I’ll wrap up this SOPA blog series. It quietly ended the almost the same way it quietly started and tried to float thru Congress from backroom to backroom without much outcry. First, a committee removed some of the wording they were having trouble agreeing on. This had the effect of making the bill even more toothless in its fight against piracy. Then the Obama White House made a short statement saying they would oppose the legislation. And that was it for SOPA. It was never defeated; it will simply never see the full House floor for further consideration. Tabled and shelved, Congress (correctly) decided they had more important problems to deal with.
I wish I could say I was happier about this, but it is still a little sad. As if we already didn’t know this; SOPA was proof that companies, individuals, and groups with enough money and political capital can try an end-run around the Constitution. And get frighteningly close to succeeding. The impending “SOPA Blackout” protest from businesses threatened by SOPA was averted 1 day before it was supposed to take place.
The “why” is fairly easy to guess at. If I had to guess, I would say some “computer expert” trusted by congress finally looked at the bill and its proposed DNS blocks and managed to convince Legislators that this bill was a job killer that would send profitable tech companies out of the country, while doing absolutely nothing to combat media piracy.
Which remains a problem. I’m not talking about stopping some cat enthusiast from making a YouTube video featuring frolicking kittens and setting it to a copyrighted song (or as SOPA would have done, torch all of YouTube for such an infraction.) That’s not theft. Yes, that makes the song available to anyone for free with a click on YouTube. But for at least a few years now, music has been offered for free on these things called radios. Turn a dial and boom, free music. Looks like the record companies need to stomp on this thing called radio. “What? Plays of a song on the radio INCREASES sales of songs and albums? That can’t be, they were GIVING IT AWAY. If they can hear it for free why would they PAY for it?”
And it’s EXACTLY the same thing with YouTube. The more views of the video, or videos featuring the music, the better it sells. Just ask Gaga or Bieber; after all they are all over YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. And you know what, they seem to do OK.
Getting back to piracy, something should be done to shut down or shut out the BitTorrent sites specifically set up to distribute copyrighted music, video, or computer programs. But there isn’t a “fine line” between a software pirate and someone who clicks “like” on a penguin video. That’s a vast, yawning CHASM. YouTube will ALREADY remove a violating video at the request of any copyright holder. That should be good enough for the record companies and movie studios. Not a good enough reason to violate the spirit and word of the Constitution.
Besides, it needs to be in better hands than Congress’. Those guys can’t even balance a budget, a skill I picked up the first year I had a checking account at the tender age of 14. I say we let the old folks argue back and forth about Republican this and Democrat that. It seems to make them happy, and because of bureaucracy and gridlock they wind up accomplishing nothing anyway. They frankly don’t have the power, will, or ability to dictate anything to the “the internet” or “free market.” Both of those things are bigger and more powerful than Congress. And the SOPA debacle just proved it... again.