Notice the “Stop Censorship” ribbon at the upper right? You may also have noticed that last Wednesday a number of prominent websites, including Google, were “blacked out.” Google only blacked out its name; but some other websites partially blacked out by removing content.
Why? To protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
For decades, the music and motion picture industries have been crying “wolf” ad nauseam that the latest technological advance will bankrupt them. The “wolf” these days is the Internet.
I wonder how many of you remember the 1984 Supreme Court decision of “Sony vs. Universal City Studios?” (“Sony” and “1984” are the big hints if you think about what technological gizmo was big then.) The vote was just 5-4 in favor of Sony.
Give up? It was the “videotaping is copyright infringement” case. The motion picture industry had taken the stance that videotaping a TV show violated their copyright. Had there been just one more vote in favor of their stance…. (I believe that today’s Supreme Court has the five votes to support the motion picture industry, so it’s lucky the case isn’t being decided today.)
But the Supreme Court ruled that taping a TV show for personal use, without commercial use or gain, did not violate copyrights. Hollywood predicted its demise. But of course that didn’t happen.
That was not the first time the music and motion picture industries have engaged in the hysteria of technological Armageddon. It happened before the VCR, it has happened since then, it is happening now with the Internet, and it will continue happening. They will never stop crying “wolf” because they have the campaign contributions to convince many in Congress that the technological shadows they see are wolves.
What I find…interesting…is that “small government” Republicans are too often enthusiastic about using the power of government in a sledgehammer way. That’s what SOPA is…a sledgehammer.
A few days ago, the Justice Department shut down a major website involved in piracy. So it is clear that existing laws and mechanisms are adequate. But the motion picture and recording groups believe that there is no level of collateral damage that is unacceptable to protect their interests. Which is why the wanted to stop the VCR. And why they brought SOPA to willing sponsors. (You don’t think anyone in Congress actually wrote the bill?)
Fortunately, it looks like SOPA is on its last leg. Already, prominent Republicans who initially supported it have come out against it, such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who withdrew his name as a sponsor of the Senate bill. The backpedaling began after the “blackouts” by well known Internet sites.
Think about this: why did all those Congressional folks who initially supported SOPA support it? Did they not know what was in the bill? If they did not, why did they support it? (Big cash contributions to their reelection campaign?) If they knew what was in the bill, why are they no longer supporting it? (Hint: same reason cockroaches run when a light is turned on.)
Some folks might say: “this shows the system is working.” I’d say it sounds like the Captain of the Costa Concordia, whose excuse for leaving his ship is that he tripped and fell into a lifeboat. Riiight….!
Unfortunately, the motion picture and recording industry groups are like the Terminator: they’ll be back!