In case you’ve tried in the last few hours to check something out on Wikipedia, you’ll note that there’s a big, blacked out screen taking you to information regarding SOPA and PIPA. In case you’ve not heard much about it, here’s a good article from Al-Jazeera in regards to the ban.
There are plenty of folks that are way wiser than me who are making thoughtful arguments about why SOPA and PIPA are bad, and I tend to agree. If one is spending so much time being worried about whether something on their site is pirated, it will allocate precious energy away from creativity and innovation. I’d rather not have Wikipedia wasting time on that – we see Jimmy Wales’ face more often than we’d like to now, imagine if he had to hire a bunch more staff just to check links?
I’m a person who came into his internet maturity just as Napster was in its heyday. As such, my definitions of moral piracy are probably further down the continuum than a lot of folks, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see a value in correcting a distribution system that also stifles creativity – at least the way it’s done now. Open sourcing, pay-what-you-want music distribution, and fee-based services like Netflix and Spotify have taken steps to move with culture and the shift in technology. It is, in fact, possible to curtail piracy, but I think we need to recognize that it is as much a part of our lives as dubbing cassettes was 20 years ago.
As it’s been with the Occupy movement and other groans of “the-world-is-not-how-it-should-be” right now, I think that the business leaders who are trying to make decisions in the interest of their shareholders need to see what kind of economic value judgements have changed in the last generation. If someone doesn’t want to wait the 56 days required for a new DVD, it’s easier to download it from elsewhere. It’s too easy now. The alternative for Warner Bros and other is either to bend to the will of the consumer, or lose money. I believe that as time goes along, this will become a greater reality.
In the end, I think about my grandfather with his laptop at home. I’ve taught him at least a half a dozen times to check his email, to learn how to type a letter, and to conduct simple web searches. I would not expect him to provide thoughtful guidance on technological policy in the US. And yet, we have individuals who are not too far off my grandfather’s age and their bedfellows determining how the internet should be policed. It doesn’t make sense. We do need a change, it’s true; we need the experts in the field to provide us with a thoughtful alternative.
SOPA and PIPA are garbage and whimper in Sweedish, respectively.