Today, a number of web sites, including the amazingly useful Wikipedia.org site, have gone black to protest proposed anti-piracy legislation making its way through the U.S. Congress.
On the one hand, the entertainment industry does face a real problem as people are so easily able to steal their product and widely distribute it to people in the US using social network and other tools based outside of the US. So, I can see why they are trying to get as much power as they can to shut that down through any of the U.S-based parties that are involved, such as search engines, web site hosts, and credit card clearinghouses.
From their perspective, all that talk about the importance of the internet as a vehicle for freedom and political change is a bit insincere coming from parties that are just trying to make a buck knowingly casting a blind eye to the fact that their customers are deriving a big part of the value of using their services by accessing stolen content. The entertainment industry is basically just saying that if such parties are not putting in a reasonable amount of effort to block that, they should be considered accomplices to the theft.
But, on balance, I do side with the protesters. The definition of reasonable amount of effort can very easily become a slippery slope to requiring tiny start-ups to buy unaffordable technology and putting in an unaffordable amount of manual labor into avoiding being accused of being an accomplish to someone else’s crime. I agree with the protesters that this could easily stifle such start-ups, which would not displease the established big entertainment players. The entire US-based entertainment industry is just not a very big part of the overall economy, and the internet has become an indispensable part of the entrepreneurship, innovation, political discourse, and social interaction that moves society forward. The unintended consequences of the proposed SOPA/PIPA legislation, both directly in the US and on the precedent-setting impact on laws in other countries, could be huge and are not worth squeezing a few more dollars out of one small sector of our economy.
Therefore, we should reject the SOPA and PIPA legislation, and continue to pursue more incremental efforts to thwart internet piracy.
More information at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:SOPA_initiative/Learn_more