The SOPA Opera

I haven’t posted this week, since I’ve been on vacation. Obviously, between the SOPA blackout and the Megaupload takedown this was the wrong week to take off. But so it goes. I’m still away, but I’ll have more to say on both of these issues next week. Until then, I wanted to point readers to a few pieces on the subject that I think are very smart. I’m not saying I agree with them completely – but I think they’re well worth a read.

-On the day intelligent debate died, technology thinker Jaron Lanier wrote a New York Times op-ed that got to the heart of the debate. This isn’t really a debate about free speech – it’s about how the Internet should work. The problem is that, after mocking the media business for refusing to adjust its business model, large technology companies are trying to preserve theirs.

Andrew Orlowski wrote an amusing analysis of the debate over SOPA and makes a point that can’t be repeated enough: “Last year, Google made 11 million sites disappear on a whim, removing the .co.cc domains from its search index because the sites were deemed by Google to be “spammy”.” (It had no way of determining that absolutely all of them were.) I don’t have a problem with this. But most SOPA opponents would find this reprehensible, since they object to the idea that Google should de-index sites devoted to piracy. But if it’s OK for Google to exercise good judgement in a way that helps its own business, why isn’t it OK for it to do the same in a way that upholds the law? Like Lanier, Orlowski is especially interesting to read because he knows technology so well.

Jeffrey Rosen wrote an interesting analysis of SOPA in the New Republic that calls it “A Bad Solution to a Very Real Problem.” I admit: I’m biased because he mentions my book favorably. His piece is refreshingly free of the sky-is-falling rhetoric we’ve heard from Google and Stanford. (There’s so little space between them that I will call them either ‘Googford’ or ‘Stanoogle’ from now on.) He, too, makes a point that can’t be repeated often enough: “There are lawyers and lobbies on both sides of the debate, however, and neither side is devoted to the promotion of creativity for its own sake.”



4 thoughts on “The SOPA Opera

  1. You mentioned the Megaupload take-down, which was done with existing laws and law enforcement. Isn’t that proof that some of the more troublesome SOPA elements are unnecessary? Especially since what’s hitting Megaupload hard is not the seizure of its domain (alternate links to the sites are popping already), but the arrests of Kim Dotcom and the seizure of its assets. It won’t eliminate digital piracy, but that’s impossible anyways without unacceptable costs.

    I think it’s also worth mentioning that the reaction has been so harsh because the pre-reaction hearings on the bill were a pro-Content farce. Remember the Senate and House hearings on the bill, which were almost entirely dominated by supporters? I’m glad they got blindsided by this reaction, since maybe next time there will be more discussion in the formative stages of the bill.

    Posted by Brett | January 20, 2012, 6:46 pm
  2. The Opera is over. The $10 billion 2011-Q4 Gorilla has sung…

    or put another way, “I love the smell of Mob Rule in the morning.”

    Posted by TMD | January 20, 2012, 7:25 pm
  3. Megaupload got nailed because they had servers in Virginia and Washington D.C. The Grand Jury was based in Virginia. That allowed the DOJ to act under domestic laws. SOPA and PIPA were designed for taking action against sites not within U.S. borders. (It does raise the question why Megauploads would be so foolish to have servers in the U.S.?)

    My understanding is that had they not had a footprint within U.S. borders the Feds could not have acted. (What is your take on that Robert?)

    Now they should go after Grooveshark.

    As for the “blindsiding” reaction. It is my belief, based on conversations I had with people, that the vast majority of people had a knee-jerk reaction to the word “censorship” with no knowledge about either bill, and worse, no interest but to shout about it. I’m not saying all people. But there is no way the millions of folks that reacted due to the Blackout had time to make an intelligent, thoughtful decision about the bills.

    So I would say the “farce” is not one sided at all.

    Posted by TMD | January 20, 2012, 9:05 pm
  4. Grooveshark falls outside the scope of SOPA, as does every .com, .net, and .org domain. Can any of you even name 5 big sites that WOULD fall within the scope of SOPA?

    Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | January 21, 2012, 6:23 pm

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