Saturday, January 21, 2012

Good Luck This Week 49ers!

Good Luck to the 49ers! Make it as good a game as the last one!

The "Internet" - SOPA and PIPA background/clarification

Let me clarify my last blog: I was not commenting on the Legislation known as SOPA and PIPA; I was merely clarifying some of the underlying issues of SOPA and PIPA.

To clarify further, the "internet" as it is known, has two basic functions. The first is for communication/ information, and the second is for buying products/ e-commerce.

Under the first function fall things such as emailing folks, looking up google maps, even reading online news and magazines, and communicating with friends and family, perhaps checking out what is others are doing!

I am all for freedom and communication. I am staunch supporter of the First Amendment. I used to make my students read newspapers (e-versions were acceptable) - democracy requires it.
And yes, those who provide us with these services, deserve all the ad revenues they can generate.

Under the second area, e-commerce, falls what I was talking about: about copyright and ethics. Should a singer's or musician's services be not rewarded?

If their song/music are broadcast on a radio (I assume) there are some built-in protections, and it is seen, more or less, as an advertisement. People who like hearing these artists work broadcast on the radio, will (hopefully) go out and purchase the music, or look up what else they have (online or in a store). If they come to town, a person may be inclined to go attend their concert. Yes, there will be some who will record it off the radio, but it is assumed they do this for their own non-commercial use. Reading a free sample from a book falls in this category.

But if someone were to either download music for free, or freely (and thus far, illegally) download an artist's entire work - and allow everyone to do the same - this is what I was talking about. To me, this amounts to preventing a singer or musician from making a living. This is what I equate to stealing. This is what needs protection. Those who have much more at stake than I, will probably hire attorneys far more knowledgeable (and expensive!) than I, to protect this.

Yes, art is dialogical, and it needs to get the word out on what artists are doing. This is where the marketing industry comes in. It bravely straddles the information and e-commerce functions of the internet.

Yes, we need legislators more effective and better informed than those who simply announce "I am not a nerd" on the floor of the House! And yes, any legislation needs to be discussed and worked out (democracy at its best), and yes, I will even use the dirty word for politicians in D.C. - compromise. That is what I suggested in my previous blog. What will hopefully come out, eventually, is legislation that is fair to all sides.

Why does what come out of Washington impact everyone worldwide - because of ICAAN (the US government, which eventually owns the patent and trademark on the internet, which it paid for, for defense purposes, decades ago).

My concern for writing the previous blog was simply that many folks signing the online petitions and e-mails to their legislators do not see the full story, or have all the facts. And yes, championing the underdog is something that I do!

Eventually, I have faith that the conscience of people will prevail.
Just as it did when we see the plight of a singer like Reshma's (the singer from Pakistan) economic struggles came to be known, and many artists from the music industry came to her rescue...
Just as most of us object to injustice anywhere - be it in another country, or at home - and immediately post things online (becoming instant journalists!).

The internet as we refer to it, is a rapidly changing world, where things resemble the day of the Wild West, and the Gold Rush (Go 49ers!) - please don't throw out the baby with the bathwater - just because an issue does not fit a Tweet (which fits on a cell phone), or needs critical thinking/ a little reflection?

Please help to preserve the rights of those of us artists of all kinds (including those of us who are struggling!), who are simply trying to make an honest living? Don't misunderstand and downplay the issues of SOPA and PIPA as mere "censorship" - it goes a lot deeper than that.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

SOPA and PIPA - What are the real issues?

Theatrics aside, what are the real issues with SOPA and PIPA?

On the one hand, are those that want free access to everything, and complain about censorship;
on the other hand, are those who say what censorship, it is about good old capitalism, and ownership.

Who is right?

Lets step back, and start with a basic question:
If Person 1 owned something, Person 2 wanted it - and person 2 took it - what would the issue be?
Stealing, pure and simple. That it is done online does not change the issue - it is still stealing.

Take this up several notches. According to well established US principles of Copyright Laws, there is ownership - by writers, artists and musicians, the creators of content. There is, at the same time, the technological ability to make available this content easily and cheaply to others anywhere. The computer hardware and software manufacturers get their profit when they sell their products.

Yet, all the smart technical folks still need content - minus content, we are headed for another empty bubble. It is now a play for market share between the technical folks and the content folks.

We buy tools - computers and phones etc. What these computer companies can put on these to dazzle us is content. At the risk of being unpopular (but it has to be said) - those who create content also deserve their share of profit.

The kind of infringement (now being hotly debated) has become not just occasional plagiarism, but routine business practice. In fact, whole new industries have sprung up around this,, and to keep us safe, etc.

The second point in this debate, seldom mentioned online, deals with equality, consistency, and rules of logic. All the online companies basically want to be like hackers of yesterday - and want to not observe copyright laws, in some way, shape or form.

Do these same computer companies not enforce their own ownership of their "intellectual property"?
These same companies want the US government to make sure that China, Russsia, India and esp. Iran, does not violate their intellectual property - don't they?
 There has to be consistency.

So when did the issue become "censorship"?
In my opinion, when some decided to play politics.

Otherwise, it is simply as illogical a case of when "we" do it, it is for our profit; therefore what we do, is acceptable. When others do the same, it is not allowed.

It is about money, folks! Like the CEO earning over 400% of the money that an average worker makes. How many of those complaining, and signing petitions to help defeat censorship etc. are among the 1%? Enter greed, masquerading as "market forces" and manipulation.

That these "free" market forces do not work in an absolute sense is evidenced by the popularity of nonprofits and sustainability. Just today I attended a talk on the newly legal (in some states) For Benefit corporations. Yes folks, Capitalism is evolving - and so should information technology. It is no longer the days of the caveman, who could hit another on the head with a club, carry off his loot, and not face jail... compromise.

It is time to honestly acknowledge what is really at issue, and like grown ups, deal with both sides fairly - and esp, stop making this into a political football.


Monday, January 16, 2012