If we’re going to start throwing stones at this thing, it’s better to actually do so than discuss about how we’re aiming them for months on end. It doesn’t help that the world now-a-days seems populated with strictly ideologues yammering back and forth with no meaningful progression to any sort of debate. It’s tiring to hear about how terrifying SOPA is, because I’ve already heard about it dozens upon dozens upon dozens of times. How many more petitions am I going to sign until I start to realize that typing out my name really isn’t the decisive masterstroke needed to suddenly clutch out the battle? If you really want to try and stop this thing then let’s look at how we can amend it, because otherwise we’re just spinning our wheels and getting nowhere.
SOPA motives, how it accomplishes them, and where our issues lie:
- A) SOPA wants to be a giant cannonball to Piracy. It wants to give serious consequences to anyone who feels that redistributing copy-written material is okay. The entertainment industry loses millions of dollars every year due to piracy, and the bill is an attempt to directly stop that. People feel SOPA’s secondary purpose is to kill streaming, or at least control it, before things like TV go the way of the Do-Do. Blah, blah, blah, you know this.
- B) SOPA make it illegal for you to stream un-licensed material without explicit permission. It goes a further step beyond legal action by the offended party, and into realm of felony. Again, you know this.
- C) The major complaint against SOPA is that it would burn Youtube asunder, and kill freedom of speech right where it stands. Besides the tired example “You could go to jail for signing a pop song on youtube”, things like streaming fighting games could become a felony. You could go to jail for those AE match videos you just posted. The main reason this fear has set in, is because it’s government regulated. While the polite way to enforce the law is by deferring to the publisher about what must stay and what must go, the language in the law states that the government can step in and charge you simply because you didn’t license the material explicitly. That’s the reason people are scared.
Okay. So lets assume for a moment that you have a thirteen year old kid in front of you he’s holding a loaded gun. He’s yours. He’s really upset, as most teenagers are, and wants to fire because in his eyes it quickly fixes everything. Now you could yell at him and call him crazy for holding the gun—which gets you shot; or you could talk him down gently and figure out where things went wrong.
The problem with the internet we have is that our ability to say whatever we like clouds our judgment, and makes us angrily oppose something by verbally thrashing at it which solves absolutely zilch. SOPA sucks for the internet. It’s really, really bad. But as long as we just complain about how stupid everyone is for supporting it, we’re pretty much just decorating our casket. And as long as we just angrily yell at congress for being spoiled children, the majority of them are going to continue to cross their arms while they do exactly what we don’t want them to. So for a moment, take note of what’s needed—Congress wants to stop piracy, and we want to keep the internet. Great. So one of three things need to happen:
- Pirates suddenly realize that piracy is wrong, turn over a new leaf, and become model citizens dedicated to preserving the integrity of people’s hard work. Also, mankind invents Gundams and the reanimated clone of George Washington gets a sitcom on NEO-ABCFamily.
- The Senate and the House suddenly realize the error of their ways, and in droves abandon the bill and never speak of it again. Washington’s sitcom wins a Golden Globe.
- We make suggestions to the bill as to what could help cull piracy, and at the same time help the internet. We begin to live in reality.
So how do we get to 3? The debate thus far has been the language of the bill. What’s the trade off exactly? How can we change what’s there in order to retain serious consequences to offenders without losing our freedom to speak? Maybe we add some specificity to the violations—the law’s too vague. Maybe we pull Government out of the equation. Writing this article, I don’t necessarily want to just throw my hat into a solution, because the problem is that we’re not even discussing one. As much as we do in terms of canceling pre-orders or boycotting domains, we could be talking about what needs to be changed about the law instead of leaving it up to the people who probably have very little idea of how to handle the situation. Do you really want to complain and ask Congress to change the law prompting them to make it something worse? Everybody complaining about certain companies supporting the law fold their arms and act like that one guy at the party who’s really pissed their playing too much Steely Dan.
Distrust can be healthy but not when it doesn’t breed progression. This entire argument is about giving far too much power to the wrong people. So shift it! For once in our lives lets have a discussion about this law that yields a result that works, instead of something that’s forced and will probably cave in on us more sooner than later. The internet has been the pioneer of modern civilization for the last few years, I’m sure we can at least have a civil discussion—not one where every other comment begins with “PFFT, WHAT A STUPID ARTICLE?! THE WORLD IS DOOMED AND YOU ALL SUCK.”
A few months back Capcom had a bit of scuffle with DRM. They were going to throw a variation of DRM onto SSFIV AE PC that kept you from accessing certain characters, unless you were connected to the web. After some significant backlash, a thread opened on the Unity Boards asking for some key suggestions that would be better suited for discouraging pirates. The discussion it sparked wasn’t exactly tempered, but the arguments that had the most impact were the ones committed to keeping the argument civil instead of lecturing the company on how “evil” they were. Guess what? Capcom relented. Because for once, we weren’t the people egging on the kid with the gun. We were adults.