Once again, our duly elected officials are over-working. This time? 40 Senators, no doubt under pressure from the entertainment lobby, are working on passing S 968, the “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011” (PIPA) Hmm, that’s odd. It’s 2012. At the same time, 30 Representatives are, under the same pressure, working on passing H.R. 3261, the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA).
They seem reasonable, don’t they. I mean: who doesn’t want to protect intellectual and other property from theft? No one except criminals. Here’s the problem: there are laws on the books that, unlike immigration, do get enforced.
Intellectual property laws are some of the most stridently enforced laws on the books. Not because the FBI has been so great at enforcing the annoying warning at the beginning of every movie on DVD or VHS, but because the property owners, the originators of the intellectual property protect their own goods.
The movie, The Social Network was not only about the birth of Mark Zuckerberg’s invention, Facebook, it was also pointedly about the intellectual property lawsuit filed by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss against Zuckerberg for the theft of their idea. Remember Metallica V. Napster? I do.
I used Napster prior to that. It was cool. File sharing was in its infancy. Because of the Internet, I could use my computer to find all kinds of media that was shared on other computers also connected to the Internet. After the lawsuit, though, Napster became a neutered version of Itunes. How did that happen when Napster predated Itunes? But, I digress.
You want to know the real problem? File sharing still exists. Napster may have changed because it got spanked by a law suit, but there are still programs available that permit users to get online and share files. You know what they are, too. At least, you’ve likely heard of them.
Don’t kid yourself. You know it’s theft. It’s just that everybody and his dog does it; therefore, it gets excused and overlooked. I even know police officers who have done it. Still, when asked, nearly any freedom-loving American will tell you that artists should be paid for their work just as much as a factory worker, a mail carrier, a farmer, or any other industry—except for doctors. For some reason, we’ve decided that doctors are not allowed to make a living because healthcare is a right that the Left forgot to enshrine in the Constitution—likely because it never would have been ratified. I digress again.
From a Constitutional standpoint, Congress has the power, “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries” (Article I Sec 8 para 8). But, do we really need a bill permitting the government to censor entire websites and domains as PIPA and SOPA propose? Perhaps we should prosecute the actual criminals instead of taking down domains who may not know what their users are doing.
As an aspiring writer, I not only want to be paid for my work, I also want it to be protected as much as possible both in print and on the Internet. And, I want to be able to extract its value from a thief. However, I do not want to see any kind of service provider punished for the activities of their users, nor do I want to deal with the unintended consequences: Mountains of red tape just to use the Internet. Go away Federal Government. Big brother is not needed here.