Saturday, December 17, 2011

The "Reason SOPA Sucks" Speech

Before I write a single word on the matter at hand, I should fully acknowledge the risk factors at hand. In a very Republican family, I tend to avoid most political matters and leave that all to them. I tend to be passive, non-partisan and diplomatic. Still, this is a surprisingly political piece, and it will no doubt infuriate a lot of people of power. Said people may very well not have read it at all or just look at the broad strokes, only focusing on the notion that this is against their interests and bad for their business. I would just be vilified for merely speaking my mind and emerge with a painful, crippling loss on my part.

Such is the reason I avoid politics or speaking my mind. But, this is a matter I cannot ignore in the slightest, one that involves liberty being put at risk and wherein human beings would become exploited for the benefit of a strong, powerful minority.

There is a variable alphabet soup of bills going on in Washington, with the intent of fighting piracy. I understand that piracy is a serious issue, and that it causes a lot of financial loss for the entertainment industry. That I cannot deny, and you can’t claim any benefit on my part because of it. I avoid websites that stream entire movies for free as well as street-side vendors selling illegitimate DVDs and make absolutely no attempt to undermine the severity of piracy.

However, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is one of the sloppiest, most blatantly destructive attempts to curb piracy. The main gist of the bill is that it would shut down any website that uses any piece of any copyrighted material. There are no exceptions, and no questioning. There’s also no fairness to the bill, the content so vague that it amounts to little more than studios childishly hoarding every frame of their content, refusing to share unless one is willing to pay for even a few seconds of it. What about average Americans who want to make fan works and can’t pay your royalties? Shouldn’t at least those who work hard creating quality works be allowed to share them with the public? Don’t fair use laws do enough to compromise? I guess that was just shameless, foolish optimism.

There was even a meeting this week to make the bill more palatable, creating reasonable exceptions for criticism. But that was shot down, and I heard that would just benefit the entertainment industry. Look, I understand if professional reviewers like Richard Roeper or the New York Times movie critics can keep pressing forward with their reviews, raising enough capital to license clips and stills to complement their reviews and commentary. But, what about the average people without such benefit? Should they just be limited to making text-only reviews and get thoroughly ignored because they can’t afford visual aids?

On one last point to make, I point to a major issue that has affected the country as we reflect on the end of the year. I will do my best to avoid sounding like a conspiracy nut, and won’t make any government-business connection beyond this one point. Throughout the final months of 2011, a lot of middle-class people have been protesting major corporations, big business, and just anyone who benefits from capitalism. They are holding such parties accountable for the poor state of the economy and in turn, for the general woes of society.

In this case, amongst the talk of “Occupy Wall Street” and splitting the population into “The 99%” and “The 1%” (the 99% are unfair to the 83%, Let’s Occupy Red Robin, and then I’ll Occupy the Restroom!) I must point out the irony of SOPA. I’m not sure how many people realize that the principle people supporting this bill are the 1%. What’s more, it’s a more direct attack on society in general than just business as usual. Hollywood is already plenty wealthy, and they have the business prowess to gain investment for productions, regardless of quality. And they’re trying to put a tight, cruel leash on the internet, the very digital frontier by which society has begun to rely so crucially on, and potentially destroy it, and to what end? Just to save a few bucks? So the CEO running the studios’ corporate parent can afford that ivory backscratcher?

What kind of hypocritical society would embrace such criticism of harmless business and yet let a law like this pass and cause much, much worse ramifications?

And I submit one last plea to the entertainment industry. If you really want to take the high road, I implore you to go back to your homes, and think more about combatting piracy. I sincerely believe that creativity should not suffer just because of a few rotten apples over the web. There are more reasonable ways to deal with piracy and protect your property without causing so much damage. With any luck, SOPA would just crash and burn and the only consequence for the industry would be the message, “Game Over, Please Insert Coin to Play Again”.