I’m going to keep this short and soap-boxy. You have, no doubt, heard of S.O.P.A. by now, ya (that’s a German ya, not a Canadian ya)? Stop Online Piracy Act. Well if you haven’t do some reading HERE. S.O.P.A. is some baddy bad stuff Internet friends. What does it mean for the non pirates among you? Depends on how the GOV enforces the gosh darn thing, but most likely, if there’s links to pirated material on your website (on purpose or inadvertently) or you link up to pirated content or you use a site that MAY contain pirated content… you may lose your voice or the content you love. The big bad government might hit the off switch on your page or a page you love. That’s the equivalent of murder on the Internet.
I’m an avid Wiki guy even though the user content can be skewed or slightly incorrect. It seems to me that a user created record/encyclopedia makes sense. After all it is our reality. We get to form it. We choose what to include and what spin to take on nearly everything. Hey, even the history books get reality wrong some percentage of the time. So what did my beloved Wiki due today (January 18, 2012)? They blacked out their pages and offered some very nice content intent on getting readers/users to their respective Congressman’s sound boards. This is good. Utilize this. I did and at least I felt like I did something more proactive than typing a blog about the same damn thing that everyone else is talking about at the moment (read being trendy). So what if some mofo files a complaint against Wiki stating their copyright has been compromised? Do the lights go out on Wiki? Do we let that kind of fascism exist on the wide open web.
Bring it home bloggers… what does that mean for you? You post an image or a video (maybe even embed a video). You fail to get the copyright holders permission or maybe YouTube gets snagged for posting it. So you link to said copyright material and now you’re equally wrong. Or at least that’s one interpretation. Think of how boring blogs will be without embedded video or pictures that are terrified (blogs have feelings too) of infringing on a copyright and being shutdown. Bloggers, you know that you’ve posted content on your site with questionable copyright status. It happens. You may not have even known you did it, but that doesn’t make it any less illegal. Now that could be a gross interpretation of the way the act would be enforced, but why should the GOV have control of the light switch?
Let’s talk for a second about actual Internet piracy. A good many of you used Napster until Metallica happened. Then Limewire or Gorillashare or whatever sharing platform you’ve chosen to be “sneaky” on. Then ya’ll figured out what a Newsgroup is and a Torrent and now you’re blocking your IP and being all tech savvy right? While I am not going to condone piracy of content that is readily available for purchase there is something to be said about going out, getting an AVI of the VHS you loved when you were a kid, but cannot find for purchase anywhere else but the newsgroups or the torrents. I’m just not going to take issue with that, but that’s just as illegal as going out and getting the latest box office smash (that would be the Devil Inside folks and sounds like you’d gladly pirate that to save a buck and maybe to get back at big bad Hollywood). There’s a difference between making content available that simply isn’t available and stealing from an indy filmmaker. Who wants to pay $150 for Rawhead Rex? That seems wholly unfair to think that a distro company decides to fault your favorite cult movie and now you’re out candy bar money. You might even get away with finding someone else to do the dirty work, pay them $5 for the DVD with slip cover printed from the VHS or originally issued DVD. That content had to come from somewhere and the minute it hit the burner you were an accomplice. My god! Rawhead Rex just cost you a $250k fine, but hey, it’s on the net and if you’re a responsible eye patch wearer, you can share in the Celtic demon and still go out and buy Ti West’s latest release VOD.
So the case for the big guys (WIKI/GOOGLE), the little guys (BLOGGERS) and… the actual bad guys (PIRATES… ARRRRR) is the same. You’re shutdown. You’re lights go out. You’re content is in a concentration camp somewhere waiting for the friggin Zyklon B.
One last thing before you head over to Wiki and send your representatives the good fucking word. Did you ever think that maybe… just maybe… copyrights are made to be broken? Maybe your copyright is preventing users from experiencing your content? The strange case of Night of the Living comes to mind. George Romero makes a film of such importance that it changes the very fabric of horror films, zombie films and how a horror film might be seen as social commentary rather than just a spook picture. He makes this movie and through an egregious error fails to copyright the film. Said film goes into circulation, becomes a drive-in success, and due to its lack of copyright, every horror host can show the gosh darn thing. Distro companies put it out in various packaging and include in all their 50 movies for $10 sets. There’s practically a copy of one of the greatest horror movies of all time in every home in America (exaggerating here). No copyright on a film can spread it like wildfire. I’m sure George made a few bucks over the years making other movies and hopefully in part to his reputation as a master horror man based on NOTLD. All that exposure without a copyright. Unintended, sure, but doesn’t it make you think that there might be another way of doing things besides the status quo, copyright way. It’s only a 300 year old concept really, and a lot has changed since the initial copyright laws in the US back in 1790.
Don’t let the United States Congress turn you into a bunch of brainless zombies by deciding what content users can post. They make so many great decisions its hard to imagine NOT letting them decide what you can post. Don’t let the Internet become a post-apocalyptic scorched earth.
You know it’s bad when the MPAA supports it. You know how great they are at regulating the content you love. Lest we not forget the plight of Harry Warden! We may never get that footage back.