Wednesday, February 22, 2012
The truth about SOPA and PIPA
Millions to as much as billions of dollars are lost each year to below the line working creative people, from actors to musicians to those who rely on “points”. Research by several independent groups has confirmed the loss to everyone from producers to mom and pops who invest in small films. It is a theft of the livelihood of craftsmen, talent, creative and those across the process of producing arts and entertainment. At the same time artist are struggling and many are making far less money than they have in the past, even to the point of dropping out of the creative industry.
Two pieces of legislation that we have been following closely, the Stop Online Piracy Act (HR 3261), and the PROTECT IP Act (S. 968), has dominated the news recently. Both bills addressed online intellectual property theft and have been the center of heated debate among its opponents in the technology world. As of this date, both bills have been postponed indefinitely, and the lead sponsors of the bills are seeking to redraft the legislation to address all the concerns posed by opponents. Online theft of copyright and trademarked goods by foreign “rogue” websites continues to be a predominant concern.
House based version. Media coverage and grass roots efforts blocked what was really a benign bill, extending US law enforcement to reach foreign-based rogue sites that have a purpose of specifically of distributing pirated or digital illegal file sharing. The sites look and seem official, cutting into legitimate sites in the US. The impact on retailers and theatre operators has been a part of reasons to raise prices and has even led closure of businesses. The bill would extend the powers used to go after domestic sites engaged in trafficking to foreign. It was vetted over two years and was supported by American and International law enforcement, unions, producers, international trade organizations, foreign interests as well as domestic and legal groups. The bill has essentially the same as the senate version, but includes additional provisions to “strengthen” the senate bill. It went after the worst offenders, true sites dedicated to theft and not Facebook, You Tube, Twitter or any legal based site that may have occasional unintentional infringement. While it cut the slow international process, during which offenders continue to operate with impunity, a strong case under very specific legal guidelines would have to presented to a judge before action could be taken. It did not go after any public legitimate sites or domestic abuse (laws are in place for domestic abuse).
Protect IP Act (PIPA)
Senate based the PIPA bill first. The bill provides the attorney general the power to go to court under tight legal restrictions to get an injection and prevent linkage to that site by any advertiser, server, Internet provider or related service to such a site. The court process was strict and protected civil liberties, privacy and content. It was not the sort of wholesale government intervention presented in the "Wiki revolt." It was overwhelming supported by tech community, Hollywood, the recording industry, law enforcement and the legislature.
Mostly to fear of extension and expansion in the future. The tech community felt cut out of the house fill process, and as a very direct “burn” against them. They did not attempt to amend the bill, but rather sought to kill the bills. They used “bumper sticker” slogans and built in mass dissemination rapid distribution of their message. They implied it would lead to censorship, stifle free speech and interfere with security protocols of the Internet. None of that was true and could have been addressed, even protected against had they taken the legislative or even court route.
Grass roots lobbying using rapid Internet, slogans and less informed emotional appear may shape the future of legislation more than strong legal footwork and research. This election year these bills, progress against content theft, and even protection of our Internet infrastructure against foreign or domestic attack will not be considered until the new Congress in 2013.
The way films, music and other arts are made and distributed will change due to theft. Investment in blockbuster massive release films the public will see early on is taking the place of the vast majority of film projects that take time to earn money and produce revenue. Simply put the money invested in the rank and file craft will be down at the expense of the majority of working artists. Unfortunately the public only pays attention, due to the industry’s own image and publicity, high paid celebrities and “tent poll” big budget releases.