Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Case for SOPA

A young cousin of mine once opined: All coins have 2 sides. That’s why you call it ‘Twos coin’.

In light of the scathing attacks levelled against the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) & PIPA (Protect IP Act), it is perhaps well-advised to take lessons in fair play from Manong Enrile’s rulebook and look at the other side of the aisle. What's good about SOPA?

I must admit, this is a bitter pill for me. I love downloading songs, and might as well be captain of the pirates. But for the sake of playing devil's advocate, I’ll try to get on SOPA & PIPA's side.

What good, if any, do they bring?

As we know, the past weeks have not been easy for the twin legislations. They have been maligned and vilified in the name of freedom of speech, information and an open internet. Should these bills pass, they will break the Internet. That’s what the biggest would-be violators would like us to believe. Unsubstantiated, red herring and doomsday scenarios.

With the slew of 'slippery slope' criticisms, a wrench was thrown on legislation that would have empowered copyright holders and give artists protection from predators who, bankrupt of creativity, piggyback on other people's hard work.

Critics typically come in two groups: a) big enterprising websites who will suffer serious decline should copyrights be properly protected, and b) the great mass of people who benefit from easy access to cheap (actually, FREE) pirated materials.

To the first group, I say, you shouldn't be in business in the first place. To the second group -- don't believe everything Mark Zuckerberg says. You're much better than that.

I think the critics of SOPA are subtly changing the topic. The issue is not freedom of speech or freedom of information, (which is not absolute, by the way). It's not even about censorship. It’s about copyright and theft. As far as I know, the laws on copyright and theft have not been repealed. For every click, they are violated conspicuously but also anonymously -- but nobody makes so much as a hush. Yet, at the first sight of some bill setting to correct the violations, everybody cries foul.

There's just something not right about that. Numbed to the concept of intellectual theft, perhaps?

Since everybody wants stuff to be free, admittedly, SOPA is anti-majoritarian. But that’s exactly why copyright laws exist! They protect creatives from the onslaught of people who want stuff for free. After spending countless hours perfecting a song, a movie or millions of lines of code, it is but right that a justifiable remuneration be given. The foundation of the capitalistic market is that things are not free. People work because they expect to get paid for it. Michaelangelo, Shakespeare, the greats, had patrons. That's why they were able to work for years on a single canvass.

What would happen to a world that wakes up to unpaid creative labor? Without the incentive of rewards for content creators? What would the future look like without the semblance of SOPA and PIPA?

It would look exactly like YouTube – a hodgepodge of amateurish, poorly produced videos with bad lighting. Of course, it would be free for everybody.

The saying goes, 'You get what you paid for.' I think this would be proven true in time. We WILL get what we paid for -- in the long run. When today's starving artists, suffering from dried up royalties, are starved even more, they will soon hang their gloves. And at long last, the internet would live up to the dream of becoming the greatest bastion of free information -- much of it trash.

As for SOPA & PIPA, what other good qualities do they bring to the table?

Well, they are bills designed to combat internet piracy and theft. Why would they need any more good points?


Diana Lutgarda P. Bonilla, Entry # 9

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