Unless you’ve been living under a rock — or don’t own a computer — there’s this big scary bill in Congress called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that, if you believe everything you read, will destroy the Internet as we know it. Thankfully, today it was announced that the votes have been postponed.
A good friend emailed me yesterday to ask for my thoughts on the bill. Having only done minimal research, I knew that I fundamentally disagreed with it, but I wanted to really hammer down why. So, after some reading and reflection, here are is a list of a few major problems I have with the legislation.
The law allows the U.S. Department of Justice and copyright holders to seek court orders against websites enabling copyright infringement (think YouTube clips of your favorite movie
). This punishes the wrong party. Punishing YouTube for users posting copyrighted material is like restricting Ferrari for creating cars because people are driving them over the speed limit.
YouTube is an incredible resource with millions of user-generated videos ranging from cute cat videos
to insightful educational talks
. It would be nearly impossible for YouTube to monitor all of its content, and under SOPA it would very likely the site would be forced to disappear all together — legal and illegal videos alike. That doesn’t seem fair.
Problem #2: The court order could also bar search engines from linking to the sites that enable copyright infringement and require Internet service providers to block access to such
Just like Problem #1, this stipulation punishes the wrong party. Comcast, Verizon, Yahoo and Google have committed no wrong here. In fact, they’re doing their jobs by providing accurate search results and internet access to millions of users. Why do legislators feel the need to push the burden of copyright infringement from the copyright holders (movie, TV, and music industry) to others?
The entertainment industry — which, make no mistake
, are largely behind this bill
— claims that pirating has cost the U.S. economy $250 billion per year. That number is very
exaggerated. Yes, they lose money. But think about the last movie you watched on Megaupload (rest in peace
) or the last song you downloaded illegally — would you have bought it? Eight times out of 10 I bet the answer is no.
Make no mistake. Pirating is bad. But let’s call a spade a spade — this is not a carefully considered bill, it is a quick power and money grab by the entertainment industry.