Cents and Censorbility

Google recently forfeited a half billion dollars generated by counterfeit drugs sales after being being held responsible by the United States Department of Justice.  Google stock then quickly dropped 22 percent from $627 to $490 per share.  Is it possible that investors may lose some confidence that Google is able to generate the same profits legally?  After all, their business model replies upon the presumption that nothing online has value until it is found on Google and then monetized by their ads.  This is a clear conflict of interest between the gathering of ‘free’ information and advertising around that same content.  No wonder they oppose a bill that would limit the illegal distribution of copyrighted works online.

The other day I read a post on Facebook from a friend who said that the real elephant in the room isn’t censorship.  It is that the average person has been stealing music, movies and software for years and nobody wants the free buffet to end.  The concept that all ‘knowledge should be free’ is absurd.  While it is noble that Wikipedia remains ad-free, its founder Jimmy Wales pleads for donations totaling $16 million annually.  The world needs to get reacquainted with the concept that we all win when everyone is compensated for their hard work and creativity.

Google already censors sites they deem objectionable for content such as pornography,  racism and political protests.  They even blocked The Pirate Bay in 2009 and then backpedaled after some criticism.  Their problem with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is not whether content on the web is blocked, it is over who does it: them or our democratically elected officials.

Last week Google distributed a Goebbels-worthy propaganda cartoon that gathered four million signatures protesting SOPA in one day.  I would be hard pressed to believe that many of those folks actually read the bill before falling in suit.  This did not demonstrate the power of the Internet, but that of one organization.  Shortly thereafter, Barack Obama made a public announcement against the bill.  This is contrary to the president’s previous commitment to remain neutral due to the fact that his two largest supporters, Hollywood and Silicon Valley, are diametrically opposed on this issue.  I don’t think I need to be a psychic detective to predict the direction of his fundraising strategy for the 2012 election.  Maybe the argument should not be about limiting the power of our government or even that of one massive corporation.  Perhaps we should focus on stopping them from becoming one and the same.

Now I’m going to finish my coffee…

SOPA: Taming the Wild West

Set in the year 1865, the television show Hell on Wheels centers on the individuals working on the construction of the first transcontinental railroad.  Colm Meaney plays Thomas “Doc” Durant, a greedy entrepreneur and the driving force behind this railroad, where he hopes to take advantage of the changing times and make a fortune. Although his mad quest is noble in many ways he goes, for the most part, unwatched.  He successfully kept the US government at bay by occasionally returning to lobby Washington while his operation ran as he saw fit.

Here we are in the 21st Century, where new railroads have been constructed and new entrepreneurs are taking subsidies and lobbying the US government on how they think their throughways should be governed.  The Internet is not just a bunch of wires and tubes, but the sidewalks, highways and railroads of our nation.  Profiteers want to bamboozle you into thinking that this is not the wild west.  It is.

I was recently on Capitol Hill presenting along side many of America’s labor unions in support of the pro-jobs bill known as Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).  We were regular working joes presenting to congress and outside were teams of Google suits with wolfish grins.  I can tell you first-hand that those leading the charge against SOPA are the richest people in the history of mankind.  They want to make sure they can run their operations without regulation as long as they can.  The non-billionaires that oppose this bill are the gunslingers who also profit from this lawlessness.

Every nation has border security.  If a swindler tries to make his way across the American border he will likely meet with an enforcement agent and, if found a threat to American consumers, will likely be turned around and not make it across the border.  If a swindler makes it across the border, and is caught, he is deported.  SOPA is nothing more than a border protection act.

Google and Facebook are not their own nations and they do not deserve their own laws.  They are companies incorporated in the United States and want to do business here.  They also stand to benefit from the sale of illegal goods to American consumers.  Because they believe older generations’ learning curves are slower, they are making outrageous statements like we are going to “break” or “censor” the Internet.  Heed my warning — Do what is best for the consumer, not the billionaires and the gunslingers.

A great American Eleanor Roosevelt chaired a committee to draft The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  In 1948 it was adopted by the United Nations.  Article 27 Section (2) of this declaration states, “Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.”  In 2011 those rights are under attack.  Under attack by faceless perpetrators who are hiding behind these Rogue websites.   Forty-seven per cent of America’s gross national product now comes from Intellectual Property.  That means our nation’s most precious resource is its IP.  Rogue sites are not only the vessel of choice of the modern criminal, I have seen first-hand terrorist and other criminal organizations selling counterfeits online to fund their activities overseas.  I will tell you this —  They don’t care about the economic impact, labor standards or consumer safety.

The Internet is a real place with real people, and real businesses need real laws.  Don’t let these billionaires swindle you into thinking otherwise.  Wyatt Earp needs to clean up.  Let’s do this!