I was wondering if anyone is watching the debate over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and what your thoughts might be. Here's a wikpedia link, but the article is somewhat shallow.

As I've watched the debate unfold, it seems to me that it is becoming a debate between two camps - the content (writing, music, etc.) creators and companies that need content to remain free.

In the late 1990s, a story I wrote and published was "reprinted" by an online magazine in Australia. No payment, no credit, no attribution, and really, nothing me nor the magazine here in the states could do about it.

As a publisher, I've watched sites such as Google, Topix, Yahoo, and many others, aggregate my newspapers' content to their websites without paying for it. This is a common practice. Trust me - they don't drive as much traffic as they might claim.

Here in Nashville, with a prominent country music and christian music industries, we're hearing quite a lot about the content creation side, but I must admit how daunting and probably impossible it must be even or a Google to monitor piracy itself.

Not sure. Just an interesting debate.

I will make these two concluding statements:

  • One side says "information wants to be free." Horse crap. Not my information.
  • SOPA will destroy the internet. Can we be a little more melodramatic?

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Yes, I'm afraid I also don't like the piracy.  Mind you the current move against pirates seems to care only about music and film.  I saw no word about books.  And Joe Konrath believes that pirates are no threat to authors; that they may in fact help popularize them.  And there's also the argument that people who get their stuff from piracy sites wouldn't buy the book in the first place.


But it's still stealing.  And I don't like it.


I agree with you - theft is theft. Period.

The act, in theory, would protect the written word as well. Much of the focus (and the lobbying in favor) stems from the music industry - two of the bill's so-signers represent Nashville, which is home to two enormous industries.

While I have respect for Konrath's views on self-publishing, I do disagree with him on the idea that pirates won't hurt authors. As has been mentioned, a band can give away music and still make money off of performances. We give away our writing and we can still make money off of ...... oh. Yea. Not much.

I understand that it could turn on new readers, and I understand the argument that the visitors of piracy sites won't buy anyway. I'm not sure which is correct.

But I know this. My work has value. If it is given away for free, I want it to be under controlled promotion conditions with specific promotional goals in mind.

The idea of "free" content has hurt a number of content generating industries - music, writing, and newspapers, to name a few.

And as you mention, there is this simple fact. If you obtain my content without paying for it, you have stolen it.

I do fall more on the side of content developers, though I do want a sensible law.

I think the argument over SOPA has to do with how draconian the proposed solution is. A site need only to have an allegation placed against it to be shut down; I don't think there's much in the way of due process. The standards are also written too broadly. The bill proposes using a sledge hammer to level an anthill.

I'd like to see something done about piracy myself, but, having read articles both pro and con, there should be a better way to do it.

The answer is simple, we will all read fan fic because they do it for the love and are happy with no money.

Oh, damn, fan fic of what?

Something I hate about the piracy debate is that both sides are just as bad as one another. Pirates don't want to pay for media, but then again they wouldn't have bought the media anyway. The publishers don't want to sell the media, they are constantly fighting new media sales avenues instead of embracing them. So both sides suck. In the middle is the artist getting f@#$ed over by both sides.

Interesting point: the music industry instigated legal action against thousands of downloaders to make examples of them. They charged hundreds of millions of dollars in fines. Have a guess at the amount artists received back for "lost sales" from their benevolent publishers..... $0. Not a nickel.

If there wasn't value in what is being aggregated for free, then it wouldn't be desired and disseminated. If something has value, the entity that created it deserves some compensation. You want to read my crime novel? Then you best click here and go to Amazon to buy it.

Otherwise, the only freebies I'm saying are OK for disseminating are the free chapters here. What's free and isn't free is up to me. And I can only speak for me. If other authors are OK with piracy, then have at it. I'm not looking to shut anyone down. I'm looking out for me.

I think it would dramatically alter the internet as we now experience it.  YouTube would disappear, as would facebook, as would a lot of political sites that use aggregated content--so basically 99% of what I do on the internet would be shut down merely based on accusations of piracy by anonymous users, regardless of the policies or intentions of the site owners.  That seems like a bad thing in a lot of ways, not the least of which is how much it would set back the democratization of political discourse in this country--I'm not that crazy about getting all of my news from big corporations that keep telling me how great big corporations are.

?  Weren't we talking about free downloads of novels?

We were. Jon's comment goes to the broad-reaching provisions in the proposed law, which would do all of the above in the name of thwarting piracy. It's a prescription that's worse than the disease it's intended to cure.

Oh.  Thanks, Dana.

All the warmth and regard of the Patriot Act! What a crock. I hope this thing falls on its face before it even gets going.

I agree that the law is too broad, but a question remains.

Should a company be allowed to use content - and generate revenue thanks to it - without paying for said content?

Aggregators have done this and help (not been entirely responsible admittedly) facilitate the idea that all content online should be free, thereby eliminating at least one revenue source for content generators. Oddly enough, those generators go away, aggregators will have little to aggregate.

Should your website be allowed to carry my newspaper's content without paying for it? Should Youtube be allowed to "host" my song, against my permission, allowing people to listen to it whenever they want for free?

Should CrimeSpace start aggregating content - including your books - so I don't have to pay for them.

The conundrum is how do we protect developers of content who wish to try to make money off of that content without undermining the strength of the Internet.

SOPA is not the answer, but something needs to be done.

I'm pretty sure existing law already covers most of what you cite, Clay.  Current fair use law for articles and books, if I recall correctly, allows four paragraphs of cited text.  It's common courtesy to link back to the original source, so that readers can go and read the article in full.  If the article is behind a paywall, most ethical aggregators would either paraphrase or just not use it.  Newspapers would like readers to have free access, and they'd like aggregators to pay for fair use, even when aggregators drive traffic back to the original source (I'd be interested in seeing whatever documentation there is that supports the claim that this doesn't happen).  But what about a site like facebook, in which hundreds of thousands of users share news stories, etc., every hour of every day?  What about political commentary sites like Daily Kos?  Should diarists on Daily Kos be required to pay to comment on or critique news stories of the day?  Wouldn't that infringe on free speech?  Doesn't it create some pretty drastic limitations on the ability of citizen journalists to participate in the national political discussion?  And what about when newspapers and other media report on stories that originate online?  Should they have to pay to report on a story that appears on my blog, say?

As for YouTube, it's their policy not to allow members to post copyrighted material.  When people do, the offending clips are removed.  Repeat offenders are banned from the site.  Not sure what more you'd have them do. 

That said, I'm not a fan of Google Books, which seems designed to infringe on the IP rights of writers utterly without their consent.  In that case, Google isn't abiding by established fair use law and limiting its use of my content to four paragraphs, and I have no ability to complain to Google and have my books removed from their database if I choose to do so (if I could, I would).  Ditto piracy sites like Bittorrent, etc.  In general, it's not that fine a line: you want people to talk about your content, you want them to be able to find it on your site (and view your ads, etc.), but you don't want them to just steal it wholesale, as some sites do.  It's a pretty clear distinction, for me.   


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