Tomorrow, Wednesday the 18th the internet is set to “black out” in response to the US Congress threat to vote on (pass) two bills which would greatly affect how we all consume the internet. SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) in the House and its counterpart bill PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) in the Senate.
Let’s start with this simple statement from me:
1) I know the value of Intellectual Property. I am a musician. I am a writer. I am a photographer. I occasionally demonstrate some other creativity that can be worth something to someone other than myself.
2) I understand more than just the basics of how IP works. I have a certification in IP Law from an accredited CLE University. I studied it as well both as an undergrad in the Music Business program and again as a Marketer in grad school as a centerpiece to my elective material. I also worked in the entertainment and communications industries for 15 years leveraging copyrights and to a lesser degree trademarks as part of my work.
3) I am an American citizen who truly respects the Constitution, which is why I wrote about the Importance of Copyright previously.
That being said, I truly believe that body of law surrounding IP rights and piracy is already very robust and the importation of draconian measures to create another layer of it is not going to contribute to better intellectual property being created or more money to be made from it. Rather, I feel very strongly that the execution of such a body of law would be infringing on the very elements that embolden most creators to create in the first place, by silencing them through imposed censorship.
Let’s break down the failure of SOPA & PIPA one step at a time… just so you see where I am coming from.
The economy sucks right now, sure. But the MPAA and RIAA would have us believe that the entertainment industry would contribute more to job growth if only piracy wasn’t undercutting their business models. It’s a nice play on the heart-strings of hurting Americans to think that these industries would suddenly change upon the laws passage and hire the near double digits of the unemployed. Sadly, though, that’s simply not true.
Even at their golden eras the two organizations memberships, and essentially all of entertainment based entities taking it further, didn’t amount to nearly the same percentage of the population employed as by the technology sector that would be castrated by the bills, nor did the entertainment industry contribute to the economy as a whole nearly as much. Consider how it would impact Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft if all of a sudden the rules of the internet drastically changed. Their stocks would tank throwing the exchanges in a tizzy collapsing the economy further. Add in AOL and Yahoo! (neither stock probably blows you away) plus Facebook and Twitter (who don’t have publicly traded stock) and it gets really interesting. Their layoffs would put multitudes out on the street. And, their sites and cloud servers being closed off would cripple eCommerce, mCommerce, advertising and the pathway for web communications and news distribution. Granted these are also tech giants and probably wouldn’t feel the immediate wrath of being flipped off, in part because of the legal ramifications of the bills that subdgicate due process. Take them out though and a number of internet powerhouses could still cripple the information superhighway including possible shutdowns of WordPress, Tumblr and other user content services and Stumble Upon, Reddit and related book marking sites.
Considering the ramifications, imagine Amazon without user reviews, or iTunes, or the Android Market or any other site that depends on them to help sell products through social recommendation, that would drastically change commerce, and probably not for the better. Under SOPA any reference to pirated material could easily turn a site to being in violation and the entire site could be shut down, so to avoid the shutdown the sites would be far less useful at thrusting dollars into the economy. It’s been shown in several studies that user generated feedback greatly impacts the off-line buying habits as well, which means removing it takes away total dollars, not just eCommerce dollars.
Let’s then take that whole thing one step further and note that most sites that have commenting also have advertising. These range from social nets like Facebook, Twitter and ironically MySpace (who’s owner Murdoch is a staunch advocate of the bill despite it’s potential impact on his online presence overall) to portals like Yahoo, AOL and MSN, to user-generated spaces like Blogger, YouTube, WordPress, Tumblr, Flickr, etc. These sites depend on advertisements, but their traffic is generated by just the kind of content creation that SOPA / PIPA could kill. Removing this content removes interest in the sites which in turn diminishes the economic return and affects ad networks, creative agencies, advertisers who depend on responses to make sales and so on.
Let’s build from this content removal angle for a second … It was proven long ago that financial gain is only part of the motivation for copyright creation and patent invention. Financial motivation is important, but so too are a number of other aspects of the process. The bills seek to only address big corporate financial gain from leveraging copyright while not acknowledging the overall value of intellectual property to all of the varying creators of it.
By working SOPA / PIPA in the way they are currently structered