On the Blackout:
Transylvanilla isn’t an American site – it’s true. I’m not personally involved in your politics (except when Canada follows suit), your occasionally absurd legislation (except when Canada follows suit), or your copyright laws (except when Canada follows suit). Your legal precedent isn’t my legal precedent, your vote isn’t my vote, and my site isn’t subject to your laws (except when it is).
(See what I’m getting at here?)
Now, let’s not be hasty; there’s no need to run into this SOPA/PIPA thing with guns blazing just because “The President” says it’s a “threat to your freedom of speech”. What’s really at stake, who stands to gain and lose?
Well, first of all, Me. And everyone like me, and everyone like You, music-blog reader. These bills put into the hands of – as the little video below explains – the Entertainment Industry the power to block, attack, sue, starve and generally Jack Up any site they consider to be in violation of their various copyright properties (while remaining curiously exempt from their own legislation, GoDaddy). Alright, well, in premise this isn’t necessarily a bad idea: I think we can all tentatively agree that Piracy is a bad thing, or something similar to that extent. For the sake of the argument, we can be even more general, we can go with something like “artists deserve to be appropriately reimbursed and recognized for their individual artistic achievements”. That sounds good, right? Right. So far, we’re in support of copyright legislation, and the premise upon which it was built – to protect artists’ intellectual properties.
The next question, inevitably, goes something like “Well, does SOPA protect artists? Is that what it’s for?” Ostensibly. If we can all agree that artists deserve to be protected (the essay on piracy is a topic for another time), we can all agree that legislation that seeks to bust those organizations that seek to undermine artist credibility is probably a good thing, and we might want to move forward with it. The important thing here is that this is not what SOPA/PIPA is doing. These proposed bills, while operating with the outward intention of intellectual protection in mind, do exactly the opposite: they supply the entertainment industry with draconian powers of Internet Censorship, for lack of a better pair of words – they give large corporations the ability to flat-outkill any site they perceive as a threat to their intellectual property (at least, to American users). Again, this isn’t necessarily an issue unless it falls into the hands of greedy people with very little concern for artist interests, and a very large concern for corporate interests (go ahead and Google ‘RIAA Lawsuits‘ for me); the inevitable issue with hastily-scribed bills, dreamt up by corporations that seek to mandate the flow of information (offensive or not!), is that they inevitably fall prey to corruption. Under these new bills, legal prosecution (and the incorporated punishments) can be brought against more or less any site accused of copyright infringement – in essence, small-time sites can be put in a legal chokehold before they’ve earned a chance to get off the ground at all (less cease-and-desist, more carpet-bombing). More problematically, sites deemed unsavoury (or perhaps simply inconvenient) can have these charges levelled against them as well, so long as anyone on the site including users posts something registered under an owned property. What’s the logical extension of this? Let’s get paranoid for a minute, because the situation calls for it:
– Sites like this one, music blog sites, deal in copyright info. I post youtube videos. I quote things. I review albums and games and other things and post their promotional, registered-trademark artwork here, for all to see. I do this because it is my job. Stuff like this can be targeted and taken down without warning.
– Let’s think bigger: any site accused of dealing in trademarked material can be targeted. Let’s go with YouTube, perhaps the most infamous hive of chopped-up trademark material out there (and a wonderful thing for it!). Stuff like this can be targeted, and taken down without warning.
– Don’t get me started on Facebook, Sputnik, AVClub, Kotaku, that tech blog you like, The Oatmeal, Wikipedia and countless more. These sites aren’t criminal, and neither are many millions more besides – but rest assured they’ll be targeted because they can be targeted, and sooner or later they’ll fall out of favour with the major corporate entities we’re proposing ought to be in charge of deciding which websites we can visit, full-stop.
Think for yourself what the ramifications of a good-hearted piece of legislation, sloppily implemented and placed into the wrong hands might be. Do we want to stop Illegal Bad Stuff from the Overseas? Sure we do – or rather, you do, America (Canada agrees). Do we want to simultaneously place to power to Censor the Damn Internet into the hands of the same people responsible for installing that little ® next to every single product you’ve ever seen in your life, the same people that have kept Mickey Mouse under constant copyright protection since 1928 (despite this having expired years ago), and the same people that remove fans’ video-homages from YouTube because they believe they’re somehow impeding sales?
No. Of course you don’t. Demand specificity, accountability, and appropriate assessment from your copyright laws – not just for America, but for the multitude of other countries your legislation inevitably influences. They’re doing a needle’s job with a hammer again, and it’s going to turn into a damn witch hunt.
Read up on it. Then, tear it down, rebuild it, and try again. Let’s get this internet copyright thing sorted out – but let’s do it for the right reasons. Protect the democratization of information. Protect inconvenient information and content from frivolous censorship.
Come on American readers, write in and put this idiotic thing to rest – it isn’t a Canadian issue, but damn if it isn’t a Canadian issue.