NEWS ANALYSIS: The current contentious debate over legislation to outlaw online piracy seems to be defined mostly by the refusal of the parties involved to move away from their all-or-nothing approach.
no question that the current situation surrounding the Stop Online Piracy
Act (SOPA) currently foundering in the U.S. House of Representatives, and
stalled Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate, is a mess. While both
bills seem to have little chance of passage in the current Congress, especially
now that the
White House has announced its opposition, the fact is that they will
probably come back to life later.
likelihood of a return isn't lost on the Internet community. The highly popular
Wikipedia free online encyclopedia plans to go dark on Jan. 18, along with
Reddit.com and some other sites. The idea is to make their lack of availability
obvious to Congress and to voters. Sadly, these protest outages, while sort of
dramatic, aren't likely to affect the course of the legislation. What needs to
be done is to find another way to solve the apparent problem of online piracy.
this is one of those situations in which there are at least two sides, and
neither is apparently willing to give an inch. Many Internet activists don't
want to change the way business is done now, while most of the recording
industry would rather kill the Internet than take any chance that someone might
steal a song. Both sides are wrong.
entertainment media industry, which includes groups such as the Motion Picture
Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America
(RIAA), has opposed virtually every technical innovation that has the potential
of affecting its vested interests.
are the same people who tried to stop compact discs; they tried to kill video
cassette recorders, DVDs, MP3s, Internet music sales and iPods. This is an
industry governed by fear, the total failure to understand any technology more
advanced than Edison's wax cylinders and a refusal to acknowledge that their
industry can profit from the technology.
motion picture and recording industries have made vast fortunes when these
technologies appeared despite their opposition. CD sales far exceeded the sales
of vinyl records. Digital music sales through iTunes and Amazon have made
selling music more profitable (there's no manufacturing cost, after all). And
there's nothing about sharing music through the Internet that's likely to cost
the recording industry millions of dollars, assuming it's handled properly and
the industry approaches it as a way to make money by attracting more customers.
the other hand, the status quo isn't working either. The recording industry has
a point that the Internet is being used as a vehicle to steal music, movies and
other intellectual property. Too many Internet sites turn a blind eye to
overtly illegal activities either because they don't care or perhaps because no
reliable, technological mechanism exists to do anything about it. I know this
from personal experience.
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.