|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] SOPA - The JOB DESTROYER
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Date: Sat, 17 Dec 2011 20:40:34 -0500
From: Ruben Safir
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To: Hangout , Ruben Safir
Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] SOPA - The JOB DESTROYER
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How SOPA Could Ruin My Life
11 comments, 4 called-out + Comment now
Hi, my name is Paul, and I’m a small business owner. But my storefront
isn’t quite of the traditional variety. Rather, it’s a virtual one, a
website I built from scratch, and currently own and operate.
While I enjoy my time freelancing here at Forbes, it’s not how I make
most of my money. Rather, my main source of income is from this personal
site, Unreality. It’s a movie/tv/video game site that I started with a
partner about three years ago. Since then, it’s grown to averaging
between 2.8 and 3.2 million page views a month. Not a giant, but not bad
for two people, and with ad revenue, it’s enough to live on.
But that might not be the case if the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)
passes. My virtual small business, along with many others like it, might
Why is this? Am I a pirate, who feeds my users stolen content every day
and deserves to be slain by a new law like this? Not at all, and this is
the fundamental problem with SOPA and other prospective laws like it
(Protect IP most recently).
The goal of the entertainment industry to stop piracy is understandable.
It’s hard to make a coherent case that you should be able to download a
full movie or album completely for free, without giving a cent to anyone
involved. But in trying to solve this singular issue, the entertainment
lobby has opened up a can of worms that threatens the entire internet,
and more specifically, my livelihood.
The “actual” piracy portions of the bill are debatable in their own
right, namely that the government can simply block known rogue foreign
sites like The Pirate Bay from American’s eyes. Though these are the
most obvious infringers, it still reeks of Chinese and Iranian internet
policies that allow the government to simply censor the internet the way
they see fit, and the crux of the bill seems wholly unconstitutional.
But rather where we get into even more trouble is when you look at the
details of SOPA, and how it might affect someone like me. Their
definition of what piracy is ends up including most of the internet,
including my own site, and the punishments for even minor infringements
could be catastrophic and run me out of business completely.
The fine print of the law says sites that distribute copyrighted content
could be subject to summary censorship, ie Torrent sites and the like.
But it also encompasses any sites that LINK to copyrighted content,
which is the bomb that blows up any semblance of sense this bill might
My site likes to find the best media-related content on the internet. We
post photos, artwork and embed YouTube videos that involve things about
our favorite movies, shows and games. I always give credit where it’s
due, but on occasion, a photographer or artist cannot be located. Under
SOPA, should they find their content on my site, they would legally have
the right to petition my advertisers to stop paying me, or report me to
the government. The same goes for YouTube videos I might feature. Though
the content is not mine, as I haven’t uploaded it to the web myself, I
am indeed linking to it, and with this new law, I would be subject to
the same sort of harsh penalties should the content within be something
copyrighted like footage from a game or movie. I am willingly linking to
“infringing” content, and under SOPA, can be branded a “rogue site”
because of that. Such a classification could cause me to lose everything.
Now if they infringe, I infringe.
So how many of these reports would it take before I lose my advertisers?
Get my site on a government blacklist? Twenty? A dozen? Five? As an
owner of a YouTube channel and Facebook page, I’ve had content falsely
reported for copyright many times. With one click of a button, anyone
can say I’ve broken copyright, and rather than actually deal with the
truth of it, often these sites are simply automated to delete the
content without warning or further review.
This happens on a larger scale as well. Universal recently got YouTube
to take down a video made by MegaUpload, which featured a number of
recording artists who got together to assemble a song supporting the
site, which Universal has previously gone after. Despite owning ALL the
rights to the song, all Universal had to do was complain and without
question, the song was banished. Under SOPA, this could potentially
happen to entire websites.
Watching the House debate this bill yesterday was beyond pathetic. These
representatives, if they deserve to be called that, have no idea the
amount of power they’re giving the entertainment industry. Or maybe they
do, as most of their pockets are lined with donations from media
behemoths, and have been for years in the hopes that someday, they might
pass a law like this.
Those opposed to the bill were the only voices of reason in the room. I
remember a line in particular that said, “We’re operating on the
internet without any doctors or nurses on the room,” which illustrated
how practically every tech giant and pioneer on the web has opposed this
draconian bill, as guess what, Google and Blogger and Bing and Reddit by
definition, all link to copyrighted content, and would be subject to
this new law.
Those in support of SOPA? One representative wanted to pass the bill
because she was getting bored. Others openly admitted to not knowing how
to use the internet. The consensus among them was merely “piracy sounds
bad, therefore we should pass this anti-piracy bill” without any further
investigation into its deeper implications. Implications that would in
effect, destroy the entire idea behind the internet.
But to me, it’s personal. The internet is my life now. It’s how I pay my
rent and it’s how I’ll support my future family. By passing a law that
turns me and millions of others into copyright criminals, there’s no way
to sink the economy faster than by shackling the one industry that has
more innovation and growth than any other.
I don’t understand the entertainment companies’ end game here. They’ve
gone beyond obtuse to straight up maniacal. Do they think if they manage
to shut down every bit of copyright infringement on the internet, that
sales are going to suddenly skyrocket? Do they think people have some
secret horde of cash that they’ve just been waiting to blow on DVDs and
CDs, but haven’t because of The Pirate Bay’s existence? If my site can’t
link to gameplay videos or movie clips, are my readers going to run out
and buy them to see what they’re missing? If they land Unreality on a
rogue evil pirate site list, who benefits? I’m suddenly homeless,
without any cash to go the movies.
This bill looks like it might pass. Amendments to make it slightly less
insane have all been rejected, and the tide appears to be in favor of it
actually going through the House. It is fathomable to even imagine that
this actually will pass? It’s a scary thought, but unfortunately, a
Stop SOPA, stop Protect IP, stop letting congressmen who don’t even
understand the internet to dictate its future. Go here to voice your
concerns, and pray that even if you’re not handing them tens of
thousands of dollars in campaign cash, that your representatives might
actually listen to you.