As of this writing, numerous sites plan to participate in Blackout Day in protest of the still-not-dead pro-censorship SOPA legislation. These sites include Destructoid, Facebook, Google, Mozilla, Reddit, Tuscows, Wikipedia, WordPress, XDA-Developers and many others. The protest, which will span from linked anti-SOPA material to complete website blackouts, depending on the site, will last from 8AM EST to 8PM EST.
On Tuesday the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) had the nerve to strike out against those expressing Free Speech (PDF), calling the protest "dangerous" and "irresponsible" although there's no indication that any harm will come to surfers who come across a link or a blank page. The letter, written by Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the MPAA, went public on Tuesday, and arrives after the White House blasted both the SOPA and PIPA legislation to the point of near-death.
According to Senator Dodd, "technology business interests" are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into corporate pawns rather than coming to the table to find solutions. "It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and use their services," he writes. "It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today."
Let's stop right there. Isn't that like the pot calling the kettle black? Isn't it an abuse in power of sorts when the MPAA dictates how and where consumers can watch movies and TV purchased with their own hard-earned money? Why is it that consumers can't buy a digital movie or TV and watch it on a device of their choosing? The general public is seemingly treated like pirates by default, even if a good portion is honest and only want to watch their favorite episodes of Glee on multiple platforms without harsh legal repercussions.
Of course, an opinion like that posted on a popular website will likely be purposely misinterpreted by content owners and their representative to appear as an abuse of power in itself, a diabolical scheme Senator Dodd points out in his letter. "It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests," he writes.
"A so-called 'blackout' is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals," the Senator continues. "It is our hope that the White House and the Congress will call on those who intend to stage this 'blackout' to stop the hyperbole and PR stunts and engage in meaningful efforts to combat piracy."
There's no question that Washington need to find a way to legally prevent piracy without violating the Constitution or the rights of those living outside the States. Shooting first and asking questions later is not the way to solve the issue -- it will just make things worse. Loosen the grip Hollywood, and maybe consumers won't feel the need to download digital content from BitTorrent because DRM has it locked to just a handful of devices.
But to Hollywood's credit, UltraViolet may be a step in the right direction in regards to video content: one purchase, and one app that can play the video across multiple platforms. Still, the format has a long way to go before it even comes close to solving piracy.