Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Why SOPA Matters.

Wow. Says it all doesn't it? When sites like Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, Craigslist, Wordpress, Democratic Underground, etc all feel the need to protest a bill then you know it is serious.

The problem is, we have a group of idiots in Washington who always go too far and need to be kicked out on their asses immediately because their every action is always an over-reaction.

Terrorists attack America on 9/11 so what is their response?

1. Go to the country that harbored them and go after them. (Sounds good.)
2. Attack another country that had nothing to do with it. (Wait a second...)
3. Decide that the Constitution no longer applies and start arresting American Citizens without due process for indefinite detention in Guantanamo Bay where they are never charged and never given a chance to refute accusations made against them. (Holy Shit.)
4. Torture these detainees breaking every Geneva Convention law we signed onto back when we criticized the Germans and Japanese for their torture techniques during WWII. (Outrage is all that comes to mind.)
5. Pass The Patriot Act which now forces libraries to hand over a record of everything you ever checked out and allows for other civil liberty intrusions. Add on the erasure of FISA as a method to force law officials to use proper procedures and obtain warrants to wiretap your phone. Now EVERY CALL IN THE UNITED STATES IS TAPPED AND RECORDED. Oh and your internet, they own those records too. (Volcano, ready to erupt.)

All of this because a jackass chose not to interrupt his vacation in Crawford and care about a Presidential Daily Briefing on August 6, 2001.

That's not the only example of course. Every time this crew passes a law it takes a small issue and overblows it in the worst possible way. This crew feels that the best way to eradicate an ant problem in a small apartment is to NUKE THE ENTIRE COUNTRY. Sure, the ants are dead but everything goes with it.

The issue at hand for SOPA is "Online Piracy". A few easily bought and sold tools in Washington are pressing hard for this bill to hand over the entire internet to the Motion Picture Association of America because they were paid handsomely, have ZERO knowledge of the inner workings of the internet. Senators tend to be old men with very little knowledge of things that matter to the 40 and under crowd. Remember when now deceased Senator Ted Stevens famously said the internet was a series of tubes? That was only a few years back and don't be all that shocked by this: most Senators think this way.

They don't see the internet as the most free flowing form of social networking ever created. Hell, I doubt they'd even care about the significance of that. To most of these guys, it's been a big silver spoon world where they only have to be social with other people just like them. Enclosed in giant money laden bubbles and free from the realities of the outside world.

The MPAA and RIAA also use the nuke them all approach. In the 1980s they made the claims that BETA and VHS machines would ruin the film industry. The RIAA said the same of cassette tapes. After all, the ability to copy movies or music meant surely nobody would ever BUY anything ever again. Except the exact opposite happened. The dubbed tapes were an intro to the movies and music a new viewer/listener might not have given a chance to before. Both industries took off with a massive boom that decade.

We heard the same whining and griping when recordable CDs and DVDs came out. Yet revenues didn't really come down for either until the RIAA continued to jack up the costs of CDs at a time when their use was declining. Not to mention the PR failures of suing kids and families for downloading music was idiotic at best. Think Metallica ever truly recovered from how they were viewed in the fight with Napster?

These anti-piracy measures have always been steps that have gone WAY too far. For decades they have had laws in place (quite visible on the beginning of videos) that will charge you with a Felony and a fine up to $250,000 just for showing the video in public. So gather some friends, grab a pizza and some popcorn and prepare for a sentence in prison. What moron came up with that? Does anyone even know where to apply for an exemption to that law? Or how much you have to pay to get "broadcast rights" in your own home?

When you buy a DVD you should own the DVD and have the right to show it where ever you want. I'm also a big proponent of the concept that if you aren't making profit on the viewing of the movie, whether it be with friends or sharing it with people in an online streaming environment like Justin TV or Ustream, then there is no reason to complain about damages. Make the caveat be that the streams can't be recorded for people to watch at any given point so that it's not a movie that can be just picked up later. Make another caveat be that the broadcaster must make an effort to promote the actual sale of the movie. Hell they can provide free commercials that provide order details for these streamers to use.

Of course that cuts into the licensing rights they care so much about. You know, the ones they try gouge HBO and Showtime for and are going overboard in overcharging Netflix for so that they have to raise rates and look like evil villains to you, the end user?

The problem is they view streamers or file sharers as if they are killing the business. This couldn't be more untrue. Read this. There are at least 5 links at the very top of the article that disprove this theory about music file sharing but the main crux of the article proves that people who share movies online, spend more on movies in general.

Read: Industry Suppressed Report Showing Users Of Shuttered 'Pirate' Site Probably Helped Movie Industry...

Of course their counterargument will be that ticket sales are down 10% over the past 17 years. The problem with that being it is a dishonest argument. There are more entertainment options than ever before. More Cable Channels, the Internet, more Sports Teams... and all tend to be considerably cheaper than movies when you factor in ticket prices that have far outpaced inflation costs in this country.

Ticket prices and how steep they are now play a major unspoken role in this as well (and as Jeff Katzenberg tried to cover for it in this article, they'll continue to cover for it as much as possible).

And I am not even going to begin to mention how horrendous their business decisions are. Year after year of sequels, prequels, remakes and comic book dreck. Original ideas are scrapped endlessly. I can't help but think if they had taken the $250 million used to finance that stupid Green Lantern movie and handed $10 million each to 25 hungry directors and screen writers to come up with something original, that 5-7 of those would have hit it big and made more money ultimately than that crap Lantern movie did.

Still these same content providers that are whining about piracy crushing them are not hurting. I see reports about Disney, Comcast/NBC Universal, Viacom, AMC, IMAX and on and on claiming huge profit increases. If piracy is an issue, it's not crushing their businesses in any way shape or form.

So let's pin this down to what it is. Greed. The MPAA and RIAA will never be happy until they have your every dollar. (The RIAA already has practically every dollar from the musicians but that's another story.)

You are not allowed to share, show clips of or hell, even talk about their products. My concern is, where will this leave the amateur Roger Eberts of the world? How about a Rotten Tomatoes? Are they next?

YouTube is chalk full of funny, smart, witty... and yes total dumbasses who review movies. They sometimes use short clips of movies to show what they are talking about. Under the recently changed rules of the FCC, this was okay. SOPA ends all of that fun. It gives the MPAA/RIAA Government Enforcement of their property in ways no other industry has ever received. It makes your tax dollar, their tax dollar essentially because you are now employing their online security team.

The major websites blacking out, shutting down or messaging you today are doing so because as a whole the rules in SOPA/PIPA would seriously change and possibly damage the infrastructure of the internet as we know it. It is not all completely virtual by nature, there are hardware issues involved as well. As suspicious as we tend to be towards corporations in general (and with good reason) this isn't just about their best interests either. Google has stood firm against the Government when the aforementioned Patriot Act overreaches tried to force them to hand over information on people. They have often erred on the side of caution when it comes to protecting internet privacy.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said it best when he said that SOPA would 'criminalize the internet'. That's what those bought and sold fools in Washington will never understand.

How could they?

They're still hoping one of their Grandchildren will come over and program that pesky VCR clock that keeps flashing at them.

Take action by going here and contacting your local Congressperson or Senator. Make your voice heard, while we still have an internet to do such a thing.


-Robert Poole