In the continuing mainstream news realization that SOPA and PIPA are dreadful bills that won't stop infringement, but will have massive negative consequences for the internet, we've got Reuters' (formerly Slate's) celebrated media columnist, Jack Shafer, explaining how "Hollywood's pirate cure is worse than the disease."
If you've been following Techdirt for a while, there's nothing really new
here, but it is a nice summary. I especially like the part where he responds to a Fox exec claiming that Hollywood's "mistake" was allowing people to call infringement "piracy" (no, really, Tom Rothman, co-CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment actually said that
...resorting to this sort of hyperbole is just the Hollywood way of winning an argument. In 1982, Jack Valenti, then head of the movie business’s trade association, told Congress in 1982 that the VCR was “to the American film producer and the American public what the Boston Strangler is to the American woman at home alone.” The happy Hollywood ending to that copyright Armageddon? The VCR made the movie industry ridiculously wealthy by creating a new sales channel.
Pirates and the “intellectual-property defense industry” ([Adrian] Johns’s delightful phrase) have been clashing at least once a century since the end of the Middle Ages. Sometimes cultural changes spur the fight, as in the Enlightenment era when the first modern copyright and patent systems took hold, he writes. But leaps in technology drive the conflict, too, as the histories of inexpensive movable type, the piano roll, the Victrola, the VCR, the personal computer, and the Internet prove. The faster that technology moves, the more vicious the fight. In recent decades, the piracy debate has moved to those new industries that have persuaded the government to expand the IP rights to their plant seeds and genes. (And, yes, the agriculture and pharmaceutical industries have allied themselves with the entertainment complex in this current political battle.)
In the end, Shafer notes that even as he makes his living creating "intellectual property," he can't support such awful bills.
As someone who creates "intellectual property" (I shudder at the phrase) for a living and works for a huge company that owns slews of it, I have a vested interest in this fight. But SOPA or PIP would do excess damage to free speech, free association, free commerce, and innovation in the name of scuttling the Internet’s scurvy pirates. As the character Ramon Miguel “Mike” Vargas says in Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil, “A policeman’s job is only easy in a police state.”