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Some thoughts on SOPA and PIPA

In the interest of full disclosure, I have a few things to admit before I begin sharing my thoughts on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA): 1) I am not as fully informed as I could be (but I read this informative Washington Post article), so please, if I get something wrong, let me know (kindly!) in the comments and I’ll reevaluate, and 2) I am not innocent of pirating. I don’t believe in censorship, I never have. I remember a shirt my dad used to wear that had a drawing of a man with a white glove over his mouth with the words, “Censorship is UnAmerican.” When I was a freshman in college, I wrote a research paper to that effect. It was a matter of pride that I could quote both Dee Snider (of Twisted Sister and “Strange Land” fame) and Frank Zappa in an English paper. Now, I haven’t read the intricacies of either SOPA or PIPA, but I do think their basic premise is in the right place. As nice as it is to get something for nothing, eventually that something is going to run out. Yes, movie stars and many musicians make an exorbitant amount of money. But if we keep taking their products without paying for them, that will eventually run out. And we won’t have any products to buy … or download illegally. I imagine it’s a bit of a double-edged sword for the artist as well — you want as many people as possible to experience and (hopefully) enjoy your art, but if only one of out 100 people are paying for it, you can’t make a living. That’s part of the reason newspapers can’t just put their entire print product online without charging something for it — if we don’t make money from our product, how can we afford to pay people to create it? From what I can gather, the language of SOPA and PIPA leave something to be desired and could be interpreted far beyond their intentions. That means the act needs some work, but, again, I think the heart of the matter has been in need of some attention for some time now. There’s been plenty of protest from online sites such as Google and Wikipedia (read about it here), who fear that legitimate sites, i.e., sites that don’t promote and deal in illegal file sharing, could also be targeted by SOPA and PIPA. We want to reward actors, film makers, musicians, writers, etc., for putting out moving, entertaining and meaningful work so that they’ll continue to move us, entertain us and inspire us. As tempting as it may be to pirate a film or an album or a TV show, it is essentially taking money out of someone else’s pocket. I believe there is a significant difference between our freedom of speech in the online sector and theft. Just something to think about…

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