In response to my first post I received an email that brought up some good questions. I thought I’d share the conversation with everyone here:
I saw a news story on this legislation last night on PBS Newhour (not the network news, of course). I am glad to check with you about a couple of things since you’ve had the experience of this sort of strategy already. I am glad that you are getting involved in this; I assume that companies need to protect their own content better, but I don’t know how they can without some protections within the structure of law.
In 25 words or less, what should the legislation allow that would reduce or stop piracy? I know that is probably an impossible question, but I want to understand what alternatives would be better.
What is the time frame for the legislation’s passage? or defeat? How long do I have to write the Congressional representatives?
I’ve also heard that Wikepedia shut itself down today although I didn’t catch all the details. What good will that do?? Why aren’t they educating folks like me?
The legislation WAS going to be voted on tomorrow. In typical fashion, our representatives moved the date thanks to all the attention this “Stop SOPA” movement has received & the fact that sites are going dark today. Our elected officials are banking on the fact that the general public has a very short memory & are hoping this whole thing blows over and they can pass this when nobody is looking.
Much like how they held a special Saturday session to vote in the debt increase, specifically choosing a weekend so the publicity via the news outlets would be at the lowest possible point.
As such you now have a few more weeks to let your elected representatives know what you think about all of this.
As for Wikipedia shutting down, they have executed their strategy perfectly. They shut down to draw attention to the issue. SOPA/PIPA was first drawn up and proposed back in May 2011. NOBODY reported on it. Why? The proponents of the bill include the parents of Fox, CNN, MSNBC, Hearst Publishing, etc. In December they set a date to vote on the legislation for January 19th, 2012. Again, nobody reported on it.
However, when one of the most visited sites on the Internet suddenly goes dark & puts up a big banner saying “Stop SOPA”. THAT must be reported. How foolish would those media companies look if 5 of the top 10 websites suddenly went offline and they missed the story? Wikipedia forced their hand, giving much needed publicity via the traditional media outlets of print, radio, and television to the story.
If they didn’t do that, the event would never get reported. Here is a perfect example of this:
This morning on my way to work, Fox News was doing the typical morning report. They had literally a 30 second spot “Wikepedia is going offline to protest SOPA, along with dozens of other websites. … Full disclosure: Fox’s parent company fully supports SOPA.”. 30 seconds. That was all. They then did a 2 minute story about a woman at a gas station and the increase of lottery ticket prices. It was blatantly obvious that the reporter had been instructed to downplay and give limited exposure to the “SOPA Resistance”.
Re: Stopping Piracy
“In 25 words or less, what should the legislation allow that would reduce or stop piracy? I know that is probably an impossible question, but I want to understand what alternatives would be better.”
Here is the 25-word version:
The existing SOPA/PIPA legislation is fatally flawed and cannot be easily remedied. It needs to be completely scrapped and a different tact needs to be used.
Why do I say that?
The technical & social mechanisms that drive piracy cannot be remedied by legislation. No amount of law is going to address the fundamental problems. The problem needs to be addressed with a viable business model that addresses the needs that are being filled by piracy. Here are some of the factors involved in piracy that are completely neglected by SOPA/PIPA:
- Pirated content does not, and often is not, a single-source entity on a named server. You can shut down a site name like “ThePirateBay.org” but that is only a facade. The real content is hosted on a myriad a systems with names like “220.127.116.11” and “18.104.22.168”. Thus the SOPA/PIPA provisions to allow the US Government to shut down the name translation service (DNS) does nothing to prevent access to the content.
- People are pirating content because they can afford to. It is free. If these laws worked, which they won’t, then piracy would stop and magically $2.5 BILLION dollars would suddenly start flowing back into the economy. Really? Are people suddenly going to be able to afford that $4.95 for an online movie just because they can’t get a free copy on a rogue site?
- Pirated content often originates overseas. The content is already illegal to stream online. Yet it is readily available. Do you think “Xaun Wang’s Pirate Content” is going to shut down just because the US Government passed a new law? No.
“Ahh”, you say, “but the US Government can stop US citizens from going to Xuan Wang’s website with these new laws in place (censorship anyone?). THAT will stop them. Not even close. Anyone that has any clue about how to get pirated content has heard of a proxy. The basic principle is that you connect to a third party site in a “friendly location”, like the UK, which does not have a SOPA/PIPA law and they speak on your behalf t Xuan Wang’s site. Mr. US citizen is connecting to an allowed (non-censored) site and then routes through them to get their pirated content.
There are a thousand other things wrong with this law & quite frankly the groups of people doing this stuff are MUCH, MUCH smarter than nearly anyone we have passing the laws in this country. In the end you will only see these laws being abused by the large corporate megaliths in the old-school media & entertainment industries to squash anyone they don’t like. The sad part is they would not be in this position if they would innovate instead of litigate.