Jan 20

Why Is SOPA or PIPA Needed?

Tag: economics,legislation,stupidity,technologyDonna B. @ 5:41 am

Instapundit links this story: US government hits Megaupload with mega piracy indictment.

Since that action was possible under existing criminal laws, why is legislation that layers obscuring civil penalties against entities not engaged in criminal activities needed to protect intellectual property?

One might be forgiven for wondering if the push for such legislation stems from something other than the desire to prevent theft of intellectual property. Maybe these Harvard Business Review bloggers have it right: it’s a legislative attempt by big companies with vested interests to protect their downside.

On the surface, SOPA and PIPA aim to make it difficult to steal intellectual property by making it difficult to use legal tools like the internet to “fence” their loot. I’ve got no problem with that idea.

I’ve not read SOPA, but I did read PIPA yesterday and cannot find where it makes it more difficult for the criminals. It makes it more difficult only on those producing the tools by shifting the burden of law enforcement to businesses.

It makes just about as much sense to charge International Paper with the responsibility of making sure that none of the paper it produces is ever used in a ransom note. Or regulating the sale of paper to only registered users.

UPDATE: Another reason why SOPA and PIPA are not needed is that the purveyors of intellectual property most often stolen — music and movies — are not hurting economically from piracy as much as you’d think from the publicity.

…bleeding revenue to piracy is going to be a problem to the extent that your product is a hit… (rtwt)

In short, piracy is certainly one problem in a world filled with problems. But politicians and journalists seem to have been persuaded to take it largely on faith that it’s a uniquely dire and pressing problem that demands dramatic remedies with little time for deliberation.  On the data available so far, though, reports of the death of the industry seem much exaggerated.