I make my living from intellectual property. My consulting services, my blog, my other writings and my forthcoming book feed my family. I believe that piracy is an awful thing. It harms our economy and kills jobs.
But the two bills under consideration by Congress—the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA – House Bill 3261) and Protect-IP (PIPA)—are deeply flawed, harm our economy and have the potential to kill even more jobs.
Worse, they won’t actually stop piracy.
Google has a great blog post explaining why that is. Or you can read this post on the New York Times or this one on the Atlantic showing how to work around current “blackouts” sites have enacted to protest the bill.
Obviously, these workarounds only address the self-imposed shutdowns, but they provide insights as to how determined pirates will be able to bypass the restrictions imposed by SOPA and PIPA. The Internet was designed to route around failures (a process known today as “the Streisand effect”). Roadblocks between consumers and content—even pirated content—look exactly like a “failure” to underlying Internet technology. The very nature of the ‘net prevents many of the measures SOPA proposes from working.
Worser still (yes, I know “worser” is not a word, but it feels right here), proponents of the bill cite examples of totalitarian censorship as positive evidence for the bill’s effectiveness:
“When the Chinese told Google that they had to block sites or they couldn’t do [business] in their country, they managed to figure out how to block sites.”
That quote is from former U.S. Senator and current Motion Picture Association of America head (i.e, “lobbyist”) Chris Dodd. Again, I’m not arguing that piracy is a good thing. But emulating the Great Firewall of China cannot be the right answer to the problem in a democratic society.
Yes, we need to find an answer. SOPA is not it.
Finally, it’s not like an alternative bill doesn’t exist. The OPEN Act offers an alternative that protects copyrights and ensures an open Internet.
I usually prefer to keep my politics close to my vest. I grew up in an era where politics, religion and sex were verboten in professional settings. But in this case, I’m asking you to contact your representatives in Congress and tell them to vote against this bill. It’s bad for our economy. It kills jobs. And, by the admission of its own backers, it moves the United States towards Chinese-style censorship.
To make it easier to contact your legislators, I’ve included a widget below that will let you call them directly. Or you can sign Google’s petition. Regardless, don’t sit on the sidelines for this one. Stop SOPA. The Internet you enjoy today depends on it.
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