SOPA? Nope(A)!

Problems? Yup. Well, let’s write some laws and regulations.

Piracy of intellectual property is a bad thing that got worse when the Internet made it a lot easier to do in certain circumstances.

Seemingly ignoring the fact that piracy needs a second party to make it successful, that is, someone has to buy the pirated material, the US Congress set forth to save us from ourselves, yet again. The legislation is the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Actually, there is more called the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) but this already getting complicated.

The other day a number of the Internet biggies like Google and Wikipedia went black as we used to say in the broadcasting business.

No, there was no test pattern on your computer screen. I just wanted to remind the other old folks about the “end of the broadcast day” that we used to experience in the early days of television. This was a time when piracy was still something found on the open seas, if at all.

So why are all of these Internet biggies so fussed? After all, congress is trying to help and protect them from evildoers stealing their stuff.

It seems the legislation is written in such a way that the biggies feel that, in the words of Google, “[it] would censor the Web and impose harmful regulations on American business.”

Whoa! Censorship and harmful regulations! Where were these folks when the over 2,000 pages of heath care legislation was being railroaded through congress?

So what’s going on here?

The congress, both houses, is approximately 40% lawyers. Thomas Jefferson said, “If the present Congress errs in too much talking, how can it be otherwise in a body to which the people send one hundred and fifty lawyers, whose trade it is to question everything, yield nothing, and talk by the hour?”

Adding some contemporary societal notions, perhaps cynically, I would say that today’s lawyers seem to be trained to “win”, no matter which side of the argument they live on.

So, if we charge a bunch of lawyers to craft language to prevent piracy and they start their constituent enabling word twisting, we are left with a looseness of language with lots of wiggle room for “unintended consequences”.

Whatever the case, to the Internet folks it looks like, “[it] would censor the Web and impose harmful regulations on American business.” Most likely true.

With all of the agendas in the wind and with the only specific thing on the table being the bad thing of piracy, writing this stuff isn’t easy. I would argue that it is impossible. There will always be unintended consequences.

If we think of the process of writing legislation from the perspective of a closed system, something has to give elsewhere in the system.

I have written before on regulation and on gun control. How do you create “reasonable” gun legislation? It isn’t easy and because of that, much of what is written is feel good legislation. A bad thing happened and we, the legislators, did something. The fact that that “something” causes more trouble than benefit is lost on these folks.

My grand dad used to tell me that, “nothing good ever comes easy”. A great message that was obviously not told to the legislative bodies that surround us.

Let’s go back to going black like the TV stations did in the fifties. I started out saying that  Intellectual Property piracy is a two party deal. What has changed in our society, since those more simple days in the fifties, that makes it possible for these pirates to flourish? Perhaps the answer lies more in societal forces that exist today but did not exist or were not as strong in years past.

I could just be inaccurately reminiscing but I do believe there is a societal component to this problem. Now that’s a tough problem and legislatures don’t do those…

 

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