Maybe you’ve seen the new commercials sponsored by the movie and music folks about online piracy of copyrights. And the commercials make sense — piracy steals material from their rightful owners. Piracy is just plain wrong.
How piracy of intellectual property translates into jobs going overseas, I’m not quite sure, but losing jobs is a good talking point these days.
But, to be clear, the authors of this bill (called SOPA) are only concerned about ONLINE piracy and they don’t seem too concerned that every post I write gets re-purposed on crappy websites all over the internet. They’re concerned about protecting the big movie and recording studios from file sharing. And, maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. The problem occurs in the implementation of this anti-piracy bill.
How Does SOPA Stop Online Piracy?
Let’s say you upload a movie to YouTube. That act of piracy is against YouTube’s terms of service, but it’s difficult for Google to police because so much content is uploaded every day. Still, SOPA would allow the courts to shut down YouTube.
As you can see in the infographic below, the courts do this mostly by making YouTube invisible to search engines and stopping the flow of money by shutting them off from payment processors. They had to do this since the internet is international and US courts don’t have jurisdiction to shut down offshore websites. But, the US courts also can’t shut down non-US search engines or payment processors, so the bill wouldn’t really offer much piracy protection and would hurt US-based search engines and websites.
Why Should YOU Oppose This Piracy Protection Bill?
- It likely won’t work. So, why introduce a bill that won’t really offer much piracy protection?
- It suborns censorship. In a clear-cut case of filesharing, censorship isn’t much of an issue. But, instead of sharing files to steal intellectual property, let’s say you include a speech made by a candidate from a local TV broadcast for the purpose of pointing to falsehoods in his statements or dispute his claims. This form of public discourse is subject to anti-piracy laws (should SOPA pass) and your criticism would take your entire website down. SOPA would have a chilling effect on public discourse that is protected by the US Constitution. If you think this is a little far-fetched, let me remind you that Minnesota lawmakers subpeonaed the emails of a university professor critical of their actions in the hope of discrediting him.
- Websites and other social media properties are open; encouraging contributions from many people. Some sites get hundreds or thousands of comments per day. SOPA would shut down these sites if someone simply posted a link to pirated materials in the comments. It’s impossible for website owners to police everything on their websites.
So, what can YOU do?
Write, call, email your congressional representatives. Share posts like this to educate and mobilize your contacts to they also write their members of congress. The infographic also contains other ways you can oppose this legislation. Please help.