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Why we need the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)

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Reel Mama: Why we need the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Why we need the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)

I have a feeling I’m a lone voice in the wilderness on this, but I believe that we need SOPA, or some incarnation of it, to be made into law.  The public has panicked as Wikipedia and Craigslist have gone dark, and a frenzied battle cry has arisen that this would mean the death of the Internet as we know it.  But nobody wants to kill the Internet.  With the explosive backlash this legislation produced, I feel that we’ve lost sight of the original intention of the bill, and why it’s been introduced in the first place.
I’ve read some of the bill and researched it, and I understand the concern about it being a case of government overreaching and that the ambiguity in some parts could create some difficult situations.  But the law wasn’t invented to curtail free speech, or even to threaten the thousands of blogs, this one included, but rather to do something about the out-of-control piracy of films and other copyrighted products, which really does need to be reigned in or the film and TV industry as we know it will collapse.  Congress isn't interested in the Youtube clip of your dog singing "Happy Birthday."  It's about more serious offenses, the free availability of films still in theaters, for instance.
Why should someone pay to see Avatar when they can download it off the Internet for free, hook up their computer to their flat screen, and have an amazing viewing experience?  Some people don’t like to pay for this kind of entertainment, but it’s wrong.  Yes, Avatar made huge amounts of money at the box office, but it has also lost huge amounts of money that it rightly should have made due to piracy, which then in turn could have been used to finance other worthy projects and pay the talented people who make them happen.  
Audiences want this caliber of filmmaking, but it comes with a price.  Films need to make money if they are going to get made, and piracy is taking a terrific bite out of movie profits.  Studios and other companies have financed these films as a money-making endeavors.  They need to make payroll just like every other business.  What’s happening is that people are getting laid off -- they are struggling and hurting like so many in this economy -- and piracy has a big chair at the table of blame.
Global piracy is out of control, and we clearly need a law with some teeth in it or prosecution will be ineffectual.  Even if SOPA passed the House and another version the Senate, it would still have to go into committee, and some of the ambiguity and other problematic aspects would probably be ironed out. 
We have to recognize piracy as a big contributor to the fact that Hollywood is in a world of hurt right now.  More people every month are being asked to clean out their desks, and the technicians and talent are not getting hired and wonder if they’ll be able to make ends meet.
Maybe you don’t feel too sorry for those in Hollywood, because you’re used to seeing Hollywood celebrities living the high life, but I’m talking about the office assistants, the electricians, the special effects post-production artists, the every day people who have families to support, and who are finding that work is getting much harder to come by.  Maybe you’ve noticed that fewer films are getting made, and that those film tend to be big budget action films or big budget kids’ films.  I enjoy those immensely myself, but there’s not much being produced in between.  Hollywood has come to grips with the fact that they need a box office winner, a guaranteed money maker just to break even in many cases.
Some of the layoffs in Hollywood probably have been purely in the interest of the bottom line, but I think in many cases the companies just can’t afford to keep their staff on.  DVD sales have absolutely tanked, and I really think in part piracy is to blame.  Piracy is everywhere.  I once was at a car wash in LA where I walked into the waiting area, and I suddenly felt like I was at Blockbuster.  Pirated films, including DVD copies of the movies currently in the theater, lined the walls and were being snapped up like hot cakes.  As a filmmaker myself, and having so many in my circle of loved ones dependent upon the entertainment industry to make a living, I was disturbed by this to say the least. 
I just feel that artists deserve to be compensated properly for their amazing work, so that we can all continue to enjoy that work in the future, and so that the good people who make it all happen can continue making a living doing what they do best: entertaining us.  


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