SOPA – Drafted and Encouraged by the TRUE Pirates

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by David T. Bruce

stopsopaeu-800pxFrom the federal establishment that preaches the necessity of less government intervention (or interference, depending on your point of view), American citizens are being asked to support legislation that is said to minimize online piracy.  Provisions are embedded within the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), however, that potentially infringe upon First Amendment rights and shift the responsibility for online piracy from the perpetrators onto Internet administrators.

While Internet Service Providers and web site administrators should (and do) discourage online piracy, holding providers to 100% compliance with anti-piracy laws is unrealistic.  As well, shutting down entire Internet sites in the effort to purge pirated material from specific web pages is akin to penalizing car manufacturers or dealers for allowing an unlicensed driver to operate a vehicle.  We do not need more legislation to combat an issue that can be minimized with the tools and laws already at our disposal.  SOPA, masked as an effort to eliminate online piracy, is one that panders more to the entertainment industry than an altruistic sense of justice.

Both the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) flaunt their lofty objective of protecting the First Amendment rights of artists and distributors, this from an organization that offers up a mere 13% of music sales to the recording artist, allowing the record label to keep 63% of the earnings.  The income for actors in general is not stellar either.  Both organizations, however, are headquartered in Washington D.C., spending time and money to gather support for SOPA and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) from the Obama and Bush administrations to the tune of over $400,000 this past year and $2 million in 2007, respectively, seeking additional revenue lost perhaps as a result of the shrinking economy and lackluster entertainment products.  As pointed out by Professors Kal Raustiala and Chris Sprigman, the measure of the loss to the entertainment industry is unsubstantiated.

Piracy will not vanish as a result of tight-fisted legislation that punishes honest Internet users.  Those people inclined to provide and obtain copyrighted materials illegally will continue to do so, driving the industry further underground.  Those of us who oppose SOPA do not support online piracy or copyright theft.  We can, however, oppose legislation that does not directly target the issue at hand, but instead uses a single issue (albeit an important one) as a façade to introduce additional insidious government oversights that bring us ever closer to a future envisioned by George Orwell.  Online pirates will continue to plunder the Internet, while the majority of us find ourselves victims of a government that takes its cues (and money) from the entertainment industry and other large business conglomerates.

From the federal establishment that preaches the necessity of less government intervention (or interference, depending on your point of view), American citizens are being asked to support legislation that is said to minimize online piracy.  Provisions are embedded within the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), however, that potentially infringe upon First Amendment rights and shift the responsibility for online piracy from the perpetrators onto Internet administrators.

While Internet Service Providers and web site administrators should (and do) discourage online piracy, holding providers to 100% compliance with anti-piracy laws is unrealistic.  As well, shutting down entire Internet sites in the effort to purge pirated material from specific web pages is akin to penalizing car manufacturers or dealers for allowing an unlicensed driver to operate a vehicle.  We do not need more legislation to combat an issue that can be minimized with the tools and laws already at our disposal.  SOPA, masked as an effort to eliminate online piracy, is one that panders more to the entertainment industry than an altruistic sense of justice.

Both the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) flaunt their lofty objective of protecting the First Amendment rights of artists and distributors, this from an organization that offers up a mere 13% of music sales to the recording artist, allowing the record label to keep 63% of the earnings.  The income for actors in general is not stellar either.  Both organizations, however, are headquartered in Washington D.C., spending time and money to gather support for SOPA and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) from the Obama and Bush administrations to the tune of over $400,000 this past year and $2 million in 2007, respectively, seeking additional revenue lost perhaps as a result of the shrinking economy and lackluster entertainment products.  As pointed out by Professors Kal Raustiala and Chris Sprigman, the measure of the loss to the entertainment industry is unsubstantiated.

Piracy will not vanish as a result of tight-fisted legislation that punishes honest Internet users. Those people inclined to provide and obtain copyrighted materials illegally will continue to do so, driving the industry further underground.  Those of us who oppose SOPA do not support online piracy or copyright theft.  We can, however, oppose legislation that does not directly target the issue at hand, but instead uses a single issue (albeit an important one) as a façade to introduce additional insidious government oversights that bring us ever closer to a future envisioned by George Orwell.  Online pirates will continue to plunder the Internet, while the majority of us find ourselves victims of a government that takes its cues (and money) from the entertainment industry and other large business conglomerates.

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