The Net Killer A.K.A. SOPA
By Joel Ausanka. January 13, 2012, 3:18 PM CDT
Recently, a petition to get Marvel Comics to stop supporting SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, appeared online. While the SOPA name sounds reasonable enough, because of course creators’ intellectual property rights deserve protection, the onerous nature of the actual legislation along with the Protect IP Act (PIPA) is nothing short of super-villainous. An epic kind of villainy, like the kind that Marvel or DC comics themselves might create, possibly called The Net Killer. Unfortunately, this whole situation with SOPA and PIPA is akin to handing a set of finely crafted Yamaha motorcycle tuning instruments to a group of art school dropouts and telling them to recalibrate the engine to a 270 – 180 – 90 – 180 firing interval. Not only would they have no idea what they are doing, but the likely outcome is disaster. Why disaster? Because, those art school dropouts aren’t mechanical experts who have any training in running such a machine, just like the people writing, supporting, and ultimately trying to cram this draconian and outright idiotic legislation down the proverbial throat of all internet users in this country aren’t experts. They aren’t even trying to pretend that they are, either. Not a single person who has spoken so far during the SOPA hearings has been an expert on internet engineering or infrastructure. The only people who were called to testify were content industry representatives. This point is driven home by one of the more sensible House Republicans, Daryl Issa.
The most recent SOPA hearings held on December 15, 2011, highlighted the serious lack of intelligent design in this legislation. More hearings are scheduled next week.
If you’ve been kept up with the progress of these bills, you know the hearings were like a circus of media-owned legislators saying again and again that they aren’t’t experts. These non-experts were told by the recording industry about the need for stronger copyright enforcement or by the pharmaceutical industry experts that this legislation was necessary and sound. Well, of course that’s what they said. This is the same argument that was made against VHS recording, against CD duplication, against mp3 players, etc, etc. It’s a false flag and its real intention is not to protect copyrights, but to give the government and media companies carte blanche to shut down anything they deem unacceptable. The vague descriptions in the legislation, the lack of clear-cut definitions, and the clearly amateurish way the legislation addresses things like DNS protocols gives the government and media companies a surprising amount of power. Go here to read a copy of the bill.
The December hearings were suspended, due mostly to the overwhelming technology industry and individual opposition to the bill and the fact that, as mentioned above, there were far too few experts on the panel. A Whitehouse.gov petition has topped 25,000 signatures, well ahead of its Jan. 17 deadline. An ever-deafening uproar from companies like Google, Yahoo, and the like who already make great efforts to capitulate to whatever the Department of Defense or any other government body wants, most of the time, also helped halt the hearings. If these agreeable giants are up in arms, something is clearly wrong.
Much of the concern is voiced succinctly in a publication by the ECA, the Entertainment Consumers Association and in an article on CNET about existing lawsuits in the early ripple of the possibility of this legislation passing. Clearly, the media giants are pressing to create precedent for future cases. If they can get an order against a Pennsylvania mother whose child was dancing to a partially audible instance of a Prince song, it seems pretty obvious they are out for blood. (I hope they don’t come after me for writing his name without paying royalties.)
So, what can we do about all of this? Many companies have voiced their opinions in letters to Congress, the Senate, and President Obama. Other companies, such as Reddit and Wikipedia, have suggested full blackouts of their websites. In fact, Time recently reported that Reddit has their blackout scheduled for January 18, the day of the next scheduled hearing in committee, and Wikipedia looks like it will follow suit. You have options too, even if you aren’t a major company or established internet destination. The power of a vote through your dollar may be the best way to send a message to SOPA- and PIPA-supporting companies that their support for these bills is unacceptable. Enter Android. The Android marketplace has recently launched an app that lets you scan a product to see if a SOPA supporter owns the product. Finally, there is the old fashioned way of researching: read the list in this handy PDF.
As a message to those naysayers out there: If you believe in a free and open internet, there is no way you can reasonably support this legislation. This isn’t to discount the concerns of media content producers. Of course they deserve protection of their property! Of course we want good legislation to help that happen! SOPA and PIPA are not the answer, though. Free reign over every nuance of the internet, over every hyperlink, over every possible source of copyright infringement is about 10 steps too far.
Perhaps a quote from the gilded age, from a time before consumer protection was in place and corporations had far too much authority. “Buyer, beware.” Now, it seems the tables have turned though. So, “Producers, beware,” because there is no way to stop piracy forever and it’s something you’re going to have to get used to in the modern world. We, without the means to buy off congress, deal with the reality that the world isn’t perfect and doesn’t cater to our every whim. Perhaps, Mr. Media, it’s time that you had a taste of this medicine as well. The humility it brooks may just be to your benefit.