TED has posted an “emergency” TED Talk called “Defend Our Freedom To Share (Or Why SOPA is a Bad Idea)” by Internet writer and NYU professor Clay Shirky. Shirky gave his address yesterday at the New York offices of TED, the company that produces a popular series of conferences and lectures about “ideas worth spreading.”
Shirky begins the 14-minute video with a story about a bakery that printed children’s drawings on sugar plates for their birthday cakes. This became a problem because kids like to draw cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse.
“It turns out to be illegal to print a child’s drawing of Mickey Mouse onto a plate of sugar,” he says.
Shirky then summarizes the evolution of online content law leading up to the Stop Online Piracy Act and its sister bill, the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). He tells how the two controversial bills were preceded by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 and Audio Home Recording Act of 1992.
The video not only explains what SOPA and PIPA want to do, but also serves as a call to action for opponents of the legislation to preserve their ability to share, remix, and discuss content.
“Because the biggest producers of content on the Internet are not Google and Yahoo — they’re us –we’re the ones getting policed,” he tells the audience. “The real threat to the enactment of PIPA and SOPA is our ability to share things with one another.”
In a column written for the Guardian, Shirky argues that the bills would create a “consumption-only” Internet.
Many websites are protesting SOPA and PIPA today by going dark, while SOPA’s author, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), has scheduled a debate for February and called out Wikipedia for participating in the blackout.