The Scenario

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First – IANAL. I am a technologist and someone who, unlike most of our elected officials, understands how the Internet works; both under the hood and in practice. That is why I am opposed to measures like SOPA and PIPA which put the power to degrade the Internet into the hands of corporations whose vested interest is not in th betterment of mankind and the freedom of the people of Earth to communicate, but in the profits of their shareholders. Rather than tackle the technical side of the Ineternet vis-a-vis SOPA/PIPA, let me give you a scenario that addresses the practical side.

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The Scenario

WEBSITE X has posted a video which is critical of U.S. SENATOR Z and presents evidence of wrong-doing. SENATOR Z is fighting to tamp down any talk of wrong-doing and this video, if people start to find it, could be a huge problem for him. So he sets his people to work on finding a way to downplay or, indeed, silence this annoyance before it goes mainstream. The problem is that WEBSITE X is in Norway.

Aides to SENATOR X point out to him that under the recently passed SOPA and PIPA laws, he can get WEBSITE X shut down, at least for the U.S. users of the Internet, if they can find or manufacture some sort of infringement. After hours of searching, an aide stumbles upon a 30 second clip from Mission Impossible 3 on a WEBSITE X user’s profile.

A representative from the MPAA, suddenly made aware by an ‘anonymous’ tip, cries foul and WEBSITE X is shuttered for U.S. users.

SENATOR X’s problem goes away. WEBSITE X has been silenced. Justice has been… taken into an alley and given a thrashing.

Simplistic? You bet. Plausible? You bet. The motion picture industry in America is something we can, overall, be proud of. (Yes, this bill gives this power to others as well, but the MPAA is its progenitor.) But giving them extra-normal powers and privileges in our laws and with our law enforcement agencies is not something to be proud of. While we love and embrace Hollywood and the entertainment they’ve given us, keep in mind that it is just that: entertainment.

The amount of revenue that they make up in the U.S. economy per year is not only less than the auto industry as a whole, it’s less than just Ford. We will trim far more from the Pentagon’s budget this cycle than their entire industry made in 2011. If my calculations are correct, they account for only a fraction of a percent of our $14.5 trillion economy (I come up with about .005%). yet our government has given them sweeping law enforcement access and is now tailor-making laws for them that infringe on the freedoms of every person who uses the Internet.

That’s not simplistic. That’s a travesty.

The Message

Stop SOPA. Stop PIPA. Intelligent, practical laws are not hastily put together and shoved through session as fast as possible at the behest of those who will benefit most. If the House and Congress want to truly protect intellectual property and curb piracy, they need to listen to those who understand the Internet, not fight against them. If Google and Reddit, two polar opposites in Internet culture, are both opposed to your bill? Your bill is wrong.

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