I’ve always enjoyed SNL’s satirization of those infomercials where a guy is slightly inconvenienced by a product that just doesn’t seem to work to his satisfaction. As a result, it shows him getting frustrated and pulling his hair out … But it doesn’t stop there. He then gets into his vehicle, drives recklessly down the one-way street going the wrong way and ultimately crashes into a cable tower, knocking out the “big game” for the whole town. Of course, this causes a riot among the angry football fans who then ravage the whole town. Havoc is wreaked because this guy was using a standard toothbrush instead of the all new, Electric Brush-a-thon 2100.
The funny thing is, I don’t think SNL is too far off on how these infomercials represent real life. I can’t help but think of these parodies when I think about the effects that SOPA would have had if it passed as law:
The first business to die a slow, horrible and expensive death as a result of the legislation might have been Google. Because it’s connected to virtually every website on the planet (legitimate and non-legitimate alike), the amount of time spent severing connections to sites in any way related to a site that was merely assumed to be performing illegal activities would stall Google’s growth and innovation endeavors. This would cause thousands of people to lose their jobs … And it’s not out of the question to think one or two of those people might start a riot.
Small- and medium-sized businesses would not have escaped the legislation … Theoretically, a single anonymous comment that linked to a site with pirated versions of Pirates of the Caribbean (*fitting title as an example*) would make that site subject to being shut down if proper actions weren’t taken. All these innovative companies would spend their time playing big brother instead of creating the next new technology that will make our lives easier (or at least more fun) … And along with stifling innovation, don’t forget the riots.
To wrap up our “what if” scenario, we’d have Google failing and SMBs going out of business. The Internet would become a wasteland, and it would be like World War 10 in the streets (we skipped 3 through 9 because all of these riots would make the resulting “war” so momentous).
How’s that for a satirical worst-case scenario?
I bring this up in the wake of SOPA and PIPA being tabled because the legislators who proposed those controversial bills merely stopped pursuing their goals in the form of those bills … We can’t let the idea that “we’ve won the battle” distract us from potentially losing the war.
Many technology companies, including Google and Wikipedia, publicly spoke out against this bill by “blacking out” their sites. Due to all the negative responses from the tech community, the bills’ sponsors in Congress decided they didn’t want the blood from World War 10 on their hands.
We need to continue the momentum from the Internet’s response to SOPA and PIPA — not only to pay attention to attempts at similar legislation in the future but also to proactively help create and shape laws that protect intellectual property and copyright holders.
Also, anything we can collectively do to prevent riots in the streets is a good thing.