SOPA – The slippery slope?
Superficially, this is about Silicon Valley disrupting the media industry. We’ve seen the effect of downloads on the music industry and the Film and Television industries don’t want any repeat of that scenario thank you very much!
The case of the start up band who have to pay for their rehearsal space, pay to print up CDs and Publicity material, hoping to make at least some money back through sales, only to have their hopes dashed by cynical downloaders purloining their content for free is also well heard. I am a photographer and have found my photographs on Google, adorning sites I’ve never heard of. A magazine recently offered me the princely sum of £2 for one picture – an improvement on last year when two magazines with high street distribution deals printed photographs of mine for no fee! At first glance, this embattled artist is tempted to agree that SOPA is not a bad thing.
But of course embattled artists are not the only losers, and if any government is passing legislation solely to protect the rights of struggling artists, frankly I’ll eat my hat. There are other players with much more to lose, and this is why there is such a fuss about SOPA.
This debate is about control. Control over the internet. Or to put it crudely, delivery of the internet into the hands of the vested interests providing content through established channels like print, film and CD.
Link sharing sites such as Reddit, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Digg etc will under the proposed acts be liable for prosecution if they are found to be distributing links to unoriginal material. In effect, this makes them vulnerable to frivolous litigation like never before. Big companies have deep pockets and will have no qualms about bankrupting the pretenders to their throne by forcing lawsuits to be defended.
The sponsorship of government advising think tanks by corporate interests has also been well documented as has the use of lobbyists by various industries to influence government thinking. The extent to which News International influenced successive elections in the UK can only be guessed at, but it is well documented that Rebekah Wade was a regular guest at the homes and offices of successive prime ministers. No coincidence when the Murdoch owned Sun, News of the World and Times all backed the same horse.
The appointment of Murdoch fan Jeremy Hunt to the Ministry of Culture and the subsequent proposal to allow Murdoch’s bid for BSkyB to be waved through could be interpreted as payback for the press support for the Tories before the election. It was only stopped by furious protests from the public and one newspaper’s, The Guardian, tireless quest to expose the illegal activities taking place in the News of the World under the auspices of …Rebekah Wade. Nobody should remain in any doubt that corporate interests influence and in some cases dictate government policy.
SOPA and its little brother PIPA are merely the instruments by which the corporate interests that control the old media, hope to wrest control of the new media away from Silicon Valley. It should be resisted at all costs, not because we prefer anarchy, but because democracy is founded on freedom of choice and if there is no freedom of information then there is no freedom of choice. I don’t mind sacrificing a few photographs to uphold that principle.
originally published at Electrical Image 18.1.12