In a lather about SOPA

The Internet, cyberspace

Recently I participated in the “Blackout the Internet” protest against the SOPA legislation that saw the shutdown of Wikipedia and Reddit. I participated because I think that SOPA is the wrong way to stop piracy and protect intellectual property rights. But I also realize that artists are getting sick and tired of the current way digital copyrights are handled…

A friend of mine, named Jordan, wrote* the following on his Facebook page:

It’s SOPA “Blackout Day”. Okay. I don’t support making every user or service responsible to self-police the sins of others BUT I also think that if, for example, the manager of a car dealership goes home and downloads my album (or book or play or movie) illegally as a torrent or some such bullshit (rather than lay down the paltry $10 that I might charge for my hard work/investment), then I should be able to go to his place of business and take a new Mercedes for myself. Or is that different because a Mercedes can’t be STOLEN so easily on the internet? I don’t think I like the legislation (as written) OR the protesters. Can someone offer a solution that I can easily understand or are most people just protesting anything that removes the ability to TAKE free work from those who create, market and OWN it? Curious.

So I responded:

Hey Jordan,

You’re absolutely right about piracy. Your analogy with the car salesman is a good one, and if this legislation could stop piracy, I would name my next cat SOPA. I work in the entertainment industry, exclusively, and I believe this bill will not stop the problem, in fact it will make it worse, especially for independent artists.

I don’t have a solution, I wish I had, but I know that these two bills are not the answer and will kill sites like Etsy and Flickr, and change Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, WordPress, and Facebook (sites that let Independent artists advertise and promote their creations for free) forever by making them police themselves (which you said you disagree with) and by making it illegal for advertisers to pay money to sites that contain user content or link to content that might be in question.

It also applies a US federal law that only protects US interests to a global system that is used by the entire world, much like the China and North Korea Firewalls.

The post under this note on your Facebook feed is a post from the Muppet show. That would be a violation of SOPA. Even though you didn’t post it, you are liable for it and so is Facebook. Now here’s the kicker… If you want to object to the finding, under the current wording, you would have to do it in a US courtroom.

Also, the bill says that when sites on the net are found to be in violation, their domain name is blocked… But not the IP address… So if I know the IP address I can still access the site.

So who does that deter? The average housewife who logs onto “” and grabs a couple of your tunes, so you’re out a “paltry $10”, but likes it, and plays it, and goes to your concert and buys the official Jordan Sane Make Up Kit and Temporary Tattoo set along with a T-shirt? Or the tech savvy pirate overseas who doesn’t use the domain name anyway because it’s in English, but uses the IP address, takes your tune and rips it to CD- Rs and sells it at the airport in Mumbai or Moose Jaw?

The blackout of sites on the net is a symbol to show what those sites will look like if this bill passes, because Wikipedia will have to go through a billion articles to make sure they are not in violation. Same with YouTube and Facebook, who, ironically, wouldn’t shut down because they get advertising dollars from the same people who are supporting the bill (mainly the US movie industry and the US music industry)

Like I said, I don’t have a solution, but I found this guys page which talks about it from the prospective of an artist, and it was his arguments that pushed me over the line.

Of particular interest are the chapters “SOPA from an artist’s perspective”, “But they are stealing my stuff”, and “Where to from here”.

I hope this helps you understand my position on the topic and I don’t expect you to agree with any of it, but that’s what’s going on over in my little brain.

You can also find a full copy of the actual bill here:

I’m on page 33, and if I find anything that I think contradicts what I just wrote in the remaining 45 pages, I will post it.


And then his response:

Hey JBJ,
I agree with you. As I said, I don’t agree with the legislation (specifically the “reach” and ambiguities contained therein) but I fear, as I have since I railed against Napster (and often fought with other artists about that stance), that most of the people who are flippantly posting “protests” are not as informed, involved or as thoughtful as you… but are simply scared that they won’t be able to download the entire catalogue of their favourite band for free in 10 minutes via torrent. I honestly don’t know the solution and my question was not at all facetious… I really don’t know where we go next with this. I just want people to think about their reason(s) for “blacking out”. Are the masses so politically aware that they fear the real far-reaching dangers in this bill or are they just worried that they might have to actually buy the new Jason Statham DVD when they’ve been used to pirating the previous ones for so long that it has become their status quo? I’m not saying that SOPA is the answer, but things can not continue the way they are or I will never be able to enter a studio at $100/hour ever again and “working in the arts” as a career will cease to exist and all artists will be reduced to hobbyists. What If I never played live? Is my recorded work worth less then? The Beatles’ career would disagree. Intellectual Property is real and it must be protected and the creators nurtured. If not this answer, then another. But soon and defendable, prosecutable and binding.

It seems we have a long way to go on this issue, and I seriously hope that SOPA doesn’t pass, but I also hope that a solution can be found to protect Jordan and other artists’ intellectual properties, and we can’t forget about that after all of the SOPA blackouts blow over.


*Reposted here with his permission.

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