A friend sent me a link to this excellent post by esr, in the form of an open letter to Chris Dodd. Dodd, the former Democratic Senator from Connecticut and current president of the MPAA, has been trying to save face after getting completely spanked by, well, everyone in that SOPA/PIPA fight last month.
In the letter, esr writes of the internet:
We will not have it censored. We built the Internet as a tool to make every individual human being on the planet more empowered. What the users do with the Internet is up to them – not up to Hollywood, not up to politicians, and not even up to us who built it. Whatever else we Internet geeks may disagree on among ourselves, we will not allow our gift of fire to be snuffed out by jealous gods.
I couldn’t agree more, and I hope that Democrats are smart enough to stop trying to do things that will be electorally disastrous. Supporting SOPA and PIPA is bad politics, and it is bad politics because they would be terrible policy.
As a video game engineer, I work in an industry that relies on internet technology, but I also work in an industry that cares deeply (and justifiably) about intellectual property. Towards the end of the letter, esr writes:
Some of us think the [entertainment industry’s] behavior actually justifies piracy. Most of us don’t agree that those two wrongs add up to a right, but I can tell you this: if you make the technologists choose between the big-media gangsters and the content pirates, effectively all of us will side with the content pirates as the lesser of the two evils. Because maybe both sides are stealing on a vast scale, but only one of them doesn’t want to screw with our Internet or cripple our computers.
While I agree with esr’s letter, I’m not one of the “some of us” who believes that anything justifies piracy. I don’t watch pirated entertainment, nor do I use/play pirated software, regardless of how stupid or misguided I think companies are for their various anti-piracy schemes, and there are a lot of people like me. But if the MPAA thinks it can mess with this platform through terrible bills like SOPA/PIPA, there will be fewer and fewer people like me every year.
esr is warning Dodd about attempting to mess with the internet, but he is also trying to explain why doing so is such a bad idea. And he ends the letter with this intriguing statement:
And if you’d like to discuss some ways of fighting piracy that don’t involve trampling on us and our users, we do have some ideas.
I sincerely hope that Chris Dodd truly has the MPAA’s best interests at heart and begins a dialogue about working to protect IP without endangering the platform itself.