Instead of offering any sort of constructive ideas on how to curb piracy, Sopa’s opponents say the music industry should move with the times, not hold on to an old business model. Yet, despite many of them declaring themselves entrepreneurs, they can’t offer any valid suggestions of what that business model might be. Quality content is not cheap to make, hence why online ad-funding has not managed to save some of the world’s best newspapers from running at a loss and cutting staff. We may not see the repercussions of it now, but a Wikipedia-style blackout of all music, television and film would give a taste of what’s to come if we do nothing. Maybe then these technology companies would realise there is something to lose, even for them. Believe it or not, there’s a limit to how many cute animal videos one can watch on YouTube.
Seriously? You’re going to Atlas Shrugged us? (or should that be Atlas Shrug us?)
“While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”
- The White House, responding this morning to a petition on SOPA and online piracy
Let me put it this way. When a kid singing a Justin Bieber song in his bedroom on YouTube risks jail time, the bill is flawed… Actually, I do advocate imprisonment for anyone singing Justin Bieber songs, so that’s a bad example.
I am not a hacker.
But in my recent research, I’ve talked with a lot of them. Not just the “lololol we r legion” kind either. The real deal. Guys who now work for McAfee or run their own security contracting firms. When I asked them about whether further government restrictions on internet behavior, like SOPA and PROTECT IP, would limit piracy, their response was unanimous:
Clever pirates will always find a way. Clamping down on the entire web will only punish those with good intentions and push those who wish to download terabytes of copyrighted content further underground.
The following is a quote from Phil Zimmerman, creator of PGP, one of the most important pieces of technology of the 20th century. It’s from an interview that will appear in my upcoming book:
I think that there’s something grotesque about having the internet turned upside down just for the entertainment industry. When you look at how much economic activity is driven by the internet and compare it to that of the entertainment industry—the entertainment industry is not that big! It’s a small part of it.
For the entertainment industry to have this control over the internet…it’s like if auto industry was assembling cars at the command of companies who manufacture FM radios. Imagine if the people who make FM radios had absolute control over where highways can be built, and dictate crashworthiness. It’s perverse. This is an example of powerful lobbies purchasing legislation.
The problem here isn’t the copyright issue. One could go on forever about how this will smother entrepreneurship in the tech industry because big companies like Google, let alone web startups, won’t be able to afford to hire moderators to continuously monitor their user content, let alone a team of lawyers to fight copyright claims. Recent statistics show that 48 hours of video content are uploaded to YouTube alone every minute. Can you imagine what it would cost to monitor that volume? This blunderbuss approach puts the U.S. government in a position of editorial control that we previously would have criticized China for allowing, only to support broken business models and expand the perpetual game of whac-a-mole that is online piracy.
The potential for collateral damage of free speech is real and opens up the possibility of bad actors only needing to accuse a site of some minor copyright infringement in order to silence free expression that might be happening there.
Fucking LOL, right?