(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.
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.