The last couple of weeks has seen great unrest amongst the internet fraternity. The SOPA bill (Stop Online Piracy Act) has been going through the American government and if passed would effectively allow multimillion dollar companies, mostly in the entertainment industry, to censor content on the internet. It would give them the ability to take down any website deemed to be offering pirated content, videos, music etc. Whilst this could be seen as a good thing, after all online piracy is against the law and by the vast majority of people considered a bad thing, the bill was so badly written that it could be construed by lawyers in many different ways allowing the censorship of all content added to the internet by anybody.
I cannot claim to know enough about the issue to write about it in an unbiased manner, however you can read more about it in the following places:
- Wikipedia – one of the websites who took part in the ‘website black-out’ strike on 18th January. Their article title Stop Online Piracy Act is currently in dispute.
- Stop American Censorship – the official website for the STOP SOPA organisation.
- SOPA Strike – What happened online on the day of the strike, 18th January 2012.
As you can tell from the banners on our website, having read the available information from all over the internet, (the BBC, CNN, etc.) cannedSunlight is a supporter of Stop SOPA. We feel that it is important for the internet to remain a channel for freedom of speech and innovation. There must be other ways to stop online piracy. Indeed, according to a very well written article by Julian Sanchez piracy has very little effect on the American economy and jobs in the Entertainment industry. So their urgency to get this bill passed because piracy is so abundant and such a problem is totally unfounded.
Once we at cannedSunlight understood what was going on and could make an informed decision, we also reviewed the companies we are affiliated with. We did not want to support a company that was pro-SOPA as we strongly disagree with it. There was one particular domain registrar who we are no longer affiliated with because of this. I wondered if they should be named and shamed, but have decided that any mention of their name is just advertising on their behalf. So they will remain nameless here. However they were a very well known registrar and their association with SOPA/PIPA caused quite a stir, so a search of companies that are pro-SOPA will uncover who that is.
Unfortunately piracy is all around us, and as the warning on the front of DVD films from the FBI states, you can go to jail for copying and distributing copyrighted material. This is the law already. It hasn’t suddenly changed for the online world. It is still illegal to copy and distribute copyrighted material online. The SOPA bill has raised awareness of the piracy issue and along with media sensationalism has made it sound like it is a major problem online, so much so that some kind of censorship is needed.
That kind of censorship is certainly not needed. If social media/sharing websites such as Twitter, Facebook or youTube had to check every piece of content that was submitted to them for copyright issues, they would no longer be able to function. People would stop sharing things. Websites would stop linking to other websites in case further down the chain they were linked to a website that was infringing copyright. The availability of free information that we see today, would no longer be possible. The internet as we currently know would no longer exist.
This is why we support Stop SOPA. What are your thoughts?