Tim O’Reilly on why SOPA and PIPA are bad for business

The supporters of SOPA, and it’s Senate sister, PIPA claim that it will protect content industries. Tim O’Reilly very effectively takes this argument apart.

At O’Reilly, we have published ebooks DRM-free for the better part of two decades. We’ve watched the growth of this market from its halting early stages to its robust growth today. More than half of our ebook sales now come from overseas, in markets we were completely unable to serve in print. While our books appear widely on unauthorized download sites, our legitimate sales are exploding. The greatest force in reporting unauthorized copies to us is our customers, who value what we do and want us to succeed. Yes, there is piracy, but our embrace of the internet’s unparalleled ability to reach new customers “though it may not be perfect still secures to authors more money than any other system that can be devised.”

These bills are designed to protect companies that are unable – or unwilling – to respond to current market demands. Any law that tries to protect unrealistic business models is, inherently, a bad law.

I am aware that SOPA has been shelved. But being shelved is not the same as being killed. And PIPA is still working its way through the Senate legislative process.

I said yesterday that this site is going dark on Wednesday, as is Pulpmovies, in support of the Stop SOPA campaign. This is still going to happen.

Update

It turns out that SOPA has just been unshelved.

I’m joining the internet blackout to protest SOPA/PIPA on January 18th

On January 18th, between 08:00 and 20:00 UTC, this little corner of the internet will be joining Identi.ca, Boing Boing, Rasberry Pi, and many others in an internet blackout in protest of the Stop Online Privacy Act proposed in the US Congress and its corresponding Senate bill, Protect IP.

This is a badly drafted bill, promoted by people who don’t understand its impact for the benefit of people who don’t care about your freedoms. It is so widely cast and so badly worded that it will limit what you can say online, regardless of whether you are in the US or not.

You can find more information on the SOPA/PIPA bills, and how they affect you whether or not you live in the USA, at americancensorship.org. And I hope that if you run any sort of Web service or publishing platform, you will join this blackout.

Help stop SOPA/PIPA

If you read any of the tech press, or spend any time around the nerdier corners of the internet, you will be aware something very bad is currently going through the US legislative process.

If you are not worried about SOPA, which is currently going through Congress, or its Senate sister, PIPA, I urge you to watch the video (from Fight for the Future by way of the WordPress Development blog) below.

I touched on this yesterday but it is worth reiterating. SOPA is a badly drafted law, promoted by people who don’t understand its impact for the benefit of people who don’t care about your freedoms. It is so widely cast and so badly worded that it will limit what you can say online, regardless of whether you are in the US or not – the videos example of Facebook having to censor its users posts is a good one.

If you are a US citizen, make your voice heard. If you are not a US citizen, encourage your American friends to make their voices heard.

If passed, this law will affect all of us.

Cory Doctorow on copyright and the coming war on general-purpose computing

Last month, Cory Doctorow gave a keynote speech to the Chaos Computer Congress. It turned up online but I have to admit to not having watched it as yet. Handily, though, the text of the speech has been posted on Boing Boing and he makes a strong case.

The TL;DR version is that legislators keep on reaching for regulation that won’t work to solve problems they don’t understand. This is happening now with copyright (the US SOPA legislation being the currently most obvious example), but will continue to happen – and probably increasingly so – as technology progresses.

If we want to be able to own and trust our devices – from the MP3 players we listen to to the cars we drive – the instinct to regulate needs to be stopped. Now.