Steve, 11:20 am, Wednesday, 18 January, 2012Follow @TheWestLondoner
Ah, SOPA and PIPA (not the one with the overrated buttocks) and OPEN. Stop Online Piracy Act, Protect Intellectual Property Act and… Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (so technically OPEDTA, I always hate those fake-acronyms…)
In principle, a lot of people could probably agree with what these Acts are pretensefully about. Stopping people pirating; from stealing intellectual property. Basically in this digital age it’s to stop the theft of that which is digital? Sounds fair enough right? Wrong.
Ignore the lies of their names, SOPA, PIPA and OPEN (the worst lie of them all) are various drafts for various pieces of American legislation to essentially censor the internet. Big corporations would be able to pick on sites and force them to remove content that they consider to be breaching their intellectual property rights. Talk about a game on an online forum? You bet your biscuit it could. Want to make one of those tacky fan-based videos of your favourite cartoon with some popular song stuck over the song? You monster!
The issue is that anything with user-generated content, or the capacity to be editted by subscribers, so things like Blogs, youtube etc can all be considered potentially aiding piracy. It’s diametrically opposed to the concepts of Web 2.0. Free self-expression, completely hampering innovation.
It would also essentially make intellectual property 1 dimensional. You make something COMPLETELY UNIQUE and you put it out there. If I did videos with screenshots from various games that would be against SOPA, even if all I was doing was trying to promote interest in the game and discuss its strengths. So if the company that made/publish/sold/now owns the rights to/is tangentally related to said game took issue they could have me filtered out. For making a video. My time wasted, my efforts spoiled, and essentially my work considered “not free speech or protected intellectual property”.
Hell, sites like Twitter, Wikipedia, wiki sites in general, Youtube, THIS SITE could all be affected, taken down and destroyed. Brilliant considereing there’s some serious thought being put into whether or not Social Networking Sites can be considered a basic human right.
The Piracy Issue
What annoys me most is that “Apparent Piracy” isn’t always actual piracy. I mean, you might download a song you’ve registered on Itunes but since lost the disc for, and that’s not piracy. You’re merely gaining access to the digital when the physical has failed. Game emulators of Sega Mega-Drive, SNES and N64 aren’t instantly piracy, provided that you have owned a physical copy of the content.
My Sega Megadrive conked out a few years ago. It’s a dead console that’s impossible to get fixed. That means that an entire catalogue of about 50 games are rendered useless to me to play, just because the company that sold me the console isn’t supporting it anymore. However with emulators I can play the games I’ve already paid for and that can no longer be purchased short of ebay for the rest of my life. Seems fair, right? Crack a DVD and download it, same principle. You’ve paid for the content so you own a license to access that content.
The problem is any site that allows completely free and legal download of this content could be considered aiding piracy, and shut down preventing individuals from legitimately accessing content they already own.
Not to mention the technical aspect! They wouldn’t be able to just dissolve these sites, merely censor certain content (or the site as a whole if it’s particularly offensive) meaning that they’ll need complex and diverse censorship techniques, constantly running and scanning and generally intercepting traffic.
Total destruction of a site for a minor transgression would be against free speech, while SOPA can only attack the free speech that’s against them. Here’s a brillaint technical breakdown on reddit (another site that would be censored in the eventuallity). It would cost BILLIONS to make this happen, not to mention the huge cost in upkeep. It will definitely cost far more money than it could ever possibly save.
Hell, these sorts of things can’t be totally automated. Maybe raw content but not after it’s been processed. There would have to be people employed in order to actively censor and monitor the internet. That doesn’t sound 1984 at all…
Not just an issue with US, it’ll affect “us” too!
The more observant of you will notice that it’s “American” legislation, and might be thinking that it’s not going to affect us over here in the UK.
Wrong. America is the largest market for pretty much anything, but the internet THRIVES on the USA and Northern States. Its culture, its consumers, its innovators. Without the States and its powerful financial arm the internet would be a very different place, used more as a business resource than the ultimate open forum for discussion, purely as a global add campaign over a repository for academic pursuits, a place of scrutinising investigation, not inovation.
Obviously people are less than happy by this, and actually while writing this article Wikipedia has blacked out in protest.
Now, ignoring the irony that the “Land of the Free” who’s first ammendmant to their written constitution was “Free Speech” would allow financially powerful companies an element of autocratic fascism over the populace and their opinions as a whole. I’m afraid there’s very little we can do to directly attack this being in the UK. We can’t vote against it or ask our representatives to oppose it, as we have none. It’ll affect us but it’s not going to be decided by us. However not all hope is lost.
What you can do.
Now, The beautiful thing about SOPA (and the others) is they’re ultimately about money. Risk of losses through Piracy, bad press etc. They want to gobble up those few million lost through people “stealing”. I don’t agree that people should be able to pirate so prolifically, but this really is a sledgehammer to a walnut. As long as the internet is free there will always be piracy, so the internet would need to be made not-free to close this gap. The loss is far greater than the gain.
So, what can you do? As a non-American that will be affected by this. Well, as these companies are all so very concerned about their wallets, so much so they’d destroy the internet. They also happen to sell to more places outside North America, often to people like us…
Here’s a list of all the SOPA supporting companies maybe write to them. Say you won’t be buying any more of their product until they change their stance on SOPA. More importantly (and the reason I started writing this article) you might want to check out this video…
Go forth! Go forth and find your favourite gaming sites, your favourite journlists, reviewers, designers, developers, publishers. If they’re supporting SOPA ask them to stop, but more importatly ask them, BEG THEM to
NOT ATTEND E3
Hurt the ESA where it matters. Their popularity, their attendance and most importantly their wallet.If we can get who are apparently the “representatives of the gaming community” to get off of SOPA maybe the argument will have a lot more power. Individually this problem would be insurmountable, but as a community? As a demographic of consumers, voters, indentifiers, contributers. WE HAVE POWER.
SOPA, PIPA and OPEN are all the same virus. Like a virus they squirm and change and evolve, but most dangerously spread. They’re a tenacious and pervasive disease that festers in the hearts of all those consider money and power ultimate. Rather than aid in the fascilitation of self-expression and a potential technical and social renaissance that lies within the capacity of a free and open internet, they’d rather crush this out of their own fear. Fear of us discussing, of us talking, of us learning, of us expressing. Open knowledge is a dangerous thing to them. Please help us stop them and keep the internet free.