Some of you may remember a little column I did about a month ago that dealt with the vast amounts of information that can be accessed by browsing the World Wide Web.
Now, I’m returning to the same subject but under much more dire circumstances. I’m talking about the Stop Online Piracy Act, which would grant the Department of Justice the right to get court orders against websites that are accused of “enabling or facilitating copyright infringement.”
I’m sure many would argue that there are issues more worthy of our time. With two wars, a struggling (that might be putting it mildly) economy, and millions of protesters across the country forming one voice against greed and corruption, online piracy and the steps being taken to prevent it seem like minuscule issues.
However, I urge everyone to consider the ramifications both short and long-term.
First of all, the proposed bill (H.R.3261) builds on the PRO-IP Act of 2008, but with much broader parameters when focusing on which websites can be targeted. That means that even if a website is innocent of piracy (or any promotion of) the DOJ can block the site, bar it from search engines and prevent it from doing any business online.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has shown just how much can be accomplished in the viral market. The amount of information being shared online is astronomical and it has created an incredible network of like-minded individuals sharing, not only their thoughts and feelings, but also experiences and cautionary tales for those who want to get involved.
Who is to say that the DOJ wouldn’t target sites such as Reddit, Tumblr, and Digg that have been essential to the Occupy movement? Any site that allows users to share freely could be targeted under this new bill and forced out of the public sphere.
The bill would also make streaming unauthorized content a felony and give immunity to websites that “take action” against the offending websites. Do we really want to be spending more money on jails and probation and the courts for online pirates? I don’t.
For those who support the bill (a.k.a. the holders of the copyright who are often not the artists themselves, but the companies that sell the merchandise and make the most profit) all I can say is: Come into the 21st century. The Internet is how everyone makes money now. Find a way to capitalize on that like everyone else and stop running to the government, crying like a little baby, every time someone thinks of a way around your greedy, irresponsible and profiteering business policies.
Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead summed up the artistic policies of the band quite well and I think more artists should take this to hear: “We write the music, but it isn’t ours. As soon as it leaves our instruments it no longer belongs to us.”
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