Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the harbors-and-takedowns dept

This week, when a law professor wrote a ridiculous attack on Section 230 of the CDA, it garnered a lot of backlash — and our most insightful comment of the week. First place goes to TasMot, who headed over to site where the piece was published and hoped to participate:

Since the author and readers of the Boston University Law Review may not also be readers of TechDirt, I went to their website to post a comment so that they could react to your rebuttal of the author's claims. Funny, no comments allowed. It appears that the Law Review, you know, those lawyer types, don't want to deal with the pesky 1st Amendment problems of dealing with comments. They just want to post random opinions of lawyers, you know the ones that support the laws of the land in court. If they had some experience with comments, maybe they would have their own push back against her very one sided fact free article.

In second place, we've got a response to the MPAAs recent "victory" in shutting down some movie sharing sites. That One Guy reminded everyone of the real motivations:

It's never been about the money. It's about the competition and control. Could they adapt, learn from sites and services like the ones listed and offer something similar? Sure, but that would require them to offer their movies on the terms that the public wants, rather than the terms they're so used to dictating. If people with essentially zero funding can throw together wildly popular services for movies, Hollywood, with it's billions, could easily craft a superior service, and make an absolute killing doing so. And if all they cared about what the money, you can be sure that they would. So why haven't they? Because doing so would require them to give up the control that they cherish, even more so than the money they love so much. No more geo-blocking or release windows, no more DRM infections locking down movies to be watched only on certain devices and in certain ways, no more lucrative licensing deals for 'exclusive access'. If they could decimate piracy rates such that the overwhelming majority of people were willing to sign up for the 'official' offering(and make no mistake, done right a service like that absolutely would, like Netflix on steroids) then there would be no justification for restrictive laws to 'protect' them, no massive burdens on everyone else to play unpaid copyright-cop. That services like Popcorn Time exist shows what the *AA's could do, but chose not to, so of course they do everything they can to kill them off. It's easy to convince people that bread and water is a great meal if that's all they know, but after they've experienced what real food tastes like, selling that bread and water becomes a lot more difficult.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we head back to our response to the attack on the CDA, since that garnered a lot of our most insightful comments this week. First, after one commenter suggested that getting rid of Section 230 would be fine because sites could just moderate their comments, cpt kangarooski explained why this is completely backwards with a brief history lesson about the CDA:

Nope! Without section 230, the safe road is to not allow users to post anything at all; the second best choice is not to edit it at all. The last thing anyone would do would be to moderate comments; that would be a litigation minefield.

Section 230 was enacted in order to encourage ISPs and sites to engage in moderation. Under the pre-CDA rules, the traditional approach for this sort of litigation applied online was that of newspapers and other periodicals, in which anything that appears is the responsibility of the publisher as well as the actual author. Some courts were looking at a model that treated online services more like a piece of equipment; the owner of a xerox machine will not be liable for libelous matter that is copied using the machine, at least provided that the owner doesn't know what's going on.

This led Congress to pass section 230 as part of the Communications Decency Act, which was aimed at encouraging, empowering, and requiring the removal of a lot of smut online. Without it, an ISP that dared to allow user posting would never edit anything since it would guarantee total liability; the CDA was meant to protect ISPs from that liability so that they would feel safe to engage in censorship.

Turns out, much of the CDA was unconstitutional and ISPs are lazy and don't want to spend money censoring things if they can avoid it. So while there were a lot of protests against the CDA (blacking out pages and posting blue ribbon gifs) it turned out to be a massive reversal that has been quite good for free speech online.

tl;dr -- The troll has it completely backwards -- no one would ever moderate comments without the protection of the CDA

Next, we've got Tice with a J responding specifically to the idea that Section 230 safe harbors should be replaced with a DMCA-like notice-and-takedown model:

Here's the thing about using the DMCA model for anything besides copyright: it would remove all the sanity checks still contained within the DMCA.

As long as the notice-and-takedown system is confined to copyright, anyone wanting to take something down has to connect the targeted information to some specific copyrighted information. This isn't a very good sanity check, hence all the abuses of the DMCA, but it ensures that, at least some of the time, takedowns have to be justified by their connection to some very specific piece of information.

But what if you apply this to true threats? Or libel claims? Or invasions of privacy? Or the nebulous category of "hate speech"? The limit is gone. "Take down this information because it looks too much like that information" has been replaced with "take down this information because it hurts my feelings". The monster has broken free of its last chain, and is now set to devour everything. The new ContentID would have to programmed to destroy all content, just in case.

Of course, that wouldn't really happen. What would happen, after the huge initial surge of takedowns, is that the major players - the ones with money and connection - would have unchecked power to destroy anything they didn't like. Think of the recent showdown between Mother Jones and VanderSloot, but imagine Mother Jones being completely censored during the three years of litigation. Could Mother Jones even survive three years of silence? I think not.

I suspect that this is what Ann Bartow wants. And maybe Arthur Chu wants it, too.

Over on the funny side, we start out on our post about the latest turn in the Redskins trademark battle, which plastered a variety of vulgar trademarks across the web this week. But one anonymous coward was concerned that the lines had been crossed somewhere:

I think you are mistaken

Those weren't approved applications, they were mistakenly leaked NSA program codenames.

In second place, we've got a response to a guest post this week which was admittedly a little longer than the average Techdirt post. 024601 couldn't resist an amusing comment to that effect:

Is there a long form version of this article available?

For editor's choice on the funny side, we loop back to our post about the MPAA, where DannyB gave their ongoing war the epic overture it deserves:

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away . . .

There was a single music sharing program called Napster.

Once that was shut down, no other successors* emerged to share music, and then eventually also movies.

* the long list of successors you might be thinking of are a figment of your imagination. Hollywood Accounting whittles that number of successors down to zero.

Finally, after the "Copyright Arbitration Board of the German Patent and Trade Mark Office" attempted to define "snippets" strictly as seven words or less, ChurchHatesTucker found the perfect way to demonstrate how ludicrously short that is:

The Copyright Arbitration Board of the

Sorry, that's all I can afford.

That's all for this week, folks!

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Nov 2015 @ 9:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Copyright Arbitration Board of the German Patent and Trade Mark Office

    to advertise their content for them *

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