I strongly urge everyone to read this article in its entirety.
Basically, I largely agree with what the doomsayers predict in this article and don't believe anything good is going to come of this bill if it passes.
You should make up your mind on how you feel about this if you're reading these words, because if it passes it may affect you negatively in drastic ways you did not anticipate.
And if you believe this is going to impact you negatively and also happen to be American, you might want to contact your representatives in Congress and let them know that.
This is not one party creating this hamfisted attack. This is a very bipartisan effort.
Also, from the Wiki article, there are other businesses and organizations to contact if you feel strongly enough about this and want to send a message:
On September 22, 2011, a letter signed by over 350 businesses and organizations—including NBCUniversal, Pfizer, Ford Motor Company, Revlon, NBA, and Macmillan US—was sent to Congress encouraging the passage of the legislation in 2011. Fightonlinetheft.com, a website of The Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy (a project of the United States Chamber of Commerce Global Intellectual Property Center), cites a long list of supporters including these and the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Governors Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Attorneys General, the Better Business Bureau, and the National Consumers League.
It's so weird to think sites now synonymous with our culture like Flickr may just disappear overnight.
I just learned all the Cheezburger sites will be "going dark" on January 18th as part of a huge protest against the proposed S.O.P.A.
If you click on the link you will see the giants who intend to join in the (sort of) boycott listed there.
I'm shocked Tumblr hasn't announced (well, it's not in the Wiki article anyway) solidarity with this.
I don't see how AOL can join in, unless they're going to prorate that day off our bills, for those of us who subscribe.
But other sites that offer free access (such as Twitter, Cheezburger, etc.) have every right to do so.
I'm of two minds on this. I am in one sense "old school" about intellectual property rights. I do believe they're valid.
But I also realize that the disenfranchisement of the creator today leads to the enrichment of the masses, improves people's lives, culturally and every other way.
I would be a hypocrite to say I can download music free but others can't swoop, say, a visual work I produced.
Here's where I feel there is a difference: if someone is taking your intellectual property and making money with it.
And I can't deny that is happening constantly.
Even free websites which clearly don't screen user-submitted content for ultimate ownership of material, copyright, etc. are making money. Maybe they're not even making money directly, but indirectly they are. Your content makes them interesting and gives them members. These members allow the site to sell advertising. Suddenly the site is hugely profitable. And sometimes this profiting is occurring directly.
I've read Cheezburger's membership contract carefully in the past, so I see how difficult they make it for someone to claim their own work has been infringed on the website. I wasn't reading it because I was ever worried about being infringed (I wasn't infringed) but just reading it all to see how they protect themselves legally. Such things are interesting to me.
On the other hand, I know hundreds of members who routinely do things expressly prohibited by the Cheezeburger contract and are never drubbed for this. I've seen people hawking their own wares to sell on the site (forbidden), posting Cheezburger-owned LOLs all over the internet in ways other than the few (linking) ways allowed, etc. (forbidden). I've done that latter thing myself. Not making any money, of course. Just sharing the joy of Cheezburger with people.
But presumably the site doesn't give a shit about things like this. They realize these things are in the site's interest and help grow the site. So tra la. And the person hawking her book is selling maybe a dozen copies online through the site. It's not as though EBAY moved in and started selling stuff under a thousand Cheezburger profiles. These prohibitons are there to prevent serious huge infringements on the site's popularity and to stop the potential for "stolen profits." Basically, to keep parasites away. No barnacles on the hull.
But on the other side of this issue, if you're the one being infringed by a site, often the burden of proof (and it's onerous and time-consuming) is on you, the little guy or gal. And you're going to have to spend time, effort and possibly money to rectify the situation. So I see the double standard virtually all sites created by user-generated content live by. No way can they realistically police the tens of millions of entries and still function. One Easter Egg hunt for the true origin of a photo submitted by "Unknown" could take weeks. So nothing happens.
Just take the example of all the gifs. Obviously, the people "making" those gifs don't own the rights to any of those clips. Maybe one out of a thousand is working from his or her own film clips.
And the site is going to continue doing exactly what it's been doing.
If SOPA passes into law, copyright holders can end up having sites basically shut down.
I certainly don't want to see this happen.
I'm so divided on this.
Here's what I believe is going to be the only solution to this problem. And the only solution I see is Byzantine, augean, herculean, just gargantuan and possibly quixotic!
But I do believe what I'm suggesting is ultimately feasible, and won't have all the negative consequences that a bill like S.O.P.A. will have when it turns the internet into a virtual police state overnight and starts choking our Department of Justice to death with legal battles (many of them mere nuisances) that will go on forever. Remember that funny and exhausting description of the flawed Court of Chancery in Bleak House? Well, prepare for that.
My alternative solution?
Technology is going to need to find a way to "tag" all forms of potentially piratable materials, images, sound files, etc and build in a non-copy function for all those files. There could be a "binary function" build into this file modification which would let creators click a "share" option or a menu from which to select which determines how and under what circumstances the image, sound file, etc. could be shared.
Possibly computers are going to have to be designed so that when they encounter such images, music, text files, they are unable to reproduce them, copy and paste them, nothing. Maybe this can be done without worrying about any future modifications to CPUs though.
Everything's going to have to be as secure as a c.d. with an alarm case in a WALMART.
You would no longer be able to mouse over text and cut and paste anymore. You could only link (if permissions are given).
I mean this is the exact opposite of everything that feels great about being online in the 21st century. I know that. I admit that.
But that's the ONLY way you're going to get lasting results.
Because even if you go by legal prohibitions and fines, etc., the creators of these sites are just going to end up hosting them out of countries which are all too predictably venal and which would gladly allow American online entities to claim themselves businesses based out of those countries for the right amount of money. These would be countries which do not subscribe to international treaties and could give a shit less about American legislation concerning the internet.
Worst case scenario (if the government tries to use the I.R.S. to keep hold of the money end--if the owner(s) of the offending entity is a U.S. citizen) these people will probably simply change their citizenship to maintain control of their business and run it of that other country.
But then I'm assuming we'd end up in the position where the U.S. government would block access to these sites anyway, the way the Chinese government does.
This is so fucking complicated! Because nothing is containable anymore and the 21st century can't get its mind around that.
Is the idea of "intellectual ownership" now a first world problem and a 20th century problem only?
Is it fair then that entrepreneurs can get rich at the expense of those who create. Is creating anything and releasing it in an online form the new "sweat shop?"
I mean this is a hugely complicated issue.
I don't mean to go Orwellian with the idea that everything has to be locked down at the level of the individual file, but that's the only way you're going to get compliance.
And of course hackers will be constantly working to get around and unzip any protection applied at the level of the individual file.
If you believe that ownership of intellectual property is real and valid and think failure to respec this should be punished, then that's the only way (I'm convinced) it's going to happen.
I bet the majority of people who infringe intellectual property rights, copyright, on the net are kids. And kids are going to care less if this bill passes, so again the only thing that will work is a change at the level of the file itself. A genius of a safeguard. Site policing will simply not work. The government would have to stop doing everything else just to try to do that. And even then they wouldn't succeed.
Because the internet is like expanding space. There is no Newtonian absolute space. It's closer to relative space. Things sometimes only exist as their reflection. Or simulacra of things which have ceased to exist. It's like looking at stars long dead that are still twinkling in the sky.
Part of me feels conflicted about the idea that I don't want S.O.P.A. to pass.
Because I'm being selfish not only for myself--but vicariously selfish for the billions of other people who will suffer as a result of the bill passing.
I keep thinking about that line in The Craft where a young shoplifter excuses her behavior by saying "Everything in nature steals."
It's no coincidence it's a young witch who says that.
Because witches often look very deeply into nature.
And they're often right in their pronouncements about Her.
I believe in ownership of intellectual materials and am against it, but I believe S.O.P.A. as written now is going to just cripple not only the internet but the the Department of Justice.
I feel it's one of the worst decisions our country can make.
We're basically asking to have huge segments of our Department of Justice disabled because of lobbyists' success in getting this bill support from so many members of Congress. I honestly believe most of Congress doesn't understand the true consequences of this bill.
God, lawyers must love this bill. It's going to be Christmas every fucking day of the year for lawyers.
And virtually no one else.
And no little amendment is going to fix this problem.
I honestly believe our government is looking for a legislative solution to what is a technological problem, requiring a technological solution.
Change the nature of the file itself.
That's the only way this is going to work.