You might not of heard of SOPA. Stop Online Piracy Act. The sentiment for the law comes from people on the internet that steal content. They steal songs, movies, and other creative media and resell it or adopt them as their own. Big Hollywood is the driving force behind the bill.
In the House, the bill is called SOPA, in the Senate it’s PIPA. The supporters of these bad bills don’t fall along party lines. For example, Lamar Alexander from Tennessee is a huge supporter. So is the very liberal Democratic Congressman John Conyers from Michigan. Those two would have trouble finding something cordial to talk about at the many DC cocktail parties. Yet, they are supporting a horrible bill. On the flip side, liberal Zoe Lofgren and conservative/libertarian Darrell Issa both are against the bill.
Just because the public knows the bill is bad doesn’t mean it won’t pass. Look at Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. Really bad laws get made all the time in Washington.
Why is it bad for the Average Joe?
Number one, they want to restrict your information. If enacted into law, someone could shut a site like mine down overnight, and own the domain name! Currently, we have a far left Democrat in the White House. Suppose his staff decided to shut down all the sites that are against his policies. Under SOPA they would have every legal right to do it. Now, maybe as a left winger you are smug and say, “those damn sites are full of misinformation and should be shut down.” Wait until the pendulum swings the other way and all the lefty sites are shut down. Huffington Post in print? I don’t think so.
Secondly, right now there is no limit on the creative freedom web developers have to create new sites. Sure, a lot of them are junk. But many of them are gems and make your daily life a lot easier. SOPA/PIPA will choke innovation. It will be much harder to innovate, and the costs of innovation will increase, making the use of the web more expensive for you.
Third, you might empathize with the most ardent supporters of SOPA/PIPA. The media industry. Hollywood is for it because they are sick and tired of the amount of online piracy that goes on. Will SOPA stop it? The answer is a resounding NO. People will still pirate, steal and reprint stuff that’s not theirs. There will always be an underground economy of stolen junk. Just because it’s illegal to make fake Rolex watches or fake sports jerseys doesn’t mean they have gone away. The best remedy is education.
Here is a different scenerio. Suppose Wall Street not only wanted to control distribution of products, but information flow on those products They might lobby to shut down sites like Stocktwits, The Street, Ycharts, and other information sites people use freely every day so that they could charge for their research. Seem far fetched? Expect out of the ordinary things to happen if SOPA passes.
The media industry is terrified of the continued assault on its loss of distribution control. They want to dictate what you watch and listen to, when you do it and how it happens. However, technology is moving so fast that they are losing. Their answer isn’t to adapt and find new ways to profit off the new technology, but legislate a regulatory barrier to entry to stop innovation. Innovation is hard. It takes coming up with new ideas and transforming them into useful products people will buy. Much easier to try and buy some legislation in Washington.
Remember when iTunes came out and you only had to buy one song instead of a whole CD (or if you are old like me an album)? The knock against country stars was they would have an album full of crap with one good song on each side. Now, you don’t have to buy the crap. Record sales are way up compared to what they were in the 1970's, 80's or 90's. That might not happen under SOPA. You’d still have to deal with crap.
I highly encourage you to contact your elected representatives and tell them to vote against SOPA/PIPA. It will kill innovation, kill some businesses, kill information and most of all, kill your freedom. Click the little black ribbon in the upper corner of the screen and learn more about it.