Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The SOPA Opera

Today has been a dark day for the Internet.

All across the Internet, website have been shutting down in "protest" to the Stop Online Piracy Act, which is in congress at the moment. It threatens to give a powerful minority unprecedented control over the Internet in North America; shutting down website and blocking links that they believe lead to pirated copyright material.

As you might expect, the Internet is ablaze with protest - but from my perspective it actually rings a little hollow.

You see, Internet piracy is a real issue. I mean it's a REALLY, SERIOUS issue. I will agree with protestors that SOPA is not the effective way to stop it, but in all this protest we've kind of forgotten the issue at hand:

The Internet has given people the unprecedented power to steal other people's stuff.

The Internet has given people the unprecedented power to profit off other people's stuff.

And in all this effort to protest SOPA we kind of ignored all that. We got so caught up in being high and mighty about censorship and Internet control that we completely ignored the fact that SOPA is about a very legitimate issue that impacts any and all of us who attempt to profit from stuff we create on the Internet.

Be it movies and music on bittorrent, or whole episodes of shows uploaded to YouTube, it's meant that copyrighted material that people have invested time and dollars into is available FREE for anybody to take and do with what they will.

And that ruins it for all of us.

So check out some ALTERNATIVE voices about SOPA today; so you don't just buy into the bullshit the pro OR anti camp are selling you:

The Exchange Coffee House

Renaissance Babes


One Salient Oversight said...

It's not theft.

This diagram should help.

This is all due to new technology. Instead of trying to defend out of date laws that can't handle the new situation, alternatives need to be found.

The band Nine Inch Nails, for example, now releases its new albums for free to download while still allowing people to buy physical copies of the CDs. It actually works.

Tom said...

Copyright infringement - like theft - is against the law. It's always been against the law, and if someone profits from it, they can be prosecuted.

The problem is that there are sites that are overseas, where US laws do not apply. (And even SOPA/PIPA proponents are clear that it only applies to non-US sites.) If a site is in the US, one can easily and cheaply issue a DMCA takedown notice to get the content removed. Often, this content may not be illegal in the country where it is hosted - even though a US company wants it to be.

What makes SOPA and PIPA incredibly dangerous is how it deals with this. Instead of requiring US companies to deal with infringers directly, it allows them to go after innocent third parties, like ISPs and web hosters.

For example, say a blogspot blog is linking to an episode of a TV show hosted in Spain. SOPA/PIPA would make blogspot responsible if one of its users linked to that episode, allowing the copyright interests to sue it out of existence.

And that's the real problem - it turns copyright infringement from being a problem of the copyright interests, who benefit from it, into a problem of third parties, who don't benefit from copyright at all.

Roland Hulme said...

OSO - It's not piracy unless there's a ship involved and somebody goes "Aarrrrr!"

Tom - as usual you just swoop in here with the smart answers and facts! Yes, I'm not defending SOPA, but I do think we need to acknowledge the problem. You neatly identify exactly why SOPA sucks.