The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA and the Protect IP (Internet Provider Act (PIPA) are bad ideas. Congress is worried about Hollywood and writers losing billions of dollars to on-line piracy.
The issue’s important for people sincerely worried about having their intellectual property stolen, used without permission and profited from by people having no connection to its production. A couple of nefarious keystrokes result in the theft of personally developed ideas. The genuine producer loses income. Movies are pirated regularly amounting to billions of dollars lost.
My son’s a “Coder”, a computer programmer. His thought process is hardwired to the production of a product bearing the copyrighted proof of his expertise. It’s the foundational aspect of his ability to produce a quality product for his company’s customers. It’s the integrity of that thought process solidifies his resume’. What he does today assures proof of what he can do again tomorrow. He’s very jealous of his copyrights – that’s why they call it “coding”; it’s secretive and privileged information both personally and in distribution.
This column’s copyrighted. It’s mine. I loan it to the publication for dissemination. But, I own the copyright and anybody looking to: steal my thoughts, the way I lay them out before you and the stance I take on issues are mine and mine alone to profit from. Unless I give specific licensed permission to use them for other purposes they run the risk of being sued.
Now the government; you know, those guys brought you the Patriot Act, the TSA and the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover want to legislate the nationalized control of an operation with an international reach. They want permission to shut down what they feel are illegal sites based both here, and in other countries. Because they can’t gain judgments against everybody internationally, they can only seek recourse by shutting down the offenders’ sites before they’re accepted by American ISPs (Internet Service Providers).
Keep in mind this is to be done by a group of people who can’t define pornography but want to decide what is theft, illegal copyright infringement and theft and then bring the culprits to stand before the bar of American Justice. Nice thought, but it’s unenforceable against anybody but American pirates and people not pirating anything but potentially, simply disagreeing with some political dogma.
To understand the fears concerning SOPA and PIPA we need look no further than this past year’s “Arab Spring”. The first thing the government under siege did when threatened was shut down the internet. This controlled, curtailed and squashed world-wide awareness of historical events as they developed. The immediacy of the horrors unfolding was stunted initially but overcome when reporters could get to freely operating internet services to transmit the images and commentary.
Don’t tell me this can’t happen here. In a country once freely disposed to freedom of speech we see more and more efforts to control the dissemination of information. The Press is polarized into left and right factions. Commentary is readily rebutted by the other side because of the self-service sought by greedy publishers seeking an audience best suited to give them more money. Politicians seek greater power and there is no greater power than to control the collective thought processes of the people. Ask Hitler. Ask Stalin. Ask Mao. People speaking their minds are vilified and shouted down in public and, now conceivably in Cyberspace.
The Chinese have, in the past, blatantly shut-down GOOGLE there because Chinese dissidents used the internet to report human rights violations. GOOGLE reached an agreement with China to continue offering a censored and diluted product.
Who decides what’s objectionable? Who decides which cases have merit? Who decides when to pull the plug on a site? What are the criteria? Just losing money isn’t enough – we have civil law suits for that.
Remember; all the while you hunt the wolf; he hunts you. You could be the next to suffer some bureaucrat’s knee-jerk reaction to a perceived slight.
I know personally how badly loss of copyright sucks. But loss of the rights to read controversial copy and ideas sucks worse. It’s CENSORSHIP. It’s a bad thing.
Thanks for listening.