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August 2018
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Rep. Kevin McCarthy Continues The Parade Of Stupid Anti-Internet Grandstanding

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In the last few months, we've seen a fairly astounding amount of idiotic grandstanding from both parties in Congress, basically trying to out stupid themselves in attacking internet companies. On the Democratic side, they've been peddling incomprehensible nonsense about how internet companies have to stop bad information from spreading (and also some misleading claims about antitrust). On the Republican side, they keep dragging internet companies up to Capitol Hill and making ridiculous and blatantly misleading claims about how they're "censoring" conservatives, which is a bunch of utter nonsense.And here's the thing: most of the politicians spewing this stuff know it's pure nonsense. But, they also know that it's an effective money raising tactic. When Democrats and Republicans clash over an issue, all too frequently, it's really about riling up people for donations, rather than any actual policy agenda. And it appears it's not going away any time soon. Despite multiple hearings that have only served to make Congress look incredibly hypocritical and/or ignorant, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is now joining the fray, saying he wants Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to testify about Twitter's made up censoring of conservative voices.And while I'm not sure whether or not some other members of Congress grandstanding on this issue actually understand what's going on, McCarthy of all people should know better. He actually has at least some history of understanding tech issues better than many of his colleagues. But, apparently, these days, the way to raise money is to make blatantly false or misleading statements against tech companies, and thus, McCarthy feels the need to join in on this silly dog and pony show. I'm sure we'll get another stupid hearing out of it that demonstrates to anyone just how clueless Congress is, but I guess if it gets a bunch of ignorant people to kick in to his re-election campaign, that's all good, right?

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posted at: 12:21am on 04-Aug-2018
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The War On Fan-Subtitles Comes To Australia in The Form Of Site-Blocking

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One of the more curious fronts in the never ending copyright wars is the one launched against fan-made subtitles. The theory from the entertainment industry goes something like this: these subtitles allow pirates to download movies in foreign countries and then apply the subtitles to view them coherently, therefore it's all copyright infringement. It's a dumb argument on many levels, but chiefly because it's inescapably true that the entertainment industry has done an absolutely terrible job of making sure it releases its own subtitled movies in these same countries and in these same languages. In other words, the entertainment industry isn't going to serve you foreigners, and we're not going to let anyone else serve you either. To date, much of this front of the war has been fought in Europe.But now it's poised to make landfall in Australia, where a site-blocking request lobbed by a group of entertainment industry players has, for the first time, included fansub sites.

Together the companies filed an application for the broadest-ever blocking injunctionat the Federal Court in Australia. If successful, it would compel Australia’s ISPs to block a record-setting 151 domains related to 77 ‘pirate’ sites.The list of ISPs in the case is familiar. Telstra, Optus, Vocus, TPG and their subsidiaries are all named as respondents in the case with the addition of Vodafone, which was added after recently entering the fixed-line broadband market.  What is notable about the list is the inclusion, for the first time, of sites such as Subscene, Subsmovies, YIFYSubtitles. As their names suggest, these platforms offer subtitles for the latest movies and TV shows, something that doesn’t sit well with any of the companies involved but particularly Madman Entertainment which specializes in Japanese anime.
Let's be clear about what this represents. The entertainment industry wants entire websites blocked for helping viewers understand what is being said on in their own native languages. If that doesn't smack of overreach, it's hard to imagine what would. This isn't to say that fansubs can't be used in combination with pirated movies and shows. They sure as hell can, but that isn't the only application. The other is that entertainment fans buy the products legitimately, rip them, and then apply the fansubs so they can enjoy what they bought. The fact that such a market even exists makes the obvious point that the entertainment industry is failing at giving customers what they want or, in this case, need in order to enjoy those products. And yet the end result here is bans on entire sites?Fortunately, the judge overseeing all of this appears to be fairly sober on how big a shift this represents for site-blocking.
As a result, the ever precise Justice Nicholas told the parties to ensure that no stone is left unturned in preparing evidence for the Court.“You better make sure your evidence in relation to that is particularly thorough,” the Judge said. “There’s some creep here occurring – I don’t say that critically… [but] it’s a new angle so I’ll need to look at that closely.”
That sure sounds like a judge telling the industry that it sure better have the goods if it expects the court to go along with any of this. That isn't to say Nicholas can't be convinced with a sub-par response to his request. Perhaps he will be. But from the outset it's good to see Nicholas realize the importance of this shift and the industry's creep into areas of site-blocking.In the end, as is always the case, the bigger point is that attacking fansub sites is dumb. All the recent evidence seems to show that good legal alternatives are the recipe for stamping out concerns over piracy. Site-blocking those actually providing those alternatives, on the other hand, is not.

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posted at: 12:21am on 04-Aug-2018
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