Did SOPA Foes Throw Baby Out with Bathwater?

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.


Did opponents of SOPA throw the baby out with the bathwater? Cary H. Sherman, CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, says yes in a recent New York Times op-ed piece.

Sherman asserts that Google, Wikipedia and other Web heavy-hitters cried “Censorship!” like shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater, and stampeded a gullible public and its government servants into reversing legislation that would have afforded some measure of protection to the victims of copyright piracy.

“Policy makers had recognized a constitutional (and economic) imperative to protect American property from theft, to shield consumers from counterfeit products and fraud, and to combat foreign criminals who exploit technology to steal American ingenuity and jobs,” writes Sherman. “But at the 11th hour, a flood of e-mails and phone calls to Congress stopped the legislation in its tracks. Was this the result of democracy, or demagoguery?”

“Since when is it censorship to shut down an operation that an American court, upon a thorough review of evidence, has determined to be illegal?” the editorialist asks. “When the police close down a store fencing stolen goods, it isn’t censorship, but when those stolen goods are fenced online, it is?”

Now there is no legislation in place except the joke known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, piracy is out of control, and legitimate copyright owners are being stripped of their hard-earned livings by brazen thieves operating in broad daylight (See A Bootleg E-Book Bazaar Operates in Plain Sight)

Sherman urges the Web minions who lead the charge against SOPA to do the right thing and listen to the voices of the victims. “Perhaps this is naïve, but I’d like to believe that the companies that opposed SOPA and PIPA will now feel some responsibility to help come up with constructive alternatives. Virtually every opponent acknowledged that the problem of counterfeiting and piracy is real and damaging. It is no longer acceptable just to say no.”

That’s a motion we’re ready to second.

Details in What Wikipedia Won’t Tell You by Cary H. Sherman.

Richard Curtis

Expert Publishing Blog
Richard Curtis

About Richard Curtis

Richard Curtis is a leading New York literary agent (www.curtisagency.com) who foresaw the Digital Book Revolution and launched an e-book publishing company early in 2000. E-Reads (www.ereads.com) is one of the foremost independent e-book publishers in the industry, specializing in reprints of genre fiction by leading authors in their fields. Curtis is also a well-known authors advocate, author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction including several books about the publishing industry, and prolific blogger – see his hundreds of other blog posts here.

6 thoughts on “Did SOPA Foes Throw Baby Out with Bathwater?

  1. Paul

    The environment is used to give officials powers to control people that the police doesn’t even have, terrorism is used as an excuse to restrict personal freedom everywhere around the western world, and now piracy is used as an excuse to censor the internet. People wake up and see what’s happening everywhere. We have to protect our freedom otherwise George Orwell’s 1984 will be a reality that far in the future.

  2. Xhara

    Quote: “Since when is it censorship to shut down an operation that an American court, upon a thorough review of evidence, has determined to be illegal?” the editorialist asks.

    It isn’t. But as you can see with Megaupload: this is already possible – without SOPA/PIPA/whatever. And what we see as well, is that there was service shut down that not everybody used for illegal purposes. And those people lost their files as well. This case is a good example for the issues with SOPA etc. as well: It fights against piracy at the costs of all (other and legal/normal users) and the real issue stays untouched.
    Maybe the internet should be viewed more as a chance instead of a thread. There lies money at the internet roads – you simply have to accept/take it. But instead users/customers are primarily seen as potential criminals and bossed around by DRM stuffed proprietary products. Today you can’t even be certain that the DVD/CD you buy can be played by your CD/DVD-player – all in the name of protection. And since you can’t even return opened CD/DVDs you can’t send them back neither …
    If you give the customer the possibility to buy good quality from the source/publisher in easy terms there is a really big chance that he will buy it.

  3. Xhara

    Funny, how it comes back and bites you in the a***:

    Techdirt and atleast 2 other sites just encountered censoring with the means of DMCA. Maybe it’s simply an accident – one of the affected sites is a news article about the capitan of the Costa Concordia, one is the Techdirt article about SOPA and another is the “TorrentFreak’s article about how ICE took down 84,000 websites illegally by seizing the mooo.com domain and saying that all 84,000 of those sites were involved in child porn”.


    “We’ve talked a lot about how copyright law and the DMCA can be abused to take down legitimate, non-infringing content, interfering with one’s free speech rights. And we’re always brushed off by copyright maximalists, who insist that any complaints about taking down legitimate speech are overblown.

    So isn’t it interesting that we’ve just discovered that our own key anti-SOPA blog post and discussion… have been blocked thanks to a bogus DMCA takedown?”

  4. Trey

    Very well put, Richard. Amid all the spam from zealots talking (to writers and publishers!) about DVDs, and arcana related to sites like “techdirt,” we see very little progress from tech businesses on the enormous challenge of preventing piracy. They effectively torpedoed a very necessary initiative to stop the theft of our work, and have since scurried away, without even attempting to provide the compromise that they promised. Honest people were hookwinked by the tech lobbyists, and I just don’t see any consequence coming.

  5. Scott Walker

    Apologies, Richard, but I think you and Cary are trying to retroactively blame technology companies for the flawed process that generated SOPA/PIPA.

    To all those castigating the SOPA/PIPA opponents, please consider that the proposed legislation was drafted not as a public discourse with representation from all constituents but as a closed-door agreement between Hollywood and Washington. If you want the technology companies who opposed these acts to be involved, consider first inviting them to the conversation.

    How else to explain the number of legislators publicly admitting their own ignorance on the technical issues behind this legislation (\we need the nerds to explain this to us!\)? Had the \nerds\ been part of the conversation, all of the technical concerns could have been addressed.

    Additionally, consumers were neither privy to nor part of the discussions leading up to this legislation.

    As a result, SOPA/PIPA were well-intentioned but poorly-worded attempts to address copyright infringement and only had one constituent’s interests in mind: Hollywood and the rest of the media industry.

    I doubt anyone (or at least very few) is in favor of illegal activities. But stamping on the rights of law-abiding citizens and creating a chokehold on Internet-based innovation – innovation which has fueled so much of the direly-needed growth in the U.S. and abroad – seems utterly lacking in long-term vision.

    As stated in the comments above, we need a solution, but SOPA/PIPA isn’t it. And we won’t have the right solution until all parties are part of the process for drafting the next act.



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