My Take on SOPA/PIPA

SOPA is the acronym for “Stop Online Piracy Act,” and PIPA stands for “Protect Intellectual Property Act.” With slightly different language, both are U.S. bills intended to curtail online piracy and copyright infringement. Unless you’ve been asleep at the wheel over the past week, this was big news that had many sites shut down for a day in protest, including the popular news site, Wikipedia.

I live in Canada. Should I even be concerned about a bill that passes in the States? The answer is a resounding “yes.” As we all know, the Internet does not have border crossings. Laws enacted south of us will eventually make their way here. I’ve not written on this subject until today, as I’ve tried to reserve my judgment until I gathered the facts. In doing so, what I found the most appalling were the lawmakers behind SOPA/PIPA.  Over the past week, Congress and officials with titles behind their names as “members of the intellectual property committee” have spoken about their reasons for supporting the bills and come off as (to put it politely) out of touch and clueless as to what the Internet even is. And these are the people who are supposed to legislate my access to intellectual property—I could not write a better oxymoron if I tried.

As an author, I am, of course, in favor of not having my work pirated, however, my work is out there on the Internet. On Amazon, I have free pages to entice readers to buy my book. The reason authors do this is to market their work and attract readership. The more people ‘pirate’ a book, the more likely they will purchase it. Even in the real world, no one wants to throw down their hard-earned money on something they know nothing about.

I’m also not of the mind that my work is original intellectual property. As writers, we recycle the same themes over and over. The only thing that sets me apart is my unique spin on these themes and my deftness of wordplay. At the end of the day, the most important thing for a writer is to have their work read. Period.

I know that for me, the more often I hear a song, or watch a film clip, the more likely I am to buy the CD/DVD or pay money to see the film. I feel it works the same way with literature.

As for who these bills protect? My guess is the large movie studios, record labels, and publishing houses— not indie artists like me. Today, the legislation overseeing piracy on the Internet is the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act). It allows culprit websites to take down pirated content within a specific period after receiving a notice. This act has been in place since 1998. Though it’s not perfect, it has been working. I must wonder why SOPA/PIPA have come about. I hate to use the dirty C-word, but I am always wary when government gets its hands on free enterprise. Censorship has no place on the Internet, and these acts are  just that—albeit cloaked up in sheep’s clothing as something that protects your rights and mine.

I don’t buy it, and judging from the protests of the past week, neither do you.

Note:  As of this writing, the bills have been set back and have lost a lot of their initial supporters, however, they are capable of resurrecting in some amended form that could still be detrimental to the open Internet. For all those who use this medium, no matter where you live, it’s worth staying informed.

eden

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26 Comments

Filed under Craft of Writing, Revelations & Humor

26 responses to “My Take on SOPA/PIPA

  1. Nervous times, Eden… and while, like you, I’d prefer if people buy my books or take advantage of free offers instead of pirating, it’s a fact of life. You’re right that this smacks of more corporate controls and censorship. Hoping there’s enough uproar and that the threats (followed through on!) by hackers to shut down DOJ and FBI sites (among others) are taken seriously.

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    • Agree, Patti. It’s quite obvious it’s not people like us who are screaming piracy.
      “Big Brother” controls at the hands of those who are ill-informed scares me the most. Thanks for your comment,
      eden

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  2. One hundred years ago it was the rights of the workers, the turn of the century–woman’s rights. In the 60’s it was civil rights. In the 21st century, privacy will be the fight–and if we lose this battle, we will be lost.

    Never in my nearly 50 years of life have I been more worried about the path our country is taking…this is but a symptom of something foul and decaying in the US. What was once a beacon of freedom and free speech slowly inches toward a controlled, technologically advanced fiefdom.

    Great post Eden…and save me a bed in the guest room. T & I might need it.

    RB

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    • RB,
      Like you, I’ve seen the progress, or learned about the events through history. They’ve put the U.S. on the map as the most powerful country in the world, so I know any bills they pass regarding a worldwide medium cannot possibly be delegated just to America. After all, it’s the worldwide web, not the USAweb.

      As “citizens of the world,” we all need to be concerned with our rights to have access to information, and to have it without controls imposed on it by a minority of officials who haven’t a clue as to the implications of their decisions.

      Thanks for your comment, and you and T are always welcome to stay with me should you defect from your native land!
      eden

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  3. Couldn’t agree with you more. There has to be a better way to deal with the issue than this.

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  4. Very insightful post and totally agree with you, Eden.

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    • Thanks Junying for your support. You in England, me in Canada, and the bills originated in the U.S.
      I can’t imagine how we would ever gain by losing the freedoms we have now to access information worldwide.

      eden

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  5. I agree, Eden. Who will be harmed by a bill like this? Honest, hardworking small enterprises, writers, playwrights, musicians and the readers and listeners.
    The dishonest will quickly find a way around any law that is stopping them from making an easy buck.

    The copyright laws are already in place but enforcement is lagging. A new law will not help.

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    • Thanks Dannie for reading , and yes, the laws are in place and have been working – targeting specific offenders. SOPA and PIPA are less transparent and give the government more power to shut down sites at will—and that’s scary.

      eden

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  6. Ironic that the USA, a country built on the Frontier Thesis, would try to limit the internet, the last great frontier.

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  7. Eden, I know we’ve already had a discussion about this, but I have to say you’ve put out a sensible and down to earth article here that’s well written and presented. There was a need for some clarity and a piece of writing that is informative; you’ve provided that thank you.

    So what next? If the processing of this legislation has been, as you say, set back, we still can’t afford to drop our guard. As with all controversial legislation that is widely unpopular – and there’s plenty of it going on in the UK at the moment – we must keep our eyes on it, because, wherever there is a powerful lobby in support of such legislation, sooner or later it will resurface and if we haven’t got our eyes on the ball, it’ll slip through under the radar!

    Long live the internet.! Long live the power of social media.!

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    • Hear! Hear! Thanks for your comment John.
      Agree we have to be diligent as consumers who use the Internet. Government tactics in these cases are sometimes like criminal businesses going under. They resurface with different names yet still flog the same wares.

      eden

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  8. Lance

    I was all Occupy Internet! This sucks! Go to hell Congress! then I started reading the twitter accounts of Johnny Marr and Juliana Hatfield.

    Both artists are now dependent on the internet to promote their music. They have to swallow hard when people rip them off downloading their songs illegally. But Juliana’s tweets were particularly poignant. She pointed out that Google and the other internets giants weren’t really protesting artistic freedom or wild west lifestyle on the internet. They were protesting money being lost if some sites and pages were blocked.

    Her point and mine? SOPA/PIPA isn’t about freedom or speech or expression, it’s about money and who gets it.

    Good post

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    • It’s all about balance – were it not for the Internet to showcase my work – I wouldn’t have a voice, or it’d be much harder to get visibility. The days of putting flyers in mailboxes to advertise are long gone. On the flip side, there is the obvious danger of having my work ripped off.

      And yet, as musicians, writers, indie artists — we need to use the Internet to market ourselves. There’s nothing else that can provide as much exposure and worldwide connectivity.

      Agree with your point that the influencers of these bills are not about protecting consumers at the artistic level. They are about protecting the huge congloms behind the mega-artists who line their pockets. Translation: money speaks.

      Thanks for your comment, Lance,

      eden

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  9. Sorry to reply so late, but I figured late was better than not at all. Especially since copyright infringement is a topic that burns me, in more ways than one.
    I agree these bills won’t do much to protect the small indie publishers, writers, musicians, etc. Nor will it do anything to prosecute the sites and it’s members that are truly guilty of digital theft. The bills “protect” the big guys.
    As one of your other commenters pointed out, it would be best to enforce the current copyright laws, for everyone not just the big guys, than to make up new laws.
    I, for one, am tired of scouring the internet, spending time searching for my work being illegally offered, writing take down notices, etc. All that time could be spent writing a story. If the lawmakers took the current laws seriously and actually enforced them, maybe, just maybe, the time I spend writing and sending take down notices would be cut in half.
    Great post, Eden!

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    • Casey, you are probably more aware of your rights as a writer than most, and I commend you for going after those who’ve stolen your work.
      It’s always a fine balance between control and censorship, so though the message is well-meaning, ie: protecting your rights and mine — the methodology is flawed. To put power into the hands of a few to shut down sites is dangerous. At the end of day, who is overseeing their power?

      eden

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  10. This is a super important issue and I could really go on and on in a righteous fury about how flawed and slippery I think it is, but I will refrain. I will say that I agree with you completely and this is in issue that we need to keep an eye on.

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  11. Sid

    Excellent points, Eden. It’s important we all keep on top of this issue.

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  12. Eden, great blog…I think people don’t understand how much this affects us all. I have been reading articles on the net and people have posted comments and I’m shocked at their reaction. They just don’t get it.

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