According to a report published by the AFL-CIO, online piracy costs content providers (mostly TV networks and movie studios) a lot of money. Around $20 billion annually. That, in turn, costs a staggering number of industry-related jobs - over 140,000 by some estimates.
As a freelance film editor, this scares the hell out of me. If the networks and studios I work for don't make money, sooner or later I'm out of a job. And if I'm out of a job long enough, I lose my union health benefits, my pension, the whole ball of wax.
I know it scares the hell out of my union, IATSE, judging by numerous emails warning how my livelihood is in grave danger from "foreign rogue sites" dedicated to wholesale theft of the intellectual property of my employers.
On the flip side, there were petitions filing my inbox from internet watchdog groups urging me to tell Congress to "preserve free speech", and that if I didn't, the "internet as we know it" would cease to exist.
Now, if you don't know what they're talking about, you're not not alone. Until I started getting these emails, I too was blissfully ignorant about the alphabet-soup of anti-piracy legislation currently grinding it's way through the bowels of Congress - the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate.
But as I researched the bills and clawed my way though mountains of evidence on both sides predicting internet Armageddon, I quickly realized online piracy (and the solutions being put forth to curb it) is something we don't have the luxury to ignore. Because what happens in the next month could profoundly affect many aspect of our lives, not just how we interact online.
So I'll make you a deal: If you'll stick around to read this, I'll spare you the hyperbole and techno-speak and explain what I've learned in plain English.
Please, let my pain be your gain.