What a week! As most of you already know, last Wednesday was the Internet’s Day of Darkness where sites like Wikipedia, Google and other smaller, artistically driven pages went dark for almost a full twenty four hours. Google took the liberty to re-route users to a page where they could sign a virtual petition against SOPA and PIPA. About 4.5 million people willingly put their names down in protest. Not only that, anti-SOPA attitudes was spread all over the Internet and reached Congress just in time. Three days later, the decision was made by Rep. Lamar Smith to shelf the bills indefinitely. While the Internet roared with celebration, not many took the time to read what actually happened to SOPA and PIPA.
Smith, the original sponsor for the bills, was under pressure from the opposing public which in turn, changed the minds of some supporters. Some of the reasons why he did it were to negotiate with copyright holders and Internet companies to “develop proposals that combat online piracy and protect America’s intellectual property.” As if they didn’t do that before when SOPA and PIPA were conceived, it doesn’t look so good on his part. Yet there was one person, Rep. Darrell Issa (CA), who wanted to clear the bill with technical experts and understand the consequences that would arise if SOPA were to be passed in its current state. Issa was also one of the main fighters against the bill who highlighted a lot of the DNS issues that SOPA posed. This whole recoil of events shows how uninformed Smith and other supporters were and it’s sickening to think that Congress would pass something so blindly. But then again, it wasn’t just the representatives who were being blind.
I wanted to take this opportunity to speak my opinion on the situation, even if they are a minority in comparison to the wide spread opposition. Now I agree, the fact that free speech would be practically eliminated from the Internet is wrong in every form; being it’s part of our first amendment rights and we are so used to having it, the thought of not being silenced on the web is horrible. Especially since the future is probably going digital anyway. But as great as it is to see such protest against SOPA, people don’t seem to realize that even though the bill was buried, it still has the potential to rise again. Of course, SOPA and PIPA as they are now are completely dead, but that doesn’t mean that another bill like them will come around Congress in later years. To think that SOPA was defeated by the sheer willpower of the people is a great motivator, yet we sometimes underestimate the power of our own government. Congress can take all the time they want to “research” what’s at stake, but there will still be representatives who aren’t so easily swayed. The people can definitely change some minds, but it’ll probably take a lot more to change them all.
Another crowd that’s not going to back down quietly is the entertainment industry, Hollywood specifically. There has been a severe money leak in the movie and music business and because of it, producers and owners don’t receive the appropriate earnings of their copyrighted material. Here’s an example: say it’s 2001 and director Peter Jackson just released his adaptation of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and it became a huge hit. The money that people paid to see the movie in theaters and get it on DVD would be fed to the owners of the copyrighted material, in turn paying the producers, Jackson himself and of course, the hardworking production staff that helped in the making. With the leak of money through piracy, the movie wouldn’t achieve enough money to pay everyone. And if the producers don’t get enough money, then they can’t pay the director. And if the director can’t get paid, then the staff sure as hell can’t get paid either since they’re at the dirty end of the stick. I would think the 99 percent would be all over that fact, but who knows.
My point that I’m trying to make is that SOPA and PIPA, while detrimental to Internet progress, had good intentions. In my research for this blog, I have learned a lot about this bill and how it works. Now that people are paying attention, they need to get past the surface problems with free speech and see what the government was really trying to do. All Congress needed to do was to educate themselves about the technical aspects of the bill and edit away all the problems that the people had with it. SOPA and PIPA may be gone, I do have a feeling that they will return with a new name and new standards to please both the people and the industry.