The SOPA links keep on coming, and rather than just post them, I thought I’d add a few more thoughts of my own.
1. Surely every dramatist knows that showing the audience a gun in Act 1 suggests that it will go off in Act 2 or 3. Yet the MPAA, which represents quite a few dramatists, seriously wanted us to believe that two bills with the potential to shut down any website allowing public comments or edits would have no adverse side effects. One venture capitalist has written, “I can’t tell you how many Senators and Representatives have told me that they were told by the MPAA and the RIAA that the technology industry was on board and that these issues would not impact the Internet and tech community adversely.” It’s impossible to believe that the MPAA and RIAA were fooling themselves, so the reasonable conclusion is that they were trying to fool everyone else.
2. Which lends weight to the argument that this is now an existential battle to the death between old media and new. It would be nice if it wasn’t, if we could have some peaceful and negotiated transition, but Hollywood and its compatriots have effectively declared war on everyone else. I’ve been pretty careful to respect copyright when publishing stuff here over the past 13 years, avoiding countless temptations to Get My Photoshop On and go nuts; but it’s possible that something here might cross somebody else’s line, and that a million of my words and thousands of my images might be yanked offline because of one or two by someone else. If I leave comments switched on, the risk is that someone else will breach copyright on my site for me; and even if I don’t, the site has fallen victim to at least one hack attack in the past, which saw spam links added to its archive pages. What if those links had been to pirate sites? (And for that matter, what’s the difference, in terms of publicising a pirate site, between linking to it and mentioning it by name? Better not talk about the Megaupload seizure.)
3. For most of my now-middle-aged life, I’ve been one of the more frequent purchasers of books, CDs and DVDs that I know, and it’s only really slowing down because I’m running out of shelf space. (Switching to digital music purchases last year addressed part of that.) I’d certainly be among the old-media industry’s more devoted customers. But I’m a creator, not just a consumer, and for 13 years have been posting my creations here. That makes this personal website—which, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t matter much to anyone other than the person who made it—the most important thing I’ve ever made (not counting my kids as “things”). I don’t care how great your new movie is, or your new album or novel, it’s not going to feel as important to me as 13 years’ worth of my own work. It’s probably not even going to feel as important to me as a lot of other people’s online work. There are personal blogs, community blogs, and other user-generated websites that have been part of my personal media landscape now for over a decade. If any of them were forcibly shut down, it would matter more to me than EMI going under. Someone else took over EMI’s artist roster and archives; but who would recreate the whole of Metafilter?
4. One last thought. If there’s any industry that stood to be adversely affected by SOPA and PIPA, it’s education. No matter how scrupulous schools and universities are about copyright policies and IT user agreements, their online activities are inevitably driven by the individual decisions of thousands of staff and millions of students. These bills would have had a big impact on what we do. With more and more courses going online, and more and more fees at stake, it’s a wonder that far more educational websites didn’t go dark last week.
5. Some more links, on SOPA and on the new light that the Megaupload seizure has cast on all of this: