(1) The Privatization of Copyright Lawmaking;
(2) Rick Falkvinge's response to the above article entitled, "Perhaps The Copyright Industry Deserves Some Credit For Pointing Out Our Single Points Of Failure."
If you have not yet read them, I strongly encourage you to do so. Here are some choice quotes from (1):
"Increasingly, however, copyright law is being privatized. Its meaning and application are determined not by governmental actors but by private parties, and in particular by deep-pocketed copyright owners. Increasingly, the balance between private rights and public interests is set by private lawmaking."
"The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the companion bill to the Senate’s PROTECT IP Act, would further privatize adjudication and punishment. Title I of that law (dubbed the E-PARASITE Act) creates a “market-based system to protect U.S. customers and prevent U.S. funding of sites dedicated to theft of U.S. property.” It achieves this by empowering copyright owners who have a “good faith belief” that they are being “harmed by the activities” of a website to send a notice to the site’s payment providers (e.g. PayPal) and Internet advertisers to end business with the allegedly offending site."
"The payment providers and advertisers that receive the notice must stop transactions with the site. No judicial review is required for the notice to be sent and for the payments and advertising curtailed—only the good faith representation of the copyright owner. Damages are also not available to the site owner unless a claimant “knowingly materially” misrepresented that the law covers the targeted site, a difficult legal test to meet. The owner of the site can issue a counter-notice to restore payment processing and advertising but services need not comply with the counter-notice."
"There is also a catch: a site owner who issues a counter-notice automatically consents to being sued in U.S. courts (a strong disincentive for sites based abroad). With few checks at all, SOPA gives copyright owners a sharp tool to disrupt and shut down websites. Based on their past conduct, there is no reason to think that copyright owners will use this tool with any measure of restraint."
"Copyright owners will deploy SOPA in the same way they have behaved in the past: to extend out their rights. They will disrupt sites that do not infringe a copyright, interfere with fair uses of copyrighted works, and take other steps that evade the limits that the Copyright Act sets on a copyright owner’s actual rights."
"Much of what will happen under SOPA will occur out of the public eye and without the possibility of holding anyone accountable. For when copyright law is made and enforced privately, it is hard for the public to know the shape that the law takes and harder still to complain about its operation."
And some quotes from (2):
"Here’s how it [SOPA] is intended to work: The copyright industry gains the right to “notify” payment processors such as Visa that a company looks bad. Visa then gets the choice of cutting it off from payments, or becoming liable themselves in case the looking-bad company actually turns out to be doing something bad. This is a very sneaky, effective and outright evil method of extrajudicial justice."
"Rather than risk liability, the payment processors would choose to lie flat and just drop these customers. It is not in Visa’s mission to push civil liberties at the expense of shareholder value. This is not wrong in itself; it is the legislators who shall make sure that extrajudicial punishment as proposed here is impossible, and the legislators are not doing their job at all."
"You will note that everybody in the proposed system is completely rightsless. At the pointing of a finger, a business is dead."
"Because there’s no doubt that MasterCard, Visa and Paypal are terrible for business. A middleman that skims between three and five per cent of every transaction? And, on top, makes it impossible to charge fractions of cents in this day and age? There isn’t an entrepreneur on the planet who wouldn’t love to throw them into the water at night with a pair of knee-high cement shoes. But, like a cancer, they have spread to every corner of the ecosystem. They work terribly, but 'well enough'."
"SOPA would change that. It would no longer work well enough; it would be a threat to the future existence of every business. Therefore, all of a sudden, we have a market incentive from the most entrepreneurial people on the planet to build a decentralized, unseizable, unstoppable financial infrastructure that lets them get paid — and lets everybody else transfer money anonymously, invisibly and unstoppable. It would be a dictator’s nightmare. And the copyright industry’s."
"What SOPA does is to make sure that the net and sharing can’t coexist with Visa, MasterCard and PayPal. This means that only the stronger of the two groups will survive, and the copyright industry has their perception of the strength balance entirely wrong. The net and the human characteristic of sharing culture and knowledge are immensely stronger."
"SOPA will neither kill the net nor the sharing of culture and knowledge. But it would kill Visa, MasterCard and PayPal, and it would kill centralized breakable DNS."
At this point, you should have a listen to Hugh Thompson (YouTube):
Some quotes from Hugh:
"From a security perspective... we're going to need something like [Bitcoin] on a go-forward basis."
"In the not-too-distant-future, we're going to have a privacy armageddon incident... which is going to force a legislative change... that is going to be a scary period for all of us."
"At that point, people are going to be really freaked out that there's then, traceability, from what they've spent, to the merchant, and how it was used, and it's going to spawn the use of more disruptive payment technologies that can disassociate those things electronically, which I don't think we have a good mechanism for today."
"Yeah, I would use [Bitcoin]. There looks like to be some really strong... and difficult to decipher crypto behind it."
"I think it's such a great project, to see how it's evolving, and how it's disrupting the space."
This morning I took the first step toward launching this campaign, and registered freetopay.org (nothing there yet).
My vision for the "Free to Pay" campaign is to encourage merchants to walk away from the "good enough," to eliminate the single point of failure, to increase their profitability and to reduce their susceptibility to privately enforced law. I also want to encourage consumers to support merchants by using alternative payment processors, like Bitcoin, and like Dwolla, that are both building their own infrastructure for payments.
Speaking of Dwolla, here's another article for you to read if you haven't done so already: "This 28-Year-Old's Startup Is Moving $350 Million And Wants To Completely Kill Credit Cards."
From the article:
"Ultimately we're trying to build the next Visa, not the next PayPal. We're building a human network based on how we think the future of payments will work. The current model needs to be blown up."
"All banks are connected by one ACH system. Credit card companies utilize that same system to pay off your credit card charges. Banks internally set along that same system to move money in their own banks. This system in its own right is riddled with flaws — tons of fraud issues and waste and delays. If you've ever had a payment take a few days to clear, its because they're waiting on that ACH system."
"We want to fix that system between the banks, take out the delays and make it instant. If we can create this ubiquitous cash layer of distribution between consumers and merchants and developers and financial institutions, that actually fixes the problem."
"No one has built a payment network in 30 years — since credit cards. Everybody has concentrated on how we build a portal for credit cards, from digital wallets to Square."
"We don't believe in credit cards. We believe in authorization and in lower cost transfers. Our generation actually understands that when you buy sh*t, it comes out of your bank account and you have to pay for that."
If you got through all of that, you're probably as pumped up as I am right now. Between Bitcoin and Dwolla, among others, there is a huge opportunity to change the way we pay, to be "Free to Pay" any way and to anyone we wish and not be at the mercy of the credit card companies or payment processors like PayPal.
On freetopay.org, I am going to emphasize many of the reasons why businesses and consumers should drop their current payment processors. We want to be:
- Free to Pay without significant transaction fees;
- Free to Pay without making merchants susceptible to a single point of failure;
- Free to Pay without having our transaction history sold for marketing purposes;
- Free to Pay through a processor that doesn't penalize reputable merchants for the indiscretions of a few;
- Free to Pay in a manner that eliminates opportunities for fraud;
- Free to Pay without being charged for "cash advances" or "foreign transactions" when neither have actually occurred;
- Free to Pay without having transactions re-sequenced to maximize user fees;
- Free to Pay through payment processors that do not act as private law enforcers;
- Free to Pay without risk of identity theft;
- Free to Pay internationally without massive fees or long delays;
- Free to Pay or donate small amounts of money quickly and practically; and
- Free to Pay to whomever we want, and not be subject to the political whims of a payment processor.
I am calling on you, the doers, the movers and shakers of Bitcoin, because I know you all want to see this succeed more than anyone. The problem is, people don't know what's available to them. It will be our job to educate the public so they pull their collective heads out of the sand and realize they're being unnecessarily screwed by payment processors.
With a resource like freetopay.org, we can provide a one-stop reference that educates. The information is already out there, but it's scattered and disorganized; that needs to be rectified.
Combined with other campaigns that will teach people how to implement alternative payment processors, explain tax implications, etc, this campaign has massive potential. We can also build on the momentum of Occupy Wall Street and the potential fall-out from the European debt crisis which are driving, and will drive, consumers and merchants toward new options.
We need digital artwork, web designers, coders, and funding. We need every resource that can be brought to bear to support this cause.
The goal is by Black Friday, November 23, 2012, approximately one year from today on the biggest American shopping day of the year, to have a "do not use Visa / Mastercard / PayPal day. By then, we'll need to have a large number of online businesses set up to use Bitcoin, Dwolla, or other payment processors that operate in the spirit of this campaign. With Dwolla expanding rapidly, and with Bit-Pay and Okpay already processing Bitcoin for merchants, among many others that will launch between now and then, this time-frame is realistic.
Merchants feel trapped. They're not happy losing 2-4% of their revenue to payment processors or being susceptible to the many issues I've described. They would all love to change the way they accept payment for their goods and services, but they're not aware of the options available to them. We need to educate, and we need to all move in step to ensure, by this time next year, that we are Free to Pay.