Heard of SOPA?  That’s an acronym for the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill being proposed in the US House of Representatives.  The Senate version is called the Protect IP Act.

Don’t leave me yet!

I KNOW this is dry stuff, and maybe only geeks like me are interested in the details.  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?  Then there’ve been a couple of examples of Congress trying to pass language that would assign a moral code to internet content (preventing pornography).  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?

All those examples have a cousin in the current SOPA stand-off…and that’s why you should care:  anything that could effect 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.

FOR

The genesis of SOPA is about 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, the US Chamber of Congress, 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.

AGAINST

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, jEbay, Wikipedia, Twitter, Zynga, eBay, Mozilla, Yahoo, AOL, and LinkedIn.  Yahoo was so mad about it, they withdrew their official membership from the Chamber of Commerce.

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 bouth 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.

How Would it 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…”

What it Would Kill  (according to opponents)

-your constitutional rights and civil liberties
-initiative for technological innovation
-free speech, privacy and prosperity
-internet openness, and needed whistle-blowing

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.

As A Voice Actor, How Should I Vote? (and will it come to that?)

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.

Also as a Voice Actor, you may 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.

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.  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.

RESOURCES:

SOPA on Wikipedia

Game Companies Withdraw Support for SOPA

Text of the Bill

Stop American Censorsh

What is SOPA, and How Does It Work?

CourVO

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