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Wanna $top $OPA? Generate more revenue.

On its face, SOPA is presented as an attempt to protect the ownership rights of the people and companies that “create” entertainment. Content creators are angry about the fact that their products are being consumed and shared by people around the world; that their intellectual property rights are being not just neglected but that the concept of intellectual property has been virtually wiped out with the incredible proliferation and re-distribution of proprietary Web content.

It’s such a big problem that the creators have finally prevailed upon U.S. lawmakers to create and enforce laws that will punish and penalize anyone who uses or promotes material that they themselves did not create or obtain permission to distribute.  All creative content is protected and no one is immune.  This would seem to be a truly noble idea and something that all reasonable and good people should get behind, right?

Except for maybe people who currently upload 7 billion videos to YouTube every month or the well over billion people with websites registered on Google or the 600 million Facebook users or the…well, you get the idea.  Actually, SOPA is a perfect case of closing the barn door after the horses get out.  More importantly, SOPA’s not about protecting intellectual property at all – it’s about money, pure and simple.  And while there’s nothing wrong with that, we should clearly identify the problem BEFORE we develop a solution.  If we don’t do that, we’re going to be inviting a bunch of suits in Washington to determine what goes on the Web…and that’s a prospect far worse than allowing a 3 year-old to mouth the F-word on Modern Family.

Disney is not most angry that their IP is circling the globe at speeds faster than Buzz Lightyear could ever imagine.  Or that their Cars 1 and 2 characters are racing around the world and onto every kids computer screen faster than a Porsche Carrera.  That’s exactly what they created those characters to do!  Disney is dedicated to total world animation domination and personally, I’m alright with that.  I like a good, clear mission statement.  What Disney is most mad about is that they are not getting paid every time the image Mater the tow truck arrives in some kid’s Inbox or flutters across a monitor, the image usually is viewed for free.   Honestly, Disney does a better job than most of making sure they do receive a shackle or two for their products.  A much larger percentage of creative see their content shared free of change and absent any compensation whatsoever.  Most of the movies, much of the music and many of the photos that are created by artists today travel the Internet for free.

So again I say, SOPA is NOT about protecting intellectual property; so the legal solution is wrong-headed at least.  As an argument I offer one example: Napster.  It was the same issue to which a SOPA-styled legal remedy was applied.  How’d that work out?  Ask any musician you know if shutting down Napster solved the remuneration issue.  All that did was make a hero and a billionaire out of Sean Parker who ironically was played by a musician in the “Social Network”.  SOPA is a Napster-inspired solution and we should look to that when trying to work out the solution to the current problem.

The solution is not more legislation – it’s more money.

Spoiler alert: Let me say right now that I do not have the solution to that problem.  Like many scientists who have tried to cure the common cold (that is, to control a vicious virus) I don’t know how to stop the spread of so much content.  I do know however that the cure for the common cold is not to arrest those who get sick.  That’s a bad solution with a really low percentage of success.  Rather, what we need to do is figure out how to monetize this content.  That’s what we need more than anything else is to pay people for the creative content they make.  Hell, if we did make (or encourage) people to maybe all these people who shouldn’t be making “creative content” would cut it out.  Their markets would dry up.  And the really great thing is that the Internet is the solution because the audience is so huge.  We aggregate content and generate friends at an exponential rate – the Internet was built to support astronomical growth rates.  We should be able to take that underlying strength and turn into cash for the creators.  Even if it’s .00678 for every song I listen to it would be something and if the song is great, the potential revenue would be equally great.  We need to re-think the revenue model here, come up with something new and ingenious – kind of like the Web?  If we do that, we can generate revenue from the masses instead of penalizing the few.  And trust me, given the way the legislation is written and the history of the people charged with enforcing it, the criminals will be few and far between.

SOPA is not to be feared.  It should be recognized for what it really is: a cry for help to find a way to pay creative people for their efforts.  We have been so enamored with the content capture and distribution capabilities of the Web that we haven’t given much thought to the way people were going to get paid.

It’s time to find a solution to that problem.  SOPA is not it.

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