On SOPA and PIPA
I’ve taken some time to form my opinions on this, months really... I've considered myself one of a relative minority of people who, being a more-oft-than-not simultaneously active participant in the Entertainment, Internet and Marketing spaces professionally, can offer a somewhat unique perspective on these bills.
I understand that Internet companies don’t want to inherit the burden for policing the rights of intellectual property holders. It makes monetizing their properties more complicated and difficult through advertising and other means. They make a lot of money off of advertisers like me who are active marketers typically in a handful of sectors at a time. It also poses some significant technology challenges, not just for information security but for general efficacy.
I understand that intellectual property rights holders don’t want to be ripped off. I’m an underground musician who has spent tens of thousands of out-of-pocket dollars putting out my work as much as I’ve been able to so far, with really no ROI other than just enjoying the process and the fact that a few people have enjoyed what I've done so far. I’m happy to have it paid attention to when that happens, but I’m not happy when someone presumes themselves entitled to download it for free absent cases where I've openly offered it as such. Everyone's got a sob story and there are much sadder ones one can have in life other than "I want but 'can't afford' to pay for that record/movie/book... (that I only want part of, or want but simply not that much etc.)." I’m getting closer, but I’m not yet to a place where I can regularly record and produce, moreover effectively market, records of a quality level that I'm proud enough of to put my name on. Piracy has always bothered me deeply as a content creator but it’s never been a primary deterrent to the creative process. When piracy rarely or never befalls intellectual property it's generally either because the property either is too unknown, or simply is too lacking in value. My lack of having developed my body of work has been more about the former than the latter. I'll resolve it when I can, and in the meantime accept obscurity as the price I pay for being uncompromising. It's just another dimension of my art being mine. Next time I cut a record I'll make sure I've budget left over and a road-map through which to actually promote it. Lesson learned.
I understand that the open Internet encourages not just expression and innovation but also disruptive change. As an actor specializing in voice work (whose clients are often advertisers), the forces of crowdsourcing, commoditization and globalization have pressured me to consider concession to lower rates than I would’ve had to concede to 10 years ago, to stay competitive in what is now a much larger labor pool. It makes me very happy that I occasionally get direct booking inquiries from potential clients as far away as Brazil, India or China (I’ve not gotten any from Russia yet but whenever I do, yes, I’ll do my BRIC dance). I accept that sometimes inquirers - and not just those overseas - inevitably ask me to work for a fraction of what my fees realistically need to be given my cost of living here in the secondary market that is San Francisco. I’d rather see myself technically able to work the global marketplace than be totally reliant on work strictly sourced through the primary markets of LA, New York and Chicago. The fact is without the current state of the Internet, supply/demand warts and all, I’d have much less work to my credit than I do today. I’d be largely unable to take bookings from clients directly as I sometimes do.
I understand how people say consumers need accessibility to the content they want, and will get it one way or another if/as they want it badly enough. However, we’ve come a long way from the days where kids would trudge over to their neighborhood record store, have trouble finding some of what they’re looking for, have the store put it on special order, find the store fails to procure it a month later, and then feel forced to hit up their friends so they could pirate it (off their vinyl, cassette or CD). That’s the pirate I was when I was a kid. I pirated music when I felt I had no other choice, and at that time I also spent more on artists’ music, merch and shows than I have at any other time in my life. I doubt ‘reluctant” pirates as such are out there anymore so much. Anyone with a bit of dedication can figure out how to find just about any relatively known artists’ work largely available for pirating through a few advanced Google queries, and arm themselves with proxies and other means with which to try to play cat-and-mouse with System Administrators. I also understand how this issue is more than just about movies and music, to be sure. That all said, American consumers have First Amendment rights. I love user-generated content when it’s good, and over the years I think it’s been getting better. Censorship would stifle that trend.
I understand that piracy is a huge and complex problem, that it could be called a double-standard to laud how technology can be a force for liberation and democratization while criticizing how it can be an enabler of theft. Both are totally true, but I see technology as a tool. What people do with it, people can create jobs and they can destroy jobs. I for one think that the tech space has done plenty of innovation, and it’s on the policymakers and entertainment industries to innovate in the ways they can, not just adapt. I can think of tactics that would help address this issue, in a way that would be more effective than sweeping, vaguely-written bills which by their nature may feel have impact nonetheless imply their authors still haven’t thought everything through thoroughly.
I’m not saying I have head-smacking-good ideas or even a lot of ideas, but that’s part of the point. We need to roll up our sleeves and think this through, painful and complicated as it is.
Full-time lawmakers, like full-time entertainment industry professionals, aren’t technologists. In addition to understanding business they need to also get the nuances of execution challenges of tackling these delicate, important issues.
Not that this is really a technology issue. This is rooted in technological evolution that has simply helped highlight moral bankruptcy both sell-side and buy-side. Piracy, in the ways it happens on American soil anyway, is principally a moral issue. I've never known legislation to be a mechanism capable of imparting morality, though.
I wish there were largely singular, simple answers that didn’t have potentially if not probably drastic implications. As far as I can tell the SOPA and PIPA bills, as currently written, wouldn’t meet that criteria.
A couple links worth considering, wherein you can see what a few others of have to say, also, compare the actual texts of these bills vs. a newer one that's been alternatively proposed:
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- 18.01.12 / 7pm