Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thoughts on SOPA and PIPA

Much of the following has been cobbled together from a few Facebook posts I have made in the last couple of days. My apologies if you have read it before.

I have not looked long and hard at the legislation proposed in SOPA and PIPA, but I have mixed thoughts on what little I do know. What I have seen is a great deal of hysteria on both sides, which I am learning comes with pretty much all political territory.

Two ideas often go through my head when new laws are considered. Let's stop short of calling these two ideas truths, because there are always exceptions, but I've found nothing to show them as wrong.

Often people who are against whatever bill under consideration (and even after) give a hundred reasons to say it is awful, but I usually find myself responding, But something must be done. That is how I felt about Obama's health care initiative. Not all of it is great, some of it is not good, but those who see no problem with the confluence of health care corporations and a dwindling economy have their heads in the proverbial sand. 

I look at SOPA and PIPA the same way: something must be done to protect not only artists, but everyone who creates something. How do we protect the creative work of a computer programmer or the teacher or the engineer? What is going to make sure the textbook I am writing won't be pirated?

My second general maxim when it comes to law is: It is nearly impossible to go back. We generally do not make rules on a trial basis. Even when we realize ordinances have not helped a community (for example, when a dry town votes itself wet), the community almost never changes it. With laws that effect the whole nation, it takes years, often a generation or more, to change it, if we do so at all. So new rules are like writing something into culture instead of having culture evolve.

A problem in our culture, a friend pointed out to me, is that for so many who have never known anything but a world with an Internet, most things have either been free or seemed to be free. That keeps people from even seeing the harm they may be doing. My addition to this thought is that fewer people are creators. That is, few do anything to create, but only consume. How can they know what it takes to be an artist of any kind? As I have said many times, we must create or we destroy.

As for Wikipedia going dark, I keep wondering why they didn't do so later in the semester when more high school and college students were stealing, I mean, writing research papers. Wouldn't that have gotten more attention? But apparently, did generate a lot of attention, if the news feed in my Facebook is any indication. If Wikipedia really wanted to serve the world, it would go dark and never bring its "light" back. Ever.

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