February 22, 2012


Decades ago, when I was in college, I listened to lecture in which the professor argued that enforcing some of our laws some of the time didn’t mean people wanted them enforced all of the time. Being young, I thought the idea was shocking, but he went on to explain that too much dedication to the perfect could lead to tyranny and that it was better the let a  guilty man go free than to lock up an innocent one.

Over time, I learned to appreciate his wisdom and admit I am not opposed to a little “wiggle” room when it comes to law enforcement. Rules that are too rigid seem to foster rebellion. I read, for example, in the February 3, 2012 edition of “The Week” (pg. 14) that “Abortion rates are higher in parts of the world where it is banned or heavily restricted than where it’s legal.  (Research from the Guttmacher Institute and originally reported in the “LA Times”)

The issue of rigid enforcement was raised again when two bills, supported by the entertainment business to stop piracy, were poised to pass in the Congress – the Stop On line Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Acts, (PIPA). Fearing interference with freedom of the Internet Wikipedia, Craigslist and social news website Reddit called for a one day black out in protest.

Caught between two powerful constituencies, members of Congress wrung their hands — which is to say passage of the two bills was deferred. “What’s wrong with a little piracy?” Matthew Yglesias of Slate.com asked. People download movies from the library for free every day. And what about used bookstores?  What have they to do with copyrights? In fact, he argues, we couldn’t have iTunes, Hulu, or Netflix if a little piracy hadn’t been allowed some wiggle room.  (“The Week” pg. 14.)

(courtesy: wikipedia)

As a writer, I sympathize with my more successful brethren in the entertainment industry. Of course they should profit from the fruits of their labors. But as a citizen of the worldwide web I hold certain freedoms to be of importance, too.  Like the Congress, I’m left to wring my hands. But my paralysis does not mean I am indifferent. I will keep a sharp eye on our leaders as they debate. I hope others will too. After all,

          “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” (Quoted from Pericles)