Have you become a STOP SOPA lemming?

 

Note: If you’re just stumbling on to this post, both bills have been withdrawn at this time but keep reading. The points are still valid. An excellent wrap up of the issue is contained in this New York Times piece: It’s time to put down the pitchforks on SOPA.

The current controversy over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), also known as U.S. House Bill 3261, is highly disturbing on several levels, and the actual bill might be the least of our worries, in the long-term.

I am against piracy, but I’m also against this bill.  The proposal is so out of touch with reality that it is embarassing.  It looks like the opposition is gaining momentum, so that is a relief.

But here is something that is just as disturbing to me. Many people I know became “Stop SOPA” lemmings.

Follow the leader?

Legend has it that a lemming is a little rodent that blindly and unquestioningly follows their leader, even when they follow them over a cliff to their death (they don’t actually do this but that is another story).

I questioned three well-known social media leaders about why they were supporting SOPA and actively encouraging their followers to attach a “Stop SOPA” badge to their profiles. Here is a summary of their responses:

“I’m not what you would call an expert on this. I haven’t even read the bill. I’m trusting what I read from others.”

“To be honest, I don’t know what is in the bill. But based on how people are reacting it must be bad.”

“I have not read the bill and I do not intend to read the bill. What is in the bill is irrelevant. They are taking away our rights.”

You see, on the social web, “Stop SOPA” is not a political issue, for many. “Stop SOPA” has become a meme.  This movement was passed from person to person without much independent thought or an educated response. It has become the Keyboard Cat of political statements.

I fully appreciate the importance of “social proof” on the Internet. In the absence of direction, we may look to trusted others for an idea of what to do. But come on folks. This proposed legislation directly affects the very heart of our lives and our livelihoods. There is no excuse in encouraging action from your trusting followers without doing a little homework.

But what about the problem?

The third level of concern this proposed legislation created was the fact that everybody seems to be against SOPA but there has been little  intelligent dialogue about the actual issue of stopping piracy.  And stealing is “our right” is not a viable answer in my book.  Please, take a strong stand … but also help provide some answers.

Here is the problem in a nutshell. I just spent nearly a year of my life writing a book. If there is no hope of getting paid for the difficult work and sacrifice that goes into creating content like this in the future, I will never write another book.  And so on.

When you steal content, you’re not beating a greedy corporation. You’re not sticking it to “the man.” You’re sticking it to me, and millions of other writers, filmmakers, musicians, software developers, and other hard-working content creators.

Some claim that alternative monetization models will emerge to allow people to continue to create and prosper in spite of what seems like unstoppable piracy.  But we have been stealing legally-protected content for 20 years now. If an easy monetization alternative were available, wouldn’t it have emerged by now? It hasn’t, and it won’t. And yes, I’ve read the book Free by Chris Anderson and still believe there is probably no answer to widespread content theft other than some sort of legislation. We need to come to terms with that fact and be part of the solution.

OK, that is enough of the rant. This time it was SOPA. But the next time we “go lemming,” will it be something even more important? And at what cost? I was really disturbed by the herd mentality I witnessed.  What about you?

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  • “stealing is ‘our right’ is not a viable answer in my book.” All I can say to that is no s*it. I’m with you here Mark.
    I was speaking with Dino Dogan this morning and he said that one thing social media has done is cheapen content. People now take for granted that they have access to a lot of information for “free.”

    I love books and read a ton of them. I also pay for courses and other knowledge. This gives me a leg up over people not paying for this information.

    I also understand it takes a lot of time, effort and energy to create this information, and the creators of such should be paid accordingly. It just makes sense to me.

    It also makes sense to me to protect that from theft. However the measures in SOPA go too far in what the government can and can’t make businesses do.

    What is the alternative? Perhaps working this stuff out with other countries? There’s a lot of pirated movie operations here in Thailand that operate thanks to money changing hands. So I’m not sure additional laws will do it here.

    Frankly I don’t have “the answer” to this issue, but I don’t support forcing the hands of companies as the bill proposed to allow the federal government to do.

  • Mark, thanks so much for writing post where it at least appears you did some research on SOPA.  You hit the nail on the head that so many people are blindly following and posting the banner because of their laziness and not wanting to read the bill.   I can’t take a stand one way or another yet because I have not yet read the bill but trust me, I do intend on reading it before I make my decision.

  • I can’t entirely agree with “lemmings.” The details of SOPA are fairly complicated by nature and it’s difficult to explain the damage that the bill would do. I see the “lemmings” as people who are informed by someone they trust. I’m sure that many people have their heart in the right place but don’t have the time or capacity to understand the bill so they “join the ranks.” But there are always bandwagoners. I live in Chicago, I should know (root for whichever team in whatever sport makes the playoffs).

    I think you’re right on about the lack of intelligent discussion around solutions — starting with all the SOPA supporters! I think there can be positive legislation around the subject but SOPA and PIPA are egregious! It’s frustrating to be a content creator now but there have to be smarter people than this. And trying to push it quickly through Congress entirely counter-productive to what they’re trying to accomplish.

    I claim no solution but what I think would have been more beneficial for the original supporters and the public is open discourse, education and simulation.

    I do agree though that stealing is not our right. I don’t think the availability argument can fully stand up, but I think there is something to it. If there is a song that’s not available on iTunes or Amazon or any legitimate channel but is posted on YouTube, could you hold yourself from listening to it there?

    Some people are so lax about watching and downloaded pirated content. But once you put content out in the world and it get’s used without permission, you know why piracy sucks.

  • I am definitely against SOPA and was glad I had some people ask me why I was really against it. I didn’t read the whole bill, but I read a few parts and a few lawyers interpretations on Wikipedia and such (yes I know that isn’t the most reliable source) but I am against any legislation that legally gives the government any control over the internet.

    America is no longer a free nation despite what they say, people have given up way too much freedom for “security.” Now the internet is the last somewhat free zone and the more governments try to control it for “security” purposes, the more freedom we lose.

    I also think the internet is the one shot at the World being one people. We can communicate with people all over and not worry about borders.

  • Content theft is a crisis situation for many worthy, hard-working people, not just record labels and big companies. It’s like somebody coming to you and asking to turn over the keys to your business. Of course you would resist.  I don;t know what the answer it is, but here is what I can guarantee: It will be unpopular.  Thanks for the superb comment Robert.

  • Good for you. Thanks for caring enough to comment.

  • Thanks for the dissenting perspective. It is certainly a very legitimate point. The idea of learning from those you trust is important. I guess what struck me is the danger of joining a bandwagon that has such very serious implications and starting a “movement” without first-hand knowledge of what you’re doing.  As you think that through, it’s pretty frightening. Instead of vilifying SOPA, it was an innocent person who became the meme? Literally makes me shudder.  Thanks again for the amazing comment!

  • Whether it’s the Internet or not the Internet, we have to follow the rules of our country.  You cannot deal in child pornography on the Internet.  You can’t bully or commit a hate crime.  You can’t commit fraud. And you shouldn’t be able to steal. I don’t think following basic civil rights online or offline deteriorates freedom. My two cents.

    I share your passion and hope for the Internet to be a unifying platform for the world. Many thanks for the excellent comment Adam.

  • Interesting perspective. There seem to be two groups emerging who oppose SOPA: those who think anything on the Internet should be free and those who are against piracy but think SOPA is too far-reaching. 

    I imagine with any bill, the percentage of people who actually read the bill is pretty small, including those in Congress who vote on them.

    While the Internet has spawned incredible access to information, it has also created a culture of people expecting to receive information for free. (I have read Chris Anderson’s book and enjoyed it immensely.) The newspaper industry is approaching its death throes because of this expectation. 

    Like you, Mark, I agree that SOPA is too far-reaching to be an acceptable bill for prosecution of piracy. But I worry that when and if an effective bill is proposed to battle piracy, those who believe they are entitled to access creative works for free will overshadow those of us who create works and defeat such a bill.

  • Content creators have a definite stake in this discussion, as you point out. The problem with SOPA isn’t the intent, its the way that the bill seeks to implement and punish acts of internet piracy. Its clear that this particular bill was written to appease a minority of large businesses who have a large financial stake, without a consideration for the practical implications of preventing piracy and content theft. It would be nice if a bill were written from a cross-section of stakeholders, large and small. 

  • Kathi Browne

    There is a lot of information out there about SOPA but even at face value, there is cause for worry. For me, it  boils down to what I’m afraid of and what just doesn’t feel right.

    What I’m afraid of — innocently sharing something I thought was shared openly and then getting in trouble with no intent AND the gov’t using this power to shut down sites it doesn’t agree with.

    What doesn’t feel right — in a recent live hangout, I witnessed an anonymous eavesdropper who was later identified as DHS monitoring. So now we can be monitored without cause? It’s just creepy.

    So if people want to put a banner on their twitter avatar and boycott GoDaddy… well, I’m just going to be thankful that in this country we still have the right to do that.

  • I wish people would explain SOPA and PIPA in plain English. I say it this way. 

    The patient is sick (piracy), but the government wants to use medicine that will not only kill the patient, but it will also kill a lot of innocent people too. That’s SOPA/PIPA – one in each house.

    The movie and music industry is so desperate to cure the patient, they want the medicine, regarless of its hazards.

  • Tom

    Great post. To me this points to a broken system of crafting and enacting legislation.  What worked 100 years ago doesn’t work now.  We have the technology to start crowdsourcing legislation, let’s do it.  Get the stakeholders involved in crafting the laws, then have Congress vote on them.  Maybe we’d see some decent laws get passed.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Mark ~ I take it you will also protest against having the SOPA bill pass on particular grounds that it takes away First Amendment rights for an open and free internet. This little rant also points out that people may simply jump on the going trend, rather than educate themselves about the under-pinning of what our Congressional leaders supposedly have read and understand about the Bill.

    Sometimes we receive a few filters from trusted thought leaders who have researched a topic. And, I hope those who provide this information “have” read the papers that will or will not be passed into law.

    Your blog makes us all stop, think and ask ourselves, “Have I an understanding about all sides of this issue? Do I know what I am voting for or against?” If 1800 Wikipedia members have voted against SOPA and this huge organization decides to make a statement of this magnitude, we better all take notice.

    I guess I’m a lemming, hopefully not to jump into the sea and drown, but rather to swim to freedom.

    Blessings
    Debby

    P.S. I have also written a blog about this issue.

  • Of course stealing is not a right, but we must realize that there is a tremendous different between downloading digital content and theft. Theft, by definition, is when someone takes goods without paying for them. What makes it a crime is the fact that it reduces supply without compensation.

    However, a digital download does not remove supply because digital goods all have an infinite supply. Thus, when I download a digital book, there are still plenty of digital books available for everyone else. The author is not a victim of theft because he has the same amount of books as before the download took place.

    The fact is (and many people refute this notion) is that if I download a movie or music or books, it does not ensure I won’t buy them later. And if I am unable to download those movies, books or music it does not ensure that I will buy them.

    Here’s another fact that I know from my own circle of friends and family: Many people who downloaded The Dark Knight still saw the movie in the theater. And many also bought the DVD or Blu Ray. And these people are NOT the exception. They are the rule. Most “pirates” are Average Joes and Janes making use of available technology and are not fighting The Man. They don’t see stealing as “a right” because what they are doing is NOT STEALING.

    I realize that many people simply refuse to believe the above statements and there are dozens upon dozens of counter arguments. So here’s one irrefutable fact:

    Economics 101 says the greater the supply the lower the price. If the supply is infinite, then the price is zero. End of story.

    Also worth noting is that convenience raises prices, even when supply is infinite. Thus the success of iTunes. There is not one single song, movie, TV show or book on iTunes that cannot be obtained anywhere else for free. But people pay for iTunes products because:
    1. The file quality is guaranteed. 
    2. The download speed is the fastest you can get.
    3. Absolute certainty that you are getting the right product. 
    4. The security of knowing the file is not a virus and does not contain a virus. 
    5. Simply put, it’s easy–one click and it’s yours. 

    This is the only effective way to combat so-called online piracy. You have to offer a more compelling reason to spend the money. I saw Avatar in the theater because the experience was 100X better than watching a cruddy bootleg on my laptop. I downloaded American Idol contender Casey Abrams’ performances from iTunes because they were better quality than the bootlegs. And I buy physical books from Amazon.com because I love the feel of holding a book (I am a Kindle holdout) and the visage of my massive book collection in my home office.

  • Mark Hi, 

    i normally dont express my opinion on “legal” related posts due to my current status as student of law, but I will on yours! You made the great and most valid point of all. One thing that bothers me the most when comes to SOPA is that people think they dont need to read the bill before they do any posts. They are wrong! Yes SOPA is far from perfect i am not supporter of it! But i strongly believe that is time for all of us to get protected from copy cats.  I am not saying SOPA is here to solve the problem, but for sure we could all use the opportunity to get heard. Jet many out there talks about SOPA and they dont even know what bill is about it. Why do we always need to follow the crowd ? I personally think if anyone want a comment on SOPA or write a post let them read the bill first before saying anything that has no sense or bases for it. 

    I agree with you we the bloggers or you as an author of the book should be protected at any time. 

    Thank you for great Post Mark! 

    ps
    Can’t wait to read your new book, few more weeks! 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Dear Mark ~ I take it you will also protest against having the SOPA bill pass on particular grounds that it takes away First Amendment rights for an open and free internet. This little rant also points out that people may simply jump on the going trend, rather than educate themselves about the under-pinning of what our Congressional leaders supposedly have read and understand about the Bill.

    Sometimes we receive a few filters from trusted thought leaders who have researched a topic. And, I hope those who provide this information “have” read the papers that will or will not be passed into law.

    Your blog makes us all stop, think and ask ourselves, “Have I an understanding about all sides of this issue? Do I know what I am voting for or against?” If 1800 Wikipedia members have voted against SOPA and this huge organization decides to make a statement of this magnitude, we better all take notice.

    I guess I’m a lemming, hopefully not to jump into the sea and drown, but rather to swim to freedom.

    Blessings
    Debby

    P.S. I have also written a blog about this issue.

  • Mark Hi, 

    i normally dont express my opinion on “legal” related posts due to my current status as student of law, but I will on yours! You made the great and most valid point of all. One thing that bothers me the most when comes to SOPA is that people think they dont need to read the bill before they do any posts. They are wrong! Yes SOPA is far from perfect i am not supporter of it! But i strongly believe that is time for all of us to get protected from copy cats.  I am not saying SOPA is here to solve the problem, but for sure we could all use the opportunity to get heard. Jet many out there talks about SOPA and they dont even know what bill is about it. Why do we always need to follow the crowd ? I personally think if anyone want a comment on SOPA or write a post let them read the bill first before saying anything that has no sense or bases for it. 

    I agree with you we the bloggers or you as an author of the book should be protected at any time. 

    Thank you for great Post Mark! 

    ps
    Can’t wait to read your new book, few more weeks! 🙂

  • Mark Hi, 

    i normally dont express my opinion on “legal” related posts due to my current status as law student, but I will on yours! You made the great and most valid point of all. One thing that bothers me the most when comes to SOPA is that people think they dont need to read the bill before they do any posts. They are wrong! Yes SOPA is far from perfect i am not supporter of it! But i strongly believe that is time for all of us to get protected from copy cats.  I am not saying SOPA is here to solve the problem, but for sure we could all use the opportunity to get heard. Jet many out there talks about SOPA and they dont even know what bill is about it. Why do we always need to follow the crowd ? I personally think if anyone want a comment on SOPA or write a post let them read the bill first before saying anything that has no sense or bases for it. 

    I agree with you we the bloggers or you as an author of the book should be protected at any time. 

    Thank you for great Post Mark! 

    ps
    Can’t wait to read your new book, few more weeks! 🙂

  • Mark, you’ve raised a good question about how creators of content can be rewarded for their work.  And I did feel that there was a “send this to all your friends” kind of frenzy forming.  That said, I think the best outcome from SOPA and its rejection would be a discussion on the legitimate and illegitimate approaches to disrupting a content creation and distribution industry.  Or more simply, discussing the differences between theft and disintermediation.

  • You have articulated my concern precisely Carolyn. I think the downside of Internet “freedom” is this the institutionalization of the herd mentality and the fact that it does not take many voices to hijack a conversation, especially if they are “influential.” A good thing can very well turn into paralysis. That is my theory on much of the stagnation in Washington today … reading real-time online sentiment and being afraid to act.  Thanks for the great comment! 

  • I agree completely Tara. As I read the bill I had several WTF moments. Just leaves the thing wide open for abuse. Thanks for caring enough to comment! 

  • Well said. Thanks for the comment.

  • Part of the problem is, there is no special interest group for “The Internet.”  So the fat cats do all their work to protect their interests BEFORE the voice of the people rise up.  We need to be part of the conversation, and I think it will happen now. I don’t know how, but I think we have been heard! : )  Thanks Jeff. 

  • Funny thing is, there is a site that allows you to view and comment on legislation but it has never really caught on. I mean, unless you are a political science geek, who can do that all day? : ) 

    I think another issue threatening democracy is complexity. Do we really want to crowdsource a national budget? An economic plan? I mean, event the world’s greatest economists can;t understand it! 

    Thanks Tom! 

  • Thanks Debby.  Feel free to share your link.

  • Mark, you’ve certainly sparked a lot of nerves with this blog on a few levels.  The economy of free, Social Media Lemming Mentality and the protection of intellectual property to name a few.  I just struggle with lumping them all into a single bucket. Although I don’t necessarily agree with SOPA as it has been legislated, I do agree with the principles around it. Theft of anything just isn’t right.

    But, we also have to protect ourselves against theft and abuse because as we all know, it will happen if allowed and gone unchecked. Robbing a store is illegal and subject to criminal charges, but it still happens and store owners do various things to protect themselves, like locking the doors.  And, this is the huge issue I have with SOPA or any other legislation.  It puts the onus on the “bad” guy to adhere to the law.  Although logical (people should obey the rules), they don’t!

    Specifically, the problem of copyright violation in this case needs to be addressed at two levels, one is the use and the other is the distribution. If publishers don’t lock their doors and prevent unauthorized distribution (theft) then enforcing abuse at the user level becomes far more difficult. 

    As is often the case, the legislators don’t understand what they are trying to legislate and those trying to prevent the abuse don’t really understand what it is they are trying to prevent.

    So, as a simple example, if copyright owners don’t want thier materials available through search engines (ie: google, yahoo etc.) just block their crawlers so they cannot collect content.  Computers don’t read and therefore cannot read TOS (Terms of Service) therefore more relevant action needs to happen.  But, it’s also quite possible the publishers are afraid of the unknown as well.  If they block those services, will there be an impact somewhere else (ie: the distruptive model).

    But, if they don’t address the new opportunities the distruptive model introduces, they’ll ultimately just protect themselves out of business. 

  • I’m glad you commented Christian because it offers an opinion radically different than mine so that is good to see.

    I don’t know how else to respond other than to say your argument makes no economic sense.  I’m quite sure that I won’t change your mind but let me offer a counter example.

    Let’s say you developed a great new software app. You have spent all your savings doing it and a year of your life. Like so many visionary entrepreneurs, you literally have nothing left in your bank account. 

    You put it up for sale on the iTunes store for $1.99 but I offer it on my pirate site for free. The version is exactly the same so there is no difference in quality. Soon everybody is sharing your app everywhere for free and you don’t get a dime. Not one dime. According to your “economic theory” that is perfectly fine because there is an infinite supply of your apps. It’s just bits and bytes, right?  Nobody is hurt because there is an infinitely replaceable supply.  Respectfully Christian. that is just seriously flawed thinking. 

    Digital copyright protection is the law. My work should be protected. Your work should be protected. And people who go around the law and infringe on my work and my opportunity to feed my family are stealing. End of story.

  • I’m glad you commented Christian because it offers an opinion radically different than mine so that is good to see.

    I don’t know how else to respond other than to say your argument makes no economic sense.  I’m quite sure that I won’t change your mind but let me offer a counter example.

    Let’s say you developed a great new software app. You have spent all your savings doing it and a year of your life. Like so many visionary entrepreneurs, you literally have nothing left in your bank account. 

    You put it up for sale on the iTunes store for $1.99 but I offer it on my pirate site for free. The version is exactly the same so there is no difference in quality. Soon everybody is sharing your app everywhere for free and you don’t get a dime. Not one dime. According to your “economic theory” that is perfectly fine because there is an infinite supply of your apps. It’s just bits and bytes, right?  Nobody is hurt because there is an infinitely replaceable supply.  Respectfully Christian. that is just seriously flawed thinking. 

    Digital copyright protection is the law. My work should be protected. Your work should be protected. And people who go around the law and infringe on my work and my opportunity to feed my family are stealing. End of story.

  • Thanks Jure, that means a lot!  Nice to have that feedback. And yes, you will love the book. : ) 

  • A tricky argument to be sure.  Thanks for commenting Dan.

  • Interesting perspective Steve, as always. Thanks! 

  • I’m no lemming — considering I wrote about SOPA and PIPA last November: http://ariherzog.com/fight-u-s-government-internet-censorship/

    It’s important to remember there are two bills, one for each body in the Congress; the House version is currently on hold and the Senate version is up for a vote later this month.

  • Robdoyle

    I share your concern about lemmingisation but as someone who has read a bit about the subject I wish your post was longer.

  • Robdoyle

    And all of those things are still illegal. What we are talking about here isn’t the actions but the tools to carry them out. This is about cutting off the hand of the person who might steal – not who has. Don’t confuse medium with message (famous quotes aside).

  • Great contribution Ari. Thanks for passing along that link.

  • I do too.  If I go above 1,000 words I challenge the average blog reader’s attention span and I want to respect that. : )   It’s a challenge to be succinct but thanks for the encouragement Rob!

  • Anonymous

    Since I live in the heart of Tex-Mex-land, I am starting to think about launching a STOP SOPA-PILLAS campaign, where one could affix a small image of a sopapilla to one’s avatar.

    (I’m gonna head home now, clearly it is time for me to step away from the keyboard…)

  • I’ll take a case of whatever you’re drinking.

  •  
    Mark, you’ve certainly sparked a lot of nerves with this blog on a few levels. The economy of free, Social Media Lemming Mentality and the protection of intellectual property to name a few. I just struggle with lumping them all into a single bucket. Although I don’t necessarily agree with SOPA as it has been legislated, I do agree with the principles around it. Theft of anything just isn’t right.

    But, we also have to protect ourselves against theft and abuse because as we all know, it will happen if allowed and gone unchecked. Robbing a store is illegal and subject to criminal charges, but it still happens and store owners do various things to protect themselves, like locking the doors. And, this is the huge issue I have with SOPA or any other legislation. It puts the onus on the “bad” guy to adhere to the law. Although logical (people should obey the rules), they don’t!

    Specifically, the problem of copyright violation in this case needs to be addressed at two levels, one is the use and the other is the distribution. If publishers don’t lock their doors and prevent unauthorized distribution (theft) then enforcing abuse at the user level becomes far more difficult.

    As is often the case, the legislators don’t understand what they are trying to legislate and those trying to prevent the abuse don’t really understand what it is they are trying to prevent.

    So, as a simple example, if copyright owners don’t want thier materials available through search engines (ie: google, yahoo etc.) just block their crawlers so they cannot collect content. Computers don’t read and therefore cannot read TOS (Terms of Service) therefore more relevant action needs to happen. But, it’s also quite possible the publishers are afraid of the unknown as well. If they block those services, will there be an impact somewhere else (ie: the distruptive model).

    But, if they don’t address the new opportunities the distruptive model introduces, they’ll ultimately just protect themselves out of business.
     

  • Mark, you’ve certainly sparked a lot of nerves with this blog on a few levels. The economy of free, Social Media Lemming Mentality and the protection of intellectual property to name a few. I just struggle with lumping them all into a single bucket. Although I don’t necessarily agree with SOPA as it has been legislated, I do agree with the principles around it. Theft of anything just isn’t right.

    But, we also have to protect ourselves against theft and abuse because as we all know, it will happen if allowed and gone unchecked. Robbing a store is illegal and subject to criminal charges, but it still happens and store owners do various things to protect themselves, like locking the doors. And, this is the huge issue I have with SOPA or any other legislation. It puts the onus on the “bad” guy to adhere to the law. Although logical (people should obey the rules), they don’t!

    Specifically, the problem of copyright violation in this case needs to be addressed at two levels, one is the use and the other is the distribution. If publishers don’t lock their doors and prevent unauthorized distribution (theft) then enforcing abuse at the user level becomes far more difficult.

    As is often the case, the legislators don’t understand what they are trying to legislate and those trying to prevent the abuse don’t really understand what it is they are trying to prevent.

    So, as a simple example, if copyright owners don’t want thier materials available through search engines (ie: google, yahoo etc.) just block their crawlers so they cannot collect content. Computers don’t read and therefore cannot read TOS (Terms of Service) therefore more relevant action needs to happen. But, it’s also quite possible the publishers are afraid of the unknown as well. If they block those services, will there be an impact somewhere else (ie: the distruptive model).
    But, if they don’t address the new opportunities the distruptive model introduces, they’ll ultimately just protect themselves out of business.

  • I think multiple solutions may be required for the different formats of content. For instance we would like our blog posts and YouTube videos to be shared and ensure we are given credit. On the other hand when it comes to movies and books, payment is required.

    There is no one-size-fits-all solution as far as I can tell. Definitely a non-trivial issue.

  • Very interesting perspective, Mark. The thing that concerns me the post about SOPA (via hearsay, not reading the bill) is enforcement. As a writer and marketer, I do everything I can to cite my sources when I do share, quote, and write after being inspired by content or technologies that someone else writes. And while I know that not many people do that (and at times, I’m sure I don’t cite my sources properly either), but what happens to enforce SOPA? Where do they start? Who’s really the “SOPA enforcer”?

  • Regrettably, whether or not material is online, professionals who should know better, freely copy from printed books and course materials and recycle them without permision or attribution. There is a sense that “I’ve paid for the book. I’ve paid two grand for the course, now it’s all my material.”  These folks go online with a habit already. This knocks out the middle of the pack. Truly original people can make money from books, courses and speaking. But God help ’em if they stop innovating.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing this.  While I’m firmly against SOPA, it is not something I completely understand… and for me that’s why I’m against it.  As an artist/business owner I’m fully aware of the direct ramifications SOPA could have on my livelihood as well as many others.  

    I think the whole hoopla going on with every form of legislation right now is that our leaders are not only out of touch economically but also they are just plain illiterate when it comes to the very real and growing cultural tides our world is shifting in.  

    This is not something that our lawmakers have a clue about and that’s why it should be stopped.  But the larger and overarching issue is that we need lawmakers who actually understand the topics that they are making laws around.

    I’m not a copywriter so I wouldn’t be qualified to write this type of legislation.  And our Senators are not Dr.’s so they are really not qualified to create healthcare laws.  

    This is the root of all of our political issues today.  When people are ignorant of any real truth in a particular matter we resort to petty bickering and make huge hasty decisions – just like a 3 year old would.

    Thanks for sharing and I pray that our leaders don’t lead all of the lemmings into a ditch — it will be a lot of cleaning up for those of us who use our brains to think critically when making decisions.  

    I can’t believe I’m only 27.  Seriously… what planet am I on.

  • K.S. Lemming Advocate

    I like it when someone kicks a hornets nest. It’s great to challenge someone’s thinking and beliefs. It’s also vitally important for us to hear every side of the story that we can, even if we don’t agree with it.

    I agree that stealing is bad. If someone stole my idea and presented it to the boss as their idea, I’d be pretty upset because I couldn’t prove it. I mentioned my idea to a colleague and they took it while reaping the benefits and not sharing the rewards. Stealing is very bad. Even if I left my car running with the doors open in a crowded city with chocolates on the front seat, I’d be a bit miffed should someone relocate that car without my permission. That’s grandtheft auto, and I agree with that law even though I’ve never seen it or read it. I’m pretty sure that law is simple and to the point and required zero lobying to pass in all 50 states. Which leads me to my first problem.

    First problem I have is bills are long, have unneccessary but intentional things added to them and purposely written to be ‘open for interpretation’.  Furthermore, Joe Public isn’t invited along by the special interest groups to hear the details as they loby the govenment. If that stuff happens behind doors, I’ve never seen a transcript or what was discussed. I truly believe the public is not being given the full story behind any decision making in congress. So in essence, the government spoon feeds us a few poorly made choices to our elected officials, whom we trust will make the best decision in our interest on cases like this. I would say letting this all slide is a much worse case scenario of lemming-ship than posting a stop sopa picture, wearing a pink ribbon, growing a mustache for Movember or waving a national flag. Which leads me to my second problem

    Second problem I have is the satircal slander of one select group of followers because they thought “FIRE! ZOMG! FIRE!” when they smelt smoke, your ‘sopa lemming’ for example. I’m a lemming in many ways and for many causes. I’m gulity of being a patriotic lemming that joined the military to serve my country without doing a comprehensive or worthwhile in-depth investigation of what I was joining. But what if I did, and the results were inconclusive, like some governmental investigations. If I dug deep, turned every stone, hired investigators and the such, I would still be just another uncertified opinionated person who would then be labeled by some as ‘not an expert’ or worse.

    Third problem is using the bad guy to pass an unconstitutional law. Child pronography is wrong, it should be condemend and those guilty of supplying this horrific offense against humanity should be brought to justice and punished through due process of the law. In such cases, I would gladly turn a blind eye to vigilanty justice. But, using this scenario as justication to deal with the piracy issue is just idiotic. That’s like saying, “Communism is bad, it doesn’t work and it creates nutcases like Kim Jong Il. I better pass a law banning Che Guevara t-shirts, because that’ll stop any young God fearing American college student from becoming a ‘for ze fajerland’ commie.”

    I have a long list of problems, but I’m just another follower like everyone else. Please continue to post alternative views such as this blog post. Good on you. I love freedom of speech. I also love the sopa lemmings!

  • So glad you took up this subject.  I was thinking the same exact thing.  While it is an important subject, which their needs to have an honest and open discussion about.  It feels like people are reacting out of fear and blindly following what they think it stands for vs. being educated on the subject itself.  From what i have read on the bill I don’t like how it is worded, and am glad it will fail.  But intellectual property rights is one of the main things this country does better than others, and is a reason we are the leaders in R&D in the world. 

  • That is precisely my concern as well. As I read the bill, I just thought “no way.” It will be abused.  Thanks for sharing your wisdom Laura.

  • Well said.  Atlas Shrugged.  Thanks Jennifer.

  • Thanks so much for contributing your thoughts on this issue.  Much appreciated!

  • Thanks for the well-thought-out dissenting view.  I’m not sure we disagree all that much. 

  • Thanks for your response. As I mentioned, I’m concerned about the NEXT issue. What if people react out of blind fear on every issue and the government responds accordingly? We have a country led by blind fear. 

  • Anonymous

    While online piracy is a threat to the creative set, a
    quick Google search will tell you that people are still buying music, films and
    books by the millions. It seems like those clamoring loudest for SOPA are the
    ‘One-percenters’ in the entertainment industry.

    Yes, people are stealing from
    Kid Rock, but they are also trading free downloads (see what I did there?) of
    artists that they might not have wanted to risk their hard earned cash on. If
    anything it has forced the entertainment industry’s 1 percent to continue
    making content for their fans, instead of sitting back as the royalty check
    continue to roll in.

  • I agree that we should not punish the innocent. That’s why the SOPA bill is dangerous because there are huge windows for abuse.

    However, the main issue is that the Internet is not just a new channel. It’s also a new way to commit crimes. It’s a new way to distribute pornography. It’s a new way to commit fraud. It’s a new way to steal. So, it will have to be regulated and it is going to be a freaking mess. My prediction any way.

  • Yes I have the badge on my twitter profile and yes I am currently “blacked out” but I am far from a lemming. I think you are wrong in assuming that because you got those three answers none of us read or understand the bill and are just blindly, socially, following the leaders over a cliff.

    As an artist I totally understand the need for copyright protection. I just feel that SOPA is more about protecting a large and powerful 20th industry that is sometimes too lazy to find its way into the 21st century. For years we have been hearing about the death of the recording industry yet it still thrives in many new ways.

    The MPAA talks about protecting jobs but one has to remember that the tech industry was one of the only areas that has seen job growth in this economy. In the blackout I think what you are seeing is the emergence of the internet industry as a political force which one day will be more important than the MPAA.

    Just my opinion.

  • I thought long and hard about SOPA and PIPA before I joined in the conversation. I have listened to a lot of knowledgeable people for quite awhile now, and have read both bills. As an active content creator online since 2009, published writer and author-publisher of books and multimedia, online piracy is a concern.

    Much of the bewilderment regarding these bills has arisen due to the confusing language, I believe — who’s not against online piracy, if you’re an original content creator, or if you’re a content consumer? That is where deeper study and much consideration is required. 

    I am standing in solidarity against SOPA and PIPA, and have hung “Closed” signs on my main sites. I have also included an informative video, links to both bills and the Google petition, to help folks learn more, or to hopefully quell some of the confusion. I’m doing my part.

    One thing’s for sure, I’ve never been confused for a “lemming.” Just wanted to be sure to set the record straight on that one, in case there’s any question 😉 Great, conversation-provoking piece, Mark — and you’re absolutely right.

  • I love your true activism. So much of this “badge” and “ribbon” stuff is meaningless slacktivism. To elicit change, we need to actually do something. Like you. Good job.

  • I think we are in violent agreement : )

    I would never use an absolute like “all” or “none” to describe people and I’m appreciative that you are taking a thoughtful approach to the issue.

    My larger concern is about the many people who ONLY use social proof to make decisions and build momentum. Here is a small but accurate illustration.

    I recently had a controversial post tweeted by a powerful social media celebrity with 200,000 followers. It crashed my server. Despite the fact that my blog was down for more than an hour, the celeb continued to get Rt’ed by people who could not have possibly read the post, let alone agree with it.

    A very minor thing. But it just shows how mindless the actions of the social hive can be. SOPA is a much bigger deal and just the beginning of the debate really. I can only hope there is a critical mass of people like you who will put on the brakes and think things through on these very important issues that will determine the future of our lives, and in a real way, out world. Thanks for being a great example Katie.

  • I actually have an inside insight to the record business and I agree with you. I think the only reason they are still making money today is because of Steve Jobs and iTunes. Now, maybe Spotify, too. They have been VERY slow to change, unable to cooperate, and naive in their approach to consumers. And the ones who are suffering are the artists. And again, I see this first-hand. Thanks for the perspective Laura-Lee.

  • Jennings K

    I have read most of the comments here and feel compelled to give my 2 cents.

    Your position on this, Mark, is an interesting one, however I can’t help but notice te false dichotomy you are posing: either piracy exists and creators don’t make money, therefore stifling creativity, or destroy piracy and therefore creativity flourishes and authors will create more and be compensated. I can’t help but notice that you aren’t seeing the middle ground of the picture.

    Your argument hinges on the idea that monetary gain is the prime motivator of creative process. I’d argue that monetary gain actually stifles process (look up the theory of intrinsic motivation, there are numerous studies on the principle). You also frame the situation as though the advent of piracy creates a market where the author receives no compensation. I say that this notion is outright false. Look at examples like Angry Birds, a free game on your computer, however you do have to pay for the convenience of having it on your portable phone.

    The problem here is that authors who are complaining of this idea of piracy are stuck in an old mode of thinking where every product or effort MUST be accompanied by some form of compensation. It needs to be acknowledged that users who feel compelled to use a product will typically spend money on the product. The onus falls upon the author to give the user a reason to spend that money rather than using it for free. Yes, SOME will not ever want to spend their money, however if you make a product of VALUE to people then they will support it. Case in point: the video game League of Legends, which is completely free has generated copious amounts of money, or even the band Radiohead who have released an album on their own where users can download their album and pay whatever price they want. No matter which way you cut it, I don’t think you could really convince anyone that an author will make zero income for their product. If an author has not managed to make any money from their product, even in a market where piracy runs rampant, it only means one thing: the author of said product has failed to adapt to a changing economy. If you want to prevent piracy based on a capitalist platform (that effort = money) then you must also be willing to accept that a product that is failing is failing because it does not meet the needs of the consumers adequately. Either take capitalism as a whole or reject it, don’t cherry pick it to suit your personal needs.

    Authors of work need to adapt to a changing market. You can no longer expect to receive every nickel and dime for your work because the free flow of information will never allow it. It is up to you to generate something that will make people want to support you and not use the crutch of law to make your money. In either case it is self defeating because even if you completely eliminate pirating that in no way guarantees that those people would purchase your product. I think that the Internet is wonderful as is because it allows for greater independence. Working on a book? Publish yourself and allow for free download based on donations, of your book is worth anything you will get plenty of donations, and you reap all the profit. Cut out the middleman. In almost every case of piracy abuse it is not the author who is crying but rather the middleman (publishers, studios, etc.). We are arriving to a point in technology where we can accomplish just about anythig by ourselves (big Hollywood movies aside, who still generate copious amounts from theaters and other sales) without a middleman…it is quickly becoming obsolete and for the better. Legislation like this will only propel us backwards than forward. The free sharing of information brings forth so many positive aspects that they heavily outweigh any downfalls by a large margin.

    I appologize for the wall of text but I’ve been thinking a lot about it recently and this is my first outlet on the issue. Id also like to point out that 1) I don’t believe in stealing, but I don’t believe piracy is true theft base on what I have written and because of the supply/demand argument above. 2) I am also not from America, whether that gives me an extra dose of objectivity or not is up to you.

    P.s. as a final note, I’d also just like to state that if your prime motivation for creativity is monetary gain, then you are doing it for the wrong reasons (not directing this to you Mark, as I am unsure what your life circumstances are and exactly what you do, just stating this as a general rule).

  • I second the importance of this: discussing the differences between theft and disintermediation.

    Content creators need incentive to share their content or, more accurately, a way to support themselves and their families.  Even in this digital age, we still have human bodies and minds requiring food, shelter, education, etc.

    At the same time, easy access to content is not just the way of the future, it’s the way of the present.  I have to agree with many of Christian’s points from an economic standpoint – infinite supply does indicate zero cost.  We don’t have to agree that the content should be free to recognize that people already think this way.  It’s not even new – how many cassette tapes did you use recording songs off the radio as a kid (aging myself)?

    I think it makes sense to alter the system so that income coincides with creation.  One possible solution is crowdfunding.  There are already a plethora of options for crowdfunding and I imagine it will go the way of most other service offerings – the cream of the crop will rise to the top.  Over time, those systems that work best for most people will be polished and refined and specialty systems will remain in place for highly specific projects.

    We don’t need the middleman anymore.  Excuse me – we need good, strong systems in place (hardware for storage, software for categorizing and accessing, humans to manage it all – for now) … but we no longer need someone with access to industrial-level disc pressing equipment.  If I want a disc of something, I can burn it myself.  We also don’t need anyone acting as a filter so that only those creators deemed commercially viable by a small handful of corporations have realistic opportunities to create.

    It’s a delicate balance, making sure humans are heard on both sides of this argument, but as Salman Khan says about his amazing educational platform (khanacademy.org) – we can use technology to humanize our experience.

    Let’s remove the middlemen as much as possible.  Content creators should receive fair recompense for all their hard work, customers should have easy access to information (or entertainment, etc), and if someone wants a hard copy of a book so they can sit in their office and bask in the glow of all those dead trees (I’m lookin’ at you, Christian Bonawandt!), we can create an industry that allows people to print and bind hard copies without it being outrageously expensive.

    Respectfully,
    ~KJ

    PS: I am in no way affiliated with the Khan Academy, but as a lover of all things math-related, I am very inspired by his work.

  • Korey

    Interesting post, I have a few things to say to contribute to discussion.  Disclaimer:  In most cases, I say “you”, I don’t mean you personally Mark, just “you” in the rhetorical sense.

    I couldn’t help but notice that you framed your argument on the dichotomy that piracy = no income for authors, and therefore, anti-piracy = income for authors.  I don’t think it fair to frame the argument in this way because it is a very false notion with many examples that I will provide.

    Your argument seems to hinge on the traditional capitalist notion that effort = money, and that all effort should lead to a return.  It also seems to hinge on the notion that monetary gain is the prime motivator of creativity, I would argue the complete opposite, and that, in fact, monetary gain is a DEmotivator (a whole other story altogether, but read up on the theory of Intrinsic Motivation, there are many studies that support the principle).

    I think it is important to recognize that, from a very young age, in western culture, that we are taught to believe that effort will bread reward, and this is certainly the case in most situations, however the idea has had no choice but to evolve with the advent of the internet, and by extension, piracy.  I am in agreement with the previous poster who stated that piracy =/= theft, because of the infinite supply idea.  It is very true that, technically, the author loses nothing when piracy of their property occur, because piracy has NO relevance to income.  A pirated copy of something in no way guarantees that it would have been purchased in the absence of piracy.  The problem is that we are applying an outdated marketing model to a new technology.  The internet is (relatively) free, therefore trying to monetize products that derive from the internet by a FORED cost, doesn’t make sense.  I have no choice but to assume that, judging from the tone of your post, you are a believer in capitalist theory. If that is the case then you must accept a harsh truth:  in order for a product to be successful, it must adapt to its market to meet the needs of its users.  If your create a product and it gets pirated online, and results in no income then the product has failed, and deserves to fail as per capitalisms rule.  If you create an inferior product that relies on legislation to remain competitive, then it deserves to go under, plain and simple.  I do not believe for a second that *any* author of any product that has ever been pirated have received ZERO income (as your argument states), I think it is much more likely that they simply haven’t received the income they HOPED to get.  Welcome to capitalism, the place where you either shape up with the market or get out.  There are MANY cases of programs (etc.) that have been released for free that have enjoyed huge success.  Case in point: the video game League of Legends, completely free to download and play online, yet their prize pools for their tournaments run in the MILLIONS of dollars.  How did they achieve this?  By adapting to an evolving marketplace of the internet by creating bonus content that people can pay for if they choose to.  Another example: the band Radiohead released an album with a “pay what you want” philosophy where the album could be downloaded free of charge and users could donate any amount.  They apparently enjoyed great success.

    It is the products that adapt to a new marketplace that enjoy success, not products that force the system to adapt to them.  You stated that you are an author?  Why not release your book for free and accept donations for downloads?  This way you reap 100% of the profits as you are cutting out the middleman (publishers).  We live in a society where the technology allows for increased independence where people can generate their own material without any professional help.  This advancement quickly renders the idea of publishers/producers obsolete.  Large budge Hollywood movies aside, most people could make just about any media they want by themselves with their computers.  Have you ever noticed how the biggest pushers for anti-piracy are all the middle-men of the entertainment industry?  No wonder, they stand the most to lose!  Artists will still be able to put out their work without them. 

    We cannot let the freedom of the internet to go to hell just because people are scared to lose a bit of money.  Producers of goods simply need to adapt to a new marketplace and figure out new ways to generate income rather than rely on an outdated method based on physical goods (which made a LOT of sense for physical goods, but digital goods are of a completely different nature and therefore should be treated as such), also see Angry Birds for an excellent new product that one can get for free but has generated MASSIVE income.  The positive aspects of the internet heavily outweigh any negative aspects brought on by piracy…there are ALWAYS ways around piracy that can make everyone happy, including the pirates.

    I apologize for the very lengthy post.  I have been thinking about this for a while and it is my first outlet on the subject.  And if it makes any difference I am not from America, if that adds any objectivity to this post.

    Thanks for reading!

    P.S.  This post was not meant to offend any authors of any works.  I am simply stating that it would be much more beneficial to EVERYONE to simply devise new methods to draw income from your product rather than fight the current that only stifles true progress.  This anti-piracy war is about as possible to win as the anti-drug war or anti-terror war (hint:  its not possible to win those wars)

  • Jennings K

    My apologies. I accidentally posted 2 comments as I thought the first one didn’t work (was using my phone to post, so I had use my laptop to write the other)

  • I really appreciate this perspective, Mark. I didn’t know much about SOPA for awhile. I finally read up on it and talked to some colleagues last week. We had a great discussion about this issue and what to do about it. It was really fascinating to chew through some ideas on how to do this in a better way. I agree that SOPA is the wrong approach, but coming up with an appropriate way to reign in piracy is certainly a challenge. 

    Being in Nashville, we’re seeing the perspective of musicians and record labels here. And I think they have a point. Most of us will agree that stealing content is wrong. The hard part is coming up with a viable solution. 

    I hope that this legislation brings forth a open discussion about how to make the internet a better place for everyone instead of becoming another polarizing issue people scream about. A girl can dream, right?

  • It’s not quite as flawed as you think. Your initial comment is correct. If you offer a pirated version I can’t make money–off those versions. 

    Keep something in mind, Mark: The software industry continues to be a multi-billion (perhaps trillion?) dollar industry even with rampant piracy in its midst. No software company has ever closed its doors as a result of piracy of its software. Ever. There is not a single piece of software that is not pirate-able, either, yet people continue to pay money for all sorts of apps, programs, operating systems, etc. 

    That’s not the only reason piracy has not killed or critically wounded this industry. As I stated earlier, just a small handful of those reasons include quality control, security, convenience, etc. 

    There’s also a unique benefit to buying legit software (since you selected that as the example), which is patches and updates.No software in the history of software has ever been produced that did not require a patch or update of some kind. If you choose to download from a pirated site, it’s unlikely you’ll have access to those.That’s an added value to paying for the software that is inherent in the product type, meaning no one had to come up with the idea to combat pirates; it evolved naturally as the technology and the industry evolved.To play devil’s advocate, depending on the software, many people would be OK with never updating or patching their software. Who needs all the patches for MS Word anyway (half of them are as bad as the flaw itself)? Some people who pay for software don’t even bother.But let’s go back to your example: If I build and try to sell an app for $1.99 and you make a pirated version, the only way you could guarantee I won’t make a dime is if you went out of your way to market your copy as the fully legitimate and official version and attempt to bury me on an SEO level. That’s an awful lot of work and is unlikely to happen unless you genuinely had a grudge against me. Moreover, if my app is available in iTunes and/or the Android Marketplace, you can rest assured I’ll still make money even if you did all of the above.To say that I wouldn’t make a dime is an extreme claim and one that is not supported by history. If that’s how it worked, Hollywood and Silicone Valley  would have gone under a long, long time ago. 

  • Did you read the same article I wrote? : )  LOL

    First, I want to thank you for this passionate post. Incredibly flawed, but passionate. To answer properly, I would have write a thesis many times longer than the original post and I don;t think anybody has the patience for that.  Instead, let me make a few key comments in the spirit of a teachable moment for you.

    To establish my context … I worked in businesses of all sizes for 30 years. I have two masters degrees and two masters certificates and have led teams around the world. I know how business works, online and offline. The notion that effort = money is not my view, a “traditional capitalist view” or any view I know of in the business world. There are no guarantees. I completely agree with you that businesses must adapt rapidly to survive. However, there is also a very legitimate issue of protecting intellectual property through copyrights and patents that has been a foundational element of a free economy for centuries. And whether this protection occurs for an invention or a piece of computer code, this legislation, laws and regulations are necessary and  vital and not going to go away. Nor should we want them to. That would be chaos.Legal protection for ideas and original work (which is different from protectionism) is the way wealth is built in the free world. This is the way companies like Apple are created  and people like Steve Jobs are incented to innovate, risk and produce wonderful new goods and services. To suggest that a product is a failure because it is “stealable” is inaccurate.  The world  economy depends on regulations and assurances of fair competition to work., offline AND online. For companies and ideas to profit on the Internet, there will have to be rules.So stealing is stealing. Period. That does not make an economy or a product flawed. It is not a sign of weakness in a company. It exposes the weak and greedy who feel entitled to valuable property without paying for it. (please see my example below in response to Christian). I like your example of the Radiohead experiment. They’re my facvorite band. They made a bold move by offering their content for “free” and trusting their fans to donate enough money — directly to them — to make them profitable and wealthy.This experiment was a complete failure and the band said so. Why? Not enough people donated money. They simply took the music.  They publicly said they would never do that again.  And, in fact, they have released subsequent material under a traditional model. Even the album they released for free now has to be purchased through iTunes or another channel!

    As i said, even this lengthy response does not really fully address the issues and I’m not foolish enough to think that the voice of experience will trump your youthful and idealistic notions. That is probably a good thing.

    However, here is my offer to you in the spirit of of the social web, if you are authentically open to new ideas on this subject, let’s have a skype call and have a discussion. My email address is all over the website.

    Thanks again for the tremendous effort you put into this comment Jennings.

  • I wish that were possible too Laura but it is going to be a very long and ugly process. Thanks for commenting!

  • Fantastic view. The clarification between intellectual property protection and disintermediation is key. 

    I would also like to challenge your idea on scarcity and value. There is still a scarce supply of people who write books and make great music. And there is a value to that, right? Because it is scarce. There is only one Radiohead.   Their music is not in infinite supply. In fact, according to my iPod, there are less than 200 available songs in total. However, the ability to illegally copy and distribute them is infinite, which has only been enabled by technology.  Disintermediating a channel is desirable as long as we don’t disintermediate the artists too.  Important distinction?

  • Big companies bury small companies every day, usually because they don’t have their intellectual property protected. Big companies steal the ideas and put the small guys out of business. Businesses must have the ability to protect their intellectual property to compete. 

    If you had protected software and I stole the idea and used it against you, I would hope you would fight me to end and kick my ass, not roll over and think “well, I’ll just take my share until I go out  of business.”

    Ideas, intellectual property, innovations MUST be protected. It has been foundational to a free economy for centuries. You would not be typing on a computer and sending me an Internet comment today without the infrastructure of a ton of legal protections for the software and hardware that make it happen. That is not going to change, even though the technology to get around those laws has. 

    We will need laws. I know that is an unpopular sentiment in an area that disdains rules, but the economy cannot be unregulated and that includes Internet commerce too. The key is assuring free speech AND free commerce.

    Thanks for the discussion.

  • Daniel Shinabarger

    I agree the herd mentality can be disturbing, but I feel that it is inevitable with any movement and can’t really be stopped. And with the amount of supporters really needed to make a difference, you can’t always expect everyone to be well informed, so sometimes having lemming followers can be helpful. I wish there was a better way of getting supporters for this, and it is annoyingly easy to attribute a negative emotion to something and consequently gain a bunch of followers, however, not to get too philisophical, it almost just seems to be a fact of human nature. At least it’s, in my opinion, for a good cause this time.

  •  This has been a fascinating discussion! And I know this point is a bit off topic but I would like to address one point you rasied in particular; THE LEMMING FACTOR (Crowd Think).

    It has been responsible for many recent occurances and most major political / economic turmoil, wins and losses throughout the history of mankind.  Social Media has just made it’s impact felt faster.  Why would we expect that this issue (SOPA)would be any less impacted?

    This is a particularly interesting case though.  You’ve identified three major influencers (based on all of the influence discussions we’ve all had in this blog) who used their “measured influence” to further an opinion without even understanding the subject. So, can / should individual “Social Influence” be trusted?

    Even with piracy, how many people do this without even knowing it’s wrong cause “doesn’t everybody (LEMMING) do it”?  How guilty will someone feel next time they open an article published by a newspaper in their google reader or email alert?  NOT!

    Sorry to go so far off topic but this is such a classic.
     
     
     

  • Debbie

    Thank you very much for stepping up and explaining this to all of us (wanted to do this, but inadequate words kept coming out)…this is not only an issue for pictures, writings, photos,etc. it concerns all of us. I completely agree, we cannot pass this, BUT need to do something. My own business has continually been compromised by others stealing my name, company site link, videos, and YES, even my comments, taken to promote themselves! There are many very intelligent people on here and other media outlets, that have totally followed this (one way or the other) without any solutions…hope WE can think more about solutions now and less about the problems. This is OUR problem!

  • Marisa G

    Mark, you have made some enthusiastic and pertinent points regarding society as a whole and this content crazed path we have created for ourselves via media overload.  As a general idea it seems that people (not all!!) jump on the bandwagon if it seems like a good issue to be for or against. This begs the question if Google or any other major site was for this bill, would people be as well? I would like to hope not. 

    Additionally I agree that piracy is wrong and people should be held accountable for intellectual property theft, but is this the answer? Over the years we have become spoiled with content. Obviously all the millions of sites that allow me to download full cds and watch an entire season of any show ever created have crossed a line. However, the ambiguous wording makes it seem as if I were to sing a Nicki Minaj song, videotape it and post it to YouTube that the content will be removed and the site might be taken down. With that in mind, what will happen to social media as we know it? I remember a few years back I was told to leave an interview because I did not have a personal Twitter. With this bill it seems that we are making some strides, yet simultaneously regressing technologically if we ban the sites we use on a daily basis.

  • Thanks and thanks for the answer 🙂

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  • I agree with you Daniel. The point I was hoping to make here was that yes … this time it was a good cause. But next time it could go a different way.  This is a chilling reality to me. Thanks for the great comment.

  • I don’t think you are off topic at all. I think this is a very keen point. Thinking this through, couldn’t you see a few key leaders getting together to actually manufacture a meme that is for or against an issue?  I see this lemming behavior all the the time. There is no reason to think it cannot be manipulated.

  • This is an interesting point about Google supporting the bill. When I saw the growing amount of protest about SOPA, I decided that I needed to get better informed about it.  But I also had a little voice inside of me say … “I hope I am against this bill too. It would be hard to fight it.”  That was not an issue this time but I do think there is something about the momentum of public pressure — and how fast that can happen on the Internet — that is momentous and troubling. It’s like wanting to be with the cool crowd in high school … times 100.  I’m not afraid to take an unpopular stand but sometimes it is wearying taking the flak that comes with it!  Thanks Marisa.

  • That sir, is my biggest worry about our future.  SOPA ain’t nothing compared to what a Hitler with Twitter and Facebook could do.  On the positive side though, people who actually do “drill in” will quickly be able to feret out this kind of activity.  I still believe that at the end of the day, the power (and intelligence) of the people will be Social Media’s biggest value whether its a political or commerical issue.

  • We completely agree on these sentiments. But when “big companies bury small companies” it has nothing to do with online piracy and everything to do with patent and IP laws. The difference is huge and one that is often brushed over. Many times, lobbyists and others who support anti-piracy legislature like SOPA and PIPA and the like are lumping two or more of the following four legal issues together:

    1. Intellectual property law
    2. Patent law
    3. Copyright law
    4. Trademark law

    Consider this: Your example of offering free versions of a hypothetical $1.99 app is copyright infringement (even though it’s software). When I add to this example by proposing you market it as the real deal, that’s trademark infringement. 

    If you were a rival software company who took that product wholesale or in part and sold it (or gave it away for free) under your own name, that’s patent infringement. 

    IP is a bit broader and I’ll admit that I don’t have the legal background to get into the nuances. What’s important to realize is that these are four very different scenarios that have to be handled uniquely. When people talk about piracy, they are more often than not thinking of copyright and possibly some degree of trademark. But when the law comes into play, they tend to lump it all in together. That’s very dangerous because it creates huge sweep generalities that are detrimental to the market, society, and free speech (as you’ve noted). 

    I don’t outright support theft, piracy, or it’s like (I’m sure you don’t get that impression from my arguments but it’s true). However, nor do I believe the current generation of lawmakers understand the technology and market implications enough to make ANY law even remotely effective. That’s because they don’t have a full grasp of what kind of damage is does, why, and how severe it is.

    I’m not saying there’s no negative effect to piracy. Even with harsh, draconian laws in place it will never be eliminated. Fact: bootleg movies have existed as long as their have been home movies. Same with music. Same with art. I’m not advocating ignoring it or allowing it. The laws have to be balanced and realistic, and they have to take into account real economics. 

    Hollywood is doing fine. Let the birds in their gilded cages squawk all they want. The music industry is struggling to adapt, but that’s because the RIAA still want to make money selling “albums,” and that’s an outdated concept.(How about getting into the business of selling live music?) Publishing: they are fighting too but products like the Kindle are going to help them figure out a way to adapt. Cable companies are on track for a rude awakening on how consumer will eventual consume TV content. But piracy is less the issue than a refusal to adapt. The software industry, as noted, will continue to be just fine. 

    At any given moment in time there are probably 100 or more issues that congress could be focusing on that would have a much more positive impact on the U.S. How about education? How about manufacturing? How about Al-Queda (their still out there you know)?
    Again, I’m not saying let’s leave pirates alone and let them do their thang. I’m arguing that 1. the people fighting for these things don’t even really understand what’s happening and are blindly swatting flies; 2. we’ve got bigger fish to fry in this country.

    Maybe one day–many, many years from now–congress will be populated by people who understand the technology and market implications enough to tackle the issue intelligently and lay down laws that, while probably imperfect, will be adequate and have meaningful impact. But it ain’t today, and won’t be tomorrow.  

  • If Congress doesn’t read the bills they vote on, why should I? 🙂

    In all honesty I haven’t read the bill. Chances are I wouldn’t understand a good chunk of it anyway because of the language in it. And I’m not talking about the actual vocabulary, but rather how talented lawmakers seem to be at taking even the simplest of concepts and making them impossible to understand. 
    And I think there’s usually good reason for it. They don’t understand the issue themselves…so they can’t word it in a simple manner. 

    I’ve read a lot of content “highlighting” the key aspects of the bill though. And yes, I have to admit that I am relying on sources of information that may have their own biases and may not be completely accurate. But I’m hoping that they are accurate enough that I can at least get the “big picture.”

    Piracy is obviously not something I support. But when the government steps in with legislation like this the discussion to me turns not into one about “free content” but rather about “freedom” in general. 

    Unfortunately I think there is a bigger issue than just offering a different solution to a problem that clearly exists. I think the issue is with the people in office and how government runs at the moment. 

  • As someone who’s been posting online for business magazines since 1997 and have had a lot of my stuff lifted by other people on their own websites and blogsites (and acting like it was their own) even as recently as last month, I can definitely relate to the frustration Mark is expressing. Some people seem to think that fighting a bad bill like SOPA and PIPA are an excuse not to deal with the very real and growing problem of online piracy. It’s not just something that happens overseas. It’s becoming more and more of a problem right here in the U.S.

    Is legislation the answer, like Mark is suggesting? If so I find the OPEN Act to be a good start. But how that
    legislation will ultimately be shaped will depend a lot on how we, as
    individuals and as a collective, demonstrative responsibility. That starts with
    awareness and education, and that’s why I’ve worked with the folks at ReelSEO for a “Video and Law” column over at reelseo.com/video/law, to educate people on these important issues in a language that everyone can absorb and follow through on themselves. I also do an educational YouTube channel, youtube.com/LegalVideoGuys.

    There’s is also the issue of civics. Schools need to be teaching ethics with social media at an early age (try junior high, or even earlier.) The problem today is that there are few programs in place that come to classrooms for an extended period of time that can answer questions from parents and kids, and the community at large.

    Want to see the consequence? Check out my coverage on Evan Emory, the 21-year old musician and Tosh.0 wannabe who was charged and convicted of a felony.

    http://videos.mlive.com/2011/03/evan_emory_interview_i_dont_fe_1.html

    If we don’t educate
    ourselves and have better ethics in how we use other’s copyright and
    intellectual property, we’re going to find ourselves dealing with this again
    and worse, with new proposed legislation that will restrict the freedoms we
    enjoy today.

  • I know I’ve spent way too much time thinking about this blog but it’s something that’s very close to my heart. 

    I cannot help but wonder if the publishers promoting the likes of SOPA are doing so to protect the authors way of life (as per some examples in this comment section) or their own potentially dying business model. Do they even care about the “Little Guy”?  At some point in the evolution of business dominance, he who controls the distribution (ie: the customer) controls the business. Is it at all possible that these old school publishers are more concerned about their survival as there is evidence of distributors (those bad guys being targeted by the likes of SOPA) may make them obsolete…… (ie: cut out the middle man while at the same time eliminating the natural resource intense existing distribution model).

    Here’s an example.

    http://techcrunch.com/2012/01/19/apple-isnt-the-only-disruptor-how-amazon-is-killing-publishers/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Techcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29

    Companies do this all the time.  They strangle (slow down) innovation through competitive positioning and legal noise until they can figure out how to own it.

  • Daniel Shinabarger

    I agree, it is a chilling reality. Steve Dodd basically shares my mentality with his comments as well.

  • Don’t get me started. I have my own theories on that and if I get up the courage, I might even write up a blog post about it. : ) 

    Thanks for the great comment!

  • Man where have you been?  Great comment and tremendous contribution to the discussion. Love the stuff you’re doing there Grant.

  • This is an extremely good point. We have to be able to discern between protection and protectionism.  In the 1980s and 1990s probably the biggest disservice we did to the U.S. steel industry was to block or limit foreign imports. Our home industry had not invested and could not compete (over-simplified I know) and they needed a lift. But instead of using that reprieve to get healthy, they became addicted to the hand-outs. That is dangerous. So generally I am against protectionism that props up outdated business models. But on the other hand, there must be protection for intellectual property. Great comment Steve. Thanks for the effort on this issue! 

  • Thanks so much Mark — your kind words are appreciated. As we well know, (for now) information is freely available to be searched, researched and considered. I think being well-informed, with a solid philosophical basis and well-formed ideas to add to the conversation have always been important — imperative today. (It’s never been easier to research than now!) That’s what we’re “here” for, granted with the ability to contribute.

    We must never trade the convenience of amply available information fueled by a herding mentality, for the sake of merely hearing our own voice. Strength is in numbers, as long as those in the throng are informed.

    BTW Clarification: I’ve been online creating content since 1996 (typo)

  • Totally agree! There must be protection for IP not business models.  Just to continue your thought about the Steel Industry to be clear, it ultimately failed (as will all outdated business models over time) because eventually the consumer (fundamental laws of supply and demand) won.  It happens every time.  When avaiding the inevitable, the ultimate concequences are far greater than they would have been and ultimately the people you are trying to protect are the usuallly ones most hurt.

  • I think we are entering an era where “social proof” matters more than “actual accomplishment,” where “becoming known” is now the goal instead of “creating value.” I can certainly deal with that reality, no matter how disappointing it may be, but I am deeply concerned about the dark implications for leadership and social progress that come with it. This may be the greatest societal impact of the Internet, and it is hardly discussed at all.

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  • Jennings K

    I would be very willing to discuss this further, though the best avenue for me would be through some form of text as opposed to a call if that suits you.

  • Sure. My email is all over the site.

  • I agree, Mark, and this has been on my mind for quite a while… such has always been the case as you well know, but the medium today is more far-reaching, instantaneous, packing more potential power. Critical thinking skills have always been important, but it’s easy to become mesmerized by the message, drawn in with ‘the crowd’…

    As a longtime communications professional, I’ve observed mistreatment of public trust. There has always been room for abuse, so that is nothing new. However with the speed and dissemination of messages delivered to a growing audience via social media today, I believe the possibilities to harm have increased to far greater magnitude potential.

    Appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this! I have attempted conversation with others on this subject. Maybe due to perspective or difference in background, my efforts have been to no avail.  This seems to be The Subject no one wants to discuss — but should.

  • Piracy and IPR infringements need to be combated at all levels, no question about that.

    What worried me as a European about SOPA/PIPA was, as The Guardian puts it, “The law would have given American courts the right to crack down on internet sites anywhere in the world and to monitor anybody’s private communications.” (Link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/jan/22/rick-falkvinge-swedish-radical-web-freedoms )

    Policing a global system like the internet should be based on consensus rather than vigilantism.

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  • Of all the pieces I read about SOPA/PIPA this week, yours stuck out the most. You’ve challenged people to be involved in a far more meaningful way in the overall process – whether it’s SOPA/PIPA or other legislation being considered. If we all read more of the legislation that the leaders of the world want to pass perhaps not as much of it would go through after all. 

    I think there’s a strong lesson learned with what happened over the last few weeks with SOPA/PIPA. There were a select few who saw this coming many months ago. They tried to spread the word, but it came right down to the wire and ended in a firestorm that could have been rife with misinformation.Though I agree that it’s dangerous for us to go about influencing government through social media without full knowledge of the facts, in this case I saw many make an genuine effort to learn about this issue and pass their knowledge on to others. I live in Canada and the word being spread was that this affects us too.I am very thankful that some of the true activists were diligent in sharing what they knew. Otherwise, this may have slipped through. 

  • Consensus? On the Internet? Now that would be interesting. Thanks Kimmo!

  • Thanks for your very kind words Karen. I’m sure there will be a lot of analysis on this: how it happened, and then how it didn’t happen. Vast implications for our future.

  • I know, wishful thinking. However, I think the issue is too important to be left to the legislators 🙂 Seriously, I think if a broad international body of opinion existed, coming from both the creators and consumers of online content, it could provide a better foundation for legislation or other regulation than a bill with its roots in the interests of one or two industries in one country.

  • Follow-up to this Discussion: Check this out: Not worried about SOPA and PIPA (for now)? Good. Me either. But — we’ve still got concerns…

    If you thought everyone on the Internet could now sit back, relax, continuing to bask in the successful demise of SOPA and PIPA (as we knew them), think again. Another similar effort to control the Internet, paired with the underlying premise of protecting personal intellectual privacy has been officially in progress since 2008, and its reach is growing: http://www.beckycortino.com/2012/01/stop-celebrating-sopapipa-demise-and-stop-acta/

  • Korey

    For some reason I am having difficulties finding your email address, other than your company email, unless that’s the one you wanted me to use?

  • That’s fine.

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