White House reacts to SOPA/PIPA opposition

The Obama administration issued a response to two petitions that oppose SOPA/PIPA today. It contains some encouraging information regarding the White House’s position on the bills and some of their more drastic elements, but also encourages the petitioners to come up with better ideas. The concept of accepting suggestions from a wide-ranging, social media centered audience is good, I think, but as Sherwin Siy notes at Public Knowledge today:

There’s something that I think is just slightly missed here. There’s nothing wrong with trying to crowdsource solutions to online infringement, and maybe the signers of these petitions isn’t a bad place to start. But the White House, and Congress, and others should know that there’s only going to be a smaller subset of people angry about SOPA and PIPA who are interested in finding solutions to infringement. Not because they’re only concerned with saying “no” rather than “yes,” but because they’re not concerned with copyright—they’re concerned with the Internet.

The reason they’re saying “no” to PIPA and SOPA isn’t because they’re extremely picky and opinionated about the proper methods of copyright enforcement; it’s because PIPA and SOPA so fundamentally alter the technical and normative structures of the Internet—the milieu within which they speak, work, and play. Saying “no” to SOPA doesn’t necessarily mean they should have something they can say “yes” to on copyright enforcement; just as often, these are the people saying “yes” to freeing speech in repressive countries; to educating new generations of makers, scholars, artists, and inventors; to just making it easier to communicate with distant friends and family.

Most Internet users aren’t pirates; they just want to use this technology to stay in touch, to make our own videos, to post funny pictures of cats, and, yes, to watch TV shows, movies and listen to music – legally. They’re not policy makers, in fact, most of the time they don’t pay a great deal of attention to details about public policy at all. At this point, most Internet users don’t seem to know or care much about SOPA or PIPA at all, which is good for the supporters of the bills.

They’re not going to be happy if they have their Facebook and YouTube taken away, though. That’s why I have the feeling that the actual applications of SOPA/PIPA by the government would be less drastic than they seem (though not having them pass at all is still the best option, rather than depending on them not being fully enforced).

Author: Tom Kephart

Actor, director, writer. Social media guy. Higher ed drone. Sings for beer in karaoke bars.