The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) — a U.S. House bill that would give the Department of Justice the authority to demand that ISPs block sites accused of hosting pirated content — seemed to be doing well. Nearly half of the Senate sponsored similar legislation that survived a committee vote. And people weren’t generally making a big deal about it.
But on the week before Thanksgiving SOPA suddenly hit the front page after a particularly fraught House committee hearing on the bill. Battle lines became clear. Representatives of big content owners like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) partnered with big brands and the US Chamber of Commerce in support of the legislation, saying it would protect millions of jobs. On the other side web entrepreneurs like Google, Twitter, and Facebook sided with Human Rights Watch and the Electronic Frontier Foundation against the bill, saying it would basically give corporations a legal path to censor any site that poses a competitive threat. And now it looks like the bill might have a harder time than legislators originally thought.
But talk to the creators of intellectual property one on one and you’ll see that many don’t have a clear opinion on the bill. The open web has benefitted the work of artists, coders, and researchers alike, allowing them to share their work with new audiences and experiment with new business models for next to nothing. But many creators see that same technology as stealing food from their mouths when their work appears on torrent sites and uncredited on blogs.
We spoke with two people this week to help get our heads straight on SOPA. The graphic artist Jim “Zub” Zubkavich worries about what piracy is doing to his career, but sees SOPA as a little draconian. And Julian Sanchez of the CATO Institute gives some idea of what SOPA will do if implemented, and the chance it might have of passing.
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Jim “Zub” Zubkavich’s new graphic novel Skullkickers and some more links to his work here and here
A summary of the November 16, 2011 House hearing here
Creative Commons licensed photo courtesy Flickr user TTC Press