The Rich Irony of Using the Sony Hack to Attack Efforts to Fight Online Theft
Without getting into a thorny discussion about the various problems of the much-pilloried “Stop Online Piracy Act” and its senate cousin back in 2012, it’s worth looking at how the detractors of intellectual property rights are using the results of the Sony hack to thwart any ongoing efforts by content creators to protect their property under current laws. The stunningly ironic story goes something like this: various hackers steal documents at Sony that show movie studios (and the Motion Picture Association of America) are working with state attorneys general to try to prevent their stuff from getting stolen. You’d think that A proved the need for B, even if you don’t like the particular approach of the movie companies. Instead, those who take a dim view of intellectual property–or at least its robust protection–have now taken to calling this strategy (again revealed by stolen data) “zombie SOPA” in a reference to the breathlessly maligned “Stop Online Piracy Act” of several years ago which set a new record for irritating anyone who uses the Internet.
Predictably, many news outlets then breathlessly reported on the resurrection of the Internet’s favorite law to hate. But, before you get swept up in the “iIndignation”, note that The New York Times was forced to print a correction on December 29, stating:
An article on Thursday about Sony Pictures’ release of “The Interview” online following terror threats misstated the nature of efforts by the Motion Picture Association of America to push for new antipiracy measures. The industry group is currently seeking to enforce existing laws to thwart piracy, rather than pushing for passage of a bill on the issue.
The NYT has to print a correction? I wish I could I say that I’m shocked….
This is a classic example of something done in Washington every day; attempting to staple something some interest groups oppose to something everybody hates. No one at MPAA or Sony is looking to resurrect SOPA or PIPA. Pretty much uniquely in Washington, we know this to be a true fact because everybody has seen all their emails. They are pursuing an effort (love it or hate it) through state attorneys general to defend their property more aggressively using current law. It’s not SOPA. Or zombie SOPA.
While this kind of conflation, as noted above, is standard operating DC PR procedure, in this case it’s almost too much to bear, because the whole basis for the effort is again, documents illegally stolen. This means that there is now a campaign online (“#zombieSOPA”!) being run by consultants and the usual detractors of copyright and other intellectual property opposing the enforcement of current laws, entirely based on stolen data.
“These guys are trying to stop people stealing their stuff!! How outrageous…by the way we know this because someone stole all their stuff.”
ATR didn’t endorse SOPA/PIPA and recognized its problems. But the fact is that there are problems with the incentives that exist today for creating content when everything in the Internet age is so easily stolen. If there is one thing that the Sony hack (just like the Apple hack before it) proves it’s that. The last thing the Sony hack proves is that there is no problem with people stealing stuff online. To use the hack itself in claiming such a thing almost crosses into self-parody.