Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I Didn't Black Out on January 18

Well, I didn't jump on the bandwagon and black my page out on January 18 like some of the websites I visit.

I suppose I should be more adamant in my opposition to the legislation, but I'll be honest, I'm not that tech savvy enough to make a call. If you twisted my arm, I'd be opposed. The SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) sounds good, but apparently websites like Wikipedia took a position that the SOPA legislation would harm the streaming of content on the web.

The SOPA bill makes me think of the Napster controversy from twelve years ago when you had this website that made it possible to download music without having to pay the artists who created it. I pretty much sided with Lars Ulrich who was the most visible opponent of Napster, simply because Metallica has the right to be compensated for their works.

But the problem with legislation like SOPA, as I understand it, it's too vague to actually work. It's supposed to protect intellectual property, but it doesn't specify what I can and can't download, so technically, I could be downloading a file off the web illegally without even knowing it.

It also means that websites like Wikipedia would be required to self-monitor their own website for improper usage. According to the website, they could link their users to website that infringes on copyright laws. How many sites does Wikipedia link to? Hundreds of thousands? Millions?

Perhaps lost in all of this discussion is the fact that the politicians attempting to pass this legislation have little clue if any how the internet works. I'm no internet genius myself, but I'm not writing the laws that govern how we use it. Furthermore, how long has the internet been a commodity we commonly use? Close to twenty years, and yet in that time, how many people have we elected to Congress that have the capacity to understand how the internet works? It looks like if we can put a number on it, it isn't much.

Take this quote from Adam Theirer who wrote after a November 16 Congressional hearing, "the techno-ignorance of Congress was on full display. Member after member admitted that they really didn’t have any idea what impact SOPA’s regulatory provisions would have on the DNS, online security, or much of anything else." I found this quote from a Wikipedia article that best sums up our elected officials' capacity to regulate the internet.

In the end, I don't know. It wouldn't have made a difference either way if I had blacked this page out. I'm still playing around with the gadgets. Even though you could copy a javascript code, I didn't know where to put it.


dmarks said...

I sided against Ulrich and his ilk for two reasons:

1) The called copyright infringement theft, which is the same as calling rape arson. Different crimes, different situations.

2) I mainly used Napster to download music that the record industry was too lazy to make available to me. Stuff from concerts or records long out of print. The whole lost compensation argument completely fails here, as there was no way to compensate artists at all for this anyway.

Ulrich killed the music. I was never likely to listen to Metallica regardless, but in the way of his big push for censorship, I made sure to download a few Metallica MP3's.

The same thing is going on with movies now. The big studios are too lazy to sell most movies, which makes downloading via Torrent flourish.

The SOPA stuff laws would be interesting and more supportable if they made it legal to download, distribute, etc for free any material that the music companies and movie companies are not selling.

Maybe that will force them to start selling the stuff.

metrichead said...

Shows you what I remember about Napster. I must have (and still am) looked at it too simplistically, like you just don't take things that don't belong to you without paying first (unless it's offered. Different age, different times.