This is not a comment on SOPA itself, but a comment on other comments about it:
What has emerged on the Internet is this system in which people who want to help piracy, or who are at least indifferent to it, start websites which allow anonymous users to upload and share data. If that data is copyrighted, making the data exchange illegal, the owner of the website can say: “Well, it’s not my fault!” Well, yes it is; you’re the one allowing people to anonymously share data on your site. You don’t have to do that. I can understand the argument that you shouldn’t be swiftly punished for an infraction you weren’t even aware of, but I don’t accept the notion that all website owners out there are truly doing what they should to stop piracy, or that there’s not much we should do about it. If drug dealers are ridiculously easy to find, shouldn’t they be ridiculously easy to arrest? Yes, and they are. Hence their usual discretion. If piracy sites are ridiculously easy to find (which they are, just Google around), why aren’t they easy to stop? I don’t know. I’m tempted to say it’s because a lot of people just enjoy pirating stuff and eating up my bandwidth.
I think people get easily paranoid. Even now, people can leave drugs in your car and get you arrested. Or they could just go ahead and stab you if they wanted to hurt you. If we’re thinking worse case scenarious, the physical world already provides plenty of them. That’s what makes many of Hitchcock’s movies so compelling. But we’re used to living with those risks; if it’s a new digital risk, the worst case scenario suddenly seems more palpable, more threatening.
“The new Facebook is being created in a garage somewhere, and nobody will want to invest in it because they’ll be too scared that it will be shut down too easily! The Internet will die!” That’s ridiculous. Investors would have no choice. That’s like claiming employers would stop hiring people if our nation’s stupid degree system was retired, and the end of the world would follow. No. Employers are still going to need workers, and retiring the degree system would force them to change. If investors have to work within the confines of new anti-piracy laws, they will. They may upset about it, especially if they were hoping to go into the piracy business, but they won’t all suddenly just stop investing altogether.
Or: “My blog will be shut down because someone will post copyrighted content!” Yes, you’re little blog there is so important.
Then there’s the other argument that those who fully admit to being pirates often make: “If content providers would just give me access to their offerings at a reasonable price, I wouldn’t have to steal!” What they fail to realize is that if they all collectively just stopped consuming the content altogether, the content providers would have no choice but to change their distribution business. But that requires too much organization and discipline, which most people don’t have, which is why unions exist in the labor force — people can’t make intelligent collective decisions otherwise. (Not that unions always make intelligent decisions, but that’s beside the point.) And this digital content is not like food. You don’t need it to live. Maybe you should just do something more useful with your time? I just can’t sympathize much with your plight, and the legal leniency of piracy sites is not worth defending for your sake.
All that said, I don’t know enough about SOPA to comment on it specifically. The arguments, however, should’ve been centered around its details in enforcement and how to make sure it’s not easily abused, not its principle of making website owners responsible for content, or making shut downs easier to enforce. If you disagree with our need for such a bill, you’re either a pirate or an idiot.