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January 12, 2012


A Few, Admittedly Long Overdue Words On SOPA/PIPA

I apologize for not paying much attention to the Stop On-Line Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) legislation currently and rapidly winding their respective ways through the US House of Representatives and the US Senate. I'm not very good with technology-based issues, and the fervor with which both of these pieces of potential law have been opposed have managed to raise all of the usual sweeping drama, stance-taking and borderline histrionics that comes with an on-line cause. I find these things difficult to navigate. In fact, just now calling some of this rhetoric "borderline histrionics" is bound to make someone's head out there explode and brand anyone who would write such a thing as clueless or hostile or both. It's that kind of issue.

Both of these acts sound like bad law to me. I think they should be opposed.

imageTo that end, I've written the letters I usually write in these situations, put in the phone calls that I usually make to have my opinion registered and contacted via e-mail the people I know that seem useful to contact when Congress may be about to do something hinky. I'll do more in the days ahead as I'm able; by being so late to the issue, I have a very limited window with which to do anything. In terms of how these sets of laws might function, I'm essentially a small business owner that could be dramatically harmed by how this legislation vests power in the authorities to punish those who are simply believed to even tacitly support the targeted behavior. I'm also, incidentally, someone that believes that there's nothing noble about piracy and that for the most part people that believe this are acting like entitled children or as self-defeating, "that's just the way things are" mopes. (Granted, I have a lot of work to do so that my linking activity fully matches these beliefs.) My professional identity and general sympathy to the desire for legislation are two things I've decided to emphasize in my interactions. I really do oppose hardcore piracy; I think we need effective law to do so; I don't believe this will be effective law.

You don't have to have a direct interest to be involved. Being a voter, being a consumer, being a concerned citizen, being a citizen of the world that hopes for certain practices and policies from the US, these are also all perfectly legitimate avenues for letting your opinion be known on any issue, including this one. If you don't have the information on hand to make your opinion be known to your representatives, you can start here. I suspect that being mad on the Internet probably won't be enough. One aspect of the law's potential passage that's most disturbing is that US legislators are massively, almost humorously under-informed on technology issues; they're not likely to have access to your rage on a message board or see posts like this one.

The arts-comics publisher Fantagraphics came out against SOPA this week, and good for them. Marvel and DC, appendages of gigantic entertainment companies that have a huge interest in seeing piracy stopped no matter what and almost no interest at all in helping those that might be damaged that aren't shareholders -- and not even then, really, if you stop and think about it -- have signed on as corporate entities in support, and shame on them. If anyone out there is surprised that giant entertainment companies will act in their limited self-interest rather than for any conception of wider good, or even necessarily for the best overall outcome, if this is somehow the first time you've considered that the big funnybook companies may not be your friend, well, I'm not sure why this hasn't occurred to you before now but I'm happy to see your consciousness raised.

So: crappy law with potentially horrific implications not made any less crappy or horrific by the fact that we need better coverage on the issue. I'm going to do what admittedly little I can to see that it hopefully doesn't pass. I urge you to look into it yourself, and if you need to carve some time out to do so, I'll perfectly understand if you don't stop by CR for a couple of mornings. I'll still be here. If these laws are passed, there could come a time I might not be.

Does my use of the above image fall under Fair Use or other legitimate uses? Even if not, I'd rather not be shut down while someone figures it out...
 
posted 2:55 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
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