Anorak | SOPA and PIPA: When lending is a thought crime and theft is ok

SOPA and PIPA: When lending is a thought crime and theft is ok

by | 19th, January 2012

THE Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) are not universally popular. Neither SOPA nor PIPA are all that close to be cemented in law. Right now they look like bad Bills that seek to turn us – the consumers – into thieves who need to prove our innocence.

SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) are a response to lobbying by the entertainment industries upset at websites publishing their content for free. The Bills seek to kill file sharing sites that push content illegally. Offline this is called fencing stolen goods. Should the online world be different to the offline world? Is freedom of information on the internet something else, to cherish and foster? But can’t you pass on a book or magazine you bought or a DVD you rented to a friend? Can you download a song from a cousin’s collection? Is that theft?

One other thing: if you look at a photograph of a naked child in a book on a shelf have you downloaded it, like a paedophile? Are you a thief for downloading a song, or for listening to one on a friend’s player? Is the unique thing about the internt that it leaves an evidence trail? If you heard or saw what you did not pay for – what was shared – have you committed a thought crime? If you are a creator and some part of that shared song or book affected your thinking, are you a thief who needs to pay royalties to your inspiration?

But that is not all. The Bills would make it illegal for any US-based internet service providers, advertisers and payment processors from working with the outlawed sites – even if they are based abroad.

Wikipedia went dark in protest – but left the SOPA page remained live:

“The court order could include barring online advertising networks and payment facilitators from doing business with the allegedly infringing website, barring search engines from linking to such sites, and requiring Internet service providers to block access to such sites. The bill would make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a crime, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison for ten such infringements within six months. The bill also gives immunity to Internet services that voluntarily take action against websites dedicated to infringement, while making liable for damages any copyright holder who knowingly misrepresents that a website is dedicated to infringement.”

So. If your site has pirated material or promotes it, you can be undone – and the law will force other companies and sites – such as the ISPs Google and ISPs – to block access.

Why does what’s happening in the US affect the UK? Peter Bradwell, of  the Open Rights Group, told the BBC:

“It’s explicit that [Sopa advocates] want to tackle foreign websites. We’re concerned about the jurisdiction that gives over the kind of things you or I do on the internet in the UK – and the power that gives US copyright holders over the things that we do here.”

The UK’s “digital champion” Martha Lane Fox added:.

“Neutrality and equality of access is one of the fundamental principles of the internet. So (while) I understand the concern that many US companies have about the restrictive Sopa law, blackouts are a startling way to show their frustration.”

Richard Mollet, chairman of the Publishers Association, offered a view:

“They should say: ‘OK, there’s a problem with copyright infringement. We, as internet companies, have a role here. What can we do to fulfil that role and help rights holders reduce infringement?'”

Mollet wonders about the impact of the other side going dark:

“Think what you would lose. If you walked around the streets of America or Britain with no creative content available to you, because rights holders had decided to shut up shop, you would be deprived of the BBC, cinemas, radio, bookstores and so on.  What’s at stake when rogue internet sites are available to people and revenues are deprived is a great deal more than the excellent but nevertheless more limited Wikipedia.”

If you can make do without something for a day, why not make do without it forever? Is going dark a grown-up response from Wikipedia, which seeks to be relavant in all areas of life but only turns itself off when issues affects it? IOt;s looking after itself – much like the music, film and media companies in favour of SOPA and PIPA. Right?

The Kahn Academy explains things:

US politicians are uncertain. Ars Technica lists a total of 18 new senators opposed to PIPA.

Cory Doctorow notes:

Former Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America called it “an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today.”

Well, he should know.

After all, he is the CEO of the organization responsible for inserting those unskippable FBI warnings (which are highly prejudiced and factually incorrect, advising, for example, that DVDs can’t be rented, even though the law says they can) before every commercial DVD. He’s the CEO of the organization that inserts those insulting PSAs in front of every movie chiding those of us who buy our DVDs because someone else decided to download the same movie for free.

And he’s the CEO of the organization responsible for the section of the DMCA that makes it illegal to build a DVD player that can skip these mandatory, partisan, commercially advantageous messages.

So he knows a thing or two about “abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today.”

GrrrlScientist makes her point:

SOPA/PIPA are just the part of what looks to be a long series of attacks upon the public’s freedom to create, discuss, read, watch, link and share information with others. For our entire lives, we’ve been groomed to passively purchase and consume whatever media that large corporations have decided to shove down our throats, and more such attacks are on the way. Corporations, like politicians, are going to try to wear us down so they finally get their way. To protect our freedoms, we must always remain vigilant.

But part of vigilance is being able to recognise such an attack when it happens, so it is important to understand what bills like SOPA/PIPAmean to our shareable online world. This video is a short presentation by Clay Shirky about the context and underlying motivations forSOPA/PIPA. In this video, Mr Shirky delivers a manifesto — a call to defend our freedom to create, discuss, link and share, rather than passively consume:

SOPA and PIPA are no fans of creativity. They seek to make criminals of us all…

GIF – shared by kimscrackers and oatmeal. Thanks.

Posted: 19th, January 2012 | In: Technology Comment | TrackBack | Permalink