Can you ever forgive us for blacking out the site Wednesday? You can? Okay… then hopefully you’ll forgive a bit more ranting on the issue in this edition of the Weekender (most of it way below the fold.)
Thousand of Ineffective Words?
When does politics invite introspection? When a site takes an overt political stand on an issue unprecedented in the history of that site. If it’s true for a whale like Wikipedia, it’s true for a site like DQYDJ – except I can shut the site down without buy-in from Cameron and Bryan (Jimmy Wales, are you jealous? For the record, I didn’t ask them for their stances.)
So, including the ramblings on this article, I’ve written thousands of words on this SOPA/PIPA kerfuffle. And that’s just it – it’s words, not figures, that are behind my opposition to the bill. I’m sure that readers of DQYDJ aren’t subscribed for my moments of soaring prose – I’m fully aware that my writing style overemphasizes puns while remaining consistently pedantic. You’re here for the numbers, not the rhetoric… and I can appreciate that. Just know that the passing of these bills, as written, have tremendous consequences from a censorship perspective. The chilling effect on blogs – already in existence and not yet started – is just the smallest of my concerns.
Carnivals and Featured Links
- The Carnival of Wealth at Control Your Cash.
- The Yakezie Carnival at Saving Advice.
- The Carnival of Personal Finance at Diva in Debt.
- Paula at Afford Anything wrote a piece on civility in internet discussions, where I introduced her to Godwin’s Law. Paula is a tremendous writer, and she also reads a book per week! Open a new tab and read her site when you’re done with this one.
- Jeff at Money Spruce also liked our articles on savings which popped up last week. Jeff is advocating a move away from setting goals – at least the super long term ones we often see.
- A Blinkin linked to our article on Major Starting Salaries. We link to his treatise on mental accounting (well, maybe not a treatise. But it is two articles!).
Links of The Week
- “Distraction” (pdf). What if our default conscious behavior is daydreaming, and anything ‘productive’ we do is consciously overriding that tendency? Don’t laugh – it could be true.
- Nelson at Financial Uproar takes a step towards online dating with a post on his small town. Make sure you read his criteria before becoming his neighbor, however!
- Control Your Cash, in the spirit of anti-advice advice (which is quite solid once you unwind it) has this article on how to lose money in real estate.
- Darwin at Darwin’s Finance defends the ratings agencies. Brave move! (You can guess where I fall by reading my recent articles)
- “The Physics and Traffic Homepage of Martin Treiber” – Oh yes, it’s a traffic simulator. It’s also awesome!
- Jen at Master the Art of Saving demands emergency fund accountability from her readers. Everyone should have one!
- Jackie at Money Crush warns the PF blogosphere that she’ll break ranks and let her husband get a Lotus Elise if her finances agree. I, for one, applaud!
- 101 Centavos guilt trips me into relearning High School Spanish.
- JT at Money Mamba legitimately feels bad for Suze Orman!
- The Mr. Money Mustache family isn’t just good with money – they also are good with calories! Read their eating manifesto.
Politics and the Cockroaches in Light Effect
Around noon Pacific time on Blackout Wednesday, the effect of the wide ranging blackouts on the SOPA and PIPA legislation was already evident. An article in the Los Angeles Times noted that, with hours to go, co-sponsors of SOPA and PIPA were dropping like flies (or, scattering like cockroaches when the light goes on). The response to the blackouts were so great that constituents were overloading the contact methods of their representatives. Let’s just say that the nuclear option was a success. The battle may have been won, but the war definitely continues. Just wait for the provisions of SOPA or PIPA to be attached to a child pornography or defense funding bill then try to get politicians to vote against it – it’s much easier to oppose SOPA, PIPA as they are then attached to political winners such as those. Think I’m lying? How hard would it be to include SOPA provisions in must pass legislation such as this, also sponsored by Lamar Smith?
Here’s how support for the bills looked before and after the blackout.
The Irony of Copyright Length
The point of a copyright (and/or patent protection) is to encourage original ideas, inventions, designs, and strategies by allowing an inventor exclusive right to a product in exchange for their cost in developing the idea/product. All that is well and good, and as a creator of content (on a blog, in this instance, but also software in my Day Job) I support the protection of IP within reason. ‘In reason’ – those are the weasel words… why would I say something like that?
Consider that the patent protection for a drug developed in the United States is extended for 20 years. That 20 years includes clinical trials, so in practice the product sells for much less. A copyright, on the other hand, starts from when something is published. The words you are reading are copyright 2012, for example. For how long? Well, it can be argued that this article is written as a form of corporate authorship so you can’t copy this article until 75 years after I’ve passed away. Sorry, pirates!
The original copyright law in the United States extended 14 years of protection. So, the irony is I can create a drug that saves millions of lives for a chance at less than 20 years of protection. On the other hand, a company like Disney can co-opt the story of Pocahontas and have copyright protection for over 100 years. Nifty!
The Worst Part of this Whole SOPA/PIPA Mess…
Not a cynic? Read this article in the New York Times. Yes, a lobbyist said, “Why can’t they just hire a lobbyist like everyone else?” about technology companies. Are you kidding me?
I’m not worried about companies that are huge now, and probably will start to have a lobbying presence in DC. Congratulations Google, Yahoo, Twitter, etc. I’m worried about the start-ups. I’m worried about the companies that don’t start yet.
Look, I had (and have) major problems with Sarbanes-Oxley – but startups still happen. They may have to aim for higher revenue before IPO or pursue other exit strategies like being bought out (or staying private). With laws which have the possibility to crimp an entire industry – how do we represent the interests of companies that haven’t been created yet? Why does every industry have to go through an era of openness, only to be lobbied and held down with overburdening laws and regulations? (One example, the hyperbolic attacks on VCRs by Jack Valenti. Mr. Rogers was on the side of openness.)
So that’s why I’m cynical. I agree with Maddox on this point (warning: adult images/graphics – yet poignant). Unless we replace the people who wrote these ridiculous excuses for piracy laws, how can we call slightly delayed bills a success? Maybe we do need a way to deal with piracy by foreign web sites. Let’s not jam that eventual bill with vague statements at the expense of free speech.
See you next week…