Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stop SOPA, Stop PIPA

A humor cartoon from the great TheOatmeal.com.
We like to follow the rules here at Cubs Stats, at least as much as we can, but as Americans we have that awesome ability and duty to set and change the rules.

Well, we wanted to black out Cubs Stats today in solidarity with sites like Wikipedia, Google, Wired.com, Reddit, icanhascheezburger, and — as seen above — The Oatmeal. Unfortunately, my HTML magic just made a sad little puff from my hands instead of the dramatic lightning bolts I had intended, so instead I'll just post about SOPA and PIPA today and refrain from writing about the Cubs or White Sox or Bulls and such.

Consider going to the Wikipedia page, typing in your Zip Code, and then promptly contacting your congressman. Never underestimate the power of annoying politicians and their interns.

Why are SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 or PROTECT IP Act — good lord!) so evil?

Well, for me, it is two reasons:

1) SOPA and PIPA border dangerously close to censorship. At Cubs Stats, we try to use only our own photos, photos with Creative Commons licenses, or photos in the public domain. So we are not at any real threat of being shut down — from my understanding. But the fact that so many other sites, such as my YouTube page which has used other's photos in the past, could get shut down without due process.

PIPA will also dramatically effect which foreign sites we can visit. Yes, like China and North Korea and Iran, the US government (no doubt at the behest of some landed gentry) have taken ir upon themselves to imitate the most closed and oppressive governments — y'know, to protect the people from the evil pirated stuff.

A little bit of history: I play guitar.

For a long time, I got my guitar tabs (basic written forms of guitar music) from an American guitar tab website — I'm ashamed to say I've forgotten its name now — but at some arbitrary point, guitar tab publishing companies (the people who printed the physical books of guitar tabs, y'know, those dozens of books I own but would have never purchased had I not learned how to play guitar first from online sources) realized they were losing money. So, they dressed their lobbyist in a nice suite, lined his pockets with Benjamins, and sent him teary-eyed to a congressman.

Before long, the site had to shut down. Why? Apparently the user-generated guitar tabs (as in: People listened to the songs, then transcribed them themselves) were deemed a breach of intellectual property rights. Bye-bye American guitar tab sites.

Enter: GuitarTabs.cc and GuitareTab.com.

Yes. Foreign sites. All in English, soaking up the spilled readership from the American sites. Naturally, enter the lobbyist again. And now here comes SOPA and PIPA.

Basically, this process of stifling American websites only to see foreign competitors appear has got the American businessmen pissing in their fifteen-hundred dollar suites, c'mon! (I just quoted Arrested Development. I hope we don't get shut down.)

2) SOPA and PIPA reflect the broken perspective of American businesses. Instead of inventing something new, many prominent American businesses have taken to buying weird copyrights and suing over technology they didn't invent, or they find similar products and try to shut them down instead of making their product better.

I'm a reclusive economist. Will's a consummate businessman. We like new, innovative business models. And what SOPA and PIPA represent is the backwardness of American businessmen and the lack of innovation that has stunted American growth since the 1990s.

Instead of finding a new business model, American companies — from the print media to the car makers — have become litigious and frightened. They turn to their congressmen instead of their visionaries.

Well that, frankly, is not intelligent. It's dumb. It's cowardly. It's the mark of sad little fools who have forgotten or never learned how capitalism is supposed to work.

Look: I like intellectual property rights. Without them, my words (which is my job) can easily be stolen and sold. That's a pretty large bummer (though, if I'm properly attribute, maybe I don't care).

Still, like the Oatmeal cartoon said, this is like trying to catch the lion that escaped from the zoo by taking a flame thrower to a basket of kittens.

And that's not just dumb, it's evil.

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