Next week Congress will vote on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The bill will force websites large and small to stop advertising with or taking paid advertisements from sites that aggregate pirated content in addition to having a regulatory committee to seek out Internet piracy and remove violators from the web.
I get it; no one likes to work for free, but that isn’t the world we live in anymore. I work for free all the time. Hell, I am working for free right now. Almost everyone I know is working multiple jobs, many of them unpaid, because they believe either in their own talent or are working towards a shared goal worthy of volunteer time, effort and creativity. Unfortunately, that is the nature of creative work; you work hard for little reward to succeed because you are selling an intangible good.
Proponents of SOPA include the villainous megacorporations Wal-Mart, Dow Chemicals, Rupert Murdoch, News Corp, Comcast, Nike, Monster Cable, Sony and a couple of old tech-unsavvy Republican congressman just dying to regulate the hell out of the only purely free market that really exists in America today— you know besides banking.
Opponents of the bill have a much hipper forward-thinking reputation than this old band of confuddled cronies. They include Google, Craigslist, Reddit, Wikipedia, Facebook, Linkedin, Etsy, Zynga and Republican candidate Ron Paul. Many of these sites will go or already are “dark,” today in protest, notably Wikipedia and Craigslist. 5000 sites in total will be protesting in some way or another today.
In a time of fast-paced technological advances, it is more efficient for these companies to invest their time and money into evolving with new technology to get ahead of the potential loss in revenue caused by foolishly clinging to their old and comfortable business models.
Rather than throwing money into unpopular campaigns that are demonized by freedom-loving internet purists they should instead invest that time and those resources to go the route of Hulu, Spotify and Pandora– which offer free-high quality content rife with advertisements tailored to target the individual watching them. They both also offer premium packages that become increasingly essential as the average user becomes more dependent on it.
The difference between these groups: the proponents make their millions making sheisty backdoor deals with congressman and each other. The opponents make their millions by inventing new technological mediums that are not only reasonably priced but cool.
Intellectual property is intangible, but the most important part of making a profit off of artistic creativity is to remember that the biggest asset in art is that it isn’t property, it is culture meant to be shared and enjoyed and there are other ways of monetizing production than gouging consumers.
Taking down these sites is equivalent to censoring free speech. You can buy Congress but you can’t just sue your way out of your outdated business models. As long as you behave like you are irrelevantly uncool you will be.