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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What do SOPA and PIPA accomplish?

I remember a while back when we subscribed to both cable Internet service and television. The budget got a little tight, so we decided to drop the TV. Through the course of the conversation with the person at the cable company, they informed me that I would have to pay a $20 disconnection fee. I asked why, since I wasn't disconnecting my service, just stopping the TV side of things. They said that without a blocker installed, I could, potentially, get free cable TV. So, they wanted to charge me $20 for the privilege of not getting free cable.

Wait, what? No.

I said, "It's not my job or financial responsibility to ensure that you don't give away your product for free. If you don't want me to have free cable, that's your problem, not mine."

The charge was removed.

I bring up this story because it makes me think of the issues underlying SOPA and PIPA, which are laws before the House and Senate respectively. They both provide the ability for the US to block websites that host pirated content. That seems pretty innocuous at first, but you must keep in mind that the entire site would be blocked for the posting of one piece of copyrighted content - by anyone, not just the owner of the site, but any user-generated content. Think of YouTube, Wikipedia and blogs where content is created by everyone. If anyone messes up, the whole site would be gone.

Now, whose responsibility is it to protect this content? To me, this seems similar to the cable company wanting me to pay for their inability to restrict my TV access. The MPAA and RIAA are two of the main sponsors for SOPA and PIPA, they are also the organizations who have sued individuals for hundreds of thousands of dollars for piracy. It's primarily their concern, so the primary burden should be on them. They don't want to cut into their profits, so they push ISPs and the government to do their job for them.

We already have anti-piracy laws on the books. The MPAA and RIAA are already successfully  prosecuting pirates for huge sums of money. They can already take down US sites that are found to be pirating content. What more do they want? They want the ability to restrict the access of all Americans to any website that they deem to be pirating content. Also known as censorship.

Whose job is it, anyway?


Mark said...

Helpful. Thanks.

James Wood said...

This is what I sent to my Senators:
"I'm writing to express my disapproval of PIPA and SOPA. Though online piracy is a concern for all content creators, I, as a person who makes my living creating content through writing, strongly oppose PIPA and SOPA. They provide too great a power for too small a problem. Various content creators have eschewed digital rights management as a method to prevent piracy.

Recently comedian, Louis C.K. released his work online without any restrictions, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive (he's made millions of dollars). Similarly, Gabe Newell, of Valve software has stated that piracy is indicative of a problem with customer service that must be addressed by the content creators. So, Steam, Valve's online game distribution platform, attempts to make it as simple as possible to purchase and download games.

The reality is that those who will pirate content because it is free will never pay for that content. However, those who pirate content because it's easier than dealing with the restrictive practices of digital rights management, will be enticed to purchase it if they have a convenient way to do so.

SOPA and PIPA attempt to solve a problem with wholly inappropriate means. I can tell you now that there are already ways around the restrictions that they propose, for those tech savvy enough to pirate content in the first place. This draconian legislation will only punish law-abiding citizens while pushing the problem of piracy deeper underground.

Please vote against PIPA and oppose SOPA."

Justin said...


Thanks for the post, you do have a wonderful way with words. One Love man.

Jake Shore said...

Thanks for the analogy. I must confess, I've not kept up on this issue; just gleaned a few bits of information here and there. The strongest part of your argument is the fact that this law will only really punish law abiding citizens. Real piracy will continue.

It reminds me (and I'm not trying to be political or start a debate) of the argument against gun control. Gun control laws don't really affect criminals because they usually don't get their guns legally. Only responsible citizens will find their rights restricted.