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Letter to my representatives concerning PIPA, SOPA, et al. [Jan. 17th, 2012|11:43 pm]
Below is a letter I recently sent to my representatives, feel free to reproduce any of it you want. (I thought I'd keep this thing around and public instead of existing only in email, so yes, it's the first post in a very long time.)


I am a constituent and I urge you to reject the Internet Blacklist Bills (PROTECT IP Act in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House). I am deeply concerned by the danger these bills pose to Internet security, free speech online, and innovation. The Internet Blacklist Legislation is dangerous and short-sighted, and I urge you to join Senator Wyden and other members of Congress, such as Representatives Lofgren, Eshoo and Issa, in opposing it.

For a summary of my position, in the words of those more eloquent, please see the links below:
- http://www.cdt.org/files/pdfs/CDT-PIPA_letter_sept_2011.pdf
- https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/01/how-pipa-and-sopa-violate-white-house-principles-supporting-free-speech
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PROTECT_IP_Act
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act
- http://cdt.org/report/list-organizations-and-individuals-opposing-sopa

Being a copyright holder myself, I know piracy is a major issue and loss of revenue for copyright holders in general. However, I do not believe some of the organizations who began to flourish before the ubiquity of the Internet, such as the MPAA and RIA, have really listened to what the markets are telling them. Consumers are willing to pay for content and convenience, or even sit through advertisements as we do in traditional broadcast media, however, many of the agreements and practices these organizations have in place actually make it harder or prohibitively expensive to consume their products than it is to pirate them. I believe these organizations need to embrace the open market we have by attempting to understand their audience and adapt to a changed environment instead of attempting to change the environment to work with their views and current revenue streams.

The demand still exists and is higher than ever, the media industries are still massively profitable on the whole, and as median income increases, demand only rises. Many of the people currently pirating would gladly accept a legitimate course for their actions if it were actually easier and more convenient to live within the law instead of going around it. Exactly what percentage of pirates this is, is yet to be determined.

I have been a software engineer for 15 years and an artist for even longer. I can tell you with absolute certainty that digital piracy, just like physical piracy, can not and will NEVER be completely stopped. So long as it is possible for one person to communicate to another, it will be possible to capture that communication, set it into a recording media, copy it, and distribute it to another person. More simply, so long as you can watch a movie, listen to a song, or read text, that information can be copied and passed to another. No amount of technological innovation or government regulation can prevent piracy so long as the motivation to spread knowledge and entertainment exists and the systems in place to do so are too restrictive. What we can do is find ways to minimize piracy by reducing the motivation to do so. Fear of government reprisal is a poor motivator, especially for crimes many perceive as "victim-less".

Consumer products such as subscription services (Netflix, Pandora, etc), public domain copy (Project Gutenberg, LibriVox), free educational offerings (WatchKnowLearn, MIT Open Courseware), timeshifting (Tivo), and long-term online viewing (ABC.com, BBC, SouthParkStudios) are current successful ideas that remove the demand for piracy by offering an easier alternative to a modern audience. I believe the nation's money would be better spend investing in ideas such as those instead of attempting to enact post hoc penalties that could be viewed as possibly unconstitutional and technically unfeasible.

I urge you to consider actions that give us a better understanding of piracy and remove the motivations for it instead of investing that money in stopping something that can never be stopped.

Rebuild copyright and patent law from the ground up so it is better aligned to modern technology, can adapt to future technology, and better promotes a rapid exchange of ideas. Recommend organizations adapt to a changing economy by stopping legislation designed to protect existing revenue streams. Keep the Internet open, honest, and secure. Educate the public on these topics.