Opponents of the Stop Online Piracy Act (like myself) have recommended that you phone or e-mail your congressman to register your opinions on the bill, since it directly affects so many of us who work and communicate on the web.  So I did just that.  Yesterday I spoke with my district’s representative Peter Roskam about SOPA.

A big concern people have had about SOPA is that the people voting on it have admitted that they don’t know much about either the bill or how the internet works at large.  Mr. Roskam seemed more literate than others (he has a Twitter page, but then who doesn’t), but he freely admitted to me he’s not an expert on how revenue is generated by those online.  Right now, I’m going to tell you a variant of what I told him:

Revenue is generated online either by direct sponsorship, banner ads, donations through services like Paypal and CCBill, and sale of merchandise.  For a graphic artist like myself, sites like Etsy, Deviant Art, and Cafepress have allowed hundreds of what amount to small businesses sprout up and make a living for themselves.  In a recession like this especially, the online market is the only market that has seen consistent growth.  Publications and businesses that are losing physical presence (with their stores and magazines) are seeing positive growth through their online transactions.  SOPA would not only essentially cripple this new industry, but it would force the government to spend millions (if not billions) of dollars on regulation that would ultimately be fruitless since SOPA would create an online underground black market like it has in China.

Consumers are also getting smarter.  I talked earlier this year about how a contributing factor to Borders closing (in my eyes) was their price gouging on books and DVDs.  When I scoped out the Borders that was closing in my neighborhood, I discovered plain old single disc DVDs that cost upwards of $30.  Is it any wonder more people are turning to online merchants?  Or downloading the movie entirely because the price of the physical media is ridiculous?  SOPA would only delay the inevitable for the movie and music industries unless they choose to evolve their business models.

On movies and music, consider this: last summer, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” made upwards of a billion dollars worldwide last year.  And that was just the box office take, not factoring in the amount of merchandise the filmmakers and Hasbro no doubt sold.  Anyone who downloads the movie illegally is essentially shooting BB’s at a moving train.  Yet if they do, suddenly we, the public, are the villains?

Now, speaking of a more positive example, Hasbro’s other property “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” has become extremely popular thanks to its online presence, and this has translated into great profits for the toys and great ratings for Hasbro’s new cable channel The Hub.  A part of this is Hasbro admitting that they make more money off the toy sales and not much on re-airings of the show, and sharing the show online for free has gotten it tons of positive word-of-mouth, including from demographics (i.e. Bronies) they hadn’t predicted.

If you live in the 6th congressional district of Illinois like I do, I suggest you call Mr. Roskam at (202) 273-4561 and tell him your feelings on SOPA.  And if you live in another part of the country, contact your congressman and tell them how YOU feel.  Stop Internet Censorship!

P.S. Imagine how I blew my friends minds when I told them I used “Transformers” and “My Little Pony” to make a point to my congressman about censorship.