The Economics: The theft of intellectual property is an extremely important issue to tackle. It’s pretty obvious that having some level of certainty that whatever unique product, idea, or media one creates can and will be protected from theft – this is the kind of stuff that makes economies work! However there is another and even more important ingredient that makes economies grow, innovation. The creation of NEW forms of media, new types of products and processes-often from the very components of things that already exist – is what innovation is all about and what ultimately defines economic growth or decline.
SOPA/PIPA are controversial because they straddle these two immensely important aspects of our economy. Owners of unique products, ideas, and content should be protected from theft so they have an incentive to produce and sell their goods, yet this protection must not be so onerous on society that the creation of new and improved forms of content/ideas/products is stifled- the economic reason why I am against these two laws. As they are currently written SOPA & PIPA destroy the initiative of society to improve on current intellectual products by creating awesomely heavy consequences for any modification or use of current content. In English terms: if you sing, tape, and upload to youtube your favorite Justin Bieber song, you and/or the site where you promoted your new song could be slapped with pretty tough criminal proceedings. Finally, as the laws currently stand, the copyright owners have overwhelming power to ask the government to block content and prosecute individuals. While this is a bit hazy, my sense is that A) companies and individuals will be treated as guilty until proven innocent regarding copyright infringement B) this gives copyright holders undue advantage in going after new content creators who, after a court proceeding, could have been found to be free of infringement. No use creating improvements when one can be shut down by large corporations and with limited due process.
The Social/Freedom of Speech aspect: Most of the western world became aghast when we learned how countries such as Iran, Egypt, Libya, and China (to name a few) clamped down on internet access when their citizens were sharing information that they did not like. Yet this very power is what these laws authorize our tax dollars to build, our government to have, and large corporations to control. In a world where a large majority of our communication is being done online it is imperative that our government not be given any ability to impede on our free speech or flow of information. It is fundamentally destabilizing to a democracy for the government to have the reigns on what we say and what we share online.
PS: Yes I am aware that these laws are focused on stopping access from content outside of the US, however, stopping content from outside is just as easy as stopping content from the inside. Even so, why should we give the government the ability to shield us from information that comes from other countries?
ps2: I will be joining the Silicon Valley protest against SOPA, my very first protest ever. If these laws pass they could materially affect my very own startup! No bueno. The protest info can be found here: http://www.hackersandfounders.com/events/48317262/