If you want to check something on Wikipedia Wednesday, you’ll be out of luck. The sometimes accurate but wildly popular online encyclopedia will go black for 24 hours to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act in Congress.
The intent of SOPA in the House and a companion bill in the Senate is to make it more difficult to sell pirated films, music and other intellectual property, particularly by overseas sites. Critics say it will damage free-speech rights and even hurt the tech industry. Among them are Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, eBay and AOL. Apple, Adobe and Dell are among the tech companies that support it. So does the Motion Picture Industry of America. Apparently Microsoft, for all its concern about piracy, has reservations about the bill, according to a CNET report.
SOPA fears may be overblown — the Obama administration opposes it and the House version is being watered down. Who knows if any bill will emerge at all. SOPA as offered may well be a ham-handed approach.
Still, online piracy and copyright infringement are real dangers with real victims that go beyond the Giant of Redmond. The Internet has discombobulated many businesses, but the opponents of SOPA are not all First Amendment paladins. As Google profitably compiles books online, authors don’t get a dime (disclosure: I’m one of them). Online sites pilfer the journalism (often without attribution) that costs real money to newspapers. If the originators of content can’t control it or maintain their livelihood, this dampens the image of an idealistic open-and-free Internet. And these are just among the many problems within the U.S. So what to do?
I’m sure readers will disagree. So have at me.
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Today’s Econ Haiku:
Trading has slowed down
Can’t do productive lending
Citi, gone to sleep