SOPA & PIPA Update: How the entertainment industry is losing the narrative

This is war between two ideologies that don't have the time nor desire to sing together Kumbaya while holding hands and trying to come up with a way to help the entertainment industry legislate away reality -- even when it means turning their fans into felons.

I think people who say, “I don’t like to say ‘I told you so, but…'” are precisely the kind of people who like to say, “I told you so.” So I’ll try this another way: I don’t like being that guy who can’t wait to say, “I told you so,” but sometimes, no matter how hard I try, I just can’t help myself.

Last week, after a meeting with my congressman to discuss the legislation I oppose (and he co-sponsors) that is known as SOPA, I wrote a long post in which I included my prediction (or, more precisely, my hunch) for what would happen to the legislation.

Here’s an excerpt from that post that included my hunch:

I came away from the meeting thinking (however, this is a very personal opinion that was not stated or implied by anyone) that as SOPA’s critics turn up the heat (and the general population has seen nothing yet as to what type of heat its opponents can apply to demonstrate what some of the obvious unintended consequences could be if SOPA became law), members of Congress will look for ways to make SOPA go away, while appearing to make it look like they are doing something. Already, the bill’s sponsors have watered it down considerably from its original form. Water it down enough and it may as well be one of those Congressional proclamations declaring “National Anti-Piracy Week.”

Today, (I first saw it reported on the website arstechnica), the White House did one of those “smoke signals” things regarding SOPA (and its Senate twin sister, PIPA) when “three senior White House officials wrote that the administration ‘will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.'”

And yesterday, also as reported by arstechnica, after the users of Reddit displayed how they could raise $15,000 in 48-hours for an anti-SOPA candidate for congress, there is a growing number of Senators and Representatives who are asking for their leadership (from both parties) to give them cover by not bringing up the legislation for any types of votes that will put them on record as being for, or against, SOPA.

Seeing White House policy people and members of congress head for cover is a clear indication that we’ll be one day celebrating National Anti-Piracy Week instead of turning over policing the internet to Time-Warner.

However, let me be emphatic:  I’m not declaring victory, nor should anyone else on the anti-SOPA side. 

One of the points that I made during my meeting with my congressman — a point that he dismissed — was that issues like SOPA end up having only two narratives — and the entertainment industry had control of the early narrative, but ultimately would lose. My congressman disagreed, saying there are many narratives on an issue as complex as this. As it was a group meeting and I was trying to be polite, I didn’t say, “This is not a complex issue, this is a war over whether or not the entertainment industry should control the internet — and by the time it’s over, nothing more nuanced than that will matter.”

The entertainment industry’s (and the coalition it has been able to enlist) narrative is this: “Piracy, piracy, piracy.” After first being caught flat-footed and far behind, the internet industry (and the coalition it has been able to enlist — for example, everyone who uses the internet who doesn’t work in the entertainment industry*) is this: “Censorship, censorship, censorship.”

Despite the desire of my congressman to turn the SOPA debate into a graduate seminar on intellectual property, this is war between two ideologies that don’t have the time nor desire to sing together Kumbaya while holding hands and trying to come up with a way to help the entertainment industry legislate away reality — even when it means turning their fans into felons.

Nor is there time for those of us who have spent the past decade actually experiencing what reality-changing benefits come from an internet that’s truly open (even more open than many of the tech companies against SOPA want it to be), to delve into the nuanced and intellectual arguments that would take apart the entertainment industry’s lies (although, this post on Freakonomics.com is a good place to start).

So “no-censorship” is the narrative of the anti-SOPA side (my side).

Of course the entertainment industry knows this isn’t just about piracy. Of course the tech industry knows this isn’t just about censorship.

But those are the narratives. And in the end, anti-censorship will win.

Frankly, I wish the anti-SOPA narrative was something more along the lines of an anti-corporate-controlled internet, but I doubt Google and Facebook would go there.

And I wish that songwriters in Nashville and elsewhere would recognize they are being dupes of the record companies and music publishers and performance-rights groups by agreeing to be their poster-children on this issue.

But none of that will happen, so Happy Anti-Piracy Week.

*Slightly exaggerated even though I know pro-censorship** advocates won’t get it.
**Those who call 14-year-old fans of Taylor Swift “pirates”

Non-pirated Bumper music available at Amazon MP3: Kumbaya, performed by Joan Baez

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