Thursday, January 19, 2012

Stop The MCP! I mean SOPA/PIPA!

I'll use the internet blackout day as an excuse for not putting this up last night.  SOPA/PIPA are bills currently in the U.S. Congress that are intended to clamp down on piracy of music, movies, and bootleg designer merchandise over the internet.  However, the bills offer the federal government the ability to shut down websites with little or no due process.  It is also very vague about who can be targeted for shut down, meaning legitimate file sharing sites that people happen to put copyrighted material up on could be completely shut down.  This alone puts a huge dent in much of the push to the cloud that so much of the internet is moving to.  Of course, like any government mandated action, it's going to cost tons of money, on the part of businesses that have to monitor their services and on the part of the government to enforce these rules.  If this runs up the cost of doing business on the internet, then as we have seen in the past with numerous production plants, refineries and other businesses that have packed up and left the U.S. due to overbearing environmental, labor, and tax laws, then the business done on the internet will drop. 
This is sadly nothing more than another huge power grab by the federal government.  Why these bills even made it to the floor is evidence that we desperately need to clean house in Washington.  To top it off, nothing in these bills is really going to have any affect on the proposed target, intellectual property piracy.  It's still going to happen. 
Which brings me to another point that hasn't come up much in this debate.  The mainstream movie and music industry is not adapting to the modern landscape.  They are still trying to hold onto a business model that doesn't hold water in the new digital age.  For example, people get dinged on Youtube for using copyrighted music in their video, even though many of those videos pull up ads for the artist that is being used, offering the opportunity to buy the music, as well as increasing exposure for the artist, which is difficult to quantify, but as the old saying goes, there's no such thing as bad press.  Having a million listens on a streaming site shows record companies that people like your music, increasing the odds of keeping that record deal or giving the execs a reason to support tours, TV appearances ect.  What is really amazing is that so many non mainstream artists, from musicians to film makers and others have quickly adapted to the internet, often times using many of those targeted file sharing sites to legally distribute their material, and make money through other means, such as licensing, advertisements on the artist's website, and merchandising.  Big Entertainment, instead of adapting (or maybe generating higher quality product that people are more willing to pay for), is trying to use their money to work the legal system, creating laws that work in their favor.  (Don't believe me about the money?  As soon as Obama announced his plans to not sign the bills, numerous Hollywood sources declared they will not be contributing to O's reelection campaign.  I imagine following the money and checking the bills sponsors will show some large campaign contributions from many of those same sources.)  Much of the Federal government is going along with the plan  because 1) as was mentioned, Big Hollywood generates a whole lot of cash for our representatives and 2) as was also mentioned, the proposed solution offers Big Government more power over a notoriously unregulated source of information, organization, protest, and education.
I'm really starting to sound like I should be sitting in a park with a V for Vendetta mask on, but this is a serious issue.  Pirating intellectual property is a bad thing, but there are already laws in place to fight it.  These bills are poorly thought out, overreaching, empowering the wrong people, and last but certainly not least, not what our government needs to be focusing on and getting done. 

Prime source for information and updates as these progress The Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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