TMCnet Feature
November 22, 2011

Let A Cynic Explain the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) For You

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a little piece of Congressional legislation running through the House of Representatives right now, has got the business world – particularly the Web services business world – in a bit of a tizzy.

If it becomes law, SOPA will allow the Justice Department and intellectual property owners to more easily get court orders requiring online advertising networks, Internet service providers (ISPs), payment processors and other organizations to stop service and payments to Web sites and Web-based services accused of copyright infringement.

Called “censorship” by its opponents (who are many, including most of the nation's largest and most innovative technology companies), the bill would be tantamount to turning ISPs, Web payment companies, search engines and pretty much anyone else who might enable you to go from Point A on the Internet to Point B, into the Internet police against their will. While CNet recently prepared an excellent “question and answer” format article with all the information you need to know about SOPA, the article is very polite and misses a few baser reasons behind the House of Representatives little boondoggle into the Internet business.

While it's true that the primary reason for SOPA is Hollywood's hissy fit over the fact that it has no control over rogue movie and television piracy Web sites in, say...Bangkok or the Cayman Islands, and wants someone on U.S. shores to be ready and legally available as a strawman to be attacked over Hollywood's frustration that U.S. revenues have been slipping for years, there are several other reasons for the legislation. Let's look at them.

Mixing With Movie Stars
Of course, it's obvious that the Hollywood lobby has written this legislation and is the driving force and cash behind it with a little help from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). What better way to get to meet Justin Bieber or Megan Fox than promise to deliver for the Hollywood lobby? That might get a humble Congressional Rep an invitation to those kind of parties where the champagne flows like melting Arctic icebergs (not because of climate change, mind you, no siree!!) and nubile young wannabe starlets drape themselves all over your charcoal gray Brooks Brothers' suits. (“I'm out here working, Dear, really! Next, me and Matt Damon are off to a nightclub to meet some someone else's constituents.”)

There Is One Bright Spot in the U.S. Economy, Let's Kill It
As Wall Street and its shell games would appear to exist as of late only to make a few people extremely rich at the expense of pretty much everyone else, and U.S. manufacturers are still happy to ship American jobs offshore faster than one of Lindsay Lohan's jail sentences, it was nice to see that companies such as Google, Apple, Amazon, eBay (News - Alert), Yahoo, Facebook and the others are still innovating. Still using American ingenuity to come up with services that wow the world. Still rewarding hard work with fair treatment.

Let's force these companies to turn into the Internet police and strangle their innovation in their labs. That'll show the rest of the world we mean business, says the House of Representatives! Who do those companies think they are?

Lawyers Need More Money
The other industry (other than Hollywood) that will benefit greatly from SOPA is, of course, intellectual property lawyers. SOPA is Christmas, birthday, Halloween and being voted homecoming queen all rolled into one for the nation's needy litigators. Won't you help sponsor a hungry American litigation lawyer and donate your online freedom so he or she can make an obscene living? Please give generously.

Censorship Is Good For You!
Now, rather than let you see that Web site hosted in the Cayman Islands that may contain some pirated material but may also contain some legitimate material, the House of Representatives doesn't want to put you in the position of having to make a decision over what you can view and what you can't.

Trust us, it's easier this way, says the House of Representatives. We know better, and you won't have to think!

Someone Has To Pay for the Fact that Hollywood Can't Make a Decent Movie Anymore
Hollywood KNOWS what we want in movies. Nobody went to see “Josie and the Pussycats” because it was raining that day. We've all skipped the last nine Jennifer Aniston rom-coms because we couldn't find babysitters those nights. While we were busy watching that British film that was made on a positive shoestring budget of $20 million and featured people who can actually act, we just plain forgot to go to that $200 million Hollywood movie that had no plot, but lots of explosions and people with defined abs and big, puffy lips.

The Recording Industry Association of America Has Tried To Kill Every New Music Technology Americans Have Liked
Why stop now? This is the industry that sued a 12-year-old girl for sharing the song, “If You're Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands.” But at least the RIAA is highly supportive of SOPA. Enough said.

Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell
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