SOPA. Hmmm.

It’s very fashionable to defend internet piracy. Technically, by posting some of the stuff I do, I suppose I’m doing it too. Whereas SOPA (That’s the Stop Online Piracy Act) seems draconian, there is another issue which is dismissed to one side, but which Bill Maher raises very legitimately here. Isn’t it stealing? I’m no angel myself, I have watched movies and TV stuff online that were posted illegally, but nearly always after attempting and failing to purchase them legally. I spend a lot of money with Amazon and iTunes buying stuff, and you know why? Because this stuff costs money to produce professionally, and people have to get paid for their efforts, and the funny thing about the vast majority of the “everything should be free” advocates is that they don’t do their jobs for free. That’s why I have started posting Amazon links to any commercial stuff I post, to at least give people an opportunity to buy things legitimately, and yes, for me to earn a few euro to pay for the blog.

I said this to someone recently, and they said that iTunes were “ripping people off”. At 99c a track? Seriously? Since when did wanting access to the fruit of other’s labours for free become a human right? Funnily enough, do you ever notice how the great majority of the “everything should be free” crowd rarely ever produce anything creative, like a song or a movie?   

8 thoughts on “SOPA. Hmmm.

  1. James, will do, with caution. Have gotten downright libellous stuff posted in the past. The untrue stuff about me I don’t mind (apparently I’m paid millions by the European Commission, work for my father, and have some sort of Downton Abbey lifestyle) but I have to be careful about others.

  2. SOPA is not draconian. It’s a means to enforce copyright. Nothing more.
    Godzilla isn’t attacdking the island. The lights aren’t going out across Europe. It’s a means to enforce copyright.

    As a creator of original content, there’s a difference between giving somethign away, and having someone else give it away without your consent, but to a generation of “property is to be shared” types, this is the only thing that gets their political rocks off.

    Consider for a moment, the phenomena of the Piraten. Any interview I’ve read or heard tells me that while they can construct elaborate responses and essays, that they simply don’t get the idea of personal property. Their entire platform, a kind of fake “entitlement libertarian” thing, revolves rather selfishly on the stuff that they amuse themselves with.

    I suppose one could say that if that’s you’re biggest problem in life, that you’re lucky. But it just isn’t. It’s a fixation with some notion about “big media” that grates against the very same basic rules that protect any other INDIVIDUAL author or composer, and big-nasty-mega-corp is no less entitled to protection under the as puny-I-don’t-get-it-corp or our friends Musician Smurf, Writer Smruf, or Interpretive-Dance Smurf.

    One way to demonstrated to a “Pirat” that rights are called rights because they’re universal (after a few hale and hearty “Argh, matey’s!,” ritual self abuse, and some light perfunctory Wench-tossing) might be to tell them how generous we were feeling, and decided to give away said “Pirate’s” shoes to the needy. Thank me old boy, won’t you?

  3. Interestingly, the posting of the Maher piece is a perfect example – if a DMCA takedown request were sent to Jason, he would have the ability to respond claiming fair use, or to take it down.

    Under SOPA, if the copyright holder made a complaint, and without any contact with Jason, US authorities would expect the holder of Jason’s DNS record to blacklist it immediately. Jason could of course contest this post-facto, but how long would that take? I hope that he’s not relying on his (ex-)website for income or advertising for his book!

    The equation of stealing a CD versus downloading an album is clearly flawed as CDs are a scarce resource (N million get printed). Every CD lost, stolen or damaged represents one fewer CD that can physically be sold (assuming 100% sales, which is rarely the case). A download, by contrast, represents the _possible_ loss of a _hypothetical_ customer, but while Adam, who would have bought the last CD, but couldn’t because it had been stolen is a very different case to Ben, who can buy his album from iTunes regardless of how often Charlie has downloaded or shared it.

    You (and the advertising wing of Big Media) are trying to impose the model of theft of a scarce resource (plastic) with that of an unlimited one (bits). I much prefer the model which says that authors and musicians should be more afraid of people not reading or listening to their work than of losing hypothetical sales — true fans pay, while hypotheticals often don’t.

    As an aside, if we all promise not to infringe copyright in this comment section, could you enable unrestricted commenting? It would your readers to respond to each-others’ comments and start a conversation (CAPTCHAs are probably a necessity though).

  4. Jason, you may assert piracy is theft but at no point in the Irish statue book (I’m willing to bet in the western world) is it classed as theft. Copyright infringement is a serious crime, that is no doubt, but the notion that piracy is theft only exists thanks to a advertising campaign in the ’80s by FAST (Federation Against Software Theft). Infringement is punishable by fine and/or imprisonment and I don’t take issue with that. They are however different, lets be clear on that fact. I’m not excusing it, I’m merely pointing out the legal reality.

    However, you ask question, is shoplifting a CD different to copying one? Well of course it is. They are both crimes with entirely different set of laws covering them as well as entirely different set of victims. Which leads us to the notion that every pirated copy is automatically the same as a lost sale. You, for example, watching Real Time isn’t a lost sale but you pirated it. It’s that logical fallacy that annoys me because it leads to the argument that CD sales have fallen due to piracy and not due to that fact that nobody buys CDs anymore (iTunes).

    Oh and Bill Maher may or may not be cool with it but are to so certain that large entertainment companies will be? Lets just say their record on this matter isn’t good.

  5. Peter: I accept that SOPA seems like a JCB to crack a nut, and you’re right, its draconian powers make it flawed. But that is not my point. Piracy IS theft if the person who creates the product decides that he or she only wants to make it available to others through payment. It is their property. Would you not regard shoplifting a CD from HMV as theft, or is it because we can only deem property to be physical objects? If I record a song, and put it up on iTunes, that is my right. If you decide that my song is not worth 99c of your money, that is your right, and you can choose to go without.

    And yes, posting that “Real Time” piece is copyright infringement, theft if you will, and if I have to take it down I will. But I suspect Bill Maher would have a bigger problem with me continuously posting the entire show as opposed to advertising it.

  6. Several counter points, Jason.
    1. Who is the “something for nothing” movement? Seeing as you provide this blog for free, are you in that movement? Or is the subject a little more complex than the simple straw man above?
    2. Piracy isn’t theft. It’s copyright infringement. And neither is a pirated copy automatically a lost sale. Nor has somebody or something been deprived an item.
    3. Isn’t posting that video of last week’s Real Time copyright infringement? Where and how did you watch a show that isn’t aired over here?

    To be clear, I like to support the artists and developers who provide me with entertainment with Amazon and Steam taking the lion’s share. However to suggest that if piracy disappeared in the morning the CD and DVD sales of the music and movie industry would increase significantly is patently absurd. Netflix, Spotify and Onlive are the business models of the future, the problem is they don’t present such large margins as the old failed ones.

    And now in the face of all this, IRMA (the Irish wing of the music industry) are lobbying to government to pass a vague and open ended version of SOPA here. This could well result in issues for Google, Twitter and Facebook as well as the IDA and their hope of attracting more “new” media companies.


    There are very good reasons people are worked up about this legislation and those like and its got very little to do with free stuff.

  7. The principal argument against SOPA is not ‘Pirates shouldn’t be stopped’, it’s that online presences (businesses and individuals) should have the right to defend themselves before a judicial authority rather than complaints being taken at face value. More disturbingly, SOPA targets entire websites – the commentator is correct in saying that in a SOPA world, I could post material in your comment feed, file a complaint, and see your entire website blacklisted from the DNS records. It was an awful bill.

    Big Media have a poor record when it comes to filing spurious complaints, for instance in the case of the Megaupload music video[1], and ICE’s actions over the past year – effectively pre-empting SOPA – have had at least one major innocent take-down, which itself took many months to be resolved. Here’s another instance; [3].

    The free software movement has been absolutely vital for internet growth and development.[3]

    Finally, adjusted for inflation, Hollywood’s most profitable year ever was 2011. The next most profitable year was 2010. (I read this somewhere reasonably reliable, but can’t find a link).

    Finally, the issue of internet censorship is much much more important than the copyrights of the entertainment industry.


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