Sci-fi author William Gibson recently talked to Speakeasy about his new collection of essays, and we took the opportunity to ask his thoughts on the controversial Internet-antipiracy bill, SOPA.
“I’m not by any means an enemy of intellectual property, and in fact keep a roof over my head because the concept exists,” says Gibson, the author of “Neuromancer,” in which he coined the term, “cyberspace.” “But I think that SOPA as it stands now, or as it stood before they paused to think about it, is extremely ill thought out, and a basically crazily Draconian piece of legislation.”
The Stop Online Piracy Act in the House of Representatives and the Protect Intellectual Property Act under consideration in the Senate are designed to crack down on sales of pirated U.S. products overseas. Proponents say the legislation could protect intellectual property, while critics say the act could infringe on free speech and other rights.
“One of the problems with legislating around emerging technology is that nobody legislates the technology into emergence,” Gibson says. “So, the emergent technology is sort of brought into the world by the invisible hand of the market. Then we have to play catch-up and when the emergent technology is sufficiently radical that it’s pushing all sorts of societal and cultural change, and actually pushing the market in the broadest sense and changing that, we’re in a very awkward situation.”
Gibson says it’s very difficult to legislate elegantly in a situation like this, which has random drivers. As a result, governing the Internet is much tougher than other industries and markets.
Meanwhile, Gibson answered a few other questions for us:
Nowadays, it seems there are two new paradigms: 3-D film and film as an online streaming experience in one’s own home. How would you reconcile these two futures of film?
I’m not convinced 3D is a new paradigm. I think it’s generally (James Cameron’s Avatar aside) a ploy to get people back into theaters, and it doesn’t seem to be working very well at doing that. Online streaming doesn’t really strike me as a new paradigm either, though it’s a new delivery method. The new paradigm is the viewer’s ability to watch a given film repeatedly, and in any order. The DVD boxed set changed the nature of the experience of cinema more profoundly than 3D or online streaming.
Comic books are your childhood – are they also your present and future?
The comic book was a part of my childhood, but it didn’t hold on into adulthood for me. I missed the birth of Marvel entirely, did read the 60s underground classics but nothing else, and have only read a couple of Alan Moore graphic novels since. Probably more my failing than the medium’s.
Ridley Scott broke the news to us a few months ago that he’s working on a sequel to “Blade Runner.” Do you welcome this news, or does it sound a little risky?
If anyone could pull it off, it would be Ridley Scott. But the idea of franchise, rather than one-off films, becoming the actual form, strikes me as decadent. Blade Runner is a classic, on the order of Citizen Kane. What would a sequel to Citizen Kane have done to the original?