My Position on SOPA

SOPA is a bad idea. As someone who’s been a web developer for a long time and worked in the music industry, I have a very insightful perspective and I know some people want to know where I stand. It helps if I tell you some of my experience. The Internet has been my business and teaching for a very long time. These are the key points:

1) Anytime we try to regulate anything what happens is that it moves off shore. We have no jurisdiction over other countries unless the other country has a law in place. This happened with illegal gambling. We passed laws. It all moved off shore to servers sitting in other countries. It still happens. And people use off shore proxy servers to access those servers – again we have no jurisdiction. And there are many legitimate, legal uses for proxy servers so you can’t do away with those or prohibit them. What I am saying is that it’s pointless.

2) With SOPA we’d be in danger of all our web hosting and server companies (or just their business) moving to other countries. I guarantee the first time somebody gets a shut-down order for something they shouldn’t be shut down for, they will pick up their business and leave the country and it can be done in a matter of hours. “So when are you moving to Canada or some Caribbean island?” I can hear it now. You need to have a little vision to see that’s what would happen. We need all the business we can get in the U.S. right now. This kind of legislation doesn’t help. We have a court system. That’s where disputes belong.

3) You can’t stop off shore pirating. This bill certainly will not stop it. You are really kidding yourself. If you think that then you really don’t understand technology.

4) A lot of average web surfers and even lawyers don’t understand the current provision of “Fair Use.” I’ll quote the Wikipedia definition because I think it’s accurate, “Fair use is a limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work. Examples of fair use include commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship.”

It’s why I can use certain examples in a classroom and why students can use certain things for learning.

Fair use pertains to industries such as documentary film making. That has been tested in court. It is also fair use to display works that you created or helped create in your portfolio of work. It also pertains to telling a story.

But the keyword here is “court.” That’s where the disputes belong, not at the discretion of the Justice Department.

There are certain things in life that should be uncensored. Music, art, speech and the Internet are just a few of them. What is so great about those things is the fact that they are uncensored. One person’s idea of morals is not another person’s. And what this country lacks the most is tolerance for letting different ideas and opinions coexist without people trying to dictate or enforce their perspective. You know in the old days, we had a “Pro” and “Con” page. We used to invite different perspectives on the same page.

Most developers (and professors) I know will pull a piece if they have been contacted about a problem with infringement, not fair use. I once had to pull an entire collection of a student’s work out of an art gallery because I was notified and presented with a picture; I could clearly see that they had “stolen” someone else’s work. They had copied someone else’s artwork verbatim. I got taken and had to admit it. Those people will always be out there.

On the same level, I once had someone stupidly contact me that one of my stories was word for word on another web site and they accused me of plagiarism in the email. It was laughable because it was a story from something that I lived through first hand. It was my personal experience from my life. On the contrary, the other site had copied me.

There have been many times in my life when I get sick of the ignorant people making ignorant comments about my work. Not the least of which is the most offensive along the lines of, “Oh you didn’t do that job for the park.” I can’t tell you how bad I want to tell these people where to go. I have a friend who was one of the original programmers for Sony’s EverQuest. We used to invite him to game conferences to speak and I would hear these ignorant people sit in the row behind me and say the same thing about him. The original EverQuest was actually made with a really small development team. Believe me, he’s the real deal. It’s like people who’ve never created anything on that level automatically assume that no one else could. They think all the people who create great stuff live on an island somewhere and they don’t converse with other people. I’m being sarcastic but that’s the impression you get when you hear these comments.

And I would just laugh because there’s like 6 degrees of separation in my life from an ironic small group of people. Here’s how it goes – Sony’s EverQuest was one of the most historically grounding breaking Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing games. Howard Dortch, programmer for Sony’s EverQuest is the one who convinced me to make games (in addition to the other stuff that I do) and came to my house to show me EverQuest. He also convinced me that great things can come from crazy ideas. And he did convince me that I was capable of bigger things. And shortly thereafter, I joined the team to build the park and I didn’t completely forget Howard because I made the games for the park that were on the web site.

The cover art for EverQuest was done by artist Larry Elmore (who Howard knows). I’ve had the next “Larry Elmore” as a student in class for two years for his college degree. And yes, he knows Larry Elmore personally. Kelly’s work is almost indistinguishable from Larry’s. It’s amazing. He’s so incredibly talented. So Howard taught me, I taught Kelly and Larry taught Kelly and I once introduced Kelly to Howard. But by now you’ve got to be laughing. Because if people had a hard time believing Howard was who he is, they will never believe reality…and who influenced who.

I’ve even had to defend my name. There are two people living in the U.S. with the name Laura Kerbyson. We know each other’s work and yes, we work in the same profession. We always have. Sometimes we get each other’s mail. And I think she’s very talented. Now, if my name were Kathy Anderson do you think that people would question me about the thousands of Kathy Anderson’s who might be in the same profession? No, that would be stupid right? But common sense isn’t common is it? And would they question all this crap if I were a guy?

But no one has the right to tell me that I should change my name. I was married. In the era I grew up in, women changed their last names. I took his name when we got married. We have a daughter. There are times when I thought about changing it back but I have so many years invested into my career that it probably wouldn’t be advisable. And I’m the one who’s always owned the dot com. (eight years now). I think it’s just ridiculous to assume that no two people have the same name and work in the same profession. We are a country of millions of people. And I clearly exhibit my work and she exhibits hers. It’s pretty easy to see who’s who. But I love it when the Internet reports that there are “three people” with that name. I’m two of the three because I’ve worked in different states.

But it all goes back to incredibly bad judgment on the part of regular people and the stupid things they will accuse you of doing. It wouldn’t be any different with SOPA.

When I worked at the park, it was my perspective that had it not been the economy that shut us down, it would have been the lawyers and the costs of the lawsuits. Here’s why – We had agreements to do some things with certain players in the music industry and they turned around and sued (or threatened to sue) us anyway. Whoever said Elvis is dead has never met Elvis’s lawyers… I feel like his image is promoted just to feed those lawyers. Sorry to the Elvis fans if I’m a little jaded about it. There’s a strong case that Elvis’s likeness is “Fair Use” under the provision of the law. Because we were telling the story of the history of rock and roll, there are some things that are “fair use” in telling that story. Hard Rock as a company educates people on the history of music. They exist to display memorabilia. The music stays alive by educating people. They collect and display items for historical significance. A sculpture is a creative work. Where would Warhol have been without his famous faces?

And 99.9% of the artists and the music companies were great and we love them. How did I know I was buying the “Stairway to Heaven? – Because as a company, we wrote a really large check. Feel free to laugh but it’s true. We paid big bucks to license the song “Whole Lotta Love.” And we all know that Hard Rock as a brand cannot exist without Led Zeppelin. There’s a lot of history there. And we love and appreciate them. There’s real loyalty. And the artists were paid for their work. And I think loyalty is important to people with history. But in no way, can I support SOPA.

A sculpture of Elvis is not his work. It’s an image of an iconic figure that was being used to pay tribute and tell a story. Do you see the difference between these two examples of the music and the likeness of the artist? However, the lawyers only see muddy water and money for nothin’. Nothing is ever clear to them and they want a cut of everything.

And quite frankly, I’ve been in business long enough to know that some lawyers will sue just for the sake of suing. This is how they make their living.

What got lost in all this was that the park was promoting the artists and the music industry. No one won when it closed. Both sides stood to gain when it was open. Artists can’t sell work without exposure. It’s a simple fact of life. There have been other web developers who make pages about me and my work. I view it as they are promoting me. If there’s something inaccurate and I see it, I do make an attempt to contact them. Are all the pages that have been made on the Internet about me accurate? No. If people want to know something, they should just ask me directly or check the domain name that it’s published under.

And in the end at Hard Rock Park, it didn’t matter because we all got cheated with the collapse of the economy and the tourism industry. Something that was great will never be again. Something that was brilliant never got a fair chance because of timing and location. And I think our development team was small. The company didn’t get large until we hired all the people to do the jobs in the park. But as a team I was in the first 20 and we all still worked in the same room up until about four months before opening. When I mean all, I mean all – the CEO, the Chief Creative Officer and the rest of us motley crew.

When I had to go to Hard Rock corporate in Orlando to meet the CEO, I marveled at that fact that they had separate offices. But working in one room is how I ended up doing so many things – web development, email marketing, newsletters, animation, graphics, graphics for merch, statistical analysis, creating content for the electronic billboard, managing whole outside companies, working with the electronic ticketing, etc. When you’re building a company, it’s all hands on deck and you wear a lot of hats and you put in a lot of hours. The work environment is creative chaos but it’s good once you adapt to it. But when people see a $500 million dollar park, they envision a team that is much larger than it was and they picture us all in separate little offices spread out among buildings. When people would visit the office they would ask, “How do you work like this?”

“We don’t have any secrets amongst this group. We all know what’s going on with everyone.”
When they did build walls, they literally built the walls to my office around me working at my desk. I’m not kidding. I conferenced called through the noise, the dust and even when they came to move the walls. Because at that point we had some outside companies to build things we had planned and I was on the phone quite a bit. I never left my desk when the walls went up. I had to remind them as they were building it not to close me completely in, “Just make sure you leave an opening for a door…” So when they talk about the founding team, they literally mean the people the walls got built around.

So what I’m saying is, it gives me perspective. We had lot of people put up fan pages on the park. You need those people. You can’t make them illegal and survive. All SOPA will do is make a mess.

At any rate, I think you can see how these examples relate to SOPA and why I would never support it. With that said, I have to apologize and say that I can’t join your “Black Wednesday” public protest (like Wikipedia and others) because right now, I need for my site to up. It has nothing to do with my viewpoint.

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