Today the internet is all aflutter and it doesn't involve Justin Bieber, but SOPA and PIPA.
|The only Pippa I'll vote for!|
SOPA stands for Stop Online Piracy Act, and PIPA doesn't stand for England's hottest royal sister Pippa Middleton, it means the Protect Intellectual Property Act.
Both are supposed to stop online piracy of intellectual property, and no one of right mind wants to support online piracy, but there's a problem.
Both acts are supremely fucked up.
It boils down to this.
There is piracy online, lots of it, and it costs the movie and music industry several truckloads of cash every year. And if the creators of intellectual property can't earn money from their work, then there's going to be a lot less creating going on.
However the pirates running these operations are usually in Europe and Asia, and use distance to avoid prosecution and litigation from American companies. Now these same American companies could try to threaten the governments of the pirate's host countries with boycotts and such to make them do something, but that would be impolitic, and with certain countries, hazardous to your corporation's health. So the plan is to punish the whole internet for the sins of the relative few.
The laws basically eliminate due process, and the concept of innocent before proven guilty. All it takes is one person to post one link to something that a media company considers pirated material, and those media companies can shut down entire websites. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Wikipedia, Blogger, YouTube, Tumblr, and others could all be blocked, their owners sued, and in some cases arrested or imprisoned, simply for not preventing piracy to the satisfaction of the media company that lodged the complaint.
It's the equivalent of using an atomic weapon to kill roaches that have gotten into your kitchen.
You destroy your kitchen, and the work and property of millions of innocent people all around you, and all for nothing.
Guess who can survive a nuclear blast.
Yep, the pirates can still operate freely.
Because SOPA and PIPA are badly written laws full of loopholes that real criminals can exploit, and lots of vague definitions and enough legal baffle-gab to make any sort of previously lawful use of copyrighted material constitute piracy.
Parodies like this old chestnut from the blog's early days could be declared piracy because they involve copyrighted and trade-marked material. It doesn't matter if centuries of common law allow parody, that will be gone if these laws are passed.
Home videos of pets and cute babies uploaded to YouTube could be declared piracy and makers sued, fined and/or imprisoned because of a song playing on the radio in the background.
Ironically, the key to killing SOPA and PIPA is the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Some key Republican players are bailing on supporting the bills.
Republicans have lots of reasons to dislike SOPA and PIPA.
1. The bills are terribly overreaching constraints on the last truly free market in the world.
2. Those constraints will stifle innovation as the big players use the vaguely worded laws to stifle competition in the form of new start-up companies.
3. The biggest supporters of the bills are the big media companies centered around New York and Hollywood, and this is where partisan politics come in, because those very same companies wouldn't give the steam off their pee to the Republican Party.
4. One of the chief architects of the bills is MPAA honcho Chris Dodd, who, thanks to his long political career, is already seen by Republicans as the bogeyman of government regulatory overreach, and crony corporatism. Opponents of SOPA and PIPA need to remind the Republicans in congress of this, and promise to use this fact against them the next time they seek their party's nomination for anything above dogcatcher.
As for Hollywood, there are things they can do to fight piracy.
1. Use the existing laws, but pick their battles wisely. Forget the dancing baby in the YouTube video and go for the big scale pirates and the money they make from piracy. You might step on the toes of certain governments that like to rattle sabers, but even they need to learn that respecting intellectual property rights is essential for an advancing society.
2. Make movies and music that people think are worth paying for.
Then you might be able to do something real about piracy, and not boondoggles like these.