I develop intellectual property for a living, so I believe that people who do so deserve to be paid for producing it. Most developers and engineers fervently hope that they’ll get some form of payment for what they’re working on (be it monetary, or community status if Open Source). The software industry has just as much to gain and lose by piracy as the movie/film/music industries when it comes to getting adequate compensation for what we work on. So, the US Government has provided us with Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) as an end result of complaints from media outlets to the threat “piracy” brings to their business model.

Once again, though, the government has shown themselves to be uneducated when it comes to forming technology policy.  This law has very deep impact on the Internet at large, and gives the US government the ability to regulate search and content providers who (under the mysterious clarification) are distributing or linking to copyrighted content (be it movies or even images a holder wishes to enforce). In a petition on the new White House “open government” site, a user linked an image off of Imgur that was copyrighted to show the White House was now in violation of the law they were protesting, highlighting  the ludicrousness of the proposed legislature. Should the entire White House domain be blocked as a result of this now, due to the linking actions of a single user? Should Imgur? (Check out “Everybody Pirates” for a file sharing gaffe from the media industry)

And, is it much of a surprise the Representative who sponsored the legislature receives a sizable contribution each year from the industries affected?

People should be paid for their work, but not at the expense of fundamentally crippling the freedom the Internet offers.  I propose we pursue these instead:

-          Online sites that explicitly support piracy, not search engines and blog sites.

-          Countries that don’t respect digital copy protection, instead of harming those that already do.

-          People that make money off of stealing digital information, not average citizens.

The government should not have the right to a “blanket right” to remove information from a free speech forum like the Internet, with a ‘blank check’ law like this. It’s threatening some of the basic tenets of something we all use every day, with wide open wording that gives broad power to an enforcement agency. While something should be done to make sure people get paid, it should go after real criminals and not corporations and average citizens.

 

- Ken Pickering, Development Manager, Security Intelligence