Earlier this week, the people of the internet revolted.
Their homeland was being invaded, and they would not stand for it. But, stand they did. In a spectacular fashion, the many big players in the internet world protested loudly against the new Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, as well as against PIPA (Protect IP Act).
Google “censored” their classic logo on their hompage. Wikipedia “went dark” by leading you to a black page with information about SOPA, PIPA and linked to a petition. Reddit.com shut down its user-generated content for the day and linked exclusively to information on the two bills. Tumblr users could select to black out their content for the day.
SOPA was proposed by Lamar Smith, a Republican from Texas, but his party really doesn’t matter. The week began with more proponents of the bill than opposers. The week ended on the opposite foot.
What many feared was that their creativity would be threatened by the new bill. No longer would people be able to make witty GIFs using clips from their favorite shows. If someone drew a black and white illustration, someone else couldn’t use it to add color or a new setting. Content that was considered sharable quickly looked as though it would be covered with a tacky SOPA violation stamp and disappear.
But, this article from the New York Times outlines how there were, and are, really two opposition camps. One group simply wants to continue progressing creatively and uniquely through the free internet. The other group fears they will no longer be able to just type “Song title mediafire” into Google and download any song, video or show at their whimsy.
Blogs were threatened in all of this. Content-sharing was threatened. The ebb and flow of inspired work on the internet was threatened. Some people, myself included, are not the greatest at hand -drawing things. Which, unfortunately, stifles a lot of creativity I have locked up in my head. So, if I have an idea for something that has multiple pictures layered upon one another, and I change the colors around and do not use them for monetary gain, that should be legal, right?
It used to be that simple. It still is, for now. While I acknowledge that online piracy is stealing, I am plenty guilty of streaming the shows I watch because I had to miss them airing. Now, I could wait up to a week for some of them to show up legally on the website and struggle through the commercials that the media company has selectively chosen for me, just in time to miss this week’s episode as well; or, I could do a quick search and watch the show right when I get 43 minutes of free time.
We’re talking about robbing multi-billion dollar companies here. The media industries are essentially all just 6 companies anymore. Every record label or film studio somehow finds itself woven into the web that is either Disney, GE, Viacom, Time Warner, CBS and News Corp.
So are internet pirates the modern-day Robin Hoods? I think that’s valid. College students and high school students and various other people in society can’t afford to own the entire Coldplay discography. But they can download it free in an hour tops. Plus, it costs musicians nothing to produce. Time is about all it takes. They were happy playing the music in a smoky, dimly lit bar for tips, so why should it matter that people worldwide are enjoying the music and they’re still making more than most of us could even dream of? Don’t they choose their career out of love? Neither the music or the entertainment industry is easy to break into. Making it big is just a chance thing, so if they have to sacrifice the 7 billion dollar house they have that is built on the sprawling property that could hold a whole suburb, I’m not going to feel so terrible.
I say, let the internet reign free. No, I don’t think people should claim work as their own if it’s not, that’s basic copyright infringement. And you can’t download a yacht or a big screen from the internet just yet. Until that day, I don’t think “illegal” downloads people are making from the internet are causing enough damage to put a stop to. The government has better things to worry about.