Why Slackerwood is Joining the SOPA Strike

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screenshot of Slackerwood "Takedown" SOPA Protest pageToday, January 18, Slackerwood is joining the national protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Incoming visitors will see a splash page erected for the event.

SOPA has been introduced by U.S. Representative Lamar Smith of Texas (including a small gerrymandered chunk of Austin). The legislation makes pirating movies and other content on the Internet, which is already illegal, double super-secret illegal.

It also mandates, for the first time, that a censorship infrastructure be built so pirated content can be blocked. This blocking could be done not by a court, but by order of a government agency. This is the sort of censorship regime that brought the Egyptians to overthrowing their government. And now it's happening right here, in the good old U.S. Magnited States of America.

The following video explains the Protect IP Act (PIPA), the version of anti-piracy legislation that has been moving through the U.S. Senate.

(source: PIPA/SOPA Breaks the Internet)

Look, I don't support piracy. I love Bryan Poyser and Kat Candler and the multitude of local filmmakers who do great stuff. I want them to make movies -- and to earn enough money making movies so they can eat well and have nice shoes and make even more movies.

As a website about movies, it's a little brave ... maybe a lot foolish ... for Slackerwood to join the SOPA protest. That's because the primary supporters of SOPA are the businesses we work with and depend on. It probably would be more discreet to take a pass on this. On the other hand, as a supporter of cinema and the movie biz, maybe it's even more important to take a stand.

First off, SOPA is a threat to content producers, particularly small content producers like this website. As a content publisher, I find state-sponsored censorship scary and threatening. This threat affects not just websites, but also moviemakers. While SOPA may help the big-budget moviemakers and studios stave off piracy, it threatens all moviemakers with a new censorship regime and weakened "safe harbor" protections.

Second, I think the big content producers need a little tough love. Do you know what's involved in torrenting (downloading) a movie? You have to reconfigure your network in ways you don't for web and email. It chews up voluminuous bandwidth, especially that precious upstream bandwidth you have little of in a typical broadband account. It take a long time to download. Finally, the quality of what you get is often crappy. Unless you are eating on a ramen budget, it's not worth the time and effort.

Yet content producers often give you no way to access content in a reasonable and legal fashion, even if you're willing to pay for it. HBO GO, for instance, is a new service that streams HBO content on the Internet. Sounds like a perfect way for the upstanding citizen to watch current episodes of Boardwalk Empire ... except you can't access it unless you are already an HBO subscriber. That means unless you subscribe to local cable, you have no legal option to watch the series.

Maybe if HBO offered a reasonable, legal way for people to access their content on the net, less piracy of their valuable shows would occur. So, yes, piracy is a problem. But it's also a symptom of media producers failing to provide what the public wants. I'm not saying that to excuse piracy. I am suggesting that if content providers are so up in arms about piracy that they want to re-engineer the Internet to implement a censorship infrastructure, maybe they should try some less draconion measures first. Like, you know, taking our money and providing a legal way to access the content. Maybe that would remove some of the impetus for piracy.

At this moment, SOPA is reeling and on the ropes, but it's not down. The Senate version (PIPA) has been placed on hold, thanks to efforts of U.S. Senators including John Cornyn from Texas. After months of stiff-armed denials, Rep. Smith is beginning to backpedal. Now would be a great time for you to join the protest against SOPA.

Go ahead, check out the protest site. We'll be here when you get back.

We won't be able to promise that if SOPA passes.

Great Post

Well done Chip. I believe this bill does need to be voted down. You are 100% correct on the idea that the studios need to make content MORE available not less.

When it is MORE available in a CONVENIENT form and at a REASONABLE price people won't pirate.

Other sites

I've found some other good resources about SOPA: This PR Daily article (thanks to Debbie for the link) explains what SOPA would mean for PR professionals, but many of the same issues would apply to Slackerwood and similar websites. And on a lighter note, but no less instructive, The Oatmeal explains its blackout for today.