet.

Read more:…


The Protect IP Act is one of the worst bills that this 112th Congress will pass. It will rank up there with the Patriot Act, FISA and the elimination of net neutrality as some of the worst legislation to which Democrats have agreed. I’m still aghast that Sen. Franken (D-MN) is a co-sponsor of this monumentally stupid bill.

The Protect IP Act was written by multi-national corporations and will grant them and our government the power to censor anything they want on the internet. One worry I have is that our government isn’t doing a very good job of protecting a free internet right now. When granted the ability to shut down anything they want, I can’t see the new and massive bureacracy needed to censor the internet acting justly. I fear that more bull**** like the following will happen:

The federal government experienced two embarrassing setbacks last week related to Operation In Our Sites, the campaign to seize domain names suspected of being used to infringe copyright. A federal judge dismissed a forfeiture complaint against the Spanish sports site (though the government is keeping the domain for now). Also last week, the government returned the domain, tacitly admitting that it had made a mistake in seizing the domain in the first place.

These seizures have raised a lot of questions. Does the government really have the power to seize a domain name, hold it for a year, and then return it without compensating the owner? Is it common for the records of routine property seizures to be sealed? Shouldn’t the courts be doing a better job of supervising these seizures?

We asked intellectual property attorney (and Ars Technica reader) Mark Lyon to weigh in. He faulted the court for not holding the government’s feet to the fire, and suggested that domain owners should have had their day in court months ago. Unfortunately, he said, domain owners have few avenues for recourse against abuses of asset forfeiture law.
(ars technica)

I’m just not very confident that our government and the multi-national corporations who wrote the Protect IP Act won’t abuse their power.  

Furthermore, I’m still shocked that Sen. Franken defends his co-sponsorship as a means to protect Hollywood jobs. Somehow, I think Hollywood will continue to crank out bad movies without this sweetheart deal.

Is helping out multi-national corporations already making healthy profits really worth censoring the internet, Sen. Franken?