Read this too: Why SOPA Is Dangerous (by Mashable).
So you’re probably wondering what that “Stop Censorship” ribbon on my blog is all about. It’s about raising awareness about two bills in the U.S. congress that has the whole internet world up in arms. They are the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). They ostensibly are designed to protect copyrights from illegal sites where copyright violations are an epidemic. The problem is, the way they are worded, the amount of power they give media companies or the government to take down “offending” sites is scary. Now to be honest, I have not read the actual bills. But, the kind of companies who HAVE read them and who vehemently oppose them are ones I trust. Organizations like WordPress.com, Wikipedia, Google, and many others are protesting today by having some form of black out. Some sites like the English version of Wikipedia are blacked out for 24 hours today. Others like Google (and mine) have visible representation of the protest.
Why should you care? Because the internet as you know it could be irrevocably changed. Wikipedia has a great detailed entry about the two bills. But this video below by Fight for the Future does a great job explaining it. Use any of the links on this post, or the “Stop Censorship” ribbon above, to access a site where you can contact your local Congressman or woman.
This TED video is THE video to watch to know and understand the problem with PIPA & SOPA.
This is the video by Fight for the Future
Anyone who creates original content, like photography and film, should be embracing SOPA/PIPA, not continuing to spread false hype about “censorship” and overreaching abuse potential. The bills contain due process, not giving anyone undue power to take down sites. In fact, they add nothing new in this arena that isn’t already law and being used by the courts currently. See the article “Legal Analysis of SOPA/ PIPA: No, It’s Not Censorship.”
As the author of the SOPA bill states, “Claims that the Stop Online Piracy Act will censor legal activity on the Internet are blatantly false. Enforcing the law against criminals is not censorship.”
Many of the sites that are against SOPA oppose it because it hurts their bottom line. They will lose advertising revenue from illegal sites, and have to spend the time, energy, and money to monitor their OWN sites for illegal content and remove it THEMSELVES, god forbid. It costs them a lot to comply with current laws, and they don’t want to be forced to have to do it.
Notice how many who oppose SOPA make their income off of other people’s content. If you create original content, you should be thrilled with SOPA and how it will aid you in protecting your income and your livelihood. I for one am tired of searching, monitoring, and sending copyright notices to those who steal my photos, books, and content, spread them across the ‘net, and use them for their own profit on their sites while simultaneously destroying my income and livelihood. I support SOPA.
Ron Dawson says
I totally hear what you’re saying Doug. I think the ostensible spirit behind SOPA is absolutely about protecting the work of the artist. But let’s take a site like Wikipedia. They DON’T make money from ad dollars (as far as I know). They are a pure non-profit that gets its money from donations. They are strictly against it too.
Furthermore, the organizations that are pushing for SOPA are also doing it because of THEIR bottom line. Do you really think the studios and record companies are that concerned with protecting artists’ rights vs. their own bottomline? While I agree there is rampant violation of copyrights that need to be addressed, from what I’ve seen, the SOPA and PIPA approach is overkill and could lead to much worse. The best comment I’ve seen so far was on SlashFilm.com. A commenter wrote “I get that they have piracy issues but SOPA is like trying to kill ants in your house with a shotgun.”
Also, you off-handedly mentioned that it costs companies a lot to comply with strict laws. Who do you think will ultimately PAY for that? Their end users. That would mean that the thousands of sites that offer amazing services for FREE (largely because they can support themselves with advertising) will start charging for it. How would you fee if Gmail, YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and the like all started charging you to use what has become an every day given you use for free?
I used to be in the software business and worked for a company that made software for the movie business. This was a big issue that I and the marketing vp would have to deal with constantly: fighting the owners of the company AGAINST implementing strick copy protection. The owners wanted to implement these strict anti-piracy software copy protection to keep people from stealing the software (e.g. dongles, strict copy protection code etc.). Guess what, they cost US and the honest customers way more. They cost us in significantly more tech support calls, and they cost the honest customer in higher prices we had to charge to cover these costs. And guess what? The dishonest pirates STILL found a way to steal the software. It was silly.
I see SOPA/PIPA kind of like that. They will ultimately cost the honest people more and the pirates will still find a way to steal. I think there needs to be a totally “out of the box” way of dealing with piracy issues.
Websites should be able to disregard the law because it costs money to comply with the law? That is truly absurd. That concept has greater, far-reaching consequences than SOPA, by orders of magnitude.
“How would you fee[l] if Gmail, YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and the like all started charging you to use what has become an every day given you use for free?”
They are businesses, and they would need to maintain a business model that keeps them in business, just like any physical company that must charge for its goods and overhead. Personally, I think they would figure it out so that they could stay in business. And if they charged, well, they charge. I already pay for my email, my Flickr site, my website, and my blog. It is not an unheard of concept. And we all pay for “free” services. When a site is “free,” you and your information are typically the product that is being bought and sold, and that has a very real cost of its own.
Yes, most everyone supports or opposes SOPA because of the bottom line. I support SOPA because of my bottom line. Piracy costs me income, time, effort, frustration, and possibly eventually my livelihood. For a content creator, SOPA helps one’s bottom line when everyone is held accountable to the law. For a website who profits off of others’ content and/ or the advertising revenue it brings them, SOPA hurts their bottom line when they are held accountable to current laws, already in place.
Ron Dawson says
But that’s my point Doug, I really don’t think SOPA is going to help your bottomline. The people who are electronically stealing your books, etc, will still find ways to do it w/o the sites that SOPA will enable gov’t or media companies to bring down arbitrailily. I really don’t think you will see a surge in income or your livelihood if a bill like this is passed. Having experienced this kind of overkill personally, I can speak first hand that it never helps whom it’s intended to help.
Also, often times sites LEGALLY use copyrighted works under the Fair Use act in order to make important statements and satire. I can see thousands of perfectly legal works of art, works that communicate important messages, being taken down because a large corp who doesn’t like that someone is speaking out against them, then invokes SOPA. Then a small timer w/o the legal muscle to prove the content is Fair Use, has no recourse.
And from what I see, websites are already doing a pretty good job at policing copyright infringement. You can’t even upload a video with a copyrighted song to Facebook without it kicking it off immediately. YouTube is constantly taking down offending videos (or, giving copryight holders a share in the ad revenue from those offending vidoes). These are the kind of systems that make sense to me.
Just my two cents.
I never spoke of a surge of income – I am speaking of addressing the opposite – the very real theft and loss of income. And I disagree, I believe SOPA will help address losses caused by piracy in many industries – music, film, e-books, photography.
The challenging of works related to Fair Use is already addressed by current copyright laws currently in place. SOPA addresses foreign websites that are dedicated to the facilitation of the illegal sale and distribution of counterfeit or pirated goods. If Fair Use came into play in a SOPA case, the case would be subject to due process just as it is now, and the same, existing laws would apply. SOPA does nothing to change that in your hypothetical case.
Yes, YouTube is fully capable of complying with current laws, so why is every anti-SOPA site wailing about the threat to YouTube et al when it simply won’t impact them?
Ron Dawson says
My understanding of the SOPA laws though is that due process would come AFTER a site is already taken down. Guilty until proven innocent. That’s one of the big problems with it. Gov’t and media companies can invoke SOPA and get a site taken down before they get a chance to prove they’re in Fair Use compliance.
If you get a chance, I encourage you to watch the TED video I just added to the site. It addresses this issue beautifully.
preach it Ron – I am with you on this one – the Mega Corps don’t care about cencership or us – they just want to ensure the lining in their pockets stays greener.
Exactly, SOPA is not about censorship, despite all the black ribbons and “black outs” you see today. SOPA is about protecting the income entitled to one from the goods or content they create and offer. Just because a “Mega Corp” reaches a high level of success and makes lots of money from the things they sell doesn’t give anyone the right to steal from them.
When someone reaches a high level of success in their job, it doesn’t suddenly give everyone the right to take away their income and blatantly steal from them.
Ron Dawson says
No one is saying they want to give people the right to steal. Nor do any of us disagree with your point about protecting rights and having the right to make money off your work. The main issue (as I pointed in my other reply) is that SOPA is NOT the way to accomplish the kind of protection you want. In the end, you will still be robbed from, and honest people and innovation will ultimately be hurt. Pirates still get what they want, you still lose money, and now on top of that, you’re going to be paying MORE money to cover the extra costs something like SOPA/PIPA incur. It’s the wrong, wrong way to go about addressing this issue.
“No one is saying they want to give people the right to steal. Nor do any of us disagree with your point about protecting rights and having the right to make money off your work”
The problem is, one can read comments and posts all over the Internet that do say exactly these things! The fact that there are people who steal and illegally share others’ protected works show that many disagree with this concept of what is stealing and with copyrights. Many torrenting sites are blatantly illegal, yet their users will not accept or admit that piracy is stealing. (So of course SOPA is appalling to them.)
The piracy issue needs to be addressed. SOPA / PIPA are the current proposals designed to address it. They are still being shaped and modified, and I hope all involved can write them into an agreeable form that is acceptable to me and to most others. I support the attempt through this process and I will likely support the final result.
Ron Dawson says
I think you and I want the same thing Doug. A fair and reasonable way to protect an artists’ copyright. As an artist myself I want that. But not at the expense of innovation, higher prices, etc.
I agree the issue needs to be addressed. And I hope this discussion can lead to something that will work. My bet is that it won’t be Congress, but innovation itself that leads to fixing this problem. And I bet they’ll do it in a way no one expected.
With all due respect to anyone who creates original content, SOPA and PIPA are not the way to go about protecting IP.
As a libertarian, I am not in favor of government having greater control over our lives or livelihoods. I do believe that the government SHOULD help protect personal property rights (including IP) and there is already a process in civil law that allows for a copyright holder to seek redress for damages arising from infringement. What was briefly mentioned in the TED talk above was that the old-line media companies already have used the established path through civil law but found this path to unsatisfying.
The old-line media found that it was not worth the time, money and effort spent to take the individual copyright infringer to court for a few dollars (comparatively) for the money gained and the bad publicity created – “Mother of four hit with $40,000 judgment for downloading crappy music”. The old-line media companies tried to scare people with these trials, but nobody believed that they would, or could go after all cases of infringement and indeed they didn’t. So, the old-line media companies are now trying to use the power of government to place a prior restraint on the use of their product. I would say that prior restraint is a constitutional no-no, but I have little faith in the Supreme Court of the United States recognizing anything constitutional these days (at least not enough faith to gamble on an overturn).
Add to this Congresses current proclivity to not actually pass a law (that specifically lays out what IS against the law – thereby leaving all else outside the scope of the law) but to pass “authorization” bills that allow for the Executive branch to make rules and regulations that have the power of law. Such “laws” allow for the President to change the rules at any time for any reason, with the operative phrase being, “as the Secretary shall determine”.
With a nod to the cliche that technology changes faster than we can deal with it, that is what has happened in this case. The old-line media companies have come to understand that their ability to develop technology that will keep their IP secure is never going to last long (or long enough to justify the R&D) so they are asking for the Congress to change how that content is delivered. If SOPA or PIPA is passed into law (and subsequently upheld), it will change forever our ability as citizens to use the internet. Each presidential administration will be given the power to “adjust” the rules and regulations that control our access to the internet as they see fit (let us now stop to think of the effort would be required to overturn such “adjustments”). Already, there are proposals out there to give the government an internet “kill switch”. China, Iran and other countries already (try to) control what their people have access to on the internet, do we really want to hand such power to our own Dear Leaders??
Do I have sympathy for the old-line media companies when it comes to copyright infringement? Yes. They have the same right to profit from their work and to be able to seek recompense for harm done to them due to piracy as I do, but they don’t want to engage in the same costly procedures that you and I would have to go through, they want special rules for THEIR content. If SOPA and PIPA are the cure, I vote to stick with the disease.