About Todays Internet Blackout to Protest SOPA/ PIPA laws
Why are a number of websites going dark today, in protest of the SOPA (“Stop Online Piracy Act”, in the US House of Representatives and PIPA (a very similar “Protect IP Act”, in the US Senate) legislation?
These two Acts purport to block websites using copyrighted content without permission, it also punishes sites linking to other sites that actually use copyrighted content without permission. That means a site linking to pirated music, as part of a story about pirated music could be held in violation, and that a US judge in a US court could force US search engines to stop linking to such content, and even force ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to block both the content, the website hosting the content, and the search engines linking to the content.
And without a well-thought-out (or even a just) legal appeal, this legislation leaves little room for opposition, appeal or recourse. “So much for the First Amendment,” and freedom of speech. It also means US courts can block international sites or international search engines, because after all, much of the internet is managed from there.
FoundLocally is not going “dark” to join the internet protest, since we’re sitting on the fence on this one. Links in our editorial content are well-thought out, and go to informative content, though, hopefully not to pirated editorial. Our business directory links go to business websites that are descriptive of their businesses, their locations, their products, and their services, and therefore not likely to have pirated content (and most web designers are generally on the lookout for unlicenced stock images).
We’ve also found that sites like Wikipedia, being totally user generated, often include content pillaged from FoundLocally. It’s not their fault, and they’re pretty good for removing content when they are aware of infringement. YouTube does the same with copyrighted video, or videos containing copyrighted music. But under SOPA and PIPA they can be held liable, or can have their sites blocked or shut down by a single judge in the US.
Does this legislation have merit? Yes. It protects content creators, though primarily big bucks companies in charge of music, video, and electronic games distribution (and the artists and creators that they represent). But it does it with a rather heavy handed and unilateral approach to protecting their “rights”.
Maybe Websites Aren’t the Real “Pirates”?
If people are pirating songs (or, for that matter, buying single songs on iTunes), instead of buying full CDs in the record stores (with most of the songs less listenable than the hit consumers have fallen in love with), maybe the singers, songwriters, producers and record companies need to improve the overall quality of their product?
Movies don't seem to have a quality issue: people want to see them. But, if movie companies are complaining about piracy, particularly about movies being sold online almost as soon as they appear in theatres, maybe they need to listen to consumers. That they’d rather watch a first-run movie in the comfort of their homes, minus snotty kids yacking on their cell phones during the film. And, aren’t the $10 buckets of popcorn we're forced to buy in movie theatres the real “piracy”?
If luxury goods manufacturers are complaining about knockoffs at a fraction of the price, maybe their markups are too high (as well as the margins of the fashion magazines they advertise in, and the amount of freebies given to Hollywood elites, just to create their cachet). Or maybe their designs, their materials, and their manufacturing processes, are not unique enough to justify their pricing. Together, these market inconsistencies enable counterfeiters to not only undercut them, but rack up handsome profits to boot?
All of these cases show that the manufacturers and creators of goods are not listening to consumers, but still want to rack up high margins and profits despite their unwillingness to listen to consumers. They do not want the free will of the marketplace to apply to them, and want the government to fight their fights. Kind of like the greediness of Wall Street executives wanting bail-outs from almost certain bankruptcy by the government, and then insisting on their usual bonuses.
Maybe, when it comes to discussing "piracy", its time to stop considering shooting the messenger, and look in the mirror!