Why SOPA And PIPA And Other Anti-Piracy Bullshit Measures Matter To Writers

First and foremost, let’s just put it out there –

No, this site did not blackout for the protest.

Wikipedia blacking out? Thumbs-up. They have a global audience. I don’t. I blackout and what happens? I miss a handful of new readers and a handful of new sales. In the all in all, nobody soaks their pillows with tears that I’m gone. Besides, what will I do if not obsessively refresh my blog numbers?

RIDDLE ME THAT, CAPED CRUSADER.

Instead, I’d rather talk a little bit about SOPA and PIPA.

It is, I think, easy to convince writers that anti-piracy legislation is a good thing. And while I’m not stridently anti-pirate (for a number of reasons we can discuss in the comments, chief among them being “I don’t think it matters as much as people think it matters”), I grok those who want to shut down All Pirates All The Time. Pirates are bad, after all. They steal our shit. They plunder our grog barrels. Fine. Good. Yes.

Problem, though:

You done got swindled, sons and daughters of the creative age.

SOPA and PIPA are not about piracy.

They are about control.

See, the Internet is this unruly pubic tangle of possibility. It is raw potential given form and it puts a great deal of power in the hands of the individual (are you listening, creative-types?). Power in the hands of individuals can, in some cases, wrest power from the hands of corporations. And corporations don’t like that, so they go to the government and they pour giant buckets of money into the government’s slavering maw and lobby for legislation and the result is, in this case, SOPA, PIPA, and any other naughty anti-pirate hydra-heads that pop up.

Writers and creatives — again, as individuals — have a lot of opportunity in the Internet Age, in part due to the innovation and distribution the Internet offers, in part due to the social media that connects us all. Harming these by harming the Internet then harms free expression. And that’s no good.

Just to be clear, in case you don’t realize what it means to give corporations power over censorship and the subject of artistic originality, please cast an eye no further to the MPAA, whose arbitrary and often insane ratings of films put out by the film industry help stifle creativity and the craft and art of filmmaking. You really want that kind of control over sites like YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, Google, Wikipedia?

No, you do not.

SOPA and PIPA hit the issue with a hammer when what’s called for is a scalpel. (That’s how our government seems to respond to everything anymore, but I suppose that’s a conversation for another time.)

Anyway, others can discuss this matter with far greater aplomb than I –

Visit AmericanCensorship.org to learn more.

In summation:

Fuck SOPA. Shit on PIPA.

Freeze-frame high-five.

CARRIER LOST

59 comments

  • Chuck, I love your writing advice, and some of your fiction. But when you lay it down hard like you do here I am truly moved and impressed. Fuck SOPA.
    This night is kind of unnerving. As much as I joke about living on the web I can function in the real world. Still though, seeing my favorite sites go down one by one, turning dark is a grim vision indeed.
    But the real terror for me? None of the internet using coworkers I work with at a fracking STARBUCKS had even heard of SOPA. These are ostensibly technologically aware people. And in one case a guy defended it and some of it’s supporters, feeling that if liberal newspapers weren’t reporting on it they must have good reason for supporting it.

  • These bills and the NDAA are an offense to human dignity.

    All those dystopian movies and novels that are really cool and awesome and only get shown on IFC at four AM start with a backstory where people sit idly by while their government shovels their rights into the crapper.

    Stop SOPA.
    Stop PIPA.

    Don’t mess with Pippy Longstocking though, she can fuck you up bad.

  • This is great, Chuck. I think if more creative folks speak out against the SOPA it will receive some further backlash. Supposedly, these bills are supposed to “protect” intellectual property for artists, but it is exceedingly clear that it is the large media conglomerates and oligarchs in Washington vying to control the flow of information (pirated or otherwise). Unsurprisingly, all of the Big 6 publishing houses support this bill.

  • I can feel a bit of a twitch right now. I love my Internet. It’s my safe haven. If my favorite sites get shut down by The Man, people will die. Just saying~

    I probably would cry if you blacked out. I love this blog.

    SOPA is going down! (Along with the other bills).

  • Sadly many of the independent authors and self-publishing zealots who benefit from the “kindle-revolution” and declared traditional publishing dead, do not realize that all these anti-piracy measures and legislation won’t help them at all with their own writing business. They will be quite surprised how easily censorship and information controlled by big international media corporations will slowly drive them away from their digital markets, especially if SOPA and PIPA are used by the those corporations to shutdown the marketing and sales channels for the indies. Just imagine how easy it might become someday to remove you from Twitter, your blog etc., because you are treated like a pirate for using a certain quote or not properly checking the source of an image displayed on your site.

    Even if SOPA and PIPA are changed or completely stopped, the next step towards more control of the Internet is still around the corner as long as big international corporations cannot be controlled by national governments. With the permanent fear of terrorism, piracy and child abuse the average Joe can easily be persuaded that censorship and control of information is really mandatory to protect him.

    Just to give you an example how similar crap gets shoved through legislation over here in the EU a nice little site to think about: http://cleanternet.org/

  • Very sensible approach, Chuck – I have an interview online today on someone else’s blog, and I don’t want people who click on the link to my site to find a blank page!

    What I did instead was tweak my site design to render many of the hyperlinks in white text (i.e. invisible), thus demonstrating the potential effect on bloggers. Because that’s what legislation like SOPA will mean – anyone without deep, deep pockets will have to either watch what they say or cut all links to the rest of the web.

  • I’m positively worried, if SOPA gets a pass. I have the opportunity to work, exist and interact on the SFF scene, because of the Internet as it is. Should SOPA and PIPA pass, it’s going to throw a lot of people into isolation.

    So yeah, FUCK SOPA.

  • I did not black out today either. I have a guest post from a debut author that was planned a long while ago and it would not be fair. I oppose SOPA/PIPA. They are extraordinarily overbroad. You are absolutely correct – they are about control. In this case, the ‘cure’ is much worse that the illness.

  • Well said! The scary part about stuff like this is how quietly it gets shoved through the process. How the average person never even notices it’s happening. In this information age the information is surprisingly lacking in a lot of people’s lives.

  • I’m in total agreement with you, Chuck. SOPA, PIPA and the NDAA are all about control. The internet, it turns out, is a great big Godzilla type monster. It’s got really bad A.D.D., so most of the time it just sits in the middle of New York and looks at pictures of kitties, watch video’s of drunk people and read blogs written by fowl mouthed authors. But like all Godzilla monsters, it can at any time, rise up and destroy anything it damn well pleases in ways that the media never could before. It can wreak havok on companies and politicians alike and is the biggest threat they have to their power base. Look at how its helped people in other countries organize, gather and communicate like never before. They want to tap that down right now, because with an approval rating lower than BP during the oil spill crisis, how long is it going to be before the internet gets bored with kitties and booze (never!) and decides it wants to do a little smashing?

  • What really drives me nuts is knowing the people creating the laws don’t know shit about ass when it comes to how the electrons move. The same people voting and/or sponsoring are the idjits who came up with “a series of tubes” and can’t get past level 15 of Angry Birds on their iphones.

    I created a post for today specifically with Fuck SOPA in mind here http://bit.ly/A7xKah – self-censorship is a slow death from inside.

  • Thank you. Just, thank you.

    It’s like you climbed inside my head and pulled out all the thoughts I had on SOPA/PIPA. People assume it’s a Creatives vs. Tech war, but it’s not. There are plenty of creatives out there who think these bills are a load of craptasticalness.

    I’d also like to point out another way such an act can be abused: If you write, and deconstruct someone’s work under Fair Use, that person can then turn around, circumventing the courts, and have access to your site blocked. How would *that* be for business?

  • Liberals love big government. Good job, liberals. Keep voting for Obama.

    You’ll be in chains soon enough. You’ll wonder why your master whips you, even though he was smiling when you handed him the whip.

    The more we are governed, the less free we become.

  • Question for you Chuck (serious question, because I’m not plugged in enough to know)—what are the writers’ professional orgs and other creative professional orgs doing to educate Congress on this? It might be hard for an individual who represents only himself to get the ear of a Congresscritter, but when you represent a large number of people (ie potential voters), and you’re well-spoken, it isn’t that tough to get a chance to brief a congressional staffer, who will usually be happy to pass on the input to his or her congresscritter. Seriously, all you have to do is call up the front office desk for the relevant critter or committee, and ask to speak to the most appropriate staffer.

    I say this having several friends who are staffers, who get approached this way all the time.

    Get in touch with the heads of your professional orgs and entreat them to approach congressional staffers. The more people someone represents, and the more closely those people are related to the issue, the more seriously that person’s view will be taken. If staffers can go back to the critters and tell them “see, there are whole large professional trade organizations that think this will be bad for their entire profession, and here are the related details/statistics/numbers/etc.,” that *can* make a real difference.

    • @Heather —

      It’s a damn good idea. I don’t know how on-board pro-orgs are with SOPA. Some certainly are — given the anti-piracy tone, it’s easy to get on the bandwagon. But I don’t know what groups like RWA, SFWA, etc feel about it.

      Worth asking them, I think.

      – c.

  • Right on, man! I wrote a similar thing on my site last night. There are two prints to this issue and neither has anything to do with piracy. The first is to return control of digital distribution to media conglomerates and the second is to set up a process for gov’t to stifle dissent and organization by its people. A lot of folks know nothing about this because the media simply isn’t reporting on it, which isn’t surprising considering the companies that own the mainstream media outlets are all lined up lobbying for it because it would give them control of the national dialogue again. Just goes to show how badly we need a truly independent media which will be the polar opposite of what we’d get with SOPA or PIPA.

  • Chuck, you hit the nail on the head. While I’m not a fan of piracy, I also recognize that giving the powerful the ability to censor the internet in the name of the little guy is bullshit. I’m a signal person. I understand that our network defense capabilities are shit and that we are vulnerable to cyber attack. While I want to see our networks more secure, I do not want that security to come at the price of freedom. The problem with censoring the internet is that you may never even know that something is missing. And with those tiny little chips at freedom, we lose it all. Well said.

  • Like you, I didn’t join the blackout though I support the cause without reservation. Also like you, I used today to give my thoughts (an author and publishing lawyer’s thoughts, to put a finer point on it) on my own blog – and ironically, I also used the scalpel imagery. I’ve long said that the law is a hatchet, not a scalpel, and it’s not suited to delicate surgery. SOPA and PIPA put the hatchet in the hands of every child with a grudge, and though it’s right in line for Congress to put hatchets in the hands of angry toddlers, I for one find it a very, VERY bad idea.

  • Oh, but have you forgotten that corporations are people, too?! Those poor buggers need things to eat, places to sleep, and clothes to cover up their nakedness. Right? Ehhh…
    This country has long held the belief that corporations are people . . . so this comes to no surprise that when people-people and corporations-people clash, things like PIPA and SOPA become law.
    However, I’ve never read a good blog by a corporation before, in fact they suck at writing blogs. They’re also rather good at destroying things (on purpose and accidentally) and people-people are bad enough at that as it is. This philosophy of corporations-are-people-too has got to stop.

  • Yeh, from what I see, just about anyone could shut down anyone else with no due process. I can post a comment on that foul-mouthed Wendig’s log with some of my copyrighted character names (Charles Wesley Phillips VIII, Esther Huperfox Pudding, etc.). Now I can “claim” he’s violating my copyright. Ooops! Out he goes.

    Not for me, fella.

  • But it’s change you can believe in!

    That bias aside, I agree that SOPA and PIPA are ridiculous. Such ardent control of the internet smacks of the totalitarianism (communist or fascist, doesn’t matter what side of the isle you’re on) that the USofA and the free world have fought so hard to stop. The internet is supposed to be a medium to share and distribute information and goods freely. Legislation like SOPA and PIPA restrict that freedom for no other reason than to have control over it. I think (correct me if I’m wrong) that that’s one of the guiding virtues that led the Colonies to declare independence from Great Britain: in order to have freedom, and to be free of government without proper representation. To be free of tyranny.

    So where’s the representation of the people of the USA in this debate? Maybe there are those true Champions of the People up there on Capital Hill duking it out with mold-minded bureaucrats. But I haven’t seen them. :/ And why isn’t there a louder voice against such freedom suppressing laws?

    Just my rant…

  • Thanks, Chuck, my partner wanted a clear-cut explanation of the problem. She’s a visual artist who hates conflict. I read her your blog post. Now she understands the problem and is pissed off. It’s about time!

  • Everyone I know, of every political stripe, who is familiar with SOPA and PIPA, is opposed to it. If Congress passes these things, it will remove any shred of doubt (for those few who still have any doubt) that both houses are bought and paid for. And if they do pass them, the ensuing chaos will cause a major backlash. I’d like to think our Congress isn’t filled with people dumb enough to court disaster like that, but I learned long ago one should never underestimate the stupidity of the political class.

  • What really drives me nuts is knowing the people creating the laws don’t know shit about ass when it comes to how the electrons move.

    They don’t need to, any more than book-burners need to know the exact temperature at which an accelerant bursts into flame. Nor do they care, or need to.

    What they do know is that it’s a fine way to shut down dissent without worrying about those pesky anti-SLAPP laws or free speech. Gosh, no, we don’t object to the content of your speech, but when you made that video criticizing MegaCorp you might possibly have used a MegaCorp logo and so that’s a violation of your intellectual property. Feel free to try and hire a lawyer to fight off ours.

  • I felt somewhat guilty for not blacking out on the 18th. I didn’t even have as good a reason as you did. I didn’t go dark because I didn’t know about it until the day was mostly over. I agree with what you’ve said here.

    (BTW–and off topic–I enjoyed Shotgun Gravy. Looking forward to the next installment.)

  • I did black out, but I don’t sell anything through my site… Here’s something a friend posted on Facebook that I thought summed things up nicely:

    My friend Carl Jester on SOPA.

    “You work as a mall Santa.

    You like writing about that. You decide to start writing about that again at livejournal.com.

    Somebody brings their child to see you, and takes a video of it. They post that video to YouTube. Then they come to your blog and post a link to that video in the comments. When the video was taken, somebody happened to be playing a popular song, and it’s heard in the background.

    Along comes a music label who says “we own that, you don’t have the rights to use it.” Under DMCA today, their recourse is to tell YouTube to delete the video.

    Under SOPA they can order that YouTube and LiveJournal simply be blocked for everybody everywhere. Not just the one video, all of Youtube. And not just your blog – all of LiveJournal. And the bills did add immunity for over-blocking, which means nobody has any liability for blocking things they shouldn’t.

    In addition to these drastic measures, there are other problems.
    * The burden of proof is negligible for the “rights holders” (the studios and labels that publish the movies and music – keep in mind they’re middlemen, and not actually the creators).
    * The burden for proving fair use or error is extremely high. It’s very difficult to get incorrect blockages removed, because there’s only liability for not blocking.
    * The labels and studios have a horrible track record under DMCA. They have repeatedly issued take-down notices for things they don’t own. They’ve had cases thrown out of court because they acted in bad faith, or completely had their facts wrong.
    * While many of the bogus take-down notices are just sloppy, some were dishonest. A couple weeks ago a label took down a video they didn’t like. They simply objected to the message. YouTube had given them access to block videos, but they’re only supposed to block stuff they own the rights to. They didn’t like the message in this one, and blocked it – twice in one day – knowing they didn’t have any grounds.

    Beyond that, there’s technical problems with their proposal, it breaks how some of the mechanics of the internet works, and undermines some of the security features and help ensure that you’re visiting the site you think you are, and not a scam imposter.

    BTW, you’re also taking the “it’s about preventing piracy” claim at face value. That’s also questionable. None of what they’re proposing is really all that effective at combating piracy – especially not for the professionals.”

  • I, too, did not black my blog out, but spent the day reading (the 70+ page lawyer-speak document… What was I thinking?!) and researching the whole ordeal Where, oh where, were you then, Chuck? (Here, I’m guessing. My bad.)

    Thanks for putting it all in perspective, Chuck. Next time my blonde-ness blindfolds my social media logic, here is where I’ll turn.

  • Agree w/ govt. about stopping piracy. Disagree with govt. about trying to be too freaking controlling. For right now, we have it pretty nice in America w/ a govt. that more or less tolerates free speech (with some grinding of teeth). Hope it stays that way. Hope this won’t be the first step to more stringent measures.

  • SORRY FOR THE SIZE OF THE (very opinionated) POST!!! (my view might not be your view, but honestly, who wants to read their own view?)

    I propose that every bill/law/negotiation go to the internet for the public to scrutinize before it gets proposed, and every time it gets altered. Like a wiki for laws and the proposer of the idea will be able to discuss the good points, receive feedback and better decisions can be made.

    These secret and swift laws are just going to lead into a bloody revolution and nobody really wants that.

    Open communication binds people together and strengthens unity. (husband+wife, children+parents, government+people, one nation+another nation) I believe it to be a universal truth. If you stop talking (like North Korea), your bonds become weaker which creates instability.

    Copyrighting is a terrible plague on humanity and actually only benefits a few rich people for a short time. (if someone copyrighted the letter “I” (eye) for instance).

    Even deeper than that, the culture could not have grown. (Language would have never been invented because only one person would legally have spoken it)

    I personally appreciate good art and pay for it, I am also an artist. I would like to see a bill proposed to abolish copyrights. I’m sorry, but art is meant to be shared, the money will come if you are any good.

Speak Your Mind, Word-Nerds