SOPA Ignores Simple Truths Concerning PiracyBy: Chris Richardson - January 5, 2012
It’s true that SOPA has been denounced by many industry giants that make their living in on the Internet. Normally, when such rejections are voiced, the wording of SOPA is normally attacked, along with the potential threat to the structural integrity of the Internet due to DNS-based prevention measures. And then there’s the censorship/free speech aspect, which has led some to state that a SOPA-governed Internet makes China look like “a haven of free and open speech.”
While that may be flavored with some hyperbole, the amount of power SOPA grants would allow for extreme measures against potential pirates, who wouldn’t be able to defend themselves. Essentially, the infringing property would be found guilty and punished without having a chance to counter the charges and accusations. However, there’s more to the story concerning piracy, something the protection acts completely ignores:
Why people pirate to begin with.
This subject was deftly discussed in a recent Reddit thread, which was pointed out by Boing Boing. Granted, the upcoming perspective may not sway anyone’s position concerning piracy, but it’s a very basic point the entertainment industry has largely ignored for some time now:
You can’t combat piracy. Externalities are a cost of doing business. Anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding him/herself.
There’s exactly one way to maximize profit, and that is to deliver a product that people are willing to pay for at a price that they are willing to pay. The pirates were never your customers and never will be, and the sooner the companies accept that and focus on the real problems (massively overpricing everything when first released, delivering products that can’t easily be moved between devices because of the restrictive/broken DRM, and the declining quality of entertainment products in general), they’ll have better profits. That’s not what SOPA/PIPA and similar legislation are about, however. They’re about eliminating legitimate lower-cost competition. [Emphasis added]
Now, can a more effective version of SOPA be authored, demanding the entertainment industry improve the products it sends to consumers? Of course not, but make no mistake, Hollywood and the music industry are not aiming for quality anymore. They want mass-produced, easy-to-consume content that doesn’t require a lot of thought to digest.
A simple glance at what’s popular, especially in the music industry, bears this thinking out time and time again. Why take a chance on an underground band, one that actually plays their instruments, when tweens are going absolutely nuts over Justin Bieber and Katy Perry? Why take chances when the bubble gum sells just fine?
Furthermore, the final point about eliminating the competition — in this case, using the Internet as a primary method of content delivery — makes sense, especially when you realize the unreasonable demands certain movie studios made concerning Netflix and new releases for the home video market. You can also look at the failure of the recent Ben Stiller/Eddie Murphy movie, Tower Heist. When Universal Pictures announced their intentions to release the movie to both theaters and on a on-demand basis, the theaters lost their collective minds, which effectively killed the video on-demand strategy.
With that in mind, what do you think? Is SOPA/PIPA there to stop piracy or is it to eliminate the competition of traditional entertainment content distribution methods?