The failure to pass SOPA is yet another development in the debate to establish rules, if any, which would govern sharing on the internet. Through the internet, it is possible to virtually access, sell and share information and content from anywhere at any time. While I think the ability to access all information is positive, I also understand the frustration of main-stream content producers and distributors. Obviously, traditional methods, business models and policing cannot be applied to the internet. As demonstrated in the arguments and protests sparked by SOPA, content producers fear they are unable to adapt to this new technology and make returns on the content which they have invested into producing. They are especially concerned with websites and violators outside the United States which U.S. copyright law cannot always pursue.
Librarians are taking part in this national debate. We continue to adapt to the technological changes in the way information and content is consumed by incorporating E-book and other digital content into our collections. The publishers, however, continue to fear digital content borrowing in libraries will result in a loss of sales. Because of this, they continue to place sharing restrictions through a myriad of licensing clauses. Meanwhile librarians are frustrated with publishers for these restrictions, the fear and because many of the benefits of traditional printed materials, such as first rights, are not applied to digital materials. The fact is, both the publishers and librarians have a lot to learn and compromise in establishing the rules of engagement and access. Both sides cannot continue to attempt to force the old rules and ways of thinking developed for printing materials onto digital/internet content. This simply will not lead to progress in the long run!
As a training digital librarian, the results of these clashes and discussions will have consequences on my future job. I do believe it is over-idealistic to believe a resolution can be reached in the national debate soon, especially given the level of antagonism and misinformation. Yet, I hope that in the library field, we librarians will keep level-heads, listen to the other side, and adapt our ways of thinking in order to work towards solutions with e-content distributors, so we may continue to best serve the customer/patron/visitor in this developing internet and information era.
I really benefited from these quick and informative explanations of SOPA by Brad Burnham produced by Think Big.