Thursday, January 19, 2012

SOPA/PIPA and Why Wikipedia Doesn't Agree With CNN

By now, you’ve probably heard of SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act). On January 18, 2012, several of the popular websites including Wikipedia and Google protested the act, bringing it into the public awareness. But you may have also noticed that the news organizations who were reported about the event, such as CBS and CNN, included statements in their reports saying that their parent companies were in support of SOPA. So what’s going on here? We know that the news organizations are liberal, so is this just a liberal versus conservative thing? No, I don’t think so.

This is about money. What else would it be about? The divide between those who support SOPA and those who oppose it is generally the same line that exists between those who make money by creating content and those who make money by using content. The goal of SOPA is to shut down websites that are using pirated information. In concept, if a copyright owner finds a website that is using his intellectual property without permission, he would first contact the website and ask them to take it down or pay for the content within a reasonable amount of time. If they failed to do so, he could then turn the matter over to authorities and their revenue stream from ads and Paypal would be cut off.

I think you can see why Wikipedia would be opposed to the act. Because anyone can edit their pages, I doubt they know how much of their content is illegally copied. Google is one of the major online ad services, so it is also understandable that they would be opposed to SOPA and PIPA (Protect IP Act. More or less the Senate version of SOPA). If there is a law in place that requires them to quit paying for clicks from a website that is using pirated information, it won’t be long before the illegal websites will drop Google. They will still try to make money from ads, but it will not be through companies that are trying to obey the law. That could mean a big loss in revenue for Google.

The parent companies of CBS and CNN, however, are content creators. They actually pay people to carry cameras around and film stuff. They pay writers to sit in front of a computer and write. While they also make money from ads, their ads don’t appear on websites that contain pirated intellectual property. But more than that, because they are paying people to create content, they are the victims when people use pirated information to attract people to their websites.

I don’t know if the bills as they are currently written are ideal, but I do know that I’m opposed to piracy. It seems to me that people should not be allowed to profit from intellectual property they have obtained illegally. Moreover, hosting a website in a foreign country should not shield these people from justice. Though Wikipedia and others claim that their protest is about free speech, I don’t see how they can support that claim. The purpose of free speech is to allow anyone to state his opinion without fear of prosecution. We should not take it to mean that we can use other people’s intellectual property without their permission. No, this is all about money. Those who are profiting from using other people’s intellectual property have no desire to protect those who are profiting by creating intellectual property.

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