Inside Opinion

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Tag: Web


After routing SOPA, Web giants must protect creators

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

America saw political history made Wednesday. Think colonial Minutemen decimating formidable redcoats – but firing from the Web, not fences and trees.

The British army in this case was a powerful alliance of film makers, music labels, media companies and artists – creators and copyright-holders whose films, recordings, software and products have been getting plundered or counterfeited by Internet pirates.

They had the lobbyists; they had the money.

The colonials were such Internet upstarts as Google, Yahoo, Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia, and countless Web enterprises that depend on user uploads and links.
The creators desperately wanted Congress to approve the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act, a measure that would have made it far easier for them – too easy – to threaten even websites unintentionally linked to thieves. Lawmakers looked all but certain to send the president a version of SOPA or its Senate cousin, the Protect Intellectual Property Act.

No bills so well-greased may have been smacked down so quickly. SOPA and PIPA were demolished by an online onslaught that culminated Wednesday when popular websites staged blackouts and Google steered its users to condemnations of the legislation.

Some of the bills’ most fervent supporters suddenly discovered reasons to back down: “Not ready for prime time,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch – one of PIPA’s original cosponsors.
The clash demonstrated the muscle and reach of the Web’s new giants – and their power to push around the old media giants of Hollywood, music and publishing. And now, Congress itself.
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About those anonymous comments

Leonard Pitts’ column Thursday brings up a problem that has bedeviled newspaper people for years: the ugliness of some of the anonymous comments on our Web sites. Why do newspapers allow trolls to hide behind pseudonyms?

Excellent question. I’m not going to defend the practice, which is decided far above my pay grade. I will point out it is almost universal, as far as I can tell, on newspaper Web sites and most other Web sites that host discussions.

It’s an Internet norm – which is an observation, not a defense. The original idea was to encourage robust, thoughtful online debate in which people felt free to sound off without feeling personally threatened. Lesson: Never overestimate human decency.

Pitts’ own paper, the Miami Herald, accommodates anonymous snipers. In fact, when I looked up this very column on the Herald’s site, I found responses from WaterGoddess, FormFactor and Exile. Well, you know who you are.
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Hey, no fair

Occasionally I google my own name. I know it’s a sign of vanity, but I also want to see what friends and enemies are going to see when they google me.

The Law of the Web is that if you don’t want the world to know your business, don’t put it online. I always figured the law couldn’t be applied retroactively to things you did before Al Gore invented the Internet. (Isn’t there something in the Constitution about ex post facto prosecution?) But I’m now discovering that some of my ancient, distinctly pedestrian, cub-reporter stuff – like this

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