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Wikipedia took its English-language site down today to protest the government’s proposed anti-piracy laws. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales explained that Wikipedia does not support piracy, but the proposed U.S. law is so broad and poorly written, he is concerned about its impact across the Web.

I understand exactly where he’s coming from. I used to run a call center, and terribly written and poorly thought-out laws made us a lot of money. In 2002 the government rushed out the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in the wake of the accounting scandals at Tyco, Enron, Adelphia and Worldcom. They mentioned companies needed a reporting mechanism for accounting fraud, and hundreds of them flocked to us for hotlines to meet that requirement.

In five years of service, we didn’t get a single call that alleged a real Sarbanes-Oxley violation. We made over a quarter of a million dollars for doing nothing because companies had to satisfy a stupid government requirement. It turns out only a handful of people in any given company are privy to these types of accounting violations, and it wasn’t like there weren’t already better places to report them.

That actually pales in comparison to the half a million me made from a hotline for the U.S. government’s own Veterans Health Administration. We staffed the line 24-hours a day, seven days a week, but we only got a couple calls a week. It turns out the bureaucrats who ran the different divisions didn’t want anyone reporting violations, so they didn’t publicize the number. They would rather pay us to do nothing so it looked like they were doing something.

If our government was a company, it would be out of business in a month.

Note: That awesome picture is from http://kina.deviantart.com