Tuesday, January 17, 2012

SOPA La PIPA

By Carl
 
 
 I have mixed feelings about this issue. On the one hand, as an original content provider, I'd like to think my rights are protected to do with my art and writing as I see fit.
 
Let me put this in an analogy to better sum up that sentiment. Say I buy a bowl for my breakfast at work. I store it in the communal kitchen so I can grab it anytime I want some soup or oatmeal.
 
If anyone can come along and grab it, it's not doing me any good, plus I've expended personal resources to enrich the life of someone else who thinks nothing of borrowing without asking. Worse, they may decide to write their initials on it, thus laying claim it was theirs all along.
 
I can put my initials on it first (my copyright), which will prevent most of the problem, and if someone needs to use it, they know who to ask.
 
That's still not going to stop the really lazy or greedy from grabbing it, but I've done the best I can to ensure I get maximum use of the bowl.
 
On the other hand, the SOPA/PIPA provisions seem to be on a road to madness, and I get the sense they are an attempt to backdoor the whole net neutrality issue.
 
Trying to penalize wanton piracy by blocking IPs or even entire nations smacks of censorship, which I oppose. I understand that the copyright treaties are not universally observed, and that if someone from those nations where piracy is condoned grabs my "bowl," there's not a whole lot I can do about it.
 
Also true, deflating the market of people who are either too lazy or too greedy to actually rent a DVD or buy an e-book does seem to be a logical step. If you cut off the demand, the need for supply will dry up, theoretically.
 
This tactic doesn't seem to have worked so well for the war on drugs, however. Illicit drug use is still rampant and that's in part due to the fact that there's a cachet to breaking the law. Similarly, with piracy, one can see where there's a thrill in getting a pirated copy of a first run movie to watch at home.
 
Alexis Ohanian, the self-described "start up guy" for Reddit.com and organizer of what can be called "Day Without Internet" starting tonight at midnight, supports an intitiative to find the pirates and prosecute them in front of the ITC (the US International Trade Commission).
 
While more palatable on the civil rights front, this has even bigger holes in it than PIPA. For one thing, it's reactive, meaning that a content provider would have to realize his content has been stolen and seek damages after the fact. For another, if we're talking about operations in countries that won't even abide by international copyright treaty, how can we possibly expect them to respond dutifully to unilateral demands with regards to piracy?
 
This solution smacks of improvisation. It's hard to believe there isn't a better solution out there, but it sure does beat censorship.
 
What could end up happening is nothing. This might be the worst situation of all. We've already seen an impact of piracy on movie studios and television producers, who have released sequel after sequel and variations on themes, eschewing gambling on new material in the hopes of boosting profit margins by releasing sure-fire hits before the pirates have a chance to circulate cheap copies.
 
Effectively, piracy will have stifled creativity, just as surely as a right wing nanny-stater thumping a Bible.
 
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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