While SOPA and PIPA have the support of every major record label, the unions representing performing artists, and the organizations that manage licensing for musicians, some performers, writers and artists have stood up against the bills, including MGMT, OK Go, Trent Reznor and the members of OPERA America. (And Neil Gaiman, too!)
In a letter to Congress, a group of musicians, writers and performers declared:
As creative professionals, we experience copyright infringement on a very personal level. Commercial piracy is deeply unfair and pervasive leaks of unreleased films and music regularly interfere with the integrity of our creations. We are grateful for the measures policymakers have enacted to protect our works.
We, along with the rest of society, have benefited immensely from a free and open Internet. It allows us to connect with our fans and reach new audiences. Using social media services like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, we can communicate directly with millions of fans and interact with them in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.
We fear that the broad new enforcement powers provided under SOPA and PIPA could be easily abused against legitimate services like those upon which we depend. These bills would allow entire websites to be blocked without due process, causing collateral damage to the legitimate users of the same services – artists and creators like us who would be censored as a result.
Separately, a coalition including the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, the National Alliance for Media Art and Culture, National Alliance for Musical Theatre, OPERA America, and the Theatre Communications Group, sent its own letter to the Senate, expressing similar concerns:
We write to you today as members of a vibrant and forward-looking arts and cultural community that is apprehensive about legislation currently being considered to deal with so-called “rogue websites” that traffic in American intellectual property. Our organizations represent tens of thousands of members from across the creative spectrum, including performers, writers, dancers, singers, composers, filmmakers and more. As creators and copyright holders, we feel compelled to present our views as a counterbalance to the larger industry trade groups who often dominate discussions on these important matters.
We are firm believers in copyright and intellectual property. Still we recognize the need to ensure today’s creators can participate directly in the innovations that advance our craft and allow unfettered outreach to our patrons and fans. It is imperative that Congress protect our right to free expression when considering approaches to intellectual property enforcement.
The fact that some performing artists and musicians are at odds with publishers over SOPA doesn’t come as a surprise, according to Casey Rae-Hunter, deputy director of the Future of Music Coalition, a non-profit education and advocacy organization for musicians. “The trade organizations that represent the content industry don’t necessarily represent all creators,” he told Consumerist. “Many artists are copyright-holders themselves and have rights as well. Gaining a broader perspective of stakeholders is a transformative thing for Washington.”
Rae-Hunter says the music industry is still “trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube,” 15 years after digital music files began becoming a viable alternative to physical media. “Difficulties in monetizing entertainment artifacts in the online space are business model problems,” he says. “I have absolutely no problem with going after the bad guys on the Internet. If there are these jerks out there and they’re overseas and wholesale ripping off American creators, figure out how to do that without stifling creative expression and the emerging economics of the marketplace.”