Disclaimer & Citation- A lot of the ideas and arguments that I will be discussing in this post are positions and arguments that I have heard from a number of sources, but the one that deserves most of the credit is Jim Sterling.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Jim Sterling, he is a semi-notable video games journalist. He does extensive Reviews for Destructiod.com (one of the best places for balanced and thorough game reviews). He also does a lot of Op-Ed pieces around the web for sites like Destructiod.com and The Escapist Magazine. He has some truly interesting view points, a stinging wit, and tremendous persuasive ability.
In one of the recent most Destructoid Podcasts he discusses the true motivation behind the recent rash of Intellectual Property (IP) related legislation, and it provided a view point that I hadn’t previously considered.
Most proponents of the current IP legislation whether it be SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act), or ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement); will claim that their goal is to stop the illegal distribution of copyrighted material. That they wish to stop the illegal distribution of said material in order to protect the property rights of those that created it, and to ensure the successful/profitable sale of that property without illegal competition.
Now that seems just fucking peachy, but unfortunately, the measures through which that property is to be protected could aptly be described as draconian. I will assume at this point that most people understand that full power that legislation like SOPA and PIPA could have wielded. That the government and corporations could effectively remove certain sites from the web through server takedowns, DNS blocking (making your webpage unreachable), or restricting cash flow. If you are still unclear I would point you to this brief video which is one of the best and simplest breakdowns of the bills (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBy7yooz3MM).
So while many may understand what the bill is capable of doing, many of us don’t understand fully why it is being lobbied so fervently.
The publicized position for most publishers, producers, and corporations is well known. But Mr. Sterling accentuated a very real ulterior motivation for supporting such legislation:
These publishers want the ability to stifle potential IP owners who they don’t directly control or who are not connected to them. Most publishers will claim be protecting the rights and property of the creative artist, but in fact they are protecting themselves because more often than not: they own the rights or licensing to IP created by others. These publishers, recording companies, movie studios, and printers are scared shitless of Artists who can effectively cut them out the equation.
The internet has made it possible for a single person with no backing or large distribution company to reach an audience of millions, making these very powerful companies obsolete. These distributors fear that obsolescence and are fighting tooth and nail to stop artists from circumventing them. This is a prime example of middle men trying to hopelessly to remain relevant, with destructive results.
Indie video game developers (like Team Meat and Mojang), musicians (like Trent Reznor), and comedians (like Louis C.K.), have made thousands and millions of dollars on media that was not controlled or managed, simply delivered to the audience and payment was asked for up front.
That type of business model involves a direct dialogue and interaction between the artist and the consumer is the exact reason why major publishers and distributors support legislation like SOPA and PIPA. It destroys the feedback loop that they use to entrap most creative artists.
You can talk to nearly any person well versed in copyright and they will tell you the same thing: while copyrights and patents were invented to protect an individual’s ideas and intellectual property; that is no longer the case. IP laws have created an environment where copyrights are used by corporations to leverage each other in business dealing. Publishers and Recording agencies convince unwitting artists to surrender the rights to their ideas for the ability to spread those ideas. Most artists are trapped by these distributors, paying off ever accumulating debt and service charges, while retaining no rights to their IP should they choose to walk away.
Now that the internet challenges the current paradigm, everyone with a stake in exploiting the work of artists (or selling someone else’s intellectual property) is scrambling for the nearest telephone to whisper sweet nothings in the ear of our Legislature. To convince elected officials that this open environment of communication must be regulated in order to prevent ‘theft’ and to uphold the rule of law.
The bottom line for most of these pieces of legislation is that entertainment groups and organizations like the MPAA, RIAA, and ESA are seeking to extend their control over the IP licenses that have accumulated and to ensure that other people can’t freely share the IP that these companies don’t yet own.
For those of you who think this is over, you would do well to pay attention. We haven’t finished this argument yet.
**I have cut the original podcast for those who just want to listen to the discuss on IP. I do not own the rights to said podcast, I am just simply trying to give credit where credit is due, and to spread ideas that are valuable.**
(IP discussion starts around 53 minute mark)