on copyrights, SOPA, and education

hsoi blog, talk 0 Comments

Because of SOPA and GoDaddy’s support of it, I’m going to be switching all my domains away from GoDaddy. I’m a little late in joining the throng; been busy, better late than never.

Yeah yeah, GoDaddy claims to have dropped support. I’m not convinced the senior management truly believes SOPA is bad. I can only believe they made the public stance reversal due to all the bad publicity and potential loss of revenue. If they really believed SOPA was bad, why wasn’t that their initial stance? I know people can change their mind and do complete reversals of stance (I’ve been there), but this smells too fishy. Besides, I hate using GoDaddy’s website as they’ve apparently never heard of the KISS principle. I’ve wanted to leave for a while, and SOPA finally broke my inertia.

I’m all for protecting copyright. As someone that’s written software professionally for 15+ years, I understand the importance of copyright, especially in the digital realm. Every time someone steals my software, they’re taking food out of the mouths of my children.

I look at it this way. You want my product/service because it somehow makes your life better. Be it software, be it a movie, be it music, whatever, you like my stuff, consume my stuff, and feel your life is better because of it. Great! That’s why we create these things; trying to make the world a better place, trying to make people’s lives better. Nevertheless, we also need to feed ourselves, put a roof over our heads, put clothing on the backs of our children. With a finite amount of time in a day and energy in my body, I must use those finite resources at my disposal to make money to feed, house, and clothe myself and my children. Given a choice, I’d love to use my time and energy to make the world a better place doing what I do best. If someone can compensate me in exchange, great! If however I cannot make money at it, then I must find something else to do to support my family. If I have to do something else, that means I can no longer create and provide you with that thing that makes your life better. So you see, if you steal from me, eventually I will be forced to do something else. We both lose: I can’t create the thing you like, and you can no longer enjoy the thing I made. If however you compensate me for my work, we both win because I get to create it and you get to consume it. Both our lives are better.

So please, don’t steal. Ultimately your theft hurts both of us — yes, it will come to hurt you too. If instead you make a small sacrifice, maybe don’t buy that Venti White Chocolate Blended Creme Frappuccino today but instead send the $5 my way in exchange for my software you’ve been using well… now both our lives are going to be better in the long run (and you didn’t need those 760 empty calories anyways). You support me, I create for you. It works out for both of us.

I think the solution to this copyright and “digital theft” problem is to eliminate the dinosaurs that want to criminalize their entire potential customer base. I think we need to foster education in consumers about copyright and how things work and need to work so we can labor and they can enjoy the fruits of our labor, both now and for many years to come. Customers need to realize that “free” is not a successful long-term business model, and unless they pay up sooner or later, whatever you like won’t just stop being free… it’ll just stop being. Customers need to realize how supporting those that create the services and goods you enjoy means good things for THEIR lives too (and how not supporting ultimately comes back to hurt them). To pay isn’t trying to rip you off, it’s an understanding that there are costs in the world (gotta host this website somehow, gotta eat), and by helping to do something about those costs we can all benefit. We creators also need to listen to our customers about what they want and strive to strike a balance.

Heavy-handed measures like SOPA may work to address symptoms and make some assholes in Washington feel like they’re “doing something”. But they aren’t striking at the root of the matter, and they’re not really working to solve the problem. In fact, they’re only going to make things worse. I mean, do you really want decisions made by people who think the Internet is a “series of tubes” and take pride in their ignorance of the technology but are getting their pockets lined to shove the legislation through? Does that seem right to you?

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