Revulytics Blog

SOPA: A step in the right direction but ultimately misses the mark

November 17, 2011

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Yesterday, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on an interesting piece of legislation. The bill, known as SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, has caused quite a stir over implications of internet censorship and homeland security. I don’t think the legislators who designed the bill understood just how broad the public response was going to be. In opposition to the bill, many dubbed the day “American Censorship Day,” and a number of Websites blacked out their mastheads to show disapproval.

Unfortunately, the frenzy over fears of censorship has quickly overshadowed the actual intent and purpose of the bill: to take action against online piracy, theft of intellectual property and copyright infringement. Our concern echoes the sentiments of Congressman Mark Amodei (Nev.), who observed during yesterday’s hearing that in our pursuit of good, we’ve lost sight of the true goal by becoming wrapped up in the pursuit of perfect.

Our take
Dialog around the issue of piracy at both the public and government levels is good. It’s a step in the right direction. The legislation itself, however, is misguided and has no chance for success as a tool to stamp out piracy. Therefore, we do not support it in its current form.

Research and history have both shown that fighting piracy in the channel is a hopeless endeavor. Michael O’Leary, Senior Executive Vice President of Global Policy and External Affairs for the MPAA said it best during his testimony yesterday: pirates will always be one step ahead of us. It is the simple truth of crime. This is why Microsoft can take down nearly a million links from rogue Websites each month without even making a dent in piracy rates, and it’s why current and former legislation has utterly failed to make a difference.

What should be done?
We must first understand that piracy cannot be stopped. Reactively attacking the channel is a fruitless endeavor; however, focusing on the adopters of pirated goods – understanding their motivations, methods and needs – has been proven to reduce piracy rates and help intellectual property owners recoup much of what was lost to piracy. For many companies, it can mean millions of dollars in recovered revenue.

Instead of giving law enforcement carte blanche against site owners and providers, this bill should give content owners the tools to better educate the public about the risks and impact of piracy, and capabilities to better identify and pursue individual infringers that are significantly and negatively affecting their livelihoods.

Although our interest and experience lies in software piracy, the SOPA legislation addresses the broader issue of piracy across all industries. Is it perfect? Not at all, but a step in the right direction? We think so.

What’s next
Witnesses from yesterday’s Judiciary Committee hearing have been given five legislative days to submit additional materials for the case, which for some must include positioning and responses to DNS security concerns that have been raised. The bill faces a long road filled with opposition, and must pass debate and voting in both the House and Senate before it reaches the President’s desk. Yesterday’s hearing was only a blip in the saga. Ultimately, we hope the bill will continue bringing critical and constructive conversations to the piracy table.

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Michael Goff

Post written by Michael Goff

Marketing Director at Revulytics
Michael is Marketing Director at Revulytics where he is responsible for corporate marketing, content, and social media. He has helped to educate the industry on the benefits of software usage analytics for compliance and product management through the company's blog and contributed articles in trade publications. Michael was previously a marketing programs manager at The MathWorks and principal at Goff Communications. Michael earned a J.D. from Boston University School of Law and a B.A. from Colgate University.