Monday, December 12, 2011

Why SOPA Doesn't Matter

The whole internets has worked itself into a tizzy over the dreaded Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA, which incidentally means "Be quiet!" in Greek). If you believe the blaggers, it'll usher in the final and irrevocable transformation of the good ol' US of A into Nazi Germany. Yes, the Feds are coming for our internets and it's the end of the world!

...Or not. If you stop to actually read the legislation, you quickly realise it's not at all enforceable. Computer nerds may claim such and such can be tracked down online but really, covering your tracks and being anonymous is easier than polling better than Mitt Romney in the primaries. SOPA might slow piracy for a little while but it won't stop it, it'll just cause headaches and slow postings for legitimate sites.

And it won't be the end. When SOPA fails - whether under vote or because implementation is impossible - the dreaded RIAA and MPAA and whatever video games are ruled by will just redouble their efforts, put out another overreaction to piracy, and the process will start all over again.

That's because contrary to the hand-wringing in the blagosphere, piracy is a real problem for business, particularly video games. The ones doing the pirating like to cite restrictive DRM and corporate malfeasance but give 'em the chance to skip all that - get the product directly from the creator with no fixed price - and they'll still fucking steal it!

So yes Che, digital piracy is a bad thing. When you do it, you are hurting what you like - it's just a matter of degrees. If you download a dozen pop songs, I doubt Columbia Records will fold. If you and a million other people download the whole catalogues of your favorite artists, music stores shut down. And while I have worked in one and have no sympathy for the unrepentant douchebags who define themselves by their local record store, I recognize the necessity of such stores if only to keep hipsters occupied while the rest of us do the real work.

And that's what gets lost in this debate - the regular consumer. Publishers are overreacting to piracy, pirates are throwing a bitch-fit and still pirating, and anyone that just wants access to media now has to jump through obnoxious hoops. This naturally drives more people into piracy or to just abandon the whole thing and go get a movie from their local library. You can do that by the way, watch and read all sorts of stuff for free thanks to the taxes you pay the Big Gub'mint.

Further, so much of the hysteria is driven by now hallowed rhetoric on the democratizing powers of the internet. "Free speech" and all that. Not once will you hear the people offering this argument concede that the internet's communal benefits are only available if you have a luxury electronic device manufactured by Third World slaves. Virtual communities are not real communities, just as a transman is not a real man (though science is working on that). The internet is certainly easier than mucking about with your actual neighbors - easier in that you can insulate yourself from conflicting opinions. Fox News ain't the only echo chamber in town...

What I'm getting at is SOPA is not the end of the world. You probably won't even notice it - most of the crap that gets posted online falls under the fair use clause of copyright law. And if you're a dedicated pirate, you'll find a way around this - prompting another mess of legislation.

You asshole.

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