Charlie Cook On Air: SOPA and PIPA

If I was to walk into a Wal-Mart here in Morgantown, put an $11.99 CD under my jacket, and walk out of the store without paying, I would be committing shoplifting in my home state of West Virginia. If I walked into Target and put a $19.99 DVD under my jacket and walked out I would be guilty of shoplifting.

Here is the law in West Virginia:

“A person commits the offense of shoplifting if, with the intent to appropriate merchandise without paying the merchant’s stated price for the merchandise, such person, alone or in concert with another person, knowingly: transfers the merchandise from one container to another.”

This sounds a lot like online piracy to me. Now, the law goes on and on, describing other situations and the penalties. In fact, the law goes on for about two pages. All of this was said, more succinctly many years ago:

“Thou Shall Not Steal.”

Four pretty simple words that lawmakers have not been able to improve through the years.

At the urging of my friend Jim Urie I wrote a letter to Senators Feinstein and Boxer (of my other home state, California), joining with most of the Nashville Music community asking that they support PIPA in the Senate.

Those of you who know me well know that I did not want to write those two Senators. Not because I don’t believe in the cause but because I don’t ever want to show up on a list associated with either of those Senators. But I did. Did it do any good? No.

Their leadership was bullied into backing down because they couldn’t check the definition of a crime on Google one day that week.

The law is to stop U.S. companies from providing funding, advertising, links or other assistance to foreign sites selling pirated material. Pretty simple concept. Not as simple as Thou Shall Not Steal but in the ballpark.

We have become so dependent on the Internet for every aspect of our lives from e-mail, entertainment and information that the new media guys threatened our lifeline and Congress, afraid to be blamed for you not being able to stream Coldplay for one day, buckled.

Unfortunately the White House was no leader on this issue. A carefully worded memo that tried to appease both sides and yet provide no help, gave Congress cover.

I don’t know if PIPA and SOPA are well written bills. I suspect that by watching the other legislation that comes out of Washington we can guess that these laws were poorly constructed too. I mean these are the same politicians who fashioned a tax code that is 1.3 million pages.

We send our representatives to Washington to accomplish things. To protect our interests. Why we keep sending them back when they accomplish so little that is in our best interests boggles me.

(Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of MusicRow)

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