Wednesday, January 18, 2012


The SOPA and PIPA bills would affect me personally if they passed, and they would adversely affect most of you as well.

This blog is in part built on mashups, remixes and music videos, all of which would be grounds to remove it from the internet if SOPA and/or PIPA passed. In addition, I have on occasion used materials for the purposes of criticism or commentary, which again would put this blog in the line of fire if someone decided they didn't like what I had to say or felt it was in the best interest of the company they represented to be very zealous in enforcing their copyright.

Even without those threats to this blog on an individual level, I would also have to worry about the potential problems Google and Blogger would face if those bills were to pass.

Because these bills also remove the protections that hosting sites have had in the past, they would be liable for the actions of their users, which means that even the most innocent of user transgressions would have serious consequences for the companies that make up the backbone of our community. That means that blogging as a whole would suffer, especially in political and pop culture/entertainment circles.

I'll get to the political part a little later, but let's start with the pop culture thing first since I do have some experience in that arena. Since as a group, we post videos a lot, it makes it difficult to do our hobby if we are always looking over our shoulder, afraid that the music video we posted hyping a new band, or the snippet of a movie shown on an entertainment program would end up killing our blog without due process or a chance to remedy the situation after being notified. In fact, you could be entirely innocent and have your blog become inaccessible because someone else on the same server is breaking copyright and because you share the same bit of webspace, you are punished. If for example, this blog was on the same server as a blog that featured a video where someone was discussing and showing clips from a Hollywood blockbuster, we could both be tarred with the same brush because we are sharing the same service.

Which, when you think about it, sort of sounds like what the RIAA did to a lot of people in their earlier battle against people for file sharing. They used dubious methods using IP addresses to try to coerce people into paying outrageous settlements when they had no case.

And with political blogs, think about how much footage of candidates and political stories appear on one of the major cable and radio news networks. Let's say you had a site or blog which was critical of one or more of these networks and you used footage from one of them to demonstrate your point as part of your rights under fair use in criticism and commentary. In the post-SOPA/PIPA world, the network in question could have your site taken down without going through legal channels and without you having the ability to defend yourself.

If you think what I am saying is far fetched, I need only mention the fact that last month the Universal Music Group had videos supporting Megaupload taken down when they had absolutely no legal right to demand that since they owned absolutely none of the content. And that was before they had the power granted to them by those two bills.

I've had my site scraped and had my content stolen by spamblogs many times in the past, so I know it sucks to have your intellectual property stolen. But these bills aren't the solution to that.

As Clay Shirky from The Guardian has noted, they will have the effect of forcing sites worldwide to be far more invasive than they currently are to protect themselves from being blacklisted.

SOPA and PIPA are bad for almost everyone and it is my hope that the mounting public pressure against them will kill them both.


Lee said...

Here, here.

Ben said...

How are you, old friend? My blog, like the phoenix, has risen from the ashes. I hope you'll consider stopping by again.

SOPA and PIPA are dead in the water, but your fears are spot on. Fortunately, politicians realized voter backlash far outweighed lobbyist dollars, so at least for now it is shelved. We'll see if it rears it's ugly head again once public furor dies down.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

Well said. I firmly believe in 'FAIR USE'. My blog doesn't steel content, it enhances content. The videos and movie clips and artwork that I post only brings attention to those creative people and ATTENTION is the name of the Internet game. I am glad to see that this legislation is dying on the vine as it should. It was a lazy, evil way to control content.