SOPA: Piracy or Freedom

In case you did not know it, SOPA in everyday English is Stop Online Piracy Act. Its main supporters are in Hollywood, TV, big music, and other major entertainment. Its opponents are the largest Web companies and the legions of naïve people who believe the passage of such an act would impede their right to freedom on the Internet.

For the moment, SOPA is in the official wastebasket where Washington bills go to die when so much of the public rises up to shout it down. Now our esteemed lawmakers believe SOPA, though necessary, needs clarity and better direction. It is hard to argue with the failure of the original bill. It is not worth the effort to try to pass that bill and to have big entertainment, big Internet and everyone else against it for different reasons important to each.

Do not be deceived by the millions who signed online petitions to scrap SOPA. The so-called little guy, Mr. and Mrs. grassroots, is simply a pawn in the hands of the big Internet boys who control the WEB. Do not be deceived by the black banner atop Google in protest of the bill. Just because you signed an online petition, keep in mind that the battle is still between the bigs: Hollywood and TV versus the Internet giants. It is not so much that one is against the other as much as it is how does each side best get what it wants, absolute freedom on the Internet versus controlled use for big entertainment and how it presents online what it believes it owns.

I am against piracy of intellectual property, even if the property is weak or poorly conceived. You may ask, who is not. I am against the theft of who I am when cookies ingest everything about me when I spend time on the Web. Everyone else should also feel this way, but people do not. Thus, companies such as Amazon and others are hypocrites because all they are doing is protecting their own turf. I am against hypocrisy but who is not, you say. Many who are on both sides of the argument are hypocrites because they try to hide the reality of Web commerce under the guise of freedom.

I do not believe what anyone on either side of the debate says. Both sides are using the average person, however good or bad his or her creation is, to advance its concept of freedom and ownership. They are working hard to hide one’s history on the Web and how it affects sales of products and sales of ideas.

We should all be for creativity. Many people I know agree that creativity is a gift and one of life’s joys. The Internet is the greatest platform for creativity ever. It opens enormous possibilities for anyone to post what he or she believes is their contribution to humankind. I am not arrogant when I say that most of what is on YouTube, other file sharing sites and found in millions of blogs is not very good. It is usually drivel and laughable in that we laugh at the effort, not at its humor or sense of fun. Most of what is in cyberspace is not worth my time. Attack me if you want. Please. But realize first, that just as not everyone can be a professional athlete, not everyone is capable of creating something that has lasting value. Just because you can post anything you want on the Internet for which you usually receive no pay, the act of posting does not give the work value.

We live in a society where sharing is free, especially in the world of social media. On social network sites free is the operating value system. It is the new normal, what people expect because the Internet is there for all to use as they wish, they think. Only one’s time is at stake. It strikes me that for the current generation, sharing and ignoring personal ownership is often more important than personal achievement. Many pundits believe that owning the copyright to a personally created work is a sin. If they could, they would eliminate copyright. They want to limit its length based on the idea that everyone should benefit from a copyrighted work even if they do not compensate its owner. Everyone, that is except the person who created the work.

Creating anything – art of any kind, a widget, an app, you name it — is hard work. If I create something on my own using my own time and money, or, better yet, with someone else’s money why should I not profit from or share in the profits from my enterprise without fear that someone will steal what I created. I do not subscribe to the idea that better creation will result based on earlier work. Why do the users and distributors of everything on the Web believe they should have a free ride of the back of my creative endeavor? Using another person’s work is fraudulent.

I come from a culture, or a time not too distant from the one we are living in, that believes you should own all or most of what you make with your mind or your hands. That is not the norm today. A certain amount of pleasurable, yet evil anarchy exists on the Web. There is a shoot first and ask questions later attitude toward what people own. If someone sees something they like, they post it for all to see, to possibly enjoy it without regard to its copyright. Then, if there is a complaint, they apologize, they take down the video, the photo, the written work, and everyone seems satisfied except the person or group who created the entity in the first place. The damage done, the violator gets an insignificant punishment or none at all, and goes out for another latte. Such is life.

Let me be clear. I am against piracy of intellectual property, even if and when – most of the time, by the way – it has almost no value to most people. Whether it is well conceived or poorly done, I have to admit it has value to its creator. I am against the unbridled, underhanded use of my personal information and creativity without my permission by either big entertainment or big Internet.

The voice of the creative community must make itself heard. Despite being unorganized, the creative community cannot allow those who use the Internet for gain of any kind to dominate ownership. Whatever replaces SOPA must be worth the journey or else anyone who thinks the Internet is free, however anyone uses it, had better think again.


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