SOPA and PIPA: What went wrong?

Everyone underestimated the impact of massive online protests in the debate over the two bills

By , IDG News Service |  Networking, PIPA, SOPA

Supporters of the bills also have claimed billions in dollars in lost profits from foreign rogue websites, while opponents have raised questions about those estimates. Supporters have said online piracy costs the U.S. economy huge money, up to $250 billion a year, but several people, including the authors at Freakonomics.com, have disputed those numbers. The U.S. Government Accountability Office, in an April 2010 report, called the business of estimating economic losses from piracy "extremely difficult."

There's no disputing that piracy costs money and jobs, countered Jonathan Lamy, a spokesman for the RIAA. The U.S. recording industry sold $15 billion worth of music in 1999, while now it sells less than $7 billion, he said. "Digital music theft is not the only reason for that decline, but we believe it is the primary one," he said.

The RIAA hopes critics of the two bills are sincere about their stated desire to work on constructive solutions to online piracy and counterfeiting, Lamy added. "Ultimately, we helped to establish a national consensus that rogue websites were a genuine threat to consumers, manufacturers and the creative community," he said. "We have not agreed upon the best, most meaningful approach."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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