Religion, World Peace, Intellectual Property, and Sugary Beverages - another view on why SOPA was so bad

The sad truth is that there will never be total world peace.  The simple reason for this is that there is always conflict between the concepts of groups of people having the freedom to set their own moral code but at the same time have other groups with different moral codes to interact and not offend each other somehow.  The simple concept that my moral code says that I want to have certain beliefs as well as a belief that a given behavior is wrong and not only do I not want to practice that behavior, but I feel entitled to not have to deal with others who do.  If you think about it, most conflict in the world  comes from that very core and I'm sure you can think of lots of examples, but for now I'll illustrate with the highly controversial topic of Coke vs Pepsi.  This was a hot topic in my youth and was the subject of a number of wars in summer camps all over country - oh the carnage!

Let's consider groups C and P.  Group C believes that Coke is sacred and that drinking Pepsi is wrong.  Group P believes that Pepsi is sacred and drinking anything else is a sin.  Neither side wants to be in the presence of anyone drinking the other and get very offended at the thought.  Unfortunately because of globalization groups C and P must coexist there is constant friction between the two groups and sometimes shooting develops when each group tries to pass laws and restrict the freedom of the other group from their choice of sugary beverage.  One thing that is universal is that groups of people HATE it when others try to impose their moral code on them.

Now we consider the land of Elbonia (borrowed from Scott Adams).  Residents of Elbonia spend their day scooping up muck and fighting wild beasts, so they spend most of their time concerned with day to day survival issues, but they really do like Coke and Pepsi.  However given their subsistence lifestyle it takes a lot of buckets of muck to trade for a single can so it's not something people can afford.  Companies in Elbonia have figured out a recipe that tastes close enough that they sell copies of Coke and Pepsi that the locals can afford, but of course none of that money gets back to either Coke or Pepsi.  The folks at Coke and Pepsi go nuts that someone is copying their formula and that they are not getting any of the money.  They are very influential to their government and make claims that every sales of a can of the cheap fake product represents a loss of a sale of their legitimate full priced version despite the fact that a can of legit Coke is a weeks salary in Elbonia.

The government represented by Coke approaches the government of Elbonia to address this important issue.  The officials of Elbonia really don't care much.  Their citizens are more concerned with pressing issues like their ability to shovel muck and avoid being eaten by beasts, and if at the end of the day shoveling muck those citizens just want to sit back and drink some fake Coke or Pepsi the local government really feels like it doesn't care.  Plus the local fake cola companies hire people and generally contribute to the local economy.  They start to get very offended that the governments of C and P are trying to impose their priorities on Elbonia.  Elbonia feels it has the right to decide for itself what its moral code is.

Now we come to SOPA.  The motion picture and music industries are very upset that their goods are being copied all over the world.  The US already has laws in place that make such copying illegal, but of course US laws have no jurisdiction over infringement which happens in other countries (especially countries less economically well off than the US).  The US government tries to convince other countries to make intellectual property protection a top priority, but when a major percentage of your population is at a subsistence level you just don't tend to care about such things.

Due to a quirk in the way the Internet works (for now at least), even though websites are served from computers all over the world, the ability for peoples machines to look up the address of those websites is actually controlled by machines in the US.  The intent of SOPA is not so much infringement of copyright that occurs inside the US, but gives a judge in the United States the ability to decide that a website completely outside of US jurisdiction is violating copyright and gives that judge the power to effectively shut off that website from right here in the US.  The authority of the government of that foreign country to decide their own moral code with regards to intellectual property is totally circumvented.

As I said, this ability for the US to shut off DNS lookup for global websites is just a quirk which has not been fixed mostly because the US hasn't yet abused the privilege enough for other countries to bother fixing it.  But if the US starts to impose its own moral code on other countries the only result is that this quirk will be fixed, but intellectual property infringement will continue anyway.

So aside from SOPA really being a futile effort in the long run, we should really be asking if it is right that the US is trying to circumvent the ability of other governments to determine their own moral code and impose our own.  This sounds like a stretch at first, but actually comes pretty darn close to imposing our religion on others.

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