The SOPA Controversy – A Reader’s View

imageReaders’ comments are an integral part of this Blog. Comments not only have the potential to expand a topic but, often provide a learning opportunity for other readers. How cool is that?

The SOPA issue has drawn huge numbers of comments, not only here, but across the Internet. One of those comments, from regular reader John Bent, lays out a solution to this Gordian Knot quandary.

See if you agree:

Re: A better SOPA: Create Silicon Valley jobs in Hollywood, give Washington the boot.

Following the outpourings of outrage against government censorship of the web, it’s good to see someone suggesting positive ways to combat online piracy. This issue, which is (allegedly) what started the whole thing off, still needs to be addressed.

A good start, IMHO, would be for the copyright laws to be amended so that I, and others like me, are not branded criminals for making copies of material I have paid for, for my own use. This would go a long way to removing the excuse for piracy, that the big players are trying to rip off the poor consumer.

I am firmly of the opinion, that there is no valid excuse for downloading and using copyright material without paying for it.

Another way of reducing the likelihood of this is for publishers to make available, more in the way of “trial”, “lite”, or “time-limited” versions of their products. This would help to prevent people using the excuse that they are pirating copies so that they can “try it out before paying”.

I am extremely cynical about people’s honesty when they make this claim, and providing trial versions would remove that excuse. Yes, it may have a cost implication – but so does piracy.

After the SOPA debacle, perhaps governments will understand that the copyright laws need to be brought into first the 20th and then the 21st century. Then there will be a much clearer view of who the real offenders are. I’m afraid I’m not holding my breath though.

John Bent is a UK based “super user” and, a long time reader here. John’s well considered comments always advance the conversation. Thank you John.


Filed under Guest Writers, Opinion, Point of View

12 responses to “The SOPA Controversy – A Reader’s View

  1. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    And thank you. I am proud to be a part of your blog.

    Kind regards

    • Hi John,

      You have a special place around here – and, rightfully so.

      Your comments are challenging and probative – we all learn from your participation.



  2. delenn13

    Here, here, John….So true.

    I was going to make a longer comment on this and was getting a link..when this caught my eye…Internet, listen up. ACTA is scarier than both PIPA and SOPA, and it will be signed soon. Do your part : politics I don’t even do Reddit….

    Now, I am looking up stuff on ACTA….

  3. John Bent

    Hi delenn13,

    Like you, I’ve been reading up on ACTA, following your link. This whole issue is snowballing and I’ll try to find out what the attitude of the UK government is.

    How true is the saying “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance”. Never more true than now.

    Thanks for commenting.


  4. John Bent

    Hi again delenn13,

    A bit of quick research has brought up a factsheet on the European Commission’s website entitled “Ten myths about ACTA”…

    Click to access tradoc_148964.pdf

    Seems to answer some of the fears expressed elsewhere. The search continues…


  5. delenn13

    Hi John,

    Some of it is pretty scary.. I posted some info over here The Day The LOLcats Died – SOPA – PIPA Protest Song – Brilliant! | Bill Mullins’ Weblog – Tech Thoughts because L didn’t want to fill your part of the blog up with my findings. Then, I come back here and you have more info here..Thanks.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg…
    Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Looks like it is already signed by most countries…with no voting and no input from the internet, like usual. “Groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) oppose ACTA,[5] stating that civil society groups and developing countries were excluded from discussion during ACTA’s development in an example of policy laundering.”

    “The Free Software Foundation (FSF) has published “Speak out against ACTA”, stating that the ACTA threatens free software by creating a culture “in which the freedom that is required to produce free software is seen as dangerous and threatening rather than creative, innovative, and exciting.” ACTA would also require that existing ISPs no longer host free software that can access copyrighted media; this would substantially affect many sites that offer free software or host software projects such as SourceForge. Specifically, the FSF argues that ACTA will make it more difficult and expensive to distribute free software via file sharing and P2P technologies like BitTorrent, which are currently used to distribute large amounts of free software. The FSF also argues that ACTA will make it harder for users of free operating systems to play non-free media because DRM protected media would not be legally playable with free software.”

    And on another front….

    As Kosh would say… And so it begins….

    FileSonic Just Killed Itself By Disabling File Sharing And Uploaded has cut the US off from their services.

    • John Bent

      Hi delenn13,

      I have to confess that I was not aware of ACTA until I read about it in Bill’s blog. It certainly is a big issue that bears investigation, if it’s not already too late. My fear is that all the hoo-ha detracts from the central point about what should be done about on-line piracy. IP theft has been around for years. I knew about “fake rolexes” when I was in my teens, which wasn’t yesterday. There are laws in place to protect IP, they probably just need to be enforced more effectively.

      Online piracy is another matter. It is far harder, if not impossible, to control without taking away someone’s freedom, and I don’t mean their freedom to steal whatever they want and profit from it.

      Criticising government policy is easy, I’ve done it hundreds of times. What is infinitely more difficult is to be constructive. That is why I was pleased to read the article “A better SOPA: Create Silicon Valley jobs in Hollywood, give Washington the boot.”

      I think (hope) governments are far more likely to respond to constructive ideas than negative criticism and would like more discussion on responsibilities, as well as rights.


      • delenn13

        They can respond to this anytime…

        “The entertainment industry giants already have too much power. They have used copyright infringement accusations to destroy the livelihoods and businesses of both innocent and guilty parties, yet instead of minimizing the damage to innocent parties many governments are indulging the entertainment industry and affording them even more power. Why would they do this? Well, because the entertainment giants are powerful government lobbyists.”

        The Entertainment Industry Giants Already Have Too Much Power [Opinion]

        Why has Hollywood gotten bed with the government after the McCarthy debacle is beyond me. McCarthyism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Have they forgotten The Hollywood Ten and the blacklist? Are they as clueless about the internet as the government is and have united to fight a common enemy? As you know, we always fear what we don’t know. Are they scared of change???

        Congress Asked to Return Dirty MPAA Money | TorrentFreak

        WIL WHEATON dot TUMBLR, MPAA Directly & Publicly Threatens Politicians Who Aren’t Corrupt Enough To Stay Bought
        Wil Wheaton of Star Trek:NextGen and TTBT:
        “Not that it matters, and not that I’m some kind of rich mogul, but I’ll say this again: I have lost more money to creative accounting, and American workers have lost more jobs to runaway production, than anything associated with what the MPAA calls piracy. Chris Dodd is lying about piracy costing us jobs. Hollywood’s refusal to adapt to changing times is what’s costing the studios money. That’s it.

        If they don’t want to change, then I don’t either. I want to go to a matinee and pay my admission of 3 Royale Crown Cola bottle caps and then spend 10 cents on a nice bag of hot buttered popcorn <B<AND a cola instead of paying over $30.00 for 2. I want a big theater where I am not packed into like a tin of sardines. I want to see 2 movies…good movies too. I don’t want sequels of sequels(unless they are good) or 3D gimmicks. I don’t want to rent a movie and the first thing I think is..”Man, I’m so glad I didn’t go a theater and see this and spend over $30.00. I would have been sooo pissed.” I am ,also, tired of going to a site and because of where I live I am denied entrance or I can’t see the video. Oh, and another thing…I am tired of buying the same Beatles song in different formats. Albums, 8-tracks, cassettes…Same for movies…..I own it..I should be able to play it anytime, anywhere. And don’t limit how many times I can install my games.. I have to format at times or maybe I got a new Computer… I bought it..what’s the difference? So if I buy a new house with a new garage..does that mean I have to buy a new car???

        I know some of my demands are unreasonable..but then so are the MPAA and the RIAA’s. How about meeting in the middle? Is this constructive enough???

        • Hey Delenn13,

          A ton of info here. Thanks.



        • John Bent

          Hi, delenn13,

          Your comments are absolutely spot on and meeting in the middle is perfectly constructive. It’s what I was basing my thread on, discussion of both sides of the argument.

          Will it happen? Not holding my breath.


  6. Mark

    Good article, I would argue that “fair Use” provisions of the DMCA in the US allow for copies of content you legally own. Unfortunately the means to crack copy protection is illegal, but the copy it produces is not. Certainly the algorithms required to deliver a limited time use model already exists, my Zune subscription music requires a log in every 30 days to remain active. Not sure how online video rentals work but it must use some DRM that has a simple time stamp for a one time use key delivered with the content. So your solution is already being used by Zune, iTunes and Amazon to name a few.
    I’d argue piracy of digital content is unpreventable to those who really want to do it, even if they were to enact laws like SOPA as originally written. The content creators need to adapt their business plans and models to the internet and not try to change the internet to suit their outdated models.

    • John Bent

      Hi Mark,

      Yes, I agree that some suppliers are providing samples of music to try before buying and I believe it is a step in the right direction. Much more could be done, however in response to the changing situation.

      Regardless, people will still copy material illegally because they can and because, in their minds, they can justify it. The law needs to be brought up to date as well as originators’ business models. You are right that people will always pirate if they are determined enough. People will steal identities, hack into financial accounts, deal in drugs, the list is endless. We don’t just wring our hands and say we can’t stop it. We try to enact effective laws and to enforce them properly. At the same time we try to educate people on how to be responsible for their property, be it intellectual or otherwise.

      The bottom line, in my opinion, is that both sides of the argument need to behave responsibly and constructively. A framework needs to be put in place so that originators can receive proper compensation for their efforts and not have people steal from them because it is possible. Cars can be driven at 120 mph, supermarkets are an easy target for shoplfters, but we still need laws to try and ensure that other road users and other shoppers do not have to pay for the irresponsibility of the criminal.