The plan to avoid reading, thinking or following any discussion of SOPA, despite a tweet from a colleague reminding me that I was supposed to be some sort of expert on copyright and IP issues, just could not last.
Like many involved in the copyright wars over the previous decade+ this latest offensive is a predictable expansion of the victories secured with Copyright Exentsion Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Of course this time the MPAA/RIAA go further in revealing their ignorance of how the internet actually works, but the result is a same: the transformation of copyright law into a corporate techno-legal measure for the criminalisation of culture.
I wouldn’t quite call myself a redditor as such (see previous post on why I suck at social media) but I am intrigued by Reddit and I use it and Twitter daily as a News feed. By the end of last week SOPA (and PIPA) was unavoidable and today the stream of Facebook status updates asking ‘What is SOPA?’ is glorious, as those looking for the answer at Wikipedia will find the blackout protest at the site (It’s only 10am and I’ve already forgotten the blackout twice which give’s a good indication of the impact of the protest on others like myself who use Wikipedia prodigiously).
The frequency of the #SOPA hashtag on Twitter, Friday 13, 2012. ( Source Hashtags.org)
The frequency of the #SOPA hashtag on Twitter, Thursday Jan 19, 2012. ( Source Hashtags.org)
As one commenter on G+ suggested the internet is fighting back to protect itself. Most of what we do on the internet involves someone’s intellectual property. This is far more accute on sites like Reddit, where users create their online identities by using (and remixing) other’s people’s IP to post images, videos, memes, jokes, links and provide commentary on each other’s posts.
SOPA wants to force Reddit and any site accessible in US to police it own members and give the MPAA and RIAA the power to take down the site for any non-compliance, an impossible task for any major social media site like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc, let alone new start ups.
I’m being reductive but piracy is not really a big problem, it if were Hollywood and the music industry would have significantly diminsihed in the last decade (more so than they have), but I’m really surprised that (as far as I am aware) the economists still aren’t calling bullshit on the lost revenue from illegal downloads argument. Piracy is a massive opportunity, and those products and services which offer consumers better quality, access, features and speed than the pirates do incredibly well, look at Netflix.
SOPA and PIPA are purely about censorship, control and economic power wrapped up in a debate about protecting a niche national industry, and after seeing the concessions the US government make to its farmers and other primary industries I am not surprised in the least.
Is all this just about stopping Google linking to the Pirate Bay, or forbidding Redditors to talk about the bitrate conversions of torrent files and punishing Big Bang fans for downloading the latest episode as soon as it is avaible and watch anywhere and anyhow they like?
Like Cory Doctorow, I see this latest skirmish as part of a much longer campaign against general access computing ( I highly recommend watching this lecture), but perhaps we need a SOPA in order to win the bigger war. Laws so obviously broken like SOPA and PIPA are going to keep cropping up, each time the lobbyists chip away at resistance and get closer to their goals. The blackout protests today are giving the users of social media a glimpse of the apocalypse, but we can’t overcome the prescience of tyranny only its actuality.
I can’t seem to get past my initial response, which was to done the V mask and say something stupid like: Bring on SOPA! Bring on PIPA! Bring on the apocalypse already, give us bad laws so that we can laugh at you and work around you and when the criminal actions and lawsuits start to flow then may we band together to fight and show where the real power is.