We don’t normally take political stands here at Eilert Communications. Two bills in front of Congress and the Senate, however, got our attention. And not in a good way.
SOPA, the “Stop Online Piracy Act” goes up for a vote in the House next week. The Protect IP Act (PIPA) goes in front of the Senate next week. The intention is to “protect intellectual property rights” and “go after online piracy”. We are all for protecting intellectual property. After all, we are in the business of building brands and identities. But these proposals are not the way to do it.
Both proposals go well beyond that intention and venture into the territory of censorship and government selection of which businesses stay in business. One analogy being used that we think is fitting is shutting down the auto industry because a bank robber drove away from a robbery in a car.
About the bills
Both bills attempt to address the issue of copyright/trademark infringement and the problem of online piracy. Cnet posted a good FAQ on “How SOPA would affect you: FAQ”, which outlines specifics of the bill and the potential impact. Reddit, which has led the awareness charge for SOPA, also has a good FAQ.
3 reasons why these are bad proposals:
1) Extreme penalties. The bills propose shutting down entire sites if someone deems content on a page to violate copyright laws. Which makes us ask: isn’t that what copyright laws already cover? Perhaps enforcing those laws might be a better course of action.
2) Our economy, like many world wide, is still in the tank. The internet offers one of very few growth sectors. According to the report “Internet matters: The Net’s sweeping impact on growth, jobs, and prosperity” published by the McKinsey Global Institute, “The Internet accounted for 21 percent of GDP growth over the last five years among the developed countries MGI studied, a sharp acceleration from the 10 percent contribution over 15 years. Most of the economic value created by the Internet falls outside of the technology sector, with 75 percent of the benefits captured by companies in more traditional industries. The Internet is also a catalyst for job creation. Among 4,800 small and medium-size enterprises surveyed, the Internet created 2.6 jobs for each lost to technology-related efficiencies.” Now Congress and the Senate propose to kill that with this law. We have to wonder why there is time and energy for this type of legislation when picking up where the Super Committee failed might be a better focus.
3) There are privacy concerns on traffic monitoring and it also opens the door to potential blacklisting.
See how your Representative and Senators stand
ProPublica is posting summaries of where Representatives and Senators stand. Click on the link for your state to see the details. Also of note: how many dollars their 2010 campaigns received from the movie/music/tv industry, and from the computer/internet industry.
What you can do
What can you do? Simple: contact your Congressional Representative and Senators and let them know you do not support this legislation. We did. Here’s where our Representative and Senators stand in responding:
Rep. John Yarmuth: no response to my email. Posts on the Web indicate he is not decided yet.
Sen. Rand Paul: responded to my e-mail that he will vote against
Sen. Mitch McConnell: no response yet. Posts on the Web give no indication of where he stands. Who knows?
Update to post: January 19, 2012:
John Yarmuth just sent me an e-mail indicating he will vote NO on SOPA and PIPA should either bill come up for a vote. His mail noted receiving more than 300 calls and e-mails in the last 24 hours. Thanks for your response, Rep. Yarmuth!