Friday, January 20, 2012

US Government is Dropping the SOPA

Stories have flown in from all over the Interwebz, and as you would expect with that particular medium, most of it universally positive about how the evil SOPA is no more, and the Internet triumphs over evil corporate agenda-driven Hollywood. That's all well and good, and I do believe that on the aggregate, this is a huge win for numerous reasons. Here are a couple links to stories about it:

Mashable: SOPA Is Dead: Smith Pulls Bill
Techcrunch: SOPA Scorecard: Internet 1, Lobbyists 0

However, (and there is always a however), one of the better articles I read in response to the whole ordeal came from one of the trade pubs I work with for my job, Digiday. Here are a few highlights from the article:

"In reality, the only thing worse than the potential damage that SOPA might inflict is the wave of misplaced earnestness and hypocrisy displayed by much of the tech industry of late."

"In fact, however misguided some of the safeguards built into SOPA and PIPA are, it’s fundamentally about catching bad guys, not destroying free speech. And you should care about that more than you do.

"It’s striking still to this day how naive some in Silicon Valley can be when it comes to the media industry. Many in the business still parrot the libertarian thinking from the Napster era — information yearns to be free, you can’t cut off ideas, the Internet is a utopia, etc.

"Aren’t those days over? Google and Facebook are billion-dollar companies. This is about business, not philosophy or sociology. It’s time for some folks to ditch the bottle and start drinking from a big-kid cup."

I would encourage you to read the whole article to get it all in context, but the point about the Internet being a huge business is spot on. Just because we use it and don't pay a monetary fee to Google doesn't mean that it's not a business that is looking at ways to make money. The difference is that we don't understand how it works, so it's not "real" to us. We understand the transactional nature of paying for a movie. That's our money. We grasp that concept.

Yes, the Internet is a whole new world that plays by different rules, and yes, SOPA and PIPA amounted to Hollywood lobbying Congress to swing at a piñata. But Hollywood wasn't wrong to want to protect its investment any more than Internet companies are wrong wanting to protect theirs.

The fact that the MPAA has the balls to come out and say that SOPA protests are "a gimmick" and that they turn people into "corporate pawns" is patently ridiculous. Do you know of any person or group of people more ridiculous and myopic than movie/entertainment fanboys? Oh wait, maybe tech Apple fanboys....nevermind...

The overriding point is this: whichever side of this debate you fall on, you need to have a good reason for it, and "not having Wikipedia for a day pissed me off" is not any more valid than any argument the MPAA, RIAA or whomever hell else has made. Read articles. Form your own opinion. Educate yourself, so you're not part of the faceless masses who bitched and squawked because you didn't have Wikipedia for a day.

SOPA and PIPA are dead for the time being, but that, in and of itself, is not cause for celebration. As great as the response was across the country and as inspiring as it is that people found a voice, the reality of the situation is that it's like the rest of life--not a black and white issue in which one side is right and one side is wrong. Read up kids. This is just the beginning.

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