In his Op-Ed to the New York Times, RIAA head Cary H. Sherman bemoaned the “digital tsunami” that was the massive online movement against the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) and “Protect Intellectual Property Act” (PIPA). Barely able to conceal his disgust over what he saw as a “dirty trick” by Wikipedia, Google and dozens of online entities who rallied the public against the bills, Sherman wrote that the counter-lobby “raised questions about how the democratic process functions in the digital age.”
Typically I don’t agree with studio execs and talking heads but in this instance, Mr. Sherman is absolutely right… the revolt against SOPA DOES raise questions about how the democratic process works in the digital age… just not the questions he wants asked.
In Mr. Sherman’s world, which some might call the world of dying business models and outdated understandings of ownership, the democratic process was simple: the industry proposed a law, lobbyists paid millions of dollars into the campaign funds of congress members, the law passed with almost no public scrutiny, and the people were left wondering how a poorly written law came into being.
In the digital age, every bill has the potential to be dissected, analyzed and put up in lights on the Internet. In the digital age, the Internet is listening to independent news shows like “Tech News Today”, “Buzz Out Loud” and “Tekzilla” who offer cogent insight into whether or not a bill is good for the tech community and industry. In the digital age, the money trail is a lot harder to hide. In the digital age, the people can call foul when a bill suggests that the best way to protect content owners from piracy is to cripple the Internet, remove due process and give the recording industry carte blanche to turn every consumer of media into a criminal under watch.
In other words, the question that this movement raises is, “will modern communications technologies allow more of us to participate in the democratic process?” – The answer is a resounding, and thankful, “YES!”
There were plenty of reasons why the “Stop Online Piracy Act” and its senate counterpart, the “Protect Intellectual Property Act” (SOPA and PIPA) bills should never have been seriously considered as candidates for laws of the land. The bills were so poorly written, so massively consumer-unfriendly, so technologically incompetent, so completely hostile to the principle of due process that is fundamental to our way of governance that it seemed as if they were written by a MPAA hack and personally handed to Texas congressman Lamar Smith for rubber-stamping through congress.
And yet, though the bills were train-wrecks of legislation, the MPAA and RIAA spent millions of dollars lobbying for their passage. Indeed, they almost managed to push them through, just narrowly missing a December vote that would have flown under the radar of most Americans. Only a sustained Internet information campaign and protest managed to turn enough lawmakers to kill the bills.
With the bills now shelved indefinitely after a massive online and tech-sector backlash that saw Obama himself take shots at SOPA, former Senator Chris Dodd, now the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, had this to say to his former colleagues:
“Those who count on quote ‘Hollywood’ for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who’s going to stand up for them when their job is at stake. Don’t ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don’t pay any attention to me when my job is at stake.”
What? Could you please repeat that?
If you try to access Wikipedia today, you’ll get the graphic to the left. It’s part of a concerted effort on behalf of a few Internet giants to bring attention to the potentially disastrous consequences of passing the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA).
If you haven’t been following the SOPA drama, it’s a misguided attempt to shutdown piracy sites by breaking the Domain Name System (DNS) that runs the Internet: it’s the equivalent of deterring car theft by removing all of the world’s street signs… and it makes just about as much sense.
For just a minute, you can forget the hushed, rushed hearings and the desperate attempt by Rep. Lamar (R-Texas) to push through the bill before recess. For just a minute you can ignore the fact that SOPA would remove due-process. For just a minute you can close your eyes to the fact that SOPA wouldn’t stop piracy… and just acknowledge that this is what happens when the technologically illiterate try to make laws governing technology.
If you haven’t heard about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) you really need to pay attention because it’s a horribly written law that would change the fundamental structure of the Internet. More than 40 industry-leading companies have spoken out against the law, trying to explain that the law would destroy the infrastructure of the Internet while doing little to nothing to stop piracy. Even Lamar Smith, SOPA’s Texas-based republican author and backer, has been hard-pressed to come up with excuses to push the bill… and yet it still keeps coming.
In a letter from Frederick Iwans, general manager of 1&1 Internet, a few thousand customers have received a (mostly) layman’s explanation of why 1&1 has never supported SOPA. (Even as their direct competitor, GoDaddy, embraced SOPA and suffered the wrath of their customers.)
Have a read and decide for yourself…
You may have heard about Protect-IP (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) currently under consideration in Congress. If passed, among other things, SOPA requires Web hosting companies like 1&1 to police websites in order to prevent them from communicating copyrighted information on the internet. We would like to make sure you are aware of 1&1’s official position on SOPA.
As a global provider of domains and hosting services, we oppose the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) or Protect-IP (PIPA) Acts currently under consideration. While we observe the concerns of those who are troubled by the potential impact on protecting intellectual property online, 1&1 feels there is an urgent need to strike a balance between dissemination of and access to information and protection against its illegal use within the public domain.
The US government is currently reviewing SOPA and PIPA as possible ways to prevent unlawful distribution of copyrighted materials available on the internet. These current proposals, if passed, would allow for significant interventions into the technological and economical basis of the internet.
There will always be extremists and crazies on all sides. There will always be those who will take a metaphor literally. There will always exist a faction of society that fixates on that “one thing” that is “the problem” with everything. In that sense, we can’t place the blame for the tragedy in Arizona at the foot of Sarah Palin, the Teabaggers or the GOP. — People will always take other others out of context and we should not shy away from representing ourselves out of fear of how the 1% might act.
However… as the facts of the shooting come out, it’s becoming more and more clear that those who were screaming at Palin’s camp for being “irresponsible” and “hate mongering” were being prophetic. You can’t incite hate and intolerance without experiencing the consequence of the same. You can’t use hunting metaphors and not expect the crazies to “go rouge.”