A few quick notes on SOPA / PIPA.
Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/01/18
Stepping outside my metal-clay world for a moment, I have signed up with WordPress to display a “Stop Censorship” banner on this blog from Jan 18 (today) through Jan 24 (the date the US Senate is set to vote on SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act).
Clicking on the banner will take you to the website of americancensorship.org where you can find more information, links, petitions, and so on, about all this.
Please understand: I support copyright. I oppose piracy. Strongly, for both.
Full disclaimer: I have produced materials that are protected by copyright. In another part of my life, I have taught about copyright to school teachers, student teachers, university faculty, and graduate students, in both on-site and on-line workshops.
Copyright in the USA is included in our Constitution, which states that “The Congress shall have Power … To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
That is, because the intent of copyright protection is to promote the progress of science and the useful arts, authors get a mini-monopoly as one inducement to develop new work.
There have been historical limits to copyright as well (e.g., in certain specifics of how the laws apply to libraries and schools) when it appears to conflict with the overriding public interest of encouraging further development. These limits had been considered acceptable because the intent of copyright is to promote progress, and not to promote the author’s own interests nor specifically to increase the author’s own wealth … nor, by extension, the specific interests or wealth of a corporation that buys all or some of an author’s collection of copy-rights.
In recent years, however, some corporations have lobbied for passage of laws that have slowly morphed that understanding in favor of corporate power and wealth over individual progress. While some of the impetus behind recent changes have been due, to be sure, by the illegal actions of some who have chosen to trample on the fair rights of individual authors, creators, and inventors (via actions which I deplore), many recent extensions to the copyright laws have done more to extend corporate financial interests than to actually try to deal with those issues … and have done so in ways that prevent progress more than promote it (which is simply not acceptable either).
At last, with opposition to SOPA and PIPA (the Senate / House versions of a proposed law, respectively), a mix of individuals, groups, and companies have managed to gather some momentum to say, together, “Wait a minute. Many of us do understand copyright, benefit from it, and want to protect it too. But this is not the right way to go about it!”
In a Congress that finds stalemate on so many issues, how is it that you were able to come to agreement on this? Whose pocket are you in this time? Which lobbyists are promoting this? Can’t you stop, take a deep breath, and involve some technology experts in the discussion? (Especially those from the “open source” community, of which WordPress is a part (which is one reason I chose it for my blogging platform!), and not just those from the “all-proprietary” realm…) Can’t you listen to those who are trying to tell you the ways that this so-called “solution” is potentially worse than the original “problem”? Find a better solution, please!
I encourage anyone who happens to read this to urge your legislators to support Copyright as our Founders intended. Limit corporate intrusion into our democracy. Stop censorship. Find effective and appropriate ways to enforce the anti-piracy laws we have already. Oh, and don’t be an intellectual property pirate yourself. Yes, that combo is a tall order, but it’s what we need to do, all of us, so that every individual in this country can have the opportunity, if they wish to take advantage of it, to continue to promote our “progress in science and the useful arts”!