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A Few Questions for SOPA

January 5, 2012

If you are not familiar with SOPA, perhaps the PIPA bill rings a bell. SOPA is the offspring of PIPA, and to be frank it is scaring a lot of people. Why? In a nutshell, SOPA allows to government to potentially sift through your downloads for the purpose of finding illicit material, block websites that infringe copyright, and makes all those who are deemed liable in aiding copyright infringement subject to a maximum of of five years in prison. In other words, anybody involved in the distribution of copyrighted goods can be incarcerated thanks to the broad language of this bill. But good news for youtubers who like to post Gaga covers because this bill will supposedly not affect you (as of now).

I realize I have brushed over a few details here, but I wanted to bring to light a few questions this bill raised for me:

1.) Because the bill states that a website and any other liable party (scary language) can be punished, does this mean that even the advertisers on the site will be punished too, or will they be excused? Why not? If advertisers knowingly support copyright infringement, why let them go?

2.) So, we will all go to prison. Wait, isn’t there a problem with overcrowding in prisons? Not to mention, when you go to prison, you typically lose your job. And bill co-sponsor Bob Goodlatte stated that one of the reasons he is supporting the bill is because he wants to protect American jobs…

3.) … Which leads me to: how can Goodlatte make the argument that this bill will protect American jobs? I am a little tired of the whole bit about how this act or that law will “create jobs/destroy jobs”. This coming from a government whose tax system is pushing major US companies overseas. This continues to boggle my mind.

4.) This bill is also supposed to prevent consumers from buying prescription medications from online foreign pharmacies. Without getting too into my views on how we should be able to put into our bodies what we want to, I have to say this part really irks me. I recently bought a prescription medication from an online Canadian pharmacy, and not because I wanted to be a rebel. The Free Clinic I was going to is no longer filling my prescription for Prozac and I was running out of options fast. What I can say about this is that the pharmacy is not the problem, the health system and our overly protectionist laws are the problem. Excuse my ranting, but it is my personal belief that mental health and the relatively new science of psychiatry was one of the best things to come out of the 2oth century. For me to be able to go to a Free Clinic to obtain these drugs, then have the clinic drop me with no refills and no referral to another doctor I can afford should be an ethical violation. Look US doctors, my life is better with Prozac and I should be able to buy it without your script.

5.) Government takes down illegal website, another one pops up. Is this really a worthwhile use of resources? Oh, and that huge market crash in 2010 and those companies that cost the US economy trillions (yes not billions but trillions). Can we pretty please punish those people first?

6.) In this world of the DJ sample artist, it has been stated that it is harder and more expensive to sample ten seconds of a song than to sample the whole song. You tell me, who does this favor and why? I will give you a hint, it is not the artists who made the music.

Last but not least, I must state that file sharing is indeed a crime and this is the government and record labels trying to enforce their rights. Honestly I do not care one bit if the record labels crash and burn. New ones pop up all the time and big name labels are notorious for screwing over artists in exchange for the artist getting rich and famous (tradeoffs, tradeoffs). But what I do really care about is the ability to obtain art, knowledge, and culture freely and cheaply, which file sharing makes possible. Yes, music is education. Needless to say, the internet is a HUGE deal. The best thing since Gutenberg invented to printing press is seriously being threatened for the sake of the rich getting richer.

Bottom line, big name sites who oppose the bill (e.g. Google, Facebook) profit from the traffic created by illegal file sharing. A lot of money is at stake here. Who will win? Some of the richest companies in the US, or our broke government and the broke record labels supporting it?


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  1. Great post! I am glad to see you writing. I can answer the question about job creation: If we put most of the population in prison, the newly privatized prisons can hire lots of new personnel. Those in prison will drop off the unemployment rolls ’cause they’re no longer actively looking for work. Bingo!

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