A Word on SOPA In Lieu of A Blackout

Today's the day we're all supposed to be boycotting the internet in opposition to SOPA, or Stop Online Piracy Act currently under discussion in the United States. As you may have noticed, I haven't taken part. It's not because I support SOPA, I don't, it's simply because I don't wish to do, and the only effect it would have is to keep people from reading the comic. No one else would notice.

However, I would like to take a moment and discuss my thoughts on it. Please indulge me before I go back to drawing penises.

SOPA is a bad bill that gives too much power to those who have power already, and gives none to people like me. Or you, probably. And in the case that anyone reading this has power, can I have a grant?

In essence, those who have the money to pursue legal cases under SOPA have the money to pursue legal cases under existing copyright laws. SOPA only allows them to do it with bigger teeth and to more parties. Those of us who don't have the money to pursue legal claims against copyright infringement and the sites that support them, such as people who steal art and sell t-shirts, we still won't have the money to pursue them under the SOPA laws. The rich get richer, the powerful gain more power, and the rest of us can suck it.

Add to this that sites like our host, Smack Jeeves, are also potential targets for SOPA, as it also hosts a number of sprite comics (comics made, often, with copyrighted images taken from video games) as well as a number of fan comics. While I don't necessarily support unfettered use of unlicensed intellectual property and especially graphics, the effect is essentially harmless in the form in which it appears here.

This is not even mentioning the use of copyrighted material in many, MANY of the avatars used by the site's members. These are also actionable violations according to SOPA. Little unimportant things like these become threats of catastrophe.

Under existing laws, the creators of these comics can be sued for copyright infringement, which is as it should be. Under SOPA, the creator of Smack Jeeves can be sued for providing a place to host them, and considering how widespread these comics are on the site, it could be shut down entirely.

Most of the fearmongering I've seen talks about the death of Twitter, Facecult, YouTube and other massive sites. Personally, I think those are histrionics. Those sites are far too established and pervasive to be taken down like that. Sites like Smack Jeeves, deviantArt and others which provide largely unrestricted access for creative folks to post their own material are vulnerable to this kind of law.

And in the end, what SOPA does is police the small. Copyright infringement is a problem, but SOPA is a bit like declaring martial law to combat bullying in schools. I hope you'll all forgive me that exaggeration.

I wanted to provide links here to learn more about SOPA from unbiased sources, but I couldn't find any. The issue is overwrought with bias and propaganda, which makes it difficult to endorse any public viewpoint.

I was provided with one infographic that I like (thanks Melissa,) and you can see it here: http://www.marketingtechblog.com/what-is-sopa/

And here is Wikipedia's take and why they're raising awareness by going dark: http://blog.wikimedia.org/2012/01/16/wikipedias-community-calls-for-anti-sopa-blackout-january-18/

SOPA is a complex issue. I have trouble being against anything that seeks to curtail copyright violations, but SOPA is bad regulation that, in my view, helps the powerful and hurts the aspiring. I encourage everyone to find out more about it, and to make your feelings, for or against, to your congressional representative (if you have one.)

Discussion? Let's keep it fair, let's keep our tempers. Please don't make me police these comments, I'd rather spend that time making comics.
posted by Gibson Twist @ January 17th, 2012, 10:34 pm  |  3 comments

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The_Hankerchief, January 18th, 2012, 2:47 am

Regarding that third-to-last sentence, that's more or less of what I hear about SOPA, though the scale on which I hear it's going to happen varies greatly from source to source. More or less, I share your viewpoint, Gibson.

SOPA may have seemed like an excellent idea at the time the idea was formed, but when it came out on paper, it looks real nasty. The wording in it is just vague enough that the limit to which it can be executed is open to interpretation. The groups opposed to it capitalize upon that open interpretation, claiming that the worst that can happen, will happen. While I'm glad they're speaking out against it, I do believe their intentions are a little misplaced. Could the worst happen? There's a chance, and if it did, I'm certain it would become a major headache for the U.S. Supreme Court. Will it happen? Well, now, that's the grit of it: Nobody knows. I'm certainly not a fortune teller.

All I know is, while I don't think this bill will turn the U.S. into the former Soviet Union, it's certainly not going to be all sunshine and roses, either. I've already written to my Senator, and he's already made his opposition quite clear, both in Congress and on YouTube. (I'm so proud to be an Oregonian right now, you have no idea). If the rest of you haven't, and want your voice heard, I recommend you do so as well. Sure, Congress gets a real bad rap these days, but they still get paid with our taxes. Might as well make them work for us.

fallenpoet (Guest), January 18th, 2012, 7:32 pm

F* SOPA This is yet another way to attempt to constrict the free speech of the internet. This is an attempt to get the bill passed by people who don't read EVERYTHING the law would do. Some would see the "attempt" to stop piracy and pass it, not realizing that it would in effect censor the ability to say and do as you please. I don't care so much what you choose to do with your rights, as long as we get to have rights in the first place. To be totally honest, you won't ever stop piracy. People will find a way to get stuff for free cuz they're cheap assholes. IMO it'd never work with any kind of law. So, f* SOPA. Be a courteous Internet user, and pay for the stuff you use. Seriously. Love the work you do here, Mr. Twist, and I don't want to see it go away. Thank you for all you do :)

jim (Guest), May 31st, 2012, 9:37 pm

er-comics i would like to keep in contact,i am working on a new comic book with paul beale.

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