Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Fine Line Between Protection and Censorship!!

    Anyone who's turned on a television or surfed the web in recent days should have heard about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect-IP Act (PIPA). Both sides have weighed in and each have valid points.
    Anyone who has a website, blog or produces a product sold online, has or will be affected by both the pros and cons of this Act.
    If nothing is done, authors, musicians and any other individuals or groups dependent on the internet to survive, grow or maintain their businesses will be left defenseless against piracy. The flip side, is that too much Government involvement could potentially lead to disaster along the lines of censorship and limited right to information.
    Now, I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon in favor or or against either side, because in all honesty, I've found myself torn.
    As an author, just the word censorship makes me cringe.
    As a citizen of a country based on the inalienable rights of a free-thinking society, I worry about government sanctions on something that is essentially "international space" (I think of it like that part of the ocean that eventually becomes International waters where nobody has the upper hand).
    Of course, my business is romance and not politics, so I may be way off in my analogy of the internet. That being said, this entire post has more to do with how this issue effects me personally, more so than taking a stand for either side. At least that's my intention.
   This is how my world works.
    I am a single mother, raising my children on a VERY limited budget and we are like many Americans who live hand to mouth to survive. I know how to make a dollar stretch and doing so is the only way I'm able to keep a roof over our heads... a leaky roof, but a still a roof.

    I'm also a writer and my books are what keeps the roof maintained and everything under it fed, and protected from the big bad world. I have put thousands of hours into each book I've written and 99% of the promotion to get my books seen and read by the public is payed for by me and only me. Essentially that means that my book sales basically pay for my promotion and trust me, even that is sparse.
    If unscrupulous individuals download one of my $5 e-books then posts it on another website, giving it away for free.... my family loses everything and I do mean EVERYTHING. (Fortunately, nobody knows who I am yet, so I've dodged that bullet for now. Many of my peers haven't been as lucky)

    I know the music and movie industry are the front-runners when it comes to fighting piracy, and I really understand how bad the problem is. Stealing is stealing and that's all there is to it.
    That being said, I have to be blunt and say that I really don't shed many tears for those industries because I know they get their money from the $10- $15 movie ticket I buy when I splurge and go to a theater for a new movie release. (Don't even get me started on the $5 soda and the $10 bag of popcorn.)
    Yes, bootleg music and movies cost them financially, but let's be real, they aren't going bankrupt by any means. Hollywood's A-lister's kids aren't going to have to settle for community college and Jay-Z and Beyance's beautiful new baby girl, Blue Ivy, isn't going to have a smaller silver spoon than other musician's kids. They'll all be just fine, I'm sure.

    On the other hand, authors, especially independent authors and those signed with small publishers, like me, do lose the bulk of our very livelihood from pirated books. So while big business ie. Hollywood and the music industry, will get what they're asking for from having government involved protection, who's looking out for me? Or do they even care?
    Will SOPA/PIPA really protect my rights and keep my books from being stolen and handed out to the world for free? I personally don't see how.
    The internet is too complex and pirate sites go right back up with different IP addresses five minutes after they're shut down. It's a proven FACT! I'm sure nobody can or will dispute that. It happens!!

    Will policing and eventually censoring the internet help? I don't know. In all honesty, I don't really see how, but what I do see is the potential for the internet I use for research to soon become limited in what I can see and learn.
     It frightens me that there will be some government agency somewhere deciding what I have a right to see, say or research. Kind of sounds like China and North Korea, censoring what their citizens are allowed to see online.
    Do I think there should be laws about pornography? Definitely when it comes to crimes against children or women, but should someone somewhere decide whether or not "Joe Citizen" living in "Wherever", USA has the right to watch willing adults participate in consensual "whatever"? My answer would be a resounding, NO.

    Should I be limited in what I write about here on my blog or in any of my books? Not unless I'm hurting someone or unless what I write is in some crazy way, criminal.
    What scares me the most is, what would stop the government from deciding that simply writing romance novels with sex in them is illegal? I could be arrested and that's NOT a world I want to live in.
   Am I saying it will happen? No. But on that note, I can't say it wouldn't either.
   All I know is that whatever entity is going to make the decision regarding SOPA/PIPA, do so with regard to everyone, including the little guys, like me.
    Is it a far stretch to assume that this Act could lead to serious government censorship bordering on Communist type governing? Perhaps, but stranger things have happened.

   Show me a plan that effectively stops or prevents pirating and you will have my support, but don't hide behind something we DO need, to slip in and pass something that could violate my rights as a US citizen. I'll throw a flag on the field every time, along with the rest of them.
   Here's your chance to share what's on your mind, and please  feel free to do so with the respect and decorum all of you have always maintained as a guest here at Sealed With a Kiss!!


  1. I agree that it encroaches on our rights, and that this won't deter pirating, just make it a bigger obstacle for those people to go through. From what many people have told me (I haven't really had interest or time to research it myself), the studios get the full movie ticket, and theaters stay afloat through concessions and side attractions like the arcade.

    As for censorship of the internet, I don't think it will hold up in this country. If you tell us we can't do something, we're not just going to stop. The people will find a way to do it. The more we feel watched, the majority won't be perturbed, they'll be angry.

    Censorship would be a dangerous fire to play with for the government, especially here. Besides, and I think we can all agree, there are more important things in the world to deal with than shutting down xTube and the like.

  2. Very interesting article. The best way I can sum up how I feel is this, I'm AGAINST censorship, and I'm also AGAINST piracy. I have lost thousands of dollars to pirates. And that's if only 5% of what was downloaded had actually turned into sales. Writing is my only source of income at the moment.

    When I say we live paycheck to paycheck, I mean it.

  3. The way SOPA/PIPA is currently written makes the law about as useful as TSA. Which is to say, not at all. Please, PLEASE write your representive and senators!

  4. The ways in which this could affect authors, thinkers, creators, artists are staggering...loved your thoughts and I do think it a stronger stance needs to be taken against piracy.

  5. Like you, Robin, I'm torn. I need the protection against piracy, but am against censorship. There has to be a way we can have both. Thanks for your post.

  6. The problem is most have not read either bill. There is no censorship in them whatsoever. No legally presented info/media can be banned or stopped via these bills. I know the fear mongers say it can, but read the bill. What the bill does, is force websites to respond within already existing laws, to complaints of copyright violations, identity theft, child pornography and other illegal use of their websites. The reason this has come to this, is because Youtube, Google and more have laughed at the laws and shrug them off, stating its not their responsibility, even as they provide pirates with new links when they are shut out... well... this law will force them to obey the law or be shut down. If they want to stay open, its very simple, respond to complaints according to law and the bill states they are immune so long as they obey the law. Censorship is the act of censoring LEGAL content and constitutionally protected speech... pirated content is not constitutionally protected for the pirate, its protected for the owner... unless they plan to continue running their sites outside the law, including the first amendment, then no one has anything to fear. Its simple, if you have a website and a copyright owner complains... YOU MUST act within the law. If you don't and flip the bird at the copyright owner (as many sites do today), you could be shut down. If you respond, you're safe, automatically and the legal burden shifts to the person who lodged the complaint. Its basic... be responsible, abide the law, and be accountable. If you respect other peoples constitutional rights, then this bill cannot harm you.

  7. Brindle is certainly right that we should read the bills carefully. I do think this discussion is useful no matter what--we all should have learned with the enaction of recent enormously complex laws to consider not just the intended consequences but the unintended consequences of any government activity. Too often people don't follow the effects to their logical conclusion--i.e., think about how real live humans will react to something.That said, I'm going to go read the bills (AND think through the effects) before I support or oppose them. I am gratified to see that the sponsors of these bills are responding to the outcry. Meredith

  8. I used to feel the same way about piracy Now I have come to the conclusion that anything that gets your book out there is good publicity. As you so rightly say, we are powerless to stop it anyway. But censorship appalls me. This proposed legistature smacks of Big Brother and the Thought Police. Let's do everything we can to prevent it coming in