Monday, January 9, 2012

Lemming Tracks: SOPA, Tech-Savvy Folks, Hollywood, and Congress

This isn't a 'political' blog. Not in the sense that the Lemming says every [insert political position] idea is brilliant, while everyone associated with [insert political party] are satanic traitors with body odor issues.

On the other hand, the Lemming likes freedom of expression, and an Internet where folks can voice opinions: even if some federal official doesn't agree. Maybe SOPA is a wonderful idea, that just happened to get introduced toward the start of an election cycle.

Here's what got the Lemming started this evening:

Blacklisting Pirates and Other Subversive Elements?

"Geeks to Testify (Finally!) About SOPA Blacklisting Implications"
David Kravets, Threat Level, Wired (January 9, 2012)

"Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California), a major opponent of the Stop Online Piracy Act, announced Monday he is bringing in the techies to hold a public hearing highlighting the online security implications of a proposed bill that would force changes to internet infrastructure to fight online copyright infringement.

"The announcement came three weeks after a markup of SOPA in the House Judiciary Committee was abruptly postponed amid concerns over its blacklisting element, which lets the attorney general order changes to core internet infrastructure in order to stop copyright infringement.

"The fight pits the big donors of Hollywood against Silicon Valley, relative newcomers to the world of influence peddling. Hollywood argues that millions of jobs are lost a year due to pirate websites, while the tech world argues that the open nature of the internet has created millions of jobs and that copyright holders already have tools to fight illegal downloaders...."

The Lemming is a content provider, and concerned about intellectual property rights. Data, including software, music, and written material, can be copied and distributed online: without the permission of whoever owns the information; and without giving the owner any credit - or profit - which might result.

SOPA is being sold as a solution to online piracy. Maybe it is. But the Lemming is very dubious. Particularly since the folks who seem to be pushing SOPA, like American movie and music studios, do not have a good record where it comes to allowing creative folks to share credit or profit for the content they produce.

Content providers need some sort of legal protection for their intellectual property rights. But the Lemming remembers the 'good old days,' when America was repairing damage done by McCarthy-era blacklists. Today's wannabe blacklisters are a different bunch, and this time it's Hollywood types who would benefit. Blacklists, particularly when created by a government agency with inadequate safeguards for citizens' rights, sound like a very, very bad idea.

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