SOPA and Censorship

Listen to Julian Sanchez and Caleb Brown talk about SOPA in the above podcast, the internet blackout, censorship and free speech. No, the bill isn’t dead yet. Yes, there are ways we can target pirates without going as far as SOPA/PIPA go.

Alyssa Rosenberg also has a good post on why we should use this opportunity to have a grown-up conversation on piracy, artist’s ownership of their work, and censorship:

It might help for both sides to acknowledge the legitimate fears held by powerful interests on both sides of the SOPA debate. Changing the way the internet is governed, especially after a year when free access to it played a major role in critically important liberation movements, is a hugely momentous thing to propose, even if you feel that your industry is at stake. It may bedifficult to quantify the economic impact of piracy, but that doesn’t mean that there is none, or that it’s illegitimate for the people who work in an industry to feel insecurity about its transformation and their prospects for stable employment in it. Tech companies could do more to sell themselves to legacy content providers as beneficial partners. And legacy media companies could spend more time talking to consumers about customer service and cross-platform accessibility than scolding them. […]

It makes much more sense to embrace that connectivity and common interest, and for legacy and new media born out of tech companies to learn as much as they can from each others’ experiences getting rich content to broad audiences on diverse platforms. The SOPA debate has been bruising. But if it helps us lay out the issues that prevent these sides from working together, perhaps it’ll be worth it.

I agree. I wrote recently about piracy and economic frontiers and it really is a trick separating the long-term and short-term goals of all these different groups and sorting out how best to ensure that people can be creative and still make a living do it. There is no one perfect answer. The reason SOPA/PIPA are so pernicious is that they forcefully shut down debate and toss free speech out the window. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t any problem at all, only that it’s not the right way to tackle the problem that does exist.

And before we can make any diagnosis I think we need a lot more data and a much more robust conversation.

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