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Don’t Just STOP SOPA: Fix It!

The issues related to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) are not as simple or black-and-white as many individuals and organizations are portraying them. There is consensus that online piracy is a problem that must be addressed, as well as general agreement that some kind of law is necessary. There are substantive – and important – differences, however, with respect to what the law should include and how it should be enforced. Rather than engendering unproductive hysteria through grand standing, dramatic (but hollow) gestures and rhetoric, leaders in both the private and public sectors would better serve their stakeholders (and themselves) by working together to develop a viable solution.

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Cyberspace is full of “stop SOPA” posts today – many from people who probably had no idea what SOPA was yesterday, and probably still have an extremely limited understanding of the proposed legislation and its related issues.

I’ve been following the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) stories since last fall, and the issues are not as black-and-white as many people are portraying them. More importantly, we must recognize that there are HUGE vested interests on both sides of the issue, and NO ONE’s motivations are pure. People shouldn’t let themselves be manipulated by the drama and rhetoric – or especially the powerful players who have taken strong stands. They should educate themselves and then decide.

Everyone generally agrees digital piracy is a problem. Where things get sticky is that there’s no clear consensus on the best approaches to solving it. I would venture to say that both proponents and opponents of SOPA and PIPA agree that some version of these laws is necessary. Can they be improved? Yes. Should they be stopped? I don’t think so. Leaders – both in government and in business – have to try to look past their vested interests to determine a viable solution.

The legislation can – and should – be fixed now. Neither the House (SOPA) nor Senate (PIPA) versions of the proposed law are anywhere close to a done deal, so I don’t see what everyone is so up in arms about. And all the political grand standing – especially by technology organizations – seems unnecessarily hysterical and counteproductive. If there’s consensus that we need to do something about piracy (and there is), and the dispute is over *how,* then that’s where energy and attention should be focused. In other words, rather than trying to STOP SOPA, we should focus our energies on trying to FIX it.

Many of us claim to be tired of all the negativity in politics and the lack of leadership in both the private and public sectors. Yet countless folks have drunk the “they’re trying to break the internet” Kool-Aid and blindly jumped on the “Stop SOPA” bandwagon. In this area as in others, shouldn’t we stop emphasizing what we’re against and focus on what we’re for? Shouldn’t we move from problems to solutions, and focus on collaborating rather than fighting?

– Courtney Shelton Hunt, PhD

PS – I have been working on a Digital Era Food for Thought (DEFFT) post about SOPA (and PIPA) since last November, but because news breaks almost constantly, I haven’t been able to finalize it! I’ll polish up the current draft for folks who want to better understand the issues, players, and ongoing developments and will update the post as events and circumstances continue to unfold.

To receive a notice when the DEFFT post on SOPA/PIPA is published, you can subscribe to the GCDEL Digital Era Thinkers Blog by clicking here or on the link on the upper left side of the website.

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Profile Photo Courtney Shelton Hunt

Thanks, Andrew! I was getting so annoyed yesterday by all the “armchair protesters” who had no real idea what they were protesting, I just had to get that off my chest. I love the idea of crowdsourcing and wikifying the law. Now why didn’t Jimmy Wales use the opportunity and his bully pulpit to promote that idea yesterday rather than going (fake) dark…?

You’re absolutely right about reading the law directly, Jerry, and I’ll include links to both pieces of proposed legislation in my follow-up post. Unfortunately, the legalese can be a little daunting… Getting back to Andrew’s idea, I think we’d need to translate the law into lay terms before editing it. : )

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