Unless you only watch TV and read newspapers for your news you probably (hopefully) have heard of the controversial SOPA/PIPA bills.
Unless you only watch TV and read newspapers for your news you probably (hopefully) have heard of the controversial SOPA/PIPA bills. I am not normally much of an activist or polical "expert". My knowledge of how bills become laws is limited to the cartoon I watched as a child. Also I have not... uh... actually read these bills... thoroughly (they make me sleepy). At my age I have biological, hard drive/cloud storage issues. In order to learn stuff over the years like Actionscript and Joomla, I had to delete reruns of School House Rock, Charlie's Angels or Gilligan's Island from the old biological flash drive I call my brain (those old shows are available on DVD now so I can watch them again!).
As I stated previously, I am not pretending to be an expert, or an activist. I do however read a lot of articles on many subjects. I am also "not stupid" (this being relative of course). I do not get all of my news from "traditional" sources (TV, newspapers) and not from a single source. The majority of the news I read is on the internet but is NOT restricted to one source or ideology. You can't understand the discussion or topic without reading many sources and both sides. When this news first broke, I had to read both sides of the discussion before I could formulate an opinion. I literally knew nothing about it and needed to be certain there was actually something to be worried about.
I don't think you have to be an "expert" to understand the danger of these bills. One issue that has inspired protests agains these bills is how much power the copyright owners like compainies in the music and movie industry, will GAIN from these bills. Baiscally they can accuse anyone of a violation and potentially get them shut down. The other issue is the internet infrastructure remifications. The laws require changes to how the internet works which is where the experts come in. When the experts who literally "invented" the internet (no, not Al Gore, allthough I think he does appose SOPA/PIPA) and know more about it than anyone, are adamantly and vocally against this new legislature, one can use common sense to see that maybe, there might be something to be concerned about. When I speak of experts who KNOW stuff, I mean EXPERTS who KNOW stuff, in all caps, bolded, possibly a larger font size, different color and with a link to some really dry technical discussion of internet protocols that contains many 3 letter acronyms. These experts KNOW about how the internet works and understand its complexities. When they say SOPA/PIPA is "not a good idea" I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt.
The worst thing I learned during my research was how proudly the committee in charge of creating these bills stated their total ignorance of the technology they were legislating. They actually think it is a GOOD thing that they don't have a clue about how the internet works. Let's consider for a moment that not having any knowledge of how it all works could be some sort of badge of "non-bias" for creating laws that protect intellectual property on the interent. Even IF that were true and not having a vested interest in the internet would make you less likely to be partial to one side or the other, you would STILL need and WANT MANY EXPERTS with technical knowledge to guide you. As many as you could possibly find from many different sources to avoid further bias. Without this technical guidance, this is the blind leading the blind. The internet is too complex and important to THE WHOLE FREAKING WORLD to allow anyone without any guidance or knowledge of a subject make laws that effect it so dramatically.
I am all for "unbiased" law making. I don't want anyone who would benefit monetarily from a law actually creating the laws... oh wait... hold on... that is EXACTLY what is happening. The companies supporting SOPA/PIPA are also supporting the politicians creating the laws. Lobbyists. I am not an expert on that topic either beyond knowing that the creators of SOPA and PIPA recieve more financial support from the companies who would gain incredible power and potential profit from these laws, than the businesses who could be hurt by it. I read somewhere that the techy business guys just aren't as good at lobbying as the RIAA and MPAA are. Obivously the music and movie industries have been doing it longer. Oh by the way, former senator Chris Dodd is now the CEO of the MPAA. Interesting. A former lawmaker lobbying for new laws to aid his new job and the movie industry he now represents and profits from.
The bottom line for me is deciding which of the following is more likely:
- Companies like Google are just plain evil supporters of piracy who make money putting ads on illegal videos and search results to pirate websites.
- The RIAA and MPAA are afraid of new technology.
Ah! There's an interesting topic of discussion. The music and movie industries trying to stop new technology because of potential copyright infringement and lost profits has been going on for over 100 years. From the player piano to internet music downloads. From the invention of television to streaming video content. It's always the same story. Those inventions would DESTROY their industries. Why go to a movie if you can stay at home and watch it on your VCR? Why buy a vinyl album if you can make a cassette tape for free? None of the technologies in the past had the enormous "the sky is falling!" effect the music and movie industries predicted. In reality every one of these new technologies created BRAND NEW revenue streams for the very industries who tried to kill them.
I support the protection of intellectual property and copyright. Maybe there could be some ways to improve this obvious issue. Insisting that Google, Facebook, Twitter and all other user driven websites vet every single upload (1000's a day? 100,000 a day?) is completely obsurd. Once again this is a solution that punishes the INNOCENT instead of the real criminals. These new laws WILL stifle creativity and innovation, rightly or wrongly, whether justified or not, people will think twice about saying or creating something because they might inadvertently comit a crime or violate some unclear rule or regulation. Imagine if you were driving and you didn't know the laws, or the laws were so complex or vague that you could break them literally "by accident". You would fear driving. You might actually avoid it as much as possible. Maybe you would walk more... uh... hmm... maybe this intenet censorship thing could be good... people would read more books, and hook up that old record player.
p.s. Once again the innocent are punished for the crimes of the guilty. Trying to do research on this topic today, I was blocked constantly by SOPA protesting websites. Had to use my memory... wow! I found an old episode of Kung-Fu in there! I think these sites could at least "let you in" after you sign the fraking petition.
This article was posted in Vernon Zehr