“These are unpleasant facts; I know it. But then most historical facts are unpleasant.”
Remember reading the sci-fi novel by Aldous Huxley, Brave New World? It was a slap to the face about what the government could be capable of doing. No longer is that far-stretched. Recently you may have read on Facebook or heard about the Congressional bill, “Stop Online Piracy Act” (or the Senate’s corresponding Protect IP Act). Comparing the bill’s power to Brave New World isn’t cliché when it’s the truth.
Shockingly, the names of these bills have nothing to do with protecting IP’s (which makes it sadly obvious they don’t know what IP’s are). Here is the non- legalized version of what the bill does:
- The US Department of Justice can obtain court orders against any Web site accused of facilitating or enabling copyright infringement.
- Actions could include barring online advertising networks or payment companies from doing business with the infringed Web site
- Internet service providers must block access to such sites
- Unauthorized streaming of copyright content is a felony
Breaking this down, this means that the US government can require an ad network like Google or a pay processor like PayPal to stop doing business with sites in question of infringement. The key word above was facilitate.
For example, a guy still rocking a swoop haircut uploads his shoddy cover of a Brand New song. Technically, this is copyright infringement because he doesn’t own it; he and the band know this but usually both parties don’t care. This is already covered by the law (duh). If a band asks YouTube to take it down, it can be done. Now, under SOPA/PIPA not only is the guy charged with a serious penalty, but so is YouTube.
Now YouTube is hosting and facilitating copyrighted content. Not only can the government bar search engines from displaying links to the sites, but they can actually block access to the site.
Simply put, China does this.
To put a cherry on top, this is a felony – a higher punishment than most drug, disorderly conduct, or reckless driving cases. Streaming illegal content in the law’s eyes is on the same platform as murder.
There are immediate effects in the music community as well. A point brought up on Gumshoe Radio, hosted by Bayside’s Anthony Raneri and Nick Ghanbarian, is that the Internet is the Wild West. Yes, it is – that’s the beauty. But bands are already protected by a simple moral law: don’t steal. Most are in agreement that you shouldn’t steal music because then bands can’t put food into their stomachs (try making another record or touring). We don’t need another extra law, let alone one this stringent.
Quickly, this becomes a First Amendment problem. The Act contradicts parallel laws existing in the journalism and blog world. It is court-ruled that an online newspaper organization or a general forum is not responsible for the words posted by in comments (obviously illegal threats aren’t tolerated and many sites police their own). Most people also agree that there is speech they don’t like (such as the Westboro jerks or the band Attila), but they have the right to say whatever they want.
And so do I. Unfortunately the government does just believe the Internet “is a series of tubes.” Let’s tell them it’s not.
Here is a petition that takes 10 seconds to fill out that says you oppose the bill.
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) plans to filibuster the bill by reading the names of the legislation’s opponents. More than 50,000 Americans already pledged to have their name read by him – you can too here.
A letter from the Senator’s office today reads, “It is my hope that – with your help – my colleagues in Congress will realize that PIPA/SOPA are the wrong way to protect intellectual property because the price they exact on the Internet is too high.”