Much of the web has gone dark today in protest against two pieces of legislation— The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and the PROTECT IP act (PIPA)— currently pending in the United States Congress. Both bills are aimed at fighting online piracy, and both bills will result in the establishment of the Great American Firewall.
Those opposed to the pieces of legislation aren’t pro-piracy. But they recognize that solving the problem of piracy isn’t going to happen through draconian means. In fact, all it will do is destroy the Internet which has not only been the source of the greatest explosion of human expression in all of history, but the economic driver of the 21st century. It is in a nutshell like saying, electricity is evil because it kills.
The problem of Online piracy is primarily an economic question, and less about a political one. In the last decade the biggest and most effective way of destroying piracy was the creation of iTunes. It was when consumers got what they wanted when they wanted it that music piracy in the United States crawled so much that Wired declared that the Age of Music Piracy was over.
Another stumbling block in the war against online piracy is the issue of licensing. Each territory requires specific licensing deal. It was the primary reason why video streaming has been pretty much stagnant, remains mostly in the United States. Hulu, and Netflix aren’t streamed outside the United States for example.
Of course it isn’t that simplistic, there are other economic factors at play, but licensing deal or lack thereof is right up there on the top reasons why something isn’t available in your territory. Like how many times have you been to YouTube only to find a video you wanted to view isn’t available where you are?
If you are American, perhaps you could sign up for Google’s petition to get the United States Congress to fight for the Internet.
Solving the problem of online piracy is a complicated issue driven primarily by economics. The pending legislation before the United States Congress will be ineffective in curbing online piracy. At least in its present form. So long as content creators continue to subscribe to the old and complicated licensing business model, a lot more people will be pirating material. Stopping online piracy— or at least getting it to an inconsequential level is best solved by making content available. You can’t legitimize content when you’re not selling it.