|Should this man get paid for his songs? (Yes.)|
I am, I have to say, out of synch with all the passionate opposition to SOPA. The underlying problem of internet piracy is serious. The New York Times says 95% of music downloads, globally, are illegal. That means a vast number of musicians and songwriters are not getting rightful compensation for their work. As I understand it (see links at the end of this post), SOPA lets copyright holders go after "the middle man" -- the only solution, since it's impossible to shut down foreign sites like The Pirate Bay, and also impossible to go after individual "pirates". The "middle man" is, for example, the search engine that helps people find The Pirate Bay, and profits from searches that people do on that phrase. SOPA lets a copyright holder petition a search engine to stop directing traffic to piracy sites. Another "middle man" is Pay Pal, which facilitates payments to operations like The Pirate Bay, not by downloaders (of course) but by advertisers that make the operation profitable for its owners. There are a lot of folks not at the "sender" or "receiver" end of illegal downloading, but who nevertheless enable these transactions to take place. Should the enablers really continue with impunity?
Now, SOPA may be the wrong tool for the job. Maybe it hits too hard, or too broadly, or in such a way that illegal downloading won't decrease. It may be bad legislation--I'm not sure, because there's a lot of fine print, and I haven't digested it all yet. But the goal is a good one, and the basic idea of targeting the middle man makes moral and practical sense. I would understand opposition to SOPA, if it were a question of details, efficacy, side-effects, etc. but the zeal of the opponents make me wonder if they really appreciate that creative artists ought to be protected from internet theft. The opponents strike me as being way too sure the sky is falling and they throw around the word "censorship" too casually. All measures that prohibit speech are not censorship -- in any morally significant sense. Surely we already do stop the middle man from enabling child prostitution and child pornography, and if we don't, we should. The first amendment was not designed to protect speech like "Get your very own little sex slave at kiddiesex.com"-- a sentence (with link) that's merely a conduit to illegal behavior, not the expression of an opinion about that behavior. Search results that take people to illegal piracy sites seem about the same.
OK, it's a complicated bill, and you have to be "for" all of it, or else against it. I'm only for the thing in principle, not for it line by line (I haven't studied it line by line). So go ahead, if you think specific SOPA provisions are unacceptable, have at it.
P.S. Wonder what all the fuss about? Here are some links:
SOPA explained "What it is and why it matters" (CNN)
New York Times editorial
Supporters of SOPA
Opponents of SOPA