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SOPA BOX:
Stop Online Piracy! ...Or Not;
Creatives Vs. Internet Giants

January 3, 2012

By Dave Courvoisier
Voice Actor & TV News Anchor

Note: On January 9, 2012, the author and trainer Bettye Zoller present the webinar, 2012 Voice Over Stategies, an idea-filled session from VoiceOverXtra - live with Q&A, and everyone gets a full recording and complete set of the slides. Details here.

Heard of SOPA? 

That’s an acronym for the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill being proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

The Senate version is called the Protect IP Act.

Don’t leave me yet! I KNOW this is dry stuff, but it's important to you.

BIG FIGHT, BIG DOLLARS

Congress is supposed to have both these bills under consideration this month, but already vehement supporters on both sides are polarizing for a fight, and huge dollars are on the line. More on that in a minute.

First, why you should care:
  • Remember the digital revolution that hit (and some say destroyed) the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) some decades back? 
  • Congress has tried several times to pass language that would assign a moral code to Internet content (preventing pornography). 
  • And more recently, the mobile phone industry attempted to seek FCC approval for a "tiered” service structure for the Internet that would have you paying much more for faster broadband speed.
Those examples have a cousin in the current SOPA stand-off - and that’s why you should care. Anything that could affect the entertainment industry, our broadband connections, our creative freedoms, our client-base, and our freelance budgets deserves your attention.

Let me try to paraphrase the stand-off in what I hope is easily-understood language.

ALL THOSE IN FAVOR ...

The genesis of SOPA is preventing billions of bleed-off dollars going to copycat pirates in foreign countries who steal and copy original creative works from content creators in the U.S. 

Support in both houses of Congress is surprisingly broad, and even more surprising, the SOPA bill was authored by a Texas Republican - Hollywood’s newest darling.

SOPA’s supporters are the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the previously mentioned RIAA, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, publishers, media companies (CBS, ABC), Major League Baseball, Random House, Viacom, BMI, National Football League, Time Warner, Comcast, Disney and more. 

In short, all those guys getting pirated.

.... AND ALL THOSE OPPOSED

The opposition believes SOPA poses: "…a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job creation, as well as to our nation’s cybersecurity…”

That statement was delivered to members of Congress in a position held by a consortium of mostly Internet companies including Google, Facebook, eBay, Wikipedia, Twitter, Zynga, Mozilla, Yahoo, AOL, and LinkedIn

Yahoo was so mad about it, they withdrew their official membership from the Chamber of Commerce.

GOT MY ATTENTION

SOPA first hit my radar in a late-December email about GoDaddy’s early support for SOPA. 

GoDaddy is one of the top domain-name registrars, and makes tons of money on website hosting and other Internet service (a huge private-equity firm bought GoDaddy in 2011).

A grass-roots effort that began on social media site Reddit proposed to thousands of individuals in the email to withdraw all hosting and domain registration accounts as a reprisal for GoDaddy’s suppport of SOPA, and even included detailed instructions for how to switch that domain control to another provider.

The ploy worked. Within days, GoDaddy reversed its stance of support for SOPA. 

Other content providers like video game producers Sony and Nintendo have also defected.

'INTERNET DEALTH PENALTY'

How would SOPA work?

From an excellent article on this debate written by Declan McCullagh found on CNET News

"…It allows the U.S. Attorney General to seek a court order against the targeted offshore Web site that would, in turn, be served on Internet providers in an effort to make the target virtually disappear. It’s kind of an Internet death penalty…”

THE VICTIMS ...

According to opponents, SOPA would actually kill:
  • your constitutional rights and civil liberties
  • initiative for technological innovation
  • free speech, privacy and prosperity
  • Internet openness, and
  • needed whistle-blowing
PIRATE-LOVERS?

Opponents are not so against the idea of squelching piracY - but ARE against what they consider to be ill-conceived, badly-written, and grossly over-reaching verbiage in the bill.

Giant internet companies like Google and Facebook are so incensed, they’re considering a global "strike” to rally support. 

If they do, you’d see a one-day giant poster on your screen asking for your support in fighting the bill INSTEAD OF your usual Yahoo mail, a Google Search Page, or your Facebook Friends.

AFFECTS VOICE ACTORS?

As a voice actor, where do you fit in?

Like most cultural clashes where entrenched political solutions are backed by powerful lobbies, and are opposed by equally-powerful industry strongholds, your position is a personal one.

As a voice actor, you may be very supportive of any initiative that protects our unique creative content from piracy.  After all, our bread-and-butter clients are on the side of support for SOPA - the networks, radio stations, TV stations and ad agencies who need our services for their programming.

Then again, as a voice actor, you may also appreciate all the innovation, technology and freedom we enjoy in our new-found marketplace of the Internet.

America invented and has taken perhaps the last global technological lead it can legitimately claim in the advances of the online world and its periphery.

YOUR VOTE DOES COUNT

You may not feel strongly either way, or if you do, political apathy may have gripped you long ago. And you feel your vote doesn’t count. 

But remember how close Bush/Gore was? 

Your vote DOES count, and I hope this article helps you sort out your feelings one way or the other.

Now is the time for you to tell your Congress members and Senators about it.

TO LEARN MORE ...

For more about SOPA, check out:
ABOUT DAVE ...

Dave Courvoisier ("pronounced just like the fine cognac, only no relation”) is an Emmy Award-winning broadcaster, writer, producer, voice actor, and the main weeknight news anchor on KLAS-TV, Channel 8, the Las Vegas CBS affiliate. He's become the voice over industry's social media and tech guru, and writes Voice Acting in Vegas, a daily blog of adventures and observations in a style that’s true to his friendly Midwestern farm roots.

Email: CourVO@CourVO.com
Web: www.courvo.com
Blog: www.courvo.biz
TV bio: KLAS-TV bio link

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Comments (6)
Dave Wallace
1/9/2012 at 3:26 PM
I am very firmly against SOPA, and the PROTECT IP Act. The metaphor that I've been using is that it's like going after a rat with a nuclear missile--way too many innocent websites or even people will be caught in the crossfire. Heck, I'd even be more inclined to let SOPA pass if they could at least amend the language that defines what a "rogue" site is. As it is now, the language is very vague. Most notably, if your website is not necessarily a site dedicated to piracy, but has links to one, then your website is considered a "rogue" site under the language of SOPA.
George Whittam
1/9/2012 at 1:50 AM
Make content worth buying and people will pay for it. That's been true for what I do. Might people buy and redistribute my tutorial content? It's certainly possible, but the publicity is worth the risk in my opinion. If someone wants to steal content, they'll steal it. If someone wants to do drugs, they'll find them. If someone wants to buy guns, they'll buy them.

All SOPA will do is hurt or break the Internet.
Rick Lance
1/4/2012 at 11:51 AM
I've been reading about this legislation. Thanks for highlighting it, Dave.

I have no idea how to control internet piracy. Especially overseas. However, I do know that the SOPA deal is no way to do it. As usual, our Congress is trying to take a "blanket" approach to solving a problem without looking at the side effects.

I've already contacted my Congressmen.
Now I'll be holding my breath!
Andy Bowyer
1/4/2012 at 11:45 AM
Dave--

This is plenty of food for thought, and I applaud you (as always) for keep us all apprised of things that could create even *more* challenges for us in the VO Community.

This certainly bears watching, and for me brings up more questions that need answers, not the least of which concerns "Jurisdictional Boundaries" and so forth. Of course, you address some of this kind of thing above, although the intricacies are such that my brain already wants to explode even from your succinct summation. (Maybe Roy will share some of his "liquid understanding" with me.) However...as I said...it bears watching.

Thanks again for having our collective backs, my friend.

All hail the Great And Powerful CourVO!

ab
BP Smyth
1/4/2012 at 8:50 AM
Thank you, Dave, for bringing all this up. Federal Government regulating the Internet is a big no-no (period). Once they get their hands on "any" regulation promotion, it squelches the free enterprise market. I will be contacting my Senators and Representatives today to ask them to vote "no" on these bills. It's up to the individual to (regulate) its own interests. It's high time "We the People" do what we can to stop the big arm of "big brother" from reaching into every single aspect of our lives.

-BP


Roy Wells
1/4/2012 at 7:47 AM
Interesting article, Dave. I've read the thing three times now and I still don't really understand what it's all about. Maybe a couple shots of your namesake brandy will help.
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