And Now, a Word on SOPA

Posted by on January 2, 2012
 

By now, you’ve probably heard of the Stop Online Piracy Act (better known in internet circles as SOPA), a law that is currently making its way through the United States legislative process.

As a rule, we normally shy away from political speech here at php|architect. On this particular topic, however, we feel that we should take a firm stand against SOPA, and explain our position.

Why You Should Listen to Us

We make our living by selling intellectual property. Our books, magazines, and training materials are precisely the kind of content that is all too easy to copy and distribute illegally through the internet. Plus, don’t forget that Blue Parabola is not some multinational industrial conglomerate; we are a small company, which means that selling digital content is what pays our mortgages, keeps our houses warm, and sends our kids to college. And, of course, the same applies to our authors.

I say this because, if SOPA were really about protecting the interests of copyright holders, this post would be a glowing endorsement of everything it stands for because we would have a direct interest in seeing it become a reality —but it’s not, and we don’t. We’re taking a stand against SOPA, and we urge you to do the same.

I won’t deny that seeing our products copied and distributed without our permission is unpleasant and hard to take; however, I —and everyone else here— am also firmly convinced that a punishing law like SOPA is not going to stop illegal downloads.

The simple reality is that honest people—the vast majority of us—are happy to pay a fair price for products they need, want, and enjoy. As long as the price is reasonable, the purchase process is sane, and the licensing terms do not stray into the draconian, our statistics show that most people have no problem with paying for digital content.

What of the rest? Do they deserve to get away scot-free with what amounts to theft?

No, of course they don’t, but they are —and remain— a tiny minority; one that is not easily deterred by digital locks and oppressive laws that only end up annoying and inconveniencing the very people who behave honestly.

Besides, we already have laws that are designed to deal with the criminals—laws, I should point out, that are already widely used with a reasonable amount of success to block large criminal organizations that perform piracy on an industrial scale.

SOPA Fixes the Wrong Problem

Piracy is better fought by creating better products that respond to the real needs of customers who value our work, not by trying to punish those who don’t with overly broad legislation.

We learned this lesson a few years ago, when we removed all forms of DRM from our electronic publications, and our sales went up as a result. All our products have been DRM-free since, and—well, we’re still here, alive and well. In fact, we’ve been able to invest the money that would have gone towards maintaining increasingly complex digital protection schemes into making our products available to customers in more formats, which has benefited both our bottom line and their enjoyment of everything they buy from us.

SOPA is simply an extension of the same way of thinking that has foisted DRM on our computers for the last twenty years: It’s the final, desperate blow of an industry whose business model is predicated on controlling its customers rather than adapting to their needs. Much worse than that, it’s a piece of legislation that opens the doors to all sorts of nefarious attacks on the freedom of speech which makes the internet such a delightfully messy—and immensely vibrant—melting pot for all the ideas of our generation.

The Internet We Want

This is why we do not support SOPA. At the end of the day, we do not see any significant benefits from it, even for the large media conglomerates that seem to think they will reap its rewards. All we see is a slippery slope, at whose end is an internet that we do not want to be part of.


About the author—Marco is the keeper of keys and Chief Garbage Collector at Blue Parabola, php|architect's parent company. He can be found on Twitter as @mtabini.