First of all I would like to take a moment and say a few words about our ethics blog – what started out as an uni assignment actually became very fun for us too and we’d love to thank you for your support and especially your comments. Because this turned into something more than a hand-in for us, we will carry on updating this blog with ethical issues and discussions for you to read and share your views on.
And now, it’s time to talk about some copyright infringement. This month the internet was protesting against the SOPA and PIPA bills, two very important pieces of legislation that could change the entire virtual community. But what are they really about?
The ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ and ‘Protect IP Act’ were written in order to fight the online distribution of copyrighted property. We know that should these bills pass websites that would be found in violation could be banned from search engines and internet service providers will be asked to block them for their clients. However, on January 20 the bills have been gone into drafting stage after a boycott organized by several large websites and just one day later it was declared that they have been ‘killed’.
On the 18th January, Wikipedia, Reddit and Google have coordinated “blackouts” in which they redirected their visitors to their local representatives in order to express their views about the two bills. The blackout code was also available on Tumblr and various places online to anyone that wanted to join the protest.
Personally, I thought YouTube would be one of the first to join seeing as they would have so much to lose, however the video sharing website was not involved in the boycott. But Google, the parent company displayed a CENSORED stamp on their logo. They could have wanted to avoid involving YouTube as its input would be clearly biased seeing that it might have been among the first ones to fail if the bill was adopted.
The SOPA act was created in order to protect intellectual property and so, the jobs, the revenue and markets in which they can be found. To give you a much more clearer example – music. Nowadays, there are tens of sites where you could listen to music free of charge or for a small subscription fee. This has been considered as one of the reasons for the recent downfalls of the music industry. The availability of music, through sites, peer2peer or file sharing networks has seriously crippled the business of record labels. By adopting SOPA the owners of the copyrighted material would have had it much easier to remove the ‘stolen’ property of the internet and in this train of thought restoring the industry, by creating revenue and in the end jobs.
The SOPA bill has had some support from the entertainment industry, including celebrities and motion picture studios and production companies. Celebrities saw it as a way of protecting their privacy and image and media giants as a way of insuring their investments. However, how many of us haven’t gone to a movie just because a friend showed us a funny clip and how many of us haven’t posted YouTube videos about an interesting ad or a good music video? And in such way actually contributing to word-of-mouth advertising? The internet has become a massive marketing tool and by helping this bill get passed in reality they could have been in fact undermining themselves.
This is also a matter of freedom of speech. And there have been talks that the US government has planned SOPA in order to avoid another WikiLeaks or quietly take down groups such as Anonymous. Now, my question is – what do you think about SOPA? Were you for it or against it? I would love to hear from you. Especially if you’re a musician, a producer or (graphic) designer and such.