A lot of websites have gone “dark” today to protest SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act). SOPA is not currently law, but it is pending legislation in the House. A competing but similar vision, PIPA (Protect IP Act) is pending in the Senate. Now, I can’t honestly say I completely understand what is in either piece of legislation or what the actual effect would be if either became law. What I can say is that I’m opposed to anything that allows websites to be blocked based on suspicion of wrongdoing rather than actual proof thereof, And it’s pretty clear from what I’ve read that SOPA and PIPA would both do that. (This seems like a pretty evenhanded article if you want to know more: SOPA vs. POPA: Anti-piracy bills uproar explained.)
Apparently, the interests that really want some form of these bills passed are those in the film and music industry. They feel piracy is killing them. Authors seem to be more split on the subject, which I find interesting. You would think that authors would see things the same way moviemakers and musicians do (although I’m sure there are filmmakers and recording artists who are opposed to SOPA/PIPA; no group is ever without its dissenters).
Rather than go dark today in protest, I thought I’d post instead the a list of all the reasons I see SOPA/PIPA as harmful to my interests as an author rather than helpful. So, here goes:
1) Invisibility/lack of discoverability hurts my sales more than piracy.
Um, guess what? That’s it. There are plenty of other reasons to object to SOPA/PIPA, including due process issues and the like, but as a person who is trying to make a living selling books, that’s the one that matters. I don’t need Congress to protect my business model from piracy because, as far as I can tell, piracy is at worst a wash and at best a net gain when it comes to my sales.