Thanks to yesterday’s high-profile blackouts of Wikipedia, Reddit, and others more Americans are familiar with the Stop Online Piracy Act than ever before.
Dozens of websites went dark yesterday to protest the SOPA and PIPA, and if you’re still confused as to what the fuss is about and need a balanced look at the arguments, I recommend our December primer, “SOPA & PIPA: Can We Stop Online Piracy Without Censoring The Internet?”.
And if you don’t feel confused, chances are that you’ve already picked a side in this increasingly polarized debate. If you ask me, that’s a dangerous trap.
Meet The New Boss
In the battle for hearts and minds, it’s clear that at least for today, the web lobby is winning.
It’s not hard to see why. For starters, the initial version of SOPA had serious flaws that made for ominous headlines. The worst worst facets of the bill threatened the integrity of the internet, recommended needlessly harsh penalties for petty transgressions, and gave the government power to shut down websites – even bypassing due process in some cases.
On top of these gripes, the web sector showed PR mastery in an age when the entertainment industry has consistently failed to win over public opinion. A new, powerful tech lobby has arrived, and they’ve been able to easily cast their opponents as Orwellian control-freaks.
For their part, the major record labels have made that pretty easy for the tech sector. The 2000s were a notoriously bad time at the major labels. An early anti-piracy campaign focused on slapping average Americans with excessive lawsuits didn’t help them win many fans, and their chronic failure to innovate helped accelerate an already rapidly-shrinking market share.
But in today’s fight for fairness, we shouldn’t be too eager to abandon one lobby’s propaganda in favor of another’s. The truth is that today’s web companies make tremendous amounts of money by selling advertising on the work of content creators – often without paying them a dime…