You can’t access Wikipedia today, or Reddit or Boing Boing. Michael Moore’s site is black today as well. But before some of you start cheering and asking why that can’t be the case every day, you might want to know why that it is the case. I touched upon it on my other blog, and Ain’t It Cool News mentions it in a post that ironically explains why they’re not going black today. Its to protest the pending SOPA and PIPA bills that could curtail free expression on the internet. I made a passing reference in my other blog post about this topic mentioning the movie Tucker: The Man And His Dream. The film is based on the story of Preston Tucker and his attempt to start his own automobile company. The main conceipt of the film is that he wished to add innovations that are commonplace in automobiles now, but back then the automotive industry wasn’t as keen on them, so their response was to squash Tucker’s company. While that may have been the case, there were some actions Tucker did in starting his company that were questionable at best. I’d direct you to the Wikipedia page to read more about it, but its dark today. Just look up “Preston Tucker” when it is back up, and you’ll get more details.
But all too often, corporations are more likely to squash anything that would upset the status quo. There was something mentioned at the beginning of the film Fight Club that, if it isn’t true, I’ve yet to come across any information that would contradict it: Ed Norton’s character confides that automobile companies decide to do recalls and alter their existing automobiles on the market only when it would be cheaper to do so instead of paying out lawsuits from the damage their products cause. It looks to me that’s what’s going on with these SOPA and PIPA bills: they’re more to protect corporations’ interests than the people.
And with all due respect, I don’t buy the aspect of Peter David’s argument against SOPA that this is why we can’t have nice things. He makes the analogy that this bill is the outcome of internet users’ disregard for others’ rights like Uncle Ben’s death in the Spider-man tales was because he ignored a robber passing by who ended up murdering Uncle Ben. I’ve never liked being denied something because somebody else broke the rules, and denying everybody’s rights is easier than addressing the problem. I ran into it all through school: so-and-so broke the rule about eating candy in school, so nobody gets to eat candy ever at school. There were other examples all through school. I thought I couldn’t wait to be an adult and not have to be treated this way. Then there was my last job. They had the same approach to small infractions: so-and-so broke the rules, so nobody gets to do it. Again, why can’t so-and-so be punished, anyone else who is thinking of breaking the rules can see what happened to so-and-so, and not do it or else got what so-and-so got? At one point, it got so bad that they ruled that only one person could go to the bathroom at a time. There was a laminated pass you had to have to go, but that was lost. Then they had a small rock that you could hold in your hand, I’m not kidding. And yes, the topic of how sanitary that rock was was brought up several times. But so-and-so broke the rules, soooo….
But I do agree with Peter on one aspect of his argument: that there shouldn’t be a Robin Hood sense of entitlement when it comes to others’ rights. If you want a Calvin sticker, you shouldn’t buy a Calvin peeing on a logo or something else you don’t like. Bill Watterson didn’t want to have merchandising for Calvin And Hobbes besides the books, and that’s the way it is. Doesn’t mean you can create a copy of the Calvin And Hobbes dancing strip on a t-shirt and keep all the money since its not authorized. Ironically, Watterson found out that the infamous Calvin sticker was both too widely distributed and by too many small companies to effectively enforce copyright infringement. A ha! you say. That’s why something needs to be done, like SOPA. Yes, something needs to be done. No, not SOPA. I didn’t break the rules, why should I be punished?
And there’s another example in my life. My wife Kathy and I love listening to mp3s. I don’t like the Apple products because of DMR and how protecting their products ultimately hinders legal users, while the people its supposed to protect against find ways around it and continue on their way. But I don’t get an iPod and find out hacks around it, nor do I download music for free. We have Sony Walkmans, and buy either the CD itself (I still love having a physical product when I buy something, but) or buy downloads from Amazon. Last Christmas season, Kathy saw all the different docks they had for iPods and that even Sony made them for iPods, but none were at the store for Walkmans. I did some online research, and found a Sony Walkman Speaker Dock that she’d like on Amazon, ordered it, and she loves it. No trying to take something that I want just because I don’t like what they do, find an available alternative and patronize that. Its a capitalist society, the ultimate vote is the dollar. I don’t like one product, I buy one I do.
And in comics, the dollar as the vote definitely comes into action. Some of the creators that worked in comics did not get the compensation they should have, especially Jack Kirby. Do you think the Kirby estate got a nickle from the Thor movie or Captain America: The First Avenger? So those of us are struggling with how to address this. They can either justify it or come to a decision to buy the product, or you can decide like Steve Bissette to boycott those items until Disney/Marvel decides to do something about this discrepancy. The answer “they didn’t do the creators right, so I can help myself to this free” isn’t an acceptable response. Its just salve to soothe your stealing. And I respect Peter David as an artist to do this: his book “Darkness Of The Light” is coming back as an e-book, but right now its only available at Barnes & Noble as a Nook exclusive for the first 30 day. Both Peter and I talked about that here. I just checked, and it isn’t available on the Kindle yet. But right now, I could get the hardcover used for around $6.50 with shipping. But in my mind, I missed out on it when it was a book, and while I could get it now, as it is being sold used, Peter isn’t going to get any money from that transaction. But I believe in and support what Crazy 8 (his online publisher) is doing, so I’ll wait and get it on Kindle. Again, using my money to cast my vote in this capitalistic society. And again, not saying “I want it on my eReader and I want it NOW!” and finding illegal ways to achieve that goal.
That’s my thoughts on this topic, what’s yours?
Here’s John Rogers of Leverage, his thoughts on the subject. I liked the line “Any screenwriter who thinks he loses more money to piracy than to Hollywood studio accounting is a child.”
And here’s Wil Wheaton’s post, and another quote I like: “Why is it that when Republicans and Democrats need to solve the budget and the deficit, there’s deadlock, but when Hollywood lobbyists pay them $94 million dollars to write legislation, people from both sides of the aisle line up to co-sponsor it?” from Reddit Founder Alexis Ohanian on CNBC.
Mental Floss has a good, impartial overview of what’s going on with all of this.