To say that Jeff Jarvis, the media blogger, journalist and author behind BuzzMachine.com, is against SOPA/PIPA, would be more than an understatement. When we connected with him to prepare for our “SOPA/PIPA Only” content for today, Jarvis made it clear that he’s as anti-SOPA as anyone could be.
When we asked why consumers should care if SOPA is made into law, Jeff replied in no uncertain terms.
“To protect a dying industry, SOPA changes the architecture of our greatest tool of speech ever. If companies and governments can blacklist sites for allegedly ‘stealing’ content, they can shut down sites for any reason. We cannot allow that to happen.”
As for whether this whole thing could be resolved in a way that would decrease piracy but still keep the Internet informative, entertaining and otherwise useful, Jeff pointed us in the direction of Internet media activist/electronic publisher Tim O’Reilly‘s response to the White House saying piracy is a problem in its remarks on the Anti-SOPA petition.
To sum it up, the White House is of the view that piracy hurts the American economy and takes jobs away from people. But Tim, and Jeff for that matter, want some cold hard facts on that.
In the entire discussion, I’ve seen no discussion of credible evidence of this economic harm… In my experience at O’Reilly, the losses due to piracy are far outweighed by the benefits of the free flow of information, which makes the world richer, and develops new markets for legitimate content. Most of the people who are downloading unauthorized copies of O’Reilly books would never have paid us for them anyway…
Jarvis concurs with O’Reilly when it comes to piracy:
The question of fact is difficult to answer as it is an attempt to prove a negative: How do we know how many copies of a work pirates would have bought if they hadn’t pirated? How do we know how many more people discovered and bought a work because it was pirated? How do we differentiate between shrinking industry sales caused by piracy or by a new abundance of competition?
These comments put us in mind of something O’Rielly posted several years ago, when publishers were complaining that Google Print would destroy their industry. He cited an author we’re somewhat familiar with (that would be Consumerist Executive Editor Meg Marco) who described why she, as a copyright holder, was not in favor of draconian anti-piracy measures:
Someone asked me recently, “Meghann, how can you say you don’t mind people reading parts of your book for free? What if someone xeroxed your book and was handing it out for free on street corners?” I replied, “Well, it seems to be working for Jesus.”
Shifting the discussion to principles [BuzzMachine]
Before Solving a Problem, Make Sure You’ve Got the Right Problem [Tim O’Reilly on Google+]