If you have a Twitter or Facebook account and use it to do more than stalk an ex or creep on people until y0u get blocked or “unfriended”, you’ve probably read something about the SOPA and PIPA bills. Even more, you’ve probably digitally witnessed the outrage that has consumed a large number of people. Certain sites, like Wikipedia, were “blacked out” yesterday in protest of these bills, and numerous people on my Twitter timeline protested in their own way, whether by signing petitions, posting blogs in denouncement of the bills, or slapping the word “censor” or completely blacking out their profile picture.
What is SOPA? How does it affect us?
Well, little Johnny, SOPA stands for “Stop Online Piracy Act”. It was presented to the House in October of 2011 and was actually failed legislation in 2008, under another name. Hopefully, you already know what online piracy is, but if you don’t, allow me to quickly define it for you. Online piracy is acquiring products, namely music, movies and TV shows, that have been copyrighted without paying for them. SOPA is a bill in Congress that has been aimed at taking down foreign websites that offer these pirated products because unlike domestic sites, they are untouchable in the US…and rich people are getting screwed out of money from sales. The bill would stop US companies from funding these sites and obviously, stop Americans from benefitting from these sites. It would affect us by technically “compromising” US citizens’ rights to free speech, as it would give the owners of this copyrighted content the right to go after users who upload it on sites like YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter, which would certainly make the sites much less enjoyable.
PIPA is…? Is it any different than SOPA?
PIPA is short for “Protect IP Act”. This bill is the reincarnated version of a similar one that didn’t pass legislation in 2010, and it was first introduced to Senate in May of 2011. PIPA, while working in conjunction with SOPA is a bit different. It would do the supposed dirty work, censoring US websites and even allowing companies to sue any new sites that allow copyright infringement after the bill is passed as well as blog sites and search engines that promote other sites that enable copyright infringement. Wikipedia blacked itself out in protest of this bill yesterday…which did something, I guess.
I first read about SOPA and PIPA in November of 2011, and honestly didn’t pay it much attention. While it would affect me, as I’ve “stolen” a song, TV show, movie or two, I didn’t think it would gain much weight in the public eye. However, as yesterday’s blackouts occurred, people took to Twitter and blog sites to voice their displeasure with the bills. Unfortunately, many either didn’t read up on or comprehend fully how we could be affected, as a general sentiment was either, “Don’t take away my Twitter!” or “What am I going to do without Wikipedia?!”.
Again, online piracy is illegal, and not as a technicality. It’s easy for you and I to not give much thought to the owners of content when we illegally download it or post it to a site, and I’m sure that far too many think it’s not as big of a problem as some members of federal governement and the creators of this work have made it out to be. Well: Online Piracy Statistics. As you can see, those are just the 2010 statistics. Believe that they have increased in the past year, and will only continue to do so in the future as long as it is allowed.
Fortunately, even while opposing the harshness of the bills, some have been sensible enough to understand why owners of pirated content would want these bills to be passed. After all, they put money into making the music, movies, TV shows and even video games that we download for free, use without fear of consequence, and then are audacious enough to share with others, again without fear of consequence. Pirates are brazen beings, and we are essentially digital pirates.
It would be nice if people backed more serious causes, or at least were angered by more than not being able to upload a music video on YouTube or have their precious Twitter accounts affected, but this is indeed where we are today; in shallow waters. Very few have chosen to educate, while many have felt it necessary to condescend, which has made this even more annoying. It appears that some lawmakers who were in favor of these two bills are starting to give in to public sentiment, and are beginning to pull back their support of SOPA and PIPA. Does this mean that these bills are completely off the table, to never be presented to the House and Senate again? It is much too early to tell. Will the outrage and protests continue? For not much longer, I assume. Once again: shallow waters. That’s the reality, unfortunately. Now excuse me while I purchase some crappy music and movies.
P.S. I miss Karen and the Moondance Woman!!!
P.P.S. It’s so much easier to write with a completely unclouded mind…