Why Motorcycle Racing Fans Should Oppose The Stop Online Piracy Act

Go to Wikipedia today (Wednesday, January 18th) to search for information, and you will be met with a dark page bearing a stark warning: "Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge". The reason for Wikipedia's blackout is simple: they, along with other major internet companies such as Google, WordPress, Reddit, Tucows, Boing Boing and sites such Twitpic all oppose the legislation currently going through the US Congress to prevent so-called content piracy. Two bills are currently under consideration, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), both of which are aimed at preventing the illegal theft of content owned by the US film, music and software industry.

That is a noble aim: the people who work hard to create the movies, TV series, music and computer games that we all love deserve to be paid for their work. They invest large amounts of money to produce content, and they do not deserve to have their product stolen and redistributed by gangs of organized criminals who make money off of the games, movies and music made by the content owners, without contributing anything to those content owners. 

The trouble is, neither SOPA nor PIPA achieve their objectives of taking down what the movie industry calls "rogue websites" offering free copies of pirated material. The provisions outlined in the bill would require ISPs in the United States of America to block foreign websites offering illegal content; in the original version of the bill, by monitoring ISP's customers' internet usage (probably using a process known as deep packet inspection), but after concerns about privacy were raised, by interfering with DNS records (the system by which, for example, your computer knows that the website http://motomatters.com is located on a particular server in Dallas, Texas). Circumventing such blocks is trivial - if you know the IP address of a server, you can usually access it directly, without using the hostname - despite measures also being included in the bill to prevent getting around such blocks.

"But why should I care?" I hear you ask. "I'm just a motorcycle racing fan, and the US Congress wanting to stop people from downloading the latest Justin Bieber single doesn't affect me at all." That seems fair enough, but the trouble is that race fans could be hit much harder than they think. For the real problem with both SOPA and PIPA is not so much the technical measures proposed in the bill, as how easy it will be to get a site blocked. If an organization can make a reasonable claim that a website is hosting illegal material, then it will be able to demand that US ISPs prevent their customers from visiting the site. Not only that, they can also demand that search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing do not display search results containing links to the site. Such a site would effectively cease to exist to anyone in the United States.

The way to avoid being blocked is by refraining from posting illegal content, defined as being content displayed without the consent of the copyright holder. That should be easy enough, you would say, until you start to look at the ways in which the Internet has changed over the past five to ten years. At the end of the previous century, much of the internet was still based around the idea of one-way communication, with website owners creating content for audiences to passively consume. But with the rise of blogging and social media, audiences have stopped being passive consumers, and have increasingly started engaging with content. Readers are no longer content to just read what is written, they want to take part in the debate. On MotoMatters.com, for example, almost every content item is open for comment, and interaction with readers is positively encouraged. The comments on some stories are sometimes more interesting than the stories themselves, with informed discussion going on about all sorts of topics related to motorcycle racing - indeed, the quality of comments on the website is one of the things about the site that I am most proud of, and is highly respected within the paddock ("Where did you find all those smart readers?" one senior paddock figure quipped).

The problem with readers posting comments - or user-generated content, as it is more commonly known - is that it reaches a point where it becomes impossible to completely police. The conversation sparked by some items sees readers posting links and quotes from other websites here in their comments. I try wherever I can to replace those comments with links to the original, but there simply are not enough hours in the day to make sure that happens. Readers, in their enthusiasm, use pieces of information from a range of sources to support a particular argument one way or another, and not everyone is up to speed on the legal implications of using content taken from other sites.

I have in the past been approached by content holders (photographers and writers, mainly) with requests to remove material from the forum section of MotoMatters.com. I have naturally complied, in so far as possible, and have disabled the uploading of images and other files to both forum and website for exactly this reason. The illegal content was hosted on other servers, such as image hosting websites, so MotoMatters.com was not hosting the illegal content, though it was being displayed within the context of the site (so-called hotlinking of images). Despite my eagerness to respect the copyright of others, unless I constantly monitor the site and forum for content, there are no guarantees that I will not inadvertently violate copyright again.

All of the requests so far have been dealt with via informal, polite conversations. But if SOPA were in force, the lawyers of the companies which owned the content could simply request that the US Attorney General issue an order to block MotoMatters.com. Given the fact that some 40% of our audience is based in the US, that would be a severe blow to the site. Worse than that, however, is that they could also get an injunction blocking MotoMatters.com from receiving funds via Paypal, receiving revenue generated by Google Ads, or by our advertising partners in the US Digital Throttle. Any earnings from advertising on the site would simply be blocked, all sales of MotoMatters.com calendars and subscriptions - a vital part of our income stream - would be stopped. It would, at a stroke, kill the site stone dead. 

And MotoMatters.com would not be the only site to suffer. Any site offering user comment and content - and that now includes just about every single motorcycle racing website on the internet - could suffer the same fate. Even the mighty Motorcycle News website could be shut down, because someone had posted a comment containing copyrighted content. 

It gets worse, though. For offending websites to be shut down, all they need to do is to host a link to offending material. To prevent MotoMatters.com from being blacklisted in the US, we would not only have to go through all of the reader comments on the website and the forum, we would also have to check every single link posted on the site. Such a task becomes impossible for small companies to handle, and is probably beyond even the larger sites backed by large publishing conglomerates. It does open up opportunities for unscrupulous companies with very large legal departments to go after competing websites, however, as the bar to having a website blocked has been set so pitifully low. If you can find a couple of instances of copyright violations on a site - and you always can - then having the site shut down is simplicity itself. SOPA and PIPA allow the devious to destroy the competition.

While it may be argued that as I earn a living from the website, I have a duty to police the site as tightly as possible, there is another category of sites popular with fans that could be affected even worse, and without the means of handling it. Motorcycle racing fans around the world meet on a variety of forums and chatrooms to discuss their passion, and such forums are a veritable treasure trove of illegal content. Photos taken from other websites, articles cut and pasted wholesale, video clips from Youtube and links to torrents of pirated videos. None of the fans posting such material gains financially from posting such content, they are posting it solely to share their passion with like-minded souls. Material is posted without thought to provenance of copyright ownership, as fans are more concerned with debating about whether the Ducati should have stuck with the carbon fiber chassis or switched to a twin spar, whether Aprilia's CRT bike is legal or not, whether Johnny Rea, Carlos Checa or Eugene Laverty is the favorite for the World Superbike championship, and the perennial favorite, whether Casey Stoner would beat Valentino Rossi if they were both on the same equipment.

Some forum owners have already acknowledged the threat they face. One of the largest motorcycling forums, Adventure Rider, has also chosen to observe the blackout on Wednesday. Visitors to the site see a message that reads simply "ADVrider is blacked out on January 18th to protest SOPA and PIPA. We join Wikipedia, ThumperTalk, KTMTalk and thousands of other sites whose existence is threatened. If these bills pass, it could mean the end of ADVrider. Please write your representatives to let them know the asylum must go on. -- Baldy." If SOPA and PIPA are passed, the motorcycle discussion forum as we know it is almost certainly history. 

We at MotoMatters.com have decided not to join the blackout, instead opting to inform you of why we oppose the acts, and why we believe they should be stopped. Content owners deserve to be paid for their work, but blocking major swathes of the internet is not the way forward. The legislation proposed under SOPA and PIPA does a terrible job of protecting copyright owners, while opening up massive opportunities for large companies to behave anti-competitively. The millions of US jobs which the MPAA, RIAA and the US Chamber of Commerce claims are under threat from "rogue websites" are much smaller than the millions of potential jobs that could be lost due to the innovation SOPA and PIPA would stifle. The proposed legislation raises a massive barrier to entry into content production, as investors will not risk putting money into ventures that could be shut down with such incredible ease. The MPAA and the RIAA believe that the content markets are a zero-sum game. Anyone with more than a passing acquaintance of the internet knows this is absolutely nonsense: what the internet does is not redistribute the pie differently, it grows the pie exponentially. And that is good for everyone.

So if you are a US citizen, use the form below (taken from the SOPA Strike website) to contact your representative to express your disapproval. If you are not a US citizen, you can contact your own government to protest, the department of foreign affairs, to protest against the US legislation, and the department of internal affairs or department of justice to demand that no such legislation be passed within your own country. As a motorcycle racing fan - or a fan of any sport, or just an ordinary internet user - you owe it to yourself to get this stopped. 

Below is a video explaining what SOPA can do, and why it is such a bad idea.

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I live in the US and this type of legislation is precisely why this country can be so infuriating sometimes. It's clearly written by the industry with little or no consideration of everyone else.
I have already written my congresspeople, which I don't do nearly as often as I should. This bill really sucks though. There is a good groundswell in internet circles and even Obama has expressed dissatisfaction with it. Hope he doesn't cave though, he has not had the greatest track record on that so far.
Thanks, David.

Thanks for this, David. I think it will take years for the web to settle down. I still can't believe how ignorant Dorna are in digital media. They rigorously police youtube and other sites to keep their content off, missing the value of all the free publicity that clips all over social networks of the Rossi vs Stoner duel at Laguna could give to MotoGP. There is little on their website to inform or enthuse newcomers to the sport. All they want is subscribers to their downloads. If they maximised the audience, they would get more sponsors into the sport. If they grew the audience and reduced the prices to a sensible level, they may find they took far more money.

I support the black out, and would support it on this site as well.
Thanks for bringing it to the attention of moto fans and for elaborating on the cause for concern.

Write to Congress, people.

When I started following motorcycle in 2007. I wanted to find a site which could bring me up to speed. I googled, and I got to motogpmatters.com, as it was called then. Without search engines such as those, I would have never been able to spend night after night catching up and reading about a sport which has now become apart of my life. We all need to petition.

Thank you David for helping bring this very important issue to the attention of the motorcycle racing community. Even though many of your readers are not from the USA, these two laws if passed would impact them too since the Internet is truly an international resource.

The US, and other English-speaking nations, have an absolute advantage in the entertainment and media industries. Hollywood and big media have convinced the United States Congress that punishing US citizens is the best way for them to promote their products and earn higher revenues.

As much as I want to side with Silicon Valley, who want the net to be free, they were equally as dumb during the Digital Millenium Copyright Act era, and they were eager to punish everyone in sight for software piracy and abuse of end user license.

American software companies have evolved since Digital Millenium Copyright, American media corporations have not. I really don't want to kill a critical American industry by allowing questionable activities, but I can't help them if they want me to imprison/impoverish American citizens, and kill free speech with net controls. The dearth of intelligence in Hollywood is on display. I suppose it is somewhat predictable. They play make believe for a living so why wouldn't they lobby the US Congress to pretend that P2P was never invented, and that market-failures do not exist?

Thanks to the links on Wikipedia I sent messages to all my representatives here in California. This bill was started here, and hopefully a ground swell of backlash will kill it.

What's sad, I think, is that those outside the U.S. are probably MORE likely to be aware of these bills than U.S. citizens. This is what happens when five corporations control all of the mainstream media.

There's a whole 'nother debate to be had regarding the impact of "piracy," but I won't open that can of worms here. Let's just say that a lot of these media companies are shooting themselves in the foot by not offering the content people want in a fairly priced, easily acquired, and timely manner. U.S. motorsports fans in particular are faced with this on a regular basis: try legally watching a BSB race in the states...

Anyway, I would have supported you joining the blackout, David, but it was probably the right choice to leave that to the big boys and handle it exactly as you did. Thank you for helping to spread awareness of this cancer. Thanks to what little awareness there already was, SOPA was already tabled in the house, but this is in no way permanent. This bill will be renamed, tweaked, and reintroduced when nobody's looking. Hollywood and the MPAA just want it too badly. It's going to take a BIG statement to actually put it to bed for good.

I wrote all 3 of my NY reps. All US citizens who care should (for once) just make a quite visit to your reps site and tell them to stop this madness!

I signed a petition this morning to stop these bills in congress. For personal reasons and the fact that I just plain do not agree with how they are going about solving a legitimate problem. They are well within their rights to protect their work, but there are more effective and reasonable ways to accomplish what they want.

But, coming here and seeing a side I just did not realize was great. So thank you very much for giving us more detail.

David I'm in the industry and I happen to live where your site is hosted (Dallas). If you ever need a card change or fiber replaced, holler! I'd be willing to do it for free :D

I happen to know quite a bit about online thievery. I've had to work with the Hollywood studios before while working for an ISP. They would send notices to us with the offending IP. I'd have to shutdown said customer's ISP access via router, switch, etc. It's becoming a major problem. Too many people are downloading bit torrents of movies, software, games, etc. This thievery is thus rolled into the cost of said product and a major reason why movie theaters are so expensive for a ticket. They are getting thieved 24/7. So the honest folks have to shoulder the burden of this stealing which is bs.

For some reason people think stealing on the internet is OK while stealing from a brick and mortar is not OK. Same difference if you ask me, stealing is stealing.

I see both sides but this has been a major problem for over a decade now and these companies losing millions are finally putting their foot down by employing lobbyists on the hill. What they need to do is just start prosecuting offenders. 1 warning then prosecution, felony charges. Once the word gets spread that these idiots will land in court/jail for illegal downloading it will stop pretty quick. The problem is very few are getting prosecuted for it.

I left that position I referred to last year but I can tell you Hollywood is stepping it up big time. They'd send us a notice, complete from their legal department, to shut said customer down. Repeat offenses from the same IP, without intervention, well they'd come after us, the ISP, with fines. We had trouble with it in the beginning but after a quick change to the DHCP lease time it became easy to isolate.

Be warned, the Smiths are coming............

Offtopic but Basing on your ideas, then you must consider than always hollywood looses money, then explain me how Transformers 3 generated a total like this $1 122 022 95 of dollars, from these numbers $769 632 410 out from US, and like $300 000 000 in their country, same for Music, one of the problem of hollywood is the lack and lazyness to adapt and use the technology, rather than learning how to use the internet for their benefit, they simply want to make crash the internet apart from the "losses", ¿ignorance or fear about the technology?.

The problem is by far more complex than simply thieves, is only one purpouse than that two laws follows in secret, in reality is the control of flow of information than people know every day, then ill just ask how was possible the arab spring when the citizens got angry about how their goverments failed to offer good life and work conditions, the people started to protest, some of them was killed, for not going to far, Siria, Iran, North korea, China are enemies of the net because their goverments dont want to know their weakness and events than may put the world to watch them, and also use the net for track dissidents where they live to take them off.

As the beginning of David's post is a nice gesture combat the piracy, but even there ways for making the people to choice legal products.

Internet theft is theft. That is a given.


My problem with this legislation is that it pretty much bypasses the 'innocent until proven guilty' basis that US jurisprudence is based on. Besides the onerous oversight tasks it gives to companies that solicit public posting it has mechanisms for large companies to lean on small companies for minor infringements while still being well within the bounds of the law and potentially applying catastrophic penalties. And it is another example of completely biased purchased legislation. The Republican Texas bill writer (Texas sure as hell ain't Hollywood and do we really think the Texas rep wrote the bill?) is used because the Democrats of California would never write and try to pass a bill like this. And the biggest campaign contributors to the bill writer? Yep, the movie and recording studios. And they are not even in his state!

>For some reason people think stealing on the internet is OK while stealing from a brick and mortar is not OK

I think Hollywood is finally dealing with issues that brick and mortar stores deal with every day. The national retail 'shrinkage rate' (euphemism for theft) is about 2%. Losing millions in an industry of billions is only .1%. And with retail theft that item is no longer available for sale to a customer. Digital theft, while still theft, does not empty inventories or incur actual material costs. It can also be argued that those people willing to go though the online hassles that are necessary to pirate are people that would not buy the product anyway so it really isn't lost revenue. This may seem like sounding soft on digital theft and I don't want to be but the entertainment industry has seen the digital revolution as an adversary since its inception and I'd rather try to find a happy medium than turn the internet into a highly policed movie delivery platform.

What I'm getting at is that while digital theft is theft, its impact is not as dire as bricks and mortar theft so the idea of letting companies have the powers David listed is a huge leap of faith that these laws will work (they will just give hackers one more target to crack) and that the companies will use them responsibly (yea, right!).


The box office has had normal ebb and flow since P2P so piracy isn't affecting box office sales directly. If P2P isn't directly affecting the box office, Hollywood is piling all of the lost DVD revenues on top of box office customers.........without actually giving box office customers a DVD. Who is getting ripped off?

To make matters worse, Hollywood demand that Congress punish box office goers (Digital Millennium) who've paid for the movie and the DVD, but who didn't get the DVD. Now they want Congress to censor freedom of speech (SOPA/PIPA) to stop box office customers from getting the DVD they paid for, but didn't actually get. The cost of regulation is being dumped on, amongst other people, the box office customers. Is this an April Fool's joke?

That kind of centralized stupidity is unbelievably dangerous, and such heavy handed tactics should never be predicated on tenuous intellectual property theory/law. The recording industry is even worse than Hollywood. Record companies have been found guilty of price-fixing, collusion, and all kinds of anti-competitive business practices. Apparently, those tactics were insufficient to get the money they wanted so the RIAA has been bankrupting its customers with the legal system, since the adoption of Digital Millennium Copyright.

If you wonder why the US Federal Government is so dense, it's b/c of apportionment. Apportionment required the federal government to balance direct tax flows between the states and the federal government based upon population. We abolished apportionment for income taxes which essentially abolished apportionment in general. In modern times, the income tax code is used to shake various commercial money trees the to breaking point--Wall Street Bankers in NY, media moguls and software giants in California, commodities traders in ChiTown, and gamblers in Las Vegas. Is it surprising then that Wall Street get the CRA to pad their bottom line (and collapse Western developed economies)? Is it shocking that media and software companies get to march their customers in front of federal judges? Are you stunned that president Obama would push for cap-and-trade for the Chicago Commodities Exchange? Did you blink when Vegas killed online gambling and got poker website executives thrown in the slammer during the FBI Black Friday raids (April 15, 2011)?

Digital Millenium and SOPA/PIPA are part of something much bigger than just copyright. It's about protecting the money trees that keep the Federal Treasury flush with income taxes and payroll taxes. The US government is more hard up for money than ever. The introduction of SOPA/PIPA is not a coincidence.

For those always stating that the US government is too large and getting bigger, this legislation is another step in that direction - more resources to enforce business ideals of a few outdated corporations. Read more here on how old school publishing is constraining scientific publication http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/17/science/open-science-challenges-journa...

This is a another example of elected officials trying to protect the past (outdated) business concepts and will undoubtedly lead to undermine US competitiveness instead of embracing the future. People like Rupert Murdoch who desires control supports this kind legislation and accusing Google of thievery in the process. Read more here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/15/rupert-murdoch-sopa-twitter-goo...

In summary more government spending on top of lesser competitive economy

Normally I'd laugh at comments such as those made by Rupert Murdoch in that article, but with his money and his power it's not a laughing matter.

But I still love his comment about how Google probably spend millions on lobbying. How much have Murdochs own companies spent on lobbying throughout the years? I'm sure Googles efforts pale in comparison.

It is quite scary that the entertainment industry have such influence over our digital world. They add a tax on digital storage media (DVDR, harddrives, flash discs) here in Sweden to compensate for the media industry's alleged loss of revenue. They just assume that every recordable disc sold will be used for pirated material. And still it is illegal to make such digital copies that we are charged for (unless it's a backup copy for personal use, but then we'd have to buy the product in the first place in order to make that copy).

What other kinds of industries get such a government-backed funding? If you can't adopt to what we regular people like to call 'reality' your business will suffer and eventually shut down. Unless, of course, you adapt to customers demand and deliver products they want, at a price they are willing to pay. Simple as that.

Instead of adapting, they try to shape laws and technology to fit their agenda. And with the funding they have they have already succeeded in many ways. But they're obviously not satisfied yet. We can expect plenty more BS like this in the near future. They won't give up so easily.

It's the same here in Germany.
I pay a fee for every flash drive, hard disk or optical disk that I buy. Doesn't this mean I'm morally entitled to pirate stuff, if I have already paid for it?

Of course I would never do anything illegal, this is all just theoretical.

I think for a lot of people the main incentive to pirate stuff is not the price, but rather the convenience. I for one would be more than willing to pay a fair price for the possibility to download movies I'm interested in.
I don't need or want physical media. I don't have a DVD-player or BluRay-player, but rather a networked media tank, which plays everything you throw at it.
I now have a number of choices.

1) I can purchase a physical media I don't want or need, wait for a few days for the package to arrive (which I will only receive if I happen to be at home at the time, or which I have to pick up from the post-office), then I would have to ILLEGALLY (because I would have to break the encryption) rip the DVD to be able to watch it. If I would go for the HD version, it would be even more hassle, because I don't own a BluRay drive.
I could then either throw out a book to make room for the media I never wanted in the first place, or sell it (which feels morally wrong to me).
2) I can download the movie, wait for a few hours at max, pay nothing (although I would if I could), throw it onto my player and be good.

The third option would be to buy a DVD/BluRay player which I don't really want. Of course me not having a DVD player doesn't justify anything. But the studios should really do everything to give the people a legal alternative to pirating (and DRM infested crap doesn't count for me).

Furthermore, I'm not really convinced that piracy necessarily always translates to losses.
There are quite a few studies that suggest that there even may be positive effects.
An Austrian scientist did a survey of 23 studies that tried to establish the losses due to piracy. 5 of these studies actually came to the conclusion that the record companies would have sold less without piracy.
One study came to the conclusion, that piracy is bad for the big superstars, but a great chance for smaller artists.
http://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Wissenschaftler-Studien-ueber-Tau... (in German, unfortunately)

A study by the Swiss government also came to the conclusion that people that pirate stuff don't spend less on entertainment. In Switzerland downloading stuff is legal.

Of course there are many more studies that come to the conclusion that piracy translates to losses for the entertainment industry. But even the US government said that the studies that claim extremely high losses aren't reliable:

In brazil there is a movement, Techno-brega, where the artists encourage the copying of their music, to reach a wider audience and get gigs and live-shows in return.

I'm all for content creators being rewarded for their investments and efforts, but I think suing customers, waging a proxy war against ISPs and trying to lobby for draconian laws all the while without providing a viable alternative to piracy isn't the right way.

This is nonsense. Anything that restricts the transfer of information ESPECIALLY user generated content in forums I'm totally against.

This took less than 5 min to fill out and get the call and the transfer. Thanks!

Information is power. Free information is a threat to social elites who have everything to lose and little if anything to gain from it. I suspect supporters of these proposals feel threatened. Unfortunately, they have the power to make it happen. The pretext is IP protection. The real motive (at least for some) may be somewhat deeper.

Does this mean any copyright holder could shut down a competitor's website by anonymously posting a link to their own copyrighted material on said competitors website/forums?

If so, this may not play out as expected by those pushing for this. They could be shutdown themselves for hosting links to copyrighted material fairy easily.

Thanks for explaining the laws and why they should not be passed Krop. I had not heard any detail on the legislation until reading your article and had reserved judgement. I could see the pro argument before and while I suspected that the devil must be in the detail, I had no idea what the detail was. Enlightening as always.