Why You Should Care About SOPA

(Disclaimer: These views reflect the author and are not necessarily those of Literary Escapism.)

The Stop Online Piracy Act (also known as SOPA) has been in the news a lot lately; the tech world is near rioting over the bill, with people from Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame to Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media, giving the public dire warnings of the side effects of this bill. Three hundred Internet industry executives have signed a statement opposing the bill, and even the Father of the Internet, Vincent Cerf, has told congress that the bill is critically flawed.

Why should you care? Well, for one – this site would probably cease to exist. Do I have your attention now? For a better explanation, check out this video:

Back? Good. Left or right, conservative or liberal, it doesn’t matter – this bill has so many bad ideas that no one should support it. Listening to congress talk about it, it’s painfully obvious that not only are they technologically illiterate, but they are being bought and sold to pass this legislation. This is like having small children build your fireworks for you on the Fourth of July.

Remember when Universal sued Sony for selling VHS recorders? Those things totally destroyed the movie industry. Or how about when the RIAA sued Diamond Multimedia for selling an MP3 player – if those things got on the market it would be the end of the record industry. Imagine if those lawsuits had been successful and think about how much it would have stunted our progress. SOPA would be far worse.

Earlier I said that this site would cease to exist – that wasn’t hyperbole. The video linked above goes to a site that contains infringing material; YouTube. All it takes is a single link to a single site, with a single infringing piece of material, and the owner of that content can shut down your site.

Here’s a more realistic scenario: LE gives a book a bad review (which I’ve done). The author takes it personal (which I’ve seen), then sees a quote from their book on the site (which we use quite often). At that point, LE doesn’t have explicit permission to repost that, and since Fair Use is completely gutted, the author can claim infringement and have LE blocked from US readers faster than you can say “Great Firewall of China”. On top of that, if the author claims that LE is profiting off of their material, they can have our funds frozen, which means we can’t pay our mortgage. And the best part is, there is no oversight, no trial, no proof needed. Anyone can make a complaint. Poof, gone like a fart in the wind.

You may ask, what can I do? When you look at the list of SOPA Supporters, you’ll see many publishing houses listed there, from fiction companies like Random House to educational publishers like Pearson. Let them know loudly and furiously that you disapprove of their support. Furthermore:

If you’re an author, you can check the list to see if your publisher is a supporter. If they are, call up your rep and lodge a a complaint – tell them that you greatly disapprove of the bill and request that they disown it because your readers are infuriated (most would be if they knew). Let your readers know loudly and proudly that you disapprove, and have told your publisher as much. There was an author on Twitter who recently told people not to buy two of his books because his publisher Cengage is supporting SOPA – that’s commendable.

Don’t bother cowering behind a bad law because people pirate your books – SOPA won’t do a damn thing to stop it. Piracy is international, and it will quickly become an arms race to work around whatever minor technical speedbump is implemented. This bill will only accomplish censoring what 95% of Americans see; any pirate with an ounce of technical knowhow will be able to work around it and get it in front of the public.

Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)If you’re a reader, check who publishes your favorite authors. Email the publishers and authors to let them know that this travesty is being carried out in their name and that they should oppose this bill and publicly disown it.  Don’t threaten to boycott the books – the authors are more than likely blind to the subject – but help educate them.  Let them know this is going on.

If you’re an American, call your congress critters and give them an earful. The more of their time you waste, the more of an impression it’ll make. In a time where budgets are tight and jobs are scarce, we can’t afford to drive companies out of the US for fear that their sites will be shut down. We also can’t afford the millions of tax dollars it will cost to do the media industry’s dirty work. As for me personally? I’ve already contacted my congress critters to complain, and I’m writing a snail-mail letter to each company on that list telling them that I personally will boycott them.

If it were up to me, LE wouldn’t review a single book from any of the supporting publishing companies, however Jackie isn’t willing to take it that far. I get that – she doesn’t want to punish the authors, especially since they have no control over what their publishing houses do. However, the other companies on that list – Major League Baseball, Disney, News Corp, Sony, Time Warner, etc – are fair game.  You guys are on my shit list; and I will not be purchasing your products until you distance yourself from this legislation.

I get that people want to stop piracy, but this isn’t the way. SOPA is like cutting off your face to spite your nose (yes, I purposefully mangled that). Please take a moment to read up on how horrible it is, and help do the right thing. Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.

P.S. If you feel strongly about SOPA, leave a comment below so others can see that this is a big deal.

About Jesse 29 Articles
The Master and Overlord or better known as the hubby who keeps LE running. He rarely reviews, but he's the one who keeps everything running smoothly from the IT perspective.


  1. I am making a Youtube video open letter to my senator, explaining how SOPA could kill my small publishing business by killing Print on Demand and Digital Publishing services. Outside of contacting congress and the senate, you can help by contacting the companies who support SOPA (Taylor Guitars, Marvel Comics, Vibrams, VISA, etc) on social media and showing your outrage. I’ve already hit a few today with arguments that SOPA hurts their company (why would VISA do anything to risk ecommerce?)

  2. THANK YOU!!! RIAA, the entertainment industry, and a bunch of “for sale” congressman were trying to ramrod this down our throats before anyone noticed. At least it’s now getting the attention it deserves. My husband (a serious techie) is extremely upset about it.

    I just wanted to add that anyone who is concerned about this can help by supporting the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). They are a wonderful not-for-profit organization that helps the little guy stand up to the large corporate interests that are constantly trying to take over the web.

  3. WHAT? How did I now know about this? Gah!

    This makes me so angry I don’t even know what to do about it. I do plan on finding out which publishing companies support it and sending letters/e-mails to try and educate my favorite authors if they don’t already know.

    Thank you for educating me.


  4. Here’s the blow-off I got from Carl Levin when I contacted him.

    Thank you for contacting me about intellectual property rights (IPR) and online privacy. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me.

    Intellectual property rights are legal rights granted by governments to encourage and reward innovation. These rights ensure that inventors reap the benefits of their work. Through IPRs, governments grant a temporary, legal monopoly to innovators by giving them the right to control the use of their creations by others. IPRs also allow inventors to trade or license their work to others in return for fees and/or royalty payments.

    U.S. industries that rely on IPRs contribute significantly to U.S. economic growth, employment, and international trade. Counterfeiting and piracy in other countries may result in the loss of billions of dollars of revenue for U.S. firms, as well as the loss of jobs. There also is serious concern about the potential health and safety consequences of counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs and other products. The responsibility for developing IPRs policy, engaging in IPR-related international negotiations, and enforcing IPR laws cuts across several different federal agencies. The main structures for coordinating interagency efforts are the National Intellectual Property Law Enforcement Coordinating Council (NIPLECC) and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

    On May 12, 2011, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property (PROTECT IP) Act of 2011 (S.968). Among other things, this legislation would authorize the Attorney General or an intellectual property right owner harmed by an internet site dedicated to infringement activities (ISDIA) to take a number of steps to act against the operator or owner of an ISDIA site. On July 22, 2011, the Senate Judiciary Committee favorably reported the PROTECT IP Act. It now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

    One of the most effective ways to keep the information you provide online private is by utilizing security software and by adjusting your computer settings. It also is important to use the security features offered by your web browser. For information on how to protect your personal information online, you can visit [http://www.onguardonline.gov/topics/computer-security.aspx]. Additionally, should you suspect you have been a victim of identity theft or are interested in learning more about identity fraud, you can contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-IDTHEFT or visit their website at [https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/].

    I will certainly keep your views in mind as the Senate continues to consider legislation related to intellectual property rights. Thank you again for writing.

    Carl Levin

  5. Yes, and we already know that senators think that Internet is the series of tubes… This is wrong on so many levels, I don’t even know where to start ranting. They are trying to pass a draconian law similar to this in UK for a couple of years already. The thing is the more they try the more normal honest people will get pissed off and go underground. Piracy is one thing, totalitarism as in total control in every aspect of your life by the government – is quite another.
    Thanks for sharing this!

  6. This is one of those things that’s definitely a “slippery slope” argument. Yes, those things could certainly happen, and yes, if they did it would be awful and completely uncalled for, but there’s no guarantee that it would happen that way. Assuming that’s how it would go is taking a worst-case scenario and presenting it like it’ll be the norm, which can be just as misleading as what the hypothetical author in your scenario would be doing.

    On the other hand, shutting down a site because they linked to somebody else’s mistaken “property theft” is just a dick move in general. It’s punishing the innocent as well as the guilty.

    The problem is where to draw the line. Movements like this are designed not so much to shut down legit sites who may have made a mistake, or who are using small quotes from books, but to stop torrent and sharing sites, to prevent people getting for free what they legitimately should have paid for. Piracy does hurt, and there’s no denying that. The problem lies in the fact that the majority of ways people can phrase laws to cut down on actual piracy also would hurt legit sites, but usually only if somebody’s willing to press the matter. Which most people won’t.

    Don’t get me wrong. I do disagree with the act, mostly because it can be used to punish the innocent. So, sadly, can many laws. And I commend people for standing up to them and pointing out the flaws in their argument. But I can, on some level, see where they’re coming from.

    But when all is said and done, you can’t put everyone under house arrest and say it’s for their own protection and expect everyone to be happy about it.

  7. The problem is that this bill’s predecessor, the Digital Millennium Copyrights Act(DMCA), was already pretty damn draconian and has already been horribly abused- the “problem” with DMCA is that it has a “safe harbor” clause that states that service providers are not responsible for content they didn’t produce- i.e. if Google is spidering the web and indexes a site that violates someone’s copyright, they themselves are not liable.

    This about it- The way copyright works is that EVERYTHING created is copywritten; we’re talking about only spotting an infringement. How could Google feasibly know which words and images are VIOLATING someone’s copyright? They need a list of every single instance if copywritten material as well as a list of who has access to reproduce that material as well as verifying that the people reproducing that material are in fact the ones with the permission.

    Imagine this: the National Association of Garbagemen has the rights to reproduce a Justin Bieber song; you record a video of your 12 year old daughter singing to a Justin Bieber song. Are you infringing? What if you are a garbage man? what if you have a private contract with Justin Bieber? What if the whole damn thing falls under fair use?

    From a technical point of view, it’s similar to Russell’s Teapot.

    SOPA basically gets rid of safe harbor.

    By the way,

    Assuming that’s how it would go is taking a worst-case scenario and presenting it like it’ll be the norm, which can be just as misleading as what the hypothetical author in your scenario would be doing.

    Derp. That statement tells me you don’t work in the tech industry. We see these abuses ALLTHETIME. We’re not being cynical; that IS the intent of the law. I was going to link to many different instances of DMCA abuse, but decided to link to google instead.

    Did you know copyright is encoded in the US constitution?

    To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

    Note that it says “Limited Time”; can you guess how long copyright was intendend to last? 14 years with a 14 year renewal. Thanks to the likes of large media conglomerates, we’re looking at the life of the author + 70 years; With a life expectancy of 78, if you copyright something when you’re twenty, no one can use that material for 130 years. That is not a range to benefit mankind, that’s a range to benefit the Disney Corporation.

    This is not overstatement or hyperbole- it’s not just some fringe lunatics screaming about SOPA. Big names in technology are against it. While those credentials may not mean much to you, as someone in the tech industry, you sit the hell down and listen when they talk.

  8. morgajel – big thumbs up from me! :))) I’ve read about Disney and what its lobbying has done for prolonging copyright years to what it is now and wasn’t going to say “big corporations” without sounding like a conspiracy theorist, but damn now I will say it. People who think that we exaggerate the danger? You are wrong. Big corporations do not care about you or fair use, they care about maximising the profits in any way. They are not objecting to ruining as many human lifes in the process as possible. Recession is the latest example. If you think this law will be implemented on a case to case basis think again. It will cut everyone. The copyright infringement cases which sue people living under the poverty level for downloading and uploading music for million and million dollars loss of their imaginary profit show exactly what’s going to happen to all of us.

  9. Great article, Jesse. Perhaps the social media folks at Cengage can get behind OPEN as an alternative. It will be worth getting in touch with them on Tuesday to find out.

    What is your opinion of OPEN? It seems reasonable to me, but I haven’t done any real analysis.

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