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Robert Bacal

As a writer and publisher, I’d like to share a few things. First, I haven’t read the proposed bill(s), and can’t comment on the specifics.

The “safe harbor” provisions currently in effect, and DMCA’s don’t work. My work has been pirated via the Internet, taking money from my family, and there’s no practical method to stop that, because the work involved in tracking down every thief to have stolen content removed would mean I spend all my time doing that – it’s swatting flies.

Safe harbor exempts the publishers of stolen material, and defamatory material from penalty, while traditional media are still liable.

Companies like Google and Facebook make billions from the material they use (website content, media, other posts), but are not accountable for anything that appears on their platforms. There is no reasonable recourse for people who produce intellectual property.

The existing laws on copyright, defamation and similar topics have been rendered useless by the safe harbor provision. The removal of the safe harbor provision simply brings companies like Facebook subject to the same laws as the rest of us. If, for example, I publish a book that is defamatory, I can be severely penalized by the courts. Facebook, YouTube can publish the exact same defamatory material, and cannot be subject to penality.

Finally, copyright exists for a specific reason, most people are not aware of. It was drafted to encourage people to create. I know of a number of people who, faced with the impact of copyright infringement on the net, (duplicate content penalties in Google) have stopped publishing on the Internet. I have curtailed my own writing on the Internet, since what I produce cannot be used to buy groceries, because it is or can be stolen and used by others.

I don’t know whether SOPA is the solution. I do think that those that publish material that is essentially published illegally on the Internet should be subject to the same laws as those that plagarize, defame or otherwise break the law in print, off the Internet.

We hold companies liable if they supply liquor to employees who then go out and drive drunk and kill. We need to apply the same accountability to companies that aid and abet breaking of existing laws.

For people like myself, authors, people who have shared their material legally, free of charge, even, all we ask is that we have some reasonable protection so we can eat. This isn’t just about big corporations, but about the thousands of little guys trying to use their writing and creative skills to make a reasonable living.