I feel I need to weigh in on the SOPA issue that has flared up in the last few weeks, even though it has existed for a lot longer.
is a US bill aimed at stopping online piracy. It is being pushed by
large commercial content providers, primarily in the music and movie
industries, as a solution to unapproved, unlicensed distribution of
The stated intent is to allow legal
bodies to take action against known pirate sources on the Internet, by
blocking their transmission through technical actions. But here's where
the problem starts.
As written, the bill is vague. It
would allow any site to be shutdown (blocked) based on the
unsubstantiated complaints of any corporation. Worse still, these
complaints could apply to a user posted comment to a site. So, as an
example, a 14 year old's Facebook status containing a link to an image
of Mickey Mouse, not sanctioned by Disney, could provide grounds for the
Disney Corporation to shutdown Facebook.
Would it happen? Probably not. But why pass a law that could allow that?
At stake, is the freedom of information and exchange of knowledge and
creativity that the Internet promises and delivers. This is worth
The other reality, and I hate to use this argument, is that this type
of law will not stop piracy. It will make it more difficult, but piracy
will happen. Piracy of this type happens because there is no suitable
business model to replace it.
Our challenge is to design
and deliver the new business models. Find new ways to distribute the
content and media that the public wants, in the way they want, with a
working business model attached.
These models exist:
last.fm, Netflix, Hulu and iTunes to name a few. But they need
refinement and better distribution. And the media giants who don't get
this need to change. They need to realize the opportunities they are
missing. History shows you cannot stop change by force. You need to be
part of the change to succeed.