Friday, January 20, 2012

SOPA, Piracy and the New World

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.

SOPA 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 their property.

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 protecting.

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:, 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.

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