Congress to kill the Internet... star?
Lots of talk about the Bills to Kill The Internet... Hannah Hart's YouTube vid was the first one that hit my Personal YouTube Digest and since then there’s been many other such postings on SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act). A news story was broadcast on NPR yesterday morning, too - well it was about GoDaddy supporting SOPA and ensuing controversy, which was fairly old news by then, but they did talk about the bill itself.
Unfortunately, people are either talking about the consequences (usually in worse case scenarios) or, like in the NPR story, talking about... stuff that completely miss the point.
OK. Here’s what’s up in short bullet points (starting with the basics):
- Intellectual property (IP) Definition: any original idea that you have. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new better mousetrap or a song lyric, if you thought it up and it’s original, it’s your property.
- Copyrights (and patents) protect IP - more precisely, it protects your interest in your IP in that someone else can’t make money on your idea. At least without your permission, ideally with a healthy cut of the profits.
- Piracy is theft. It’s hard to argue otherwise. However - not every instance of someone else using your stuff is piracy/theft/stealing/whatever. There are certain exceptions in US copyright law (keep in mind, I’m not a lawyer) that fall under “fair use” - two big categories are educational use and parody.
- Should online piracy be stopped? Yeah - that’s like asking should shoplifting be stopped; I’d suspect that many shop keepers would be all for that. Well, why hasn’t it been before now? Media corporations and industry groups have tried - remember all those news stories about kids and grandmas being sued for tens of thousands (in some cases) for file sharing? Remember Napster?
That’s the problem - it’s not with The Problem, it’s with The Solution. In the past lawsuits have been threatened or filed - and some of them have been ridiculous and/or outrageous - against people how barely knew how to turn on their computers, the computer savvy, and everyone in between (I remember when college campuses were being targeted because of illegal file sharing between students). We’ve also seen file sharing sites put out of business as a result of a general belief that illegal downloads were all that they did.
Has this stopped online piracy? Ummm... if it had, would we still be talking about this? Part of the problem is that with activity within the US, you can sue the pants off somebody if they’re engaged in this type of activity - but - there are websites that exists outside the US (it’s true!) that do nothing but provide a platform for IP piracy. PirateBay anybody?