I know some of you in Congress are baffled by all the fuss us Internet geeks are making about your precious little SOPA and PIPA. I know some of you think you're protecting intellectual property and all us digital types just want to freely do whatever we want online, without regard to who owns what.
You are incorrect and misinformed.
In fact, most of us digital types make our living from our intellectual property. When some sleezebag in a foreign country republishes this article (and does so over, and over, with slightly changed wording using a tool called "spinning"), that criminal will be stealing money I'd otherwise use to feed my family.
Most of us make our living online. And, for the record, we're the ones who have given you what little economic boom we have left in this country after your buddies at the banks and the mortgage companies tried to pick your constituents clean.
I can speak personally about how demoralizing it is to find a digital product I spent years creating -- years with little sleep and bills to pay, years missing the social life I'd otherwise have had, years of actual, true sweat equity -- being sold on a foreign web site, without a dime coming to me or my family.
I can also speak personally about the frustration of having to make the choice of whether or not to support customers who paid real money for the software I wrote, but paid it to someone I had never met, someone who didn't have my permission to sell it, someone who kept all the money, stealing my hard work. In the end, I chose to support those customers, because I felt it was the right thing to do.
So let me make it clear that we, the people of the Internet, understand software piracy and we hate the scum who steal our work. But just because we dislike the people who steal our work doesn't mean we want you to dismantle the foundations of the most astounding human creation since the wheel.
When your legislative ancestors were in Washington, they actually did some good. They wrote laws, they created agencies, and they set up systems that would, in fact, stand the test of time. We have copyright law, with lots of depth and nuance. When someone steals our intellectual property, copyright law comes into play.
International copyright law is more complex, but even there, we have a Commerce Department, we have international treaties, and we have enforcement procedures.
The reason we, the people of the Internet, have pushed back so hard on SOPA and PIPA (and will continue to do so, even though you'll inevitably try to sneak something nasty in somewhere else) is that we know we have laws that can be used to protect us.
We also know that SOPA and PIPA and their ilk aren't designed to protect artists and writers, musicians and producers, programmers and filmmakers. We know SOPA and PIPA are designed to line the pockets of the lawyers and lobbyists at the MPAA and the RIAA.
After all, while we were creating the greatest communications transformation since the Tower of Babel, your MPAA and RIAA friends were terrorizing grandmothers and college students, bullying them into turning over their remaining life savings or college tuition savings, just so your friends could increase their war-chest, strike fear into the hearts of their loyal customers, and all those lawyers could get paid their $500/hour rates.
We, the people of the Internet, may not have the normal infrastructure for influencing politicians, but we have the ability to communicate in ways that will take your breath away. We invented this stuff, we can reach billions of people in a heartbeat, we can shock voters into awareness with an impact you can only dream of, and our power will only get stronger.
You, and countries like China and Belarus and Iran can try to squelch us, but we will route around. And, sadly, so will the criminals. So if you ever try to legislate an ill-advised technical fix to a societal behavior problem, it won't work. People are infinitely adaptable, and just as we will adapt to keep the lines of communication open, so too will the criminals.
What you need to do, my dear politician friends, is to stop listening to the lobbyists and start listening to the innovators. No, we're not going to wine and dine you with the fancy lunch you've been promised by the lobbyists, but if you listen to us, we might allow you to go back to Washington for another term.
Do not try to break the Internet. It was designed to survive nuclear war for a reason. It is stronger and more resilient than you can possibly imagine, and it will fight back.
We the People of the Internet, in order to form a more perfect world, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish that you shall not muck with our pipes.
- 5 reasons why SOPA, PROTECT-IP and other legislative idiocy will never die
- SOPA: So how much does it cost to buy off America's Internet freedom?
- Everything that's wrong about politics: latest SOPA and PROTECT-IP outrage
- Dear Congressman Posey, SOPA is both dangerous and un-American
- Technology policy challenges faced by the U.S. Federal Government (video seminar)
- Google to protest SOPA, alongside Wikipedia, Reddit, others
- Wikipedia confirms site blackout to protest SOPA anti-piracy bill
- Geeks 1, Congress 0: Controversial anti-piracy bill SOPA 'shelved'
So, what do you think? Should Congress wise up? Heh, there's a leading question! TalkBack below.