Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Few Thoughts On SOPA/PIPA

"Yes, I really am comparing the belief that SOPA threatens free speech with a belief in healthcare death panels; and I am more than willing to insult my friends to make the point. Both fears are irrational, both fears have been ginned up and funded by corporate interests, and both fears lead the electorate away from a sober effort to address a tangible problem. As a result, the general public loses to corporate greed -- again. And just to clarify for the libertarian element out there, I mean greed as distinct from enterprise because there is nothing about capitalism that guarantees the right to derive revenue from illegal activities.
 One could download the text of these bills and discover that there isn’t any evidence for the overwrought, doomsday claims made by the opposition; but like the death panel nuts, my friends aren’t seeking information so much as validation for what they want to believe in the first place. The Internet can be a source for what we need to know but is more often a source for what we want to hear; and in this case, what so many seem to want to hear is that anti-piracy legislation is just a Hollywood/government conspiracy to control us all. Frankly, I think we’ve gone just a bit conspiracy mad in this country, and I blame the egocentrism fostered by the digital age itself. "-New York Filmmaker David Newhoff, writing for online newsletter The Hill , Anti-piracy Battle Reveals Dysfunctional Thinking.

Find the entire article HERE

The nerds are up in arms again. This time, their cause celebre is the two anti-piracy bills scheduled to be debated in the congress, The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). The nerds have taken up keyboards and mounted a shitstorm of hyperbole & disinformation in defense of Google's right (and the purported rights of others) to aggregate, compile, archive, host and otherwise distribute & publish electronically any content whatsoever, licensed or not. The nerds have taken to Facebook, online tech discussion boards and other sites where large groups of people gather online to spout their venom towards the bills. Google has been partially blacked-out today in protest, Wikipedia was supposed to go dark all day in protest (ironically, as of this moment, they are up and running)... other aggregate sites have taken similar protests throughout the day...

Think your joining a cause to defend free speech? Think again... you're really fighting intellectual property creators like myself and supporting companies like Google who would like nothing better than to not only host, publish and distribute the work created by others at no cost to themselves, but to actually use said work in a business model that aims to make them more profitable at the expense of people like you & me.

I mention Google specifically because they have been an important and extremely loud source of funding and disinformation in efforts to thwart these two anti-online piracy acts. Click on the link below to see a chart depicting the links between the strongest anti-SOPA/PIPA advocates... the chart reads like a family tree of hillbilly inbreeding and at the center of it all is GOOGLE... their tentacle reach so far & wide that following the trail of anti-antipiracy players reads like a long-winded game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

Curious now? Read on... here's another link to an Oct. 27, 2011 article appearing in Bloomberg Business Week:

No one is saying the neither of these bills need a bit of finessing & work, debate is now scheduled to begin again sometime in February of this year. However, the proliferation of bullshit regarding both of these bills, long in advance of any actual debate in the Congress, is mind-numbing. 

Online piracy is a problem... a huge problem for writers, illustrators, composers, filmmakers, and other creators of intellectual property. Should one be forced to mount a legal case for infringement against any company or entity with huge financial resources, one would be buried under the incredibly expensive weight of mounting such a case in Federal Court. Cease & Desist letters and other forms of Takedown Notices are more often than not ignored by offending websites. When you begin to factor in the effort & costs involved in protecting your work from infringers overseas, things get even more complicated.

Instead of taking reasonable pre-emptive measures to protect the intellectual property of others, making the need for such bills as SOPA/PIPA less necessary in the digital age, GOOGLE & others have chosen, instead, to mount a very effective (and I suppose also very costly) campaign of disinformation, hysteria & hyperbole. Websites like GOOGLE & Facebook, Twitter & others, for example, actually go out of their way to strip embedded metadata information containing attribution, credits & copyright notices to all photo files uploaded to their sites. Many of these sites, in their Terms of Service Agreements, actually take control of the work, allowing them the opportunities to further distribute, publish, license and yes... even profit from your work without any compensation to you. Simply putting an end to these two practices cited above would go a long way in restoring faith & confidence of users that their property remains theirs and publishing work on the web ins not an open invitation to steal. 

Why do companies like GOOGLE take such heavy handed measures to deny users of any attribution to uploaded content? Listen to their cries of "impeding freedom of speech & innovation if SOPA/PIPA become law" their motivations become painfully clear.

With the internet becoming more & more the preferred platform for the publishing of information, imagery, journalism, etc., measures with real teeth to thwart easy online piracy become more essential. Thanks to now defunct online music-sharing sites like Napster, an entire generation brought up with online access have somehow developed the notion that any and all content found online is free, availble and has the potential to be used for profit when in fact, use without permission of content online is really no different than walking into your local convenience store, lifting your product of choice and walking out the door without paying.

As artists, writers and creators of intellectual property, you & I now find it necessary... essential even, to turn to the internet to reach our audiences. Doing so should in no way restrict our ability to not only control, but to profit from our work. So, if you are an artist, writer, filmmaker, whatever... and have yet to really look into the issues & facts surrounding the proposed SOPA/PIPA legislation, I urge you to do so now before taking up keyboard and posting more propaganda and disinformation perpetrated by financial giants who seem hell-bent on the use of your creative output to improve their own bottom line... not yours.

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