Monday, 16 January 2012

SOPA and PIPA: Twins From Hell or Saviours?

If you have been surfing the internet lately, you might have seen various ads and user posts against something called SOPA. Alternatively, if you opened a paper today, you probably would not have seen anything relating to this unless that newspaper was the Toronto Star.

So what the hell is SOPA and it's little sister PIPA anyways? Why is it important to you and I and why do I have to see a million ads against it all over the internet???????

SOPA stands for Stop Online Piracy Act or House Bill 3261, while PIPA stands for the Protect Intellectual Property Act. Both acts inherently strive for the same goal albeit some minor differences in their drafts that make them two separate entities. However, if passed these two bad boys will enable the owners of intellectual property to beef up their arsenals against copyright infringement and piracy and essentially any other act that comes close to mimicking the two regardless of them being either legal or illegal.

To be honest, both acts strive to do something very good in an effort to protect the hard work that individuals have completed in order to create. The biggest winners of these acts will be software developers, the music industry and alternatively the movie industry. These three industries are under constant attack from online pirates who distribute their material at little to not cost and undermine the regular retail value of these items, this inevitably leads to lower profits for the respective industries.

As good as this might sound however, SOPA and PIPA become a nightmare for online entities that maintain forums for users to view online material. The biggest players in these forums would have to easily be both YouTube and Wikipedia. If users upload material that goes against the law and alternatively the acts, the owner(s) of the material in question can demand that both sites not only remove the material, but also remove the users who have posted the material. failure to do so would end up costing said online provider a lot of money in fees and or legal action. This is where the line has to be drawn because both SOPA and PIPA will inevitably make it much more difficult to start up an internet business that allows user input and comment and lets face it...everything on the internet today has become a forum or realm that allows user input or comment.

Furthermore, the government has essentially proposed to force the ban of accounts that are linked to uploading contraband material and closing any accounts that govern their income sources, such as PayPal. What we have here is a scenario, where someone used a cannon to kill a fly. The acts fail horribly not in its intentions, since no one wants to spend all this money creating something only to have it distributed free on the internet without recognition of their work.

In the end, both SOPA and PIPA do nothing to combat actual online piracy as they focus on the distribution of the material in realms governed by the United States and nothing outside of it. This act wants to protect US business and allow profits to attempt to return to their pre-napster days, however the method in which they have chosen to do so will not only increase the costs for many companies due to fines and legal fees, but also operating fees due to the extreme moderation required to ensure no contraband material is uploaded. Censoring the internet in this case will not only have extreme repercussions to it's architecture, but will most likely be turned around and hurt the users who rely on it daily.

Our free and Democratic countries have become so connected to the internet that it has become an essential foundation both in our social, political and business realms. To impose a measure so threatening, so finite and constrictive is to impose something that will strangle the free realm we have all come to rely upon...the very internet itself. Not to mention, censorship of this magnitude is something one would expect from a country like China and we have already seen the kind of resistance that government faces in opposition to it....micro-blogs! :)

So if you have a chance, get involved somehow in the discussion over SOPA, it is inherently an American proposition and will most likely not pass due to the overwhelming opposition to it, but it is still something that greatly affects us all. The internet has given us the ability to connect with individuals around the world and can arguably be termed the last truly free realm we have in our lives, so lets protect this realm and fight the copyright issue properly without all of these kill everything in sight methods.

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