Across the internet, the letters S-O-P-A have inspired a particular level of hatred and vitriol. Beyond the internet, the Stop Online Piracy Act has barely registered any significant presence within mainstream media. The reasons for this are … well, circumspect, especially given the damage that SOPA would bring to the internet. And this, my dear reader, is something that you do need to be aware of, as it may very well affect this very website.
The Stop Online Piracy Act is a bill before the Government of the United States of America that proposes — in a general sense — a series of rules and penalties in an effort to eradicate online piracy. At a high level, it certainly seems like a reasonable request. In fact, so reasonable that anyone not spending time reviewing the details of the bill might very well have missed some of the more draconian measures being implemented, allowing — in effect — individual companies to disable outright any website they believe to be infringing on copyright without right of trial, so long as said website has some dependency on US-based services (which a tremendous percentage of websites have).
In effect, a US company can shut down your otherwise legal operation because they’ve told their government that you’re the bad guy.
Sound unfair? It should. But this, dear reader, is also where things get more sinister.
The authors of this bill are members of the American government, but that’s not who is really driving it. The backers? Big media. Notably, the same companies who have been engaging in a futile, misguided, and often grossly misdirecting effort to have laws enacted to protect their business models. Companies represented by the RIAA and MPAA, and a host of old companies who don’t want to change.
They’re flailing, and failing. They’re unable to grasp the concept of digital media. They’re used to their physical world — one book to one person, one CD in one CD player, one VHS tape showing on one tube-based television set. The new world allows a single copy to be copied, cut, remixed, and displayed on millions of devices simultaneously. The media companies chime: “Show me the money.”
But instead of adapting, they cry foul. They cry piracy. They claim that they’re losing money hand-over-fist, and they will expire without the assistance of new laws. Yet, they’re not losing money. In fact, many of the music labels are making more than ever, largely in part to Apple, who strong-armed them into making music cheap, and — to absolutely no surprise to any armchair economist — removed the barrier to entry, and sold music in such quantities that the music industry was very likely saved from imminent death.
Hence, SOPA. And while the White House chosen to not sign the bill, there is no reason to believe it won’t be back in some other odious form.
Beyond the American government, I have reason to also fear this bill because of the efforts of my own government. The Canadian government has thrice shown to be spineless in its resistance to these same groups lobbying for ridiculous legislation in Canada that would put our own culture and identity as unwarranted in terms of content ownership. Our politicians, who had in decades previous been those who stand only for its own people, now show to be bowing to massive foreign conglomerates, leaving its own people to suffer as a result.
SOPA, and bills like it must fail. Because they are flawed in their consideration of evolution, because they fail to take digital commerce into account, and because they will unnecessarily bind our children into false agreements and behaviours that will haunt them their entire lives.
If you are an American, please write your congressperson. If you are Canadian, please write your MP. In either case, don’t let your government become party to Big Media’s insanity, don’t let our future be dictated by corporations. Learn more at AmericanCensorship.org.
Content yearns to be free. Not free as in ownership, but free as in freedom, free as in life. Let content live.