The question of fact is difficult to answer as it is an attempt to prove a negative: How do we know how many copies of a work pirates would have bought if they hadn’t pirated? How do we know how many more people discovered and bought a work because it was pirated? How do we differentiate between shrinking industry sales caused by piracy or by a new abundance of competition?
The matter of principles is this: Where will the White House and government put their priorities: in protecting the interests of a shrinking industry or in protecting the interests of innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic expansion? Will they favor protecting the interests of a closed industry or the freedom of speech?
Bills like SOPA and PIPA don’t work because they are written by people who do not understand the Internet. SOPA was written by the entertainment industry as a catch-all maneuver to combat piracy.
The problem is that the bill is so vague that it allows for the take-down of legitimate websites and services and undermines existing provisions in the DMCA. It grants not only the government but also private organizations to block web addresses with little more than an accusation.
Without doubt, SOPA/PIPA will be be a devastating blow not only to the tech sector, but to jobs, security and innovation.
Also: End Piracy, Not Liberty
Here’s a short piece I recently wrote about a group of Texas counties collaborating on GIS solutions. This will be of interest to anyone who attended my presentation at SXSW last year on the importance of open data and data visualization in government.
The consortium operates under the direction of the East Texas Council of Governments (ETCOG), an already chummy and productive network of counties and other governmental entities with a shared commitment toward smart government. GIS encompasses the technology and analysis of electronic maps and the data they represent. It’s like your GPS, but with a brain and a hard drive, allowing officials and workers to spot geographic trends with satellite images without so much time in the field. The East Texas GIS Consortium’s goal is to share otherwise costly GIS systems, similar to a co-op, creating savings that ultimately benefit East Texas taxpayers. The city of Rusk, for example, mapped its fire hydrants and analyzed the data to identify underserved areas. By spotting deficiencies in hydrant service, officials can preempt disasters and other emergencies.
Until something changes in the law or in future court rulings, owning all the equipment an employee uses does give a business the most control over its data and communication. Of course, that contradicts the trend to let people use their home PCs and personal devices, which many businesses like for the cost savings and lower accounting and asset-management overhead. The real question: What’s that control worth to your business?