You may have noticed the broad array of internet platforms that have “gone dark” today to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA). Some of the sites participating in the blackout include Wikipedia, Metafilter, BoingBoing, WordPress and many, many more.
But we’re still here. Why? Because we believe that our true contribution to this policy debate is educational. That’s why we’ve taken pains to point out areas of concern in both bills, while encouraging discussion about possible ways forward.
It seems somewhat ridiculous to have to say, but Future of Music Coalition does not condone piracy. If there are bad guys on the internet ripping artists off, we want them dealt with appropriately.
We’re also concerned with artists’ ability to maximize value from their copyrights in a way that makes the most sense for them. The music industry is changing, and the internet is now the primary way that artists reach fans and grow their careers. That’s why we’ve championed causes like net neutrality, which lets musicians and songwriters compete on a level playing field alongside the biggest companies. And it’s also why we felt compelled to voice concerns with current antipiracy legislation. It’s not because we think that the bad guys shouldn’t be dealt with — it’s more a question of how.
In their original form, these well-intentioned (but deeply flawed) bills could have impacted legitimate online activity. Had such policies been in place a decade ago, we may have never seen many of the sites and services that are helping to power lawful music discovery, collaboration and compensation. We have been very clear since we started this organization more than a decade ago: policymakers must consult with more than just the traditional industry trade associations when crafting policies that could impact how artists do business in the digital age. The blowback around SOPA in particular serves to show that millions of Americans — including musicians and arts organizations — share this perspective.
Just today, there was a letter featuring musicians, actors, directors, authors, and producers urging Congress to take a more considered approach to intellectual property enforcement — one that respects due process, free speech and innovation. Signers include:
- Aziz Ansari
- Kevin Devine, Musician
- Barry Eisler, Author
- Neil Gaiman, Author
- Lloyd Kaufman, Filmmaker
- Zoë Keating, Musician
- The Lonely Island
- Daniel Lorca, Musician (Nada Surf)
- Erin McKeown, Musician
- Samantha Murphy, Musician
- OK Go
- Amanda Palmer, Musician (The Dresden Dolls)
- Quiet Company
- Trent Reznor
- Adam Savage, Special Effects Artist (MythBusters)
- Hank Shocklee, Music Producer (Public Enemy, The Bomb Squad)
- Johnny Stimson, Musician
Then there’s this letter to Congress from arts organizations representing tens of thousands of groups and individuals across the country. These are copyright holders who have a vested interest in protecting their intellectual property. And yet they have doubts about the effectiveness and scope of proposed legislation. Can these bills be fixed in a way that could provide benefits to rightsholders while preserving the awesomeness of the internet? That remains to be seen.
We at FMC aren’t in the business of telling artists what to do or think. We’re here to educate and inform. The decision to take action is up to you. Of course, we’re honored to play a role in helping creators stay on top of these complex issues. And that, in a nutshell, is why we’ve kept the lights on.