prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Think Twice about SOPA and PIPA

Posted by prof e on January 18, 2012

If you plan to work in the media industries as a professional content creator, you need to pay close attention to the current debate over SOPA and PIPA. The two bills being debated in congress are designed, with substantial input from lobbyists representing “old media” interests, to shut down global websites that profit from the illegal distribution of copyrighted material: music, films and TV shows primarily. The issue is being framed by internet and new media companies (largely located in Silicon Valley) as a battle for internet freedom of expression and the rights of end users. Several major internet sites have gone black today or have modified their home page to express solidarity with the protest movement. But what about the rights of individuals and companies (largely located in NY & LA) that create media content?

Much of the early discussion that I’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter has bought into the new media companies’ arguments that this attempt to curtail copyright infringement will stifle creativity and growth on the internet. Others argue that the regulatory oversight will amount to censorship of creative expression. This is completely understandable from the perspective of those who are end users of content rather than creators. For the average consumer, more access to free content seems like a good thing. However, if you’re thinking that you’d like to work in the media industry as a content creator, you might want to consider what the future holds for you if creativity is not rewarded and protected.

Copyright laws exist to protect intellectual property and to reward the creative community for their investment of time and resources in the creative development process. Music, video and film content does not create itself, and those responsible for its creation and distribution deserve legal protection from those who would like to acquire, redistribute, or aggregate that content for their own personal or corporate benefit.

Now, while it may be clear that I am in favor of reasonable protection for copyright holders, I am not convinced that SOPA and PIPA are well-designed legislative tools to accomplish that goal. The video below points out some of the weaknesses of these bills and raises serious questions about their practical application.

So, what do you think about SOPA and PIPA? Bad idea? Good idea? Good idea poorly executed?


8 Responses to “Think Twice about SOPA and PIPA”

  1. Alexander said

    Hi Sam, good to see you’re back hosting interesting topics. I’m glad you decided to present this one after all. I have a limited amount of free time to comment on this one, but I think this is one of the most important issues in the U.S. today.

    Regardless of the politics and ethics behind these late moves and legislative agendas, there’s no question that in less than 5 years from now the internet will be entirely different than it is now, but the question in my mind is: is it (the net) even a free and open source to society TODAY? Private interests are (have been) moving to put the squeeze on content sharing to minimize and streamline competition to maximize profitability for some time now, but will the complacent, apathetic, and unabashedly stupid average American citizen sit back and watch New Media consolidation take place as they did for traditional print and broadcast media?

    I think so. I think you can get a website creator to quickly sell her/his soul for an advertising spot on the site quite easily, so the question has never been about WHETHER new legislation designed to yoke the internet should be introduced but WHEN. I think the prudish fear mongers who lament the notion that anything they come across in a free society might appear indecent, or, at the very least damaging to their sanctified and frail moralistic sensibilities. They’ll beg their keepers, i.e. politicians and other opinion leaders, to protect and shape their values and thoughts on these issues, and the keepers will gladly do so. After all, things are becoming ridiculously dangerous on the web these days, citizens are digging up dirt on the government and sharing it for free; journalism is getting out of control once again; people are flirting with the truth and makin’ moves, but, wait, a parent who wishes to protect their child with lies about Santa Claus, Jesus, and the Creation of the scientific method has every reason to be concerned that those beliefs might change for experiencing the World Wide Web of lies online; little Billy or Susie might see a clip of Janet Jackson’s 40-plus-year-old-booby online, if not on TV, and they might not be ashamed about it; this is unacceptable; therefore, let’s deploy a terrible idea PERFECTLY EXECUTED, let’s have law makers design unnatural laws to protect our values and symbols. Let’s move from puritanical thinking about broadcast indecency and apply it to the net. Let’s do this incrementally. Let’s set Supreme Court precedent after precedent so the Law is fully behind and over us, so nobody notices. Let’s wrap the internet with Old Glory. Let’s imprison citizens indefinitely for betraying secrecy, endorsing radicalism, endorsing or supporting terrorism, whatever those arbitrary distinctions mean. Let’s protect the children from bad dreams. Let’s protect our right to extort money.

    On the other hand, the media owners will concoct an argument about protecting freedom, the American way, the right to patent everything imaginable, the right to attach advertisements and obscure Brand Identities to every idea, at any price gullible fools vote for, with their dollars and clicks, in the retail consumer democracy we love. We’ll gladly sop up this giant bowl of crap & gravy too, with biscuits of pride about the entrepreneurial spirit. That’s how they git ya, if you can’t own it, well, you can certainly subscribe to it; they’ll even form a bank to lend to you the credit to do so, a website to train yourself on how to be a good American.

    Hooray for inverted totalitarianism, oops, I mean the power to vote for leaders who make laws designed to protect democracy and ensure serfdom, oops, I meant freedom the power to become a corporate citizen.

  2. Alexander said

    Whoa, I need to tone it down a bit. Let’s see if I can focus the contention a bit better.

    First, the arguments FOR this legislation that I’ve come across frame the exchange and sharing of information over the internet as pure and simple thievery. The legalistic rhetoric of copyright infringement law used by such people intentionally invokes scary imagery of a devious pirate who boards your Internet boat and robs you of your personal belongings at sword point. Gimme all yer booty, AaaarrrGH!!!!

    This is pretty stupid, just ordinary fear mongering. Not once have I ever come across an intelligent voice who feels it’s OK to steal or use someone’s PERSONAL property simply because they’re too cheap or too lazy to CREATE such content on their own. Not to say there aren’t people who will get away with downloading music and movies if they can, just that that behavior is a SYMPTOM of a larger issue. The reality is: most people see the internet as a place to collaborate and improve upon ideas, and many people ask for or offer consent to change and use the material to this aim. This is really quite natural to human societies. It was called barter and trade back in the day. People gave something they had for something they needed; things worked well. We shared ideas.

    There’s another bogus opinion floating about the public discourse; that there are two classes of people: those who PRODUCE and CREATE the content, and those who are merely CONSUMERS and END USERS. This is just another way of saying there are superior JOB CREATORS, and subservient labor serfs who just want a job and are too dumb to start businesses of their own. This is the language of Class Warfare people; a war that is actually happening, whether you believe it or not.

    “They” desire you to think: private property is an inalienable right; you have the right to own anything you can patent; whether you conceive of and design intellectual products like media, or, if you happen to own a piece of land with a giant freshwater aquifer buried beneath. You have the right to sell to peasants ACCESS to the product you own, and, you have the right to distribute the freshwater, coal, oil, and whatever other natural resource EVERYONE needs, as long as the law says you have the authority to control it. This is what this SOPA and PIPA legislation is really about: commoditizing the internet so that is no longer free, and, so that information cannot be disseminated without some measure of control.

    This legislation is also about preventing troublesome hacker groups, who publish government secrets, from foiling Big Government secret agendas and war crimes, not to mention ANY individuals who dare challenge the status quo.

    Notice the distinction between PERSONAL and PRIVATE property. Private Property is legalese for monopolizing some commodity of some sort, tangible and intangible, and it is how power is harnessed and manipulated by the government, the corporations and so on.

    Of course, it is wrong to flat out take someone’s personal belongings without permission. There should be minimal laws to prevent this.

    However, the knee-jerk response to the admonishment of Private Property is to say that those who don’t like the implications of property laws are by default: Communists, Hippies, Socialists, and even dirtier — Pirates! If you’re against private property, you’re anti-American; you hate free enterprise; and you believe people shouldn’t benefit from their hard work and creativity. This is all BULL$H!T folks, and it’s a lie.

    It doesn’t get any more narrow minded than the type of debate you’re being asked to have by pundits, politicians, and private profiteers. They frame this discussion so that you end up voting against your own interests, your real freedoms to have access to all the things that exist naturally that don’t in any way require fiat currencies to buy.

    You’re born to a planet with all the clean air, flora and fauna resources ever needed to food clothe and house you indefinitely. All that matters is how those resources are organized, improved upon and shared. The moment you place the obstacle of money in the way of having access to the things you need to live, the instant your enemies, real and imagined, seen and unseen, appear. And poof! Suddenly there is such a thing as a Communist, a Capitalist, A Republican and a Democrat. It’s all bull$h!t.

    The reason this legislation is SOOO far over reaching is because it is designed to be paired down just enough to appease staunch critics. A legal precedent will be set with its passing, and with this revision to the law, the grounds for more and more prosecutions and censorship and modifications to the original law and control over your lives will exist; the laws will continue to become more and more restrictive, placing the majority of power into the hands of the “owners,” just like it happened for old media. Wake up People! This government is more corrupt than the phony partisan, Liberal VS Conservative, rhetoric would have you believe. They want you to think in these moronic terms. Don’t do it.

    This legislation is a BAD idea PERFECTLY EXECUTED.

  3. Desarey Balloon said

    Me being a college student, the internet has become our only source and means of communication sometimes. Not only has college students found some means of entertainment but some brands rely on the internet to connect to their consumers and keep customers coming back. This isnt’t just going to be a walk in the park for the government to try and censor the internet or take some sites away, for some people there will always be a way around it. This may eliminate jobs in society for those who do create the webiste. I honestly do not believe it is the individual creating these sites and reaching an audience, but parents who don’t monitor what their children view. At some point i believe the government should have thought into the future of the power and influence this device would have been for society and any how they could keep it from reaching an audience that may not be approriate to view. Not now that thing are boiling over, is it time to create rules and place limiations on what could be placed on the internet. If you do not want your child exposed to these factors, i believe parents are the only ones who can decide that.

  4. Corey Sullinger said

    The internet has become an easy way to spread media and communicate. SOPA and PIPA seem to be aimed at strictly enforcing copyright laws. It would appear that if SOPA and PIPA made it through most the internet would be removed or so heavily censored that it would be like trying to read FBI files that have been blacked out. Think about it, if people cannot pirate movies/ect. does that mean they will go and buy it? There’s no definite way to no that answer but it could go either way, because those people apparently found it pointless to pay for in the first place so chances are they aren’t going to just decide to go buy it. It would seem that even trying to preview a movie or song would be imposable under SOPA and PIPA. This adds to the fact that people are probably less likely to go out and purchase something if they do not want to waste money on something they do not know if they will really like. SOPA and PIPA restrict the capabilities of the internet to the point of frustration, which would ultimately lower the value of the internet. From Metcalfe’s law if the value of a network is “n” squared(n being connected users), then this vast restriction will diminish the amount of connected users and thus truly lower the value of the internet. In the long run it would seen that SOPA and PIPA will only end up destroying the internet as we know it and hinder rather than help the copyright laws which would benefit from it.

  5. Eddie Hansen said

    Is Hollywood dead or dying? Why the latest push to regulate the internet? A video discussion speaking to issues mainstream media perusers won’t have seen:

  6. Brandyn b said

    I think just about every kind of software that you can go to the store and buy you can also steal off the Internet via sharing sites such as rapid share and the pirate bay.On these sites you can find anything from a single song to a whole artists discography.i can easily see why many people are begging to find this to be a problem.
    I think that every artist should be able to deserve full credibility for what they created.however the truth of the matter is there is just no way to stop piracy. It’s just way way to easy.i don’t think until they shuting down mass amounts of sharing sites nothing will change.There is even applications on iPhones and iPads that are getting cracked and being downloaded for free. Sopa and pipa are the biggest impact I have seen thus far due to the amount of piracy. However I do not believe these systems are going to have the power to put an end to piracy. Maybe if the penalty was enforced more people would think twice next time before sailing the seas of software.

  7. Tyler Stone said

    I think this is a pathetic attempt of the government to regulate the world. Do they really think they can choose what goes or stays on the internet?? To me that just seems absurd. I like most people think that artists do deserve to be credited for their work, but there will always be piracy out there it just changes. Before big peer to peer sharing websites were available there were bootleggers copying dvds and selling them for ridiculously cheap. Now instead of doing that they can just go online and download movies or tv shows or whatever. Piracy will and cannot ever be eliminated completely. There will always be the people that will do whatever it takes to go around it. As far as blocking the internet I feel like not only will the government take a lot of creativity from the world but they will also eventually destroy or consume sites like facebook and twitter until no one will go on the site anymore for fear of getting fined. With mega sites like these down all of the marketing that companies throw into these sites will be destroyed hurting individual businesses. All around I think this is a horrible idea and should not be passed under any circumstance.

  8. John Geonetta said

    I believe everyone has a right to protect his or her property. The music, film, and software industries are no different. They have a right to protect their intellectual properties. But SOPA and PIPA are poorly executed measures to accomplish their goal. Ultimately, all these measures will do is curb creativity and downsize the drive to create new media. The measures will also bring us closer to China’s Great Firewall and their national censorship system. But the only people hurt by this, will be the lawful users and creators of media. Unlawful users are already creating or have created ways around the supposed governments controls.

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