Everyone’s favorite acronym, SOPA, takes center stage this week as potentially hundreds of websites ‘go black’ to protest controversial legislation that could mean censorship of the Internet. At the heart of the legislation is the ability of the government to block access to websites that sell pirated (copyrighted) material, which costs ‘legitimate businesses’ hundreds of billions in lost revenue.
Mostly* this thing is about art. Music and movies. But SOPA is not about the artists. It’s about the ‘legitimate businesses’ that profit from the art. For example, when you buy a song on iTunes, most artists get about 10%. Apple gets 30% and the label about 60%. Yeah, that’s fair.
But that’s the way it is. And so SOPA helps keep money in the hands of legitimate people. Because they’re legitimately profiting off of the art. Pirates are not.
The web geeks are up in arms against SOPA because, according to them, if SOPA passes, the government will go on a witch hunt to kill every site on the Internet that even links to sites that are connected to sites that pirate copyrighted material. The web geeks all know that they have no way to know where their links might lead, and even less control over these other websites. So their fear is based in being taken down by the government because of their residual (even if inadvertent) connection with the pirates. According to the geeks, any site with external links could be killed.
I don’t know how I feel about all of this. On the one hand I’m obviously for the people who make the stuff they’re pirating. But this thing isn’t about the artists. On the other hand, there’s a mountain of litigation that may ensue from potential extremist enforcement of SOPA, and there’s no good reason that lawyers should profit from all of this either. Of course mine is just a limited and simplistic view of this whole mess. But frankly, I don’t want to know any more. At some point you’ve got to trust that there are people who are smarter than you about certain things, and that things work out. Beyond writing this post, I just don’t have the energy to care about this issue.
I just find it incredibly ironic that Hollywood makes billions on fun movies about pirates. No mixed signals there.
Image pirated from the Walt Disney Company. Because I like to live dangerously.
*Mostly = SOPA aims to help curb other types of pirating too. Like the kind associated with the Viagra emails that end up in your junk folder. So yeah, Big Pharma endorses SOPA. And those guys hire lobbyists who are master hypnotists.