Say nopa to SOPA! Now what?

Yesterday's Internet silence grabbed headlines, but real progress won't be made against online piracy unless we follow the money

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Did this cure the spam problem? Heck no. Every piece of email I receive still passes through three to five spam filters, and some crap still gets through. But the only collateral damage is the occasional piece of real mail gets lost inside my spam folder. Meanwhile the worst players got what was coming to them.

No one would shed a tear if the proprietors of were hauled off and thrown into the pokey. But service providers shouldn't be forced to police it, we shouldn't have to pay for it, the Net's infrastructure shouldn't be broken to accommodate it, and innocent websites shouldn't have to suffer for it.

If the music and movie producers are really losing money to piracy, it's their job to do something about it. Taxpayers and ISPs shouldn't have to foot the bill for enforcement. Period, end stop.

But let's get real here for a moment. There will always be pirate sites, just as there will always be knockoffs of Gucci bags and Rolex watches. It's a cost of doing business. In a way, it's a form of guerilla marketing: "Our stuff is so good, people who can't otherwise afford to pay for it are settling for cheap copies."

Pirated movies and music are even cheaper: usually available for free or with a nominal subscription to a pirate download site. But the argument holds. Just as someone who buys a Gucci knockoff is unlikely to buy a real Gucci -- and is thus not depriving the maker of overpriced handbags of a potential customer -- the person who downloads 10,000 songs for free is highly unlikely to purchase those 10,000 songs at iTunes. Maybe a few hundred at most.

The cost of piracy is real, it's just nowhere near as large as the media moguls are claiming it is. The cost of passing a badly written law to do a job the media moguls should really be doing for themselves? Much, much higher.

How were you affected by the Stop SOPA blackout? Post your tales of dark intrigue below or email them to me:

This article, "Say nopa to SOPA! Now what?" was originally published at Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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