Online Piracy

by Lee on January 18, 2012

I am against censorship.

I am also against copyright infringement and piracy.

I don’t believe the two are mutually exclusive.

As a content creator, I want credit and renumeration for the works that I create. As a content consumer, I expect to pay for creative works (music, books, performances, images, movies etc.). After I pay for them, I expect a high quality experience and ready access to what I’ve purchased.

In an effort to curb the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, two bills have been introduced in congress. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) are bills moving through the House and Senate aimed at curbing piracy by “rouge websites” (most of which are based on foreign soil).

The bills appear to be backed by large content providers such as Disney, RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), Nintendo and the Association of American Publishers. The bills are being opposed by technology companies and free speech advocates such as Google, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Reporters Without Borders, American Library Association, Wikipedia and Word Press. (Hat Tip to the Emerging Technologies Librarian for the list).

I can find numerous posts about why SOPA is bad from a variety of organizations from the Stanford Law Review  to Tucows, domain name and email service provider and Tech Dirt . I have been unable to locate any substantive information (e.g. anything other any press releases) on why SOPA/PIPA would be good for content producers, providers and distributors.

I agree that something should be done to halt online piracy, but I will come down on the side of free speech every time. My understanding of the bills as they are currently written is that they give too much power to the government (i.e. sites can be shut down on suspicion of piracy) and hold sites such as Google, Facebook and Twitter responsible for the content their users post.

My favorite post on the situation thus far is a statement on Google+ from Tim O’Reily head of O’Reily  Media a larger publisher of books, web sites, and conferences focused on technology. This man loses money to pirates everyday and still he opposes SOPA/PIPA. I agree they are addressing the wrong problem. It has been shown time and time again that if you give consumers a convenient, reasonably priced way to purchase content, they’ll do it. iTunes, or Netflix anyone?

A number of big web sites are going on strike  or “going dark” as a form of protest against SOPA/PIPA today. The the most well known of which is Wikipedia (The English Version of Wikipedia will be unavailable for 24 hours). I’ve never been a huge fan of strikes. Plus, my site is so small, if I “went dark”, you’d probably think I was just slacking :). Instead, I hope I’ve brought this important issue to your attention. Maybe even motivated you to contact your senator or congressmen and share your views on the subject (whichever side you are on).

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