Friday, January 20, 2012

SOPA thoughts, because I didn't post on it when it was relevant

I thought about, and wrote a few paragraphs on, the uniqueness of characters. Had I written the post, it would have been about how we humans aren't merely the sum of our parts, but the sum of our experiences, and that you need to make that clear in your fiction. A character tells their story best by doing, of course, but how they feel about what they've done also matters. Maybe I could have stretched that into an entire post. Guess we'll never know.

I also thought about, and wrote a few ranting paragraphs on, SOPA. Perhaps I can make a few of my better points on this.

If you're friends with me on Facebook, you might have noticed I believe it should, instead, be called DOPA. I believe you can discourage piracy, but you can't stop it. The high points of this post would have been how I don't believe our interests are best represented by a bunch of crotchety farts on capitol hill who barely know how to work an email account, and about the nature of digital "property." Unlike some of my cohorts, I do, to a certain extent, believe that "piracy" is a necessary component of this amazing tool we call the Internet. Except I believe it should go by its original name, sharing.

Where you fall in this argument is going to depend a lot on your ethics. Where I fall in this argument is that the music industry missed their chance, when Napster and broadband were first becoming popular, to seize and take advantage of this amazing delivery mechanism. If you make something easy to access, regardless of price, people are going to access it that way. If, however, you bar entry, all you really do is force people to get creative. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.

But I am aware that piracy/sharing does not encompass only music. I think Henry Rollins said it best in one of his spoken word shows that I attended, "I'd rather have your time than your money." To be honest, if someone came right out and asked me if they could have a copy of my book--especially an electronic copy--I'd give it to them without hesitation. It's not that I'm not proud of my work. Quite the opposite, actually. I want you to read it, whether or not you paid for it.

Now, I'm not saying I have the only right answer. Hell, I'm not even saying that I'm right, but you're going to have a hard time convincing me otherwise. This is what I believe, and it's the reality that I live in. Unfortunately, it seems we are only allowed to have an anarchistic Internet, or an over-regulated one. Never mind the fact that people aren't "gone after" when it comes to piracy, I still think all this SOPA petition-signature-begging is fearmongering.

It should also be noted that I have a policy against signing petitions of any kind. Call me lazy or disbelieving, but I don't feel like it accomplishes a whole hell of a lot. Digression over.

Much like Metallica (in the Napster debacle) came out looking like shit, so too would any artist or government that "cracked down" on some vanilla internet user who innocently posted something to their blog or YouTube without the proper attribution or whatever. Will that stop people from being dicks? No, it never has, but at least it's a deterrent. Which brings me back to my original point.

The law, in a global sense, is not designed to stop you from committing crimes. It can't stop you. Not even the police can stop you, and they're not meant to. No, the law (and the police's response, and your potential prison sentence and/or fine) is merely meant to discourage you from committing crimes. Freedom doesn't mean you're only allowed to do good or positive things.

So, there are some of my thoughts on the topic of the week, and a bit of writing stuff too. If you agree or disagree, I'd love to hear about it.

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  1. My thoughts on SOPA are all over the internet. I never used to sign petitions or anything, and to an extent I feel like protesting is a waste of time. At least if you're standing on the corner of I-70 and Wadsworth telling people in their cars war is bad. If you protest, go balls out like the Occupy folks.

    I started signing petitions because it's a low cost investment on my end (I was going to read about it and feel all knotted up anyways) and I'm not really capable of doing more. I can't donate money to causes, I can't drive to DC to do... anything. But I can sign a petition (or 15) and call my various representatives. I'm not sure how much good it does, and anticipate a group like Anonymous to generate more reaction than I would, but it's at least something I can do.

    I absolutely agree that sharing is vital to the structure, success, and I would say even the philosophy of the internet. But not just the internet, all of society leans on sharing as a fundamental thing. I read recently that the healthiest and happiest cultures have a rich public domain. The problem is getting people to break the piracy=theft mentality. The issue has somehow become like gay marriage and abortion where it's impossible to have an honest intellectual discussion. The few I've had with people who, though they might not support SOPA, certainly think that pirates are akin to child molesters have gone like this: they assert that piracy costs corporations Xinflatedbillionpretenddollars. Because I don't think you should argue blindly, I bring an arsenal of studies that show a variety of things. 1.They show that those that pirate the most also buy the most (your biggest pirate is your biggest customer); 2. As long as a third party isn't making money off of pirated goods, piracy drives revenue; 3. Those numbers cited by congress, RIAA, and MPAA are wacky fake; 4. That not all instances of piracy constitute a lost sale. Moreover, piracy is a wealth distributor if nothing else. If I didn't rush out to buy the latest Michael Bay bag of vomit, I still had to use that money whether I bought dinner, a different movie, or paid a bill. I might have saved it, but that's un-American (why else would they consider taxing savings accounts?), and I don't appreciate my patriotism being called into question. The other person responds with, "YEA BUT PIRACY IS ILLEGAL AND STEALING."So let's back up and examine my argument. I'm not so massively retarded that I can't recognize what the law says, but what the law is, in this case, bad for business, and we're encouraging it. YEA BUT...

    I got so tired of arguing it, I started writing a script for a very bitter and sarcastic video that typifies these interactions. The pirate would be played by some caveman who eats living creatures (too dumb to slaughter), and the only light he ever sees is the light from his monitor while he selfishly downloads The Hangover corpus, and everything Nickelback has ever done. Of course, the patriotic anti-pirate would be smartly dressed and say things like, "You might be tempted to consider this base creature's talking points, or to examine his carefully researched arguments. You might feel empathetic toward his view as he tries to describe to you the philosophical underpinnings of pirate culture, and you might even be tempted to change your mind. But that would be wrong. Always remember, in this situation, these three words are your best friend: PIRACY IS ILLEGAL."

    Bah. I hate having all this information but not being able to do anything with it. Maybe if the shit hits the fan we can convert to Kopimism and head to Switzerland under the banner of religious persecution. If there's a religion out there that describes my interests, it's Kopimism.

  2. Oh, and this would have been funny.

    I have a blog that I abandoned to the ether a long, long, time ago. I visited it the other day and found that I had been the victim of a deluge of spam comments, most of which are ads for off brand pharmaceuticals. Under SOPA and PIPA, the offending website can simply be deleted without any sort of investigation, and the pharmaceutical companies are one of the big supporters of the law. My blog that I haven't touched in years would be in violation of copyright under those laws, if they'd been passed (or if they pass).

    I can't shut up about this topic. Ron Paul in a debate recently said of SOPA (after saying it's a devastating blow to 1st amendment rights), "Our laws are a reflection of our morality, and when a disagreement this large happens, it means that our morality has surpassed our laws. This doesn't mean we shouldn't have laws, but when these things happen, we should carefully examine why those laws are in place." Deeply paraphrased, but the point is that I love that man.


I'm always happy to hear from you, even if you disagree. Leave a comment or shoot me an email (, whichever you prefer. Thanks for stopping by.


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