A lot of sites are doing a blackout today as a protest to SOPA. I don’t feel right about doing that. However, I will partly, cautiously lift my ban on political talk to tackle this subject, because a few people have asked for my thoughts on the matter. I doubt I’ll say anything new, but I’m willing to say it all the same. Also, don’t miss Michael Goodfellow’s thoughts on the cultural and business aspect of this thing and what led us here.
I’m hoping that opposition to this thing is universal enough that we can sidestep the usual Red Team vs. Blue Team political football that makes me so crazy. First, here is a video that outlines the details:
Governments and copyright holders have struggled for years to stop piracy and have been unable to do so. So their solution is to point the banhammer at the rest of the internet and say, “Hey you. You are now in charge of protecting Disney’s copyright holdings. Do it or you lose your website.” Basically, they’re conscripting all website owners as police. If we fail in this task – a task they could never do themselves – then our domain name is revoked / suspended. We’re talking about blocking an entire domain over the sharing of a link, which is the equivalent of closing down a nightclub because one patron whispered to another patron where to score a bootleg copy of Transformers, even if neither one of them has ever possessed such a thing.
Q: “Hey, millions of people share links on Facebook every day. How can we make sure none of them infringe on copyright?
A: “Good question. You’d better figure it out before we shut you down.”
The news stories are going back and forth on this. Three days ago it looked like this thing was going to be shelved. Yesterday it was un-shelved. After today? No idea. The important thing is this:
This is not over. Even if the representatives supporting this bill back off, it will only be due to overwhelming public pressure. That’s not the same as having a change of heart. If someone supported this bill, it means that they accept, on general principles, the ideas outlined in this bill. They are fine with tampering with the low-level operation of the internet. They’re fine with using censorship to impose US copyright law on people outside the US. (I wonder if they’ve ever considered what the reverse would look like?) They’re fine with punishing anyone, US citizens or not, for failing to enforce (not just uphold) US copyright laws. They are willing for this punishment to take place without due process, something which not even CRIMINAL justice allows. (See, if I rape somebody, you have to prove it in court before you can punish me. But if someone uses my website to tell someone else about where to download copyrighted stuff, my website gets shut down and I have to fight to have it re-instated.)
All of this to protect the income of people who, let’s face it, aren’t going to miss a meal anytime soon. We’re not talking about fighting against poverty, crime, hate, or disease here. We’re talking about fighting against “billionaires making less than they should, even though they’re still doing okay”.
“But we have to do SOMETHING about piracy!”
“We”? Actually, “we” don’t. It’s your copyright, you defend it. I produce copyrighted works. If people started spreading around copies without paying me, I’d be frustrated and disappointed. But I’m not going to try to make it your problem. I can’t imagine even DREAMING about silencing an entire domain in an attempt to hide my bootleg work from pirates. That would be ridiculous, even if it could work.
If you can’t make money doing X, then you go out of business if you insist on doing X. If Pepsi stopped making money on vending machines because people routinely vandalized the machines and nobody ever called the cops because vandalism was socially acceptable, then Pepsi would have to find another business model. I’m sorry people are jerks, but your earning a living can’t come at the expense of the freedoms of everyone else.
I’m as anti-pirate as they come, and if you really can’t make money making the videogames and movies I love, then I’ll be sorry to see you go. I like the X-Men as much as the next guy, but I’m not willing to pay for the next movie with my freedoms, and you have no right to bend the foundations of this communication miracle that has changed the fortunes of the human race for the better. Sod off already.
The politicians who got on board with this must fall into one of two categories:
- People who signed on with this bill without understanding what it was, how it works, and without considering the freedoms it would take away, in spite of the oath they took when entering office promising not to do this very thing.
- People who have been bought by the entertainment industry.
Both of these should disqualify you from public office in my book. If you supported this bill, you should be defeated in the very next election. Full stop. I don’t care if you recant later. You don’t “accidentally” choose to violate the rights and freedoms of people around the world and then change your mind like you were ordering breakfast. There is something deeply wrong with you, and we would have better luck filling your post with any person chosen at random off the street.
This is an important point, because this bill can easily be cut up and smeared over any number of spending bills, passing this a little bit at a time. Sure, we can get all worked up and organized to fight SOPA, but how much momentum do you think we’ll have against “Provision 112.2, section 3, of the proposed revisions to the house bill of Protecting Doe-eyed Street Urchins From Pollution and Terrorists“? I’m begging you people, get rid of these losers. Even if they’re on you favorite politics team. No, especially if they’re on your team. I mean, the other side was already going to vote against them.
I’m sorry for the political rant. Please remember that there are Democrats and Republicans supporting this bill in congress, and there are Democrats and Republicans opposing this thing in the streets. I cannot convey how little I care which of the two you like best or how much you hate the other one.
To wash away the taste of bitterness and cynicism, today we will have TWO episodes of Spoiler Warning! Nice, right?
Of course, this is exactly the sort of show that could be killed by SOPA. So there’s that.
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