What’s This Blackout All About?

Have you noticed the black boxes on google today? I heard about this “blackout” via word of mouth but actually had to go looking for an explanation.

Today, many major media outlets are practicing a symbolic blackout to raise awareness of two pieces of legislation are working their way through Congress: Protect IP Act (PIPA) is in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is in the House. Each would censor the Web and impose tough regulations on American business and penalties on individuals and companies involved in the piracy of music, film, and written materials.

This one seems tough to decipher. As a writer and aspiring comedienne, I would tend to oppose any threat to free speech. But I also don’t think people should be able to get away with mass pirating without penalty. In this economy, if I had a book for sale, I would be livid if someone was selling my book without permission and taking home the profit.

These videos from The Colbert Report attempts to make fun of and then clarify the issues:

I do my best to avoid piracy, but its pretty easy to do it in ignorance. Many teens and young people may not realize they are committing a crime.

Does this conversation sound familiar?

Me: “I love that song. I need to get the CD.”

My friend: “No one buys CD‘s anymore. Just go to www dot ________ and burn your own. It’s easy and free.”

I’ve had the same conversation with friends about watching a current movie on-line to save the $12 I’d spend in a theater. Some of my friends know it’s piracy and don’t feel they’re hurting anyone, while others figure it can’t be illegal if they can access it so easily.

So, on this one, I’ll say I’m for some regulation of the internet to prevent and stop piracy, but like many recent legislative attempts, I fear SOPA and PIPA won’t be clear and specific enough to be implemented without misuse or manipulation.

What’s your take on internet censorship?

3 responses to “What’s This Blackout All About?

  1. My technical books (I’ve written over a dozen) have appeared from time-to-time on China-based download sites. It’s infuriating. What galls me more is that Google and Yahoo and Bing sell ads in the same space and make them easy to find. No amount of legal arm-twisting from my publisher (Addison Wesley) affects these listings.
    Now that I’ve retired from the technical world to pursue a career in fiction writing. I expect my book “The Owl Wrangler” will face the same fate if something isn’t done. Of course, now-a-days, I’m trying to build readership so royalties are a secondary concern. But someday when I’m as famous as you…
    That said, the House (known for its brilliant and comprehensive understanding of technology) and the Senate (just as smart), have written a pair of draconian bills to control piracy that will be about as effective as using a power-washer to remove creamed corn from a kid’s high-chair–with the baby in situ.
    We all know that piracy of all kinds abounds. Pasting in copyrighted material for a classroom assignment is far too commonplace and the penalties don’t seem to deter the offense. It’s practiced from kindergarten clear through post-graduate school. In some parts of the world, piracy is sewn into the fabric of the culture. According to http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_sof_pir_rat-crime-software-piracy-rate, China has made great strides in reducing its piracy rate from over 98% to about 82% and they are tied for 17th place in the rankings. Only 30% of us silly Americans don’t pay for the software we use. If we’re ever going to catch up with China and India (69%) we need to start pirating in earnest. But does SOPA or PIPA address those issues or just lead to the arrest of someone commenting on your website with pasted-in URLs that point to some other source of dubious copyright parentage?

    • Thanks for commenting William. It is sad that your books are being pirated so openly and you and your publisher are helpless to stop it. Your points are well said and taken. I’m frustrated that so much time, money, and effort are spent on misguided legislation while real solutions are elusive. Please do let us know if you and/or your publisher have any success cutting down on the piracy of your works.

      • Success? None what-so-ever. Sadly, they ineptly (IMHO) brought the problem on themselves by making the books available through their “Safari” online reader service. “Subscribers” could ask for a free sample, download the book and disappear once they had the digital version. Then again, my goal when writing these technical books was to help developers all over the world learn best practices. These free (pirated) downloads made it possible for coders and systems architects in the third-world and China able to leverage what limited help my books could provide. Most authors make so little by writing that the loss in sales is a pittance when compared to the cost to produce a 1100 page book on technology that will be obsolete before you finish reading my overly long reply.

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