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SOPA and PIPA - don't be fooled

We know that many of you have been following the developments with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). There has been some confusion over the proposed legislation, which frankly is the intent of the bills' opponents. We wanted to take a moment to correct some of the bad information, and to let you know where we stand.

We were disappointed by some of the heavy-handed tactics used by opponents of the bills. The objective of those tactics was obviously to create fear and hysteria, while at the same time spreading false information about what the bills would actually accomplish. We want you to know the following:

  • Both pieces of legislation (SOPA in the Senate and PIPA in the House) targeted off-shore pirating of works produced in the U.S.
  • We do not feel that the measures were perfect—no legislation is. But the greater good demands that measures be taken to protect the rights of creators like you.
  • It is true that those mega-corporations opposed to the bill could possibly have been inconvenienced by the legislation. It is their job to make money, and their actions merely represented those purposes.
  • It is not true that the public would have been deprived of works to which it has rights, but rather, only those works that are copyrighted and being sold illegally by rogue off-shore websites.

Particularly disturbing to every photographer should be the attempts by Google, Wikipedia and others to define copyright as censorship. The tact is both offensive and intentionally false. Of course, the word "censorship" was chosen by opponents of the legislation for its obvious emotional value. Americans in particular are born with a deep-seated aversion to anything that loosely resembles censorship. Those feelings are amplified in photographers and other creators. After all, you earn a living by SHARING your work, not depriving people of it. So when a behemoth corporate money-maker like Google attempts to stand on the backs of photographers to increase its profits, we as your association take exception. (As a side note, we appreciate all of the words of support you regularly extend to us as we defend those rights.)

It is important to recognize that Google, while it claims to be a friend to copyright, is anything but. PPA is one of several associations joined together in a lawsuit against the search engine giant for illegally scanning and posting copyrighted photographs on the Internet. A similar lawsuit filed by publishers and authors is also underway. It is our opinion that following Google's lead in defending intellectual property is something like depending on the fox to defend the hen house.

That Americans have bought into the false and misleading rhetoric issued over the past few weeks by opponents of the bills is unfortunate. We were surprised that a few creators were swayed by last week's Internet blackout. And we were disappointed that some members of Congress, who are typically more reasoned in their consideration of copyright issues, crumbled in front of the scare tactics used by the bills' opponents.

We will continue our Capitol Hill work on your behalf to educate members of Congress. Copyright is not a "Hollywood issue." The vast majority of copyright holders in the U.S. are small businesses. While Hollywood makes an easy target, the tactic is little more than a smoke screen designed to draw attention away from the true issue—online companies wanting to increase profits at the expense of mom-and-pop creators.

Americans have always valued and defended small-business rights. Each of us must work to be more enlightened about the real issues, and encourage our friends and neighbors not to be led astray by the fear-mongering of Internet bullies. In the meantime, PPA will continue its efforts to defend the rights of photographers now and in the future.

Best wishes for a successful 2012,

David Trust,
Chief Executive Officer
Professional Photographers of America

Professional Photographers of America
229 Peachtree St. NE, #2200, Atlanta, GA 30303
800-786-6277 | csc@ppa.com | www.ppa.com

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