Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA: Stop Online Piracy Act

As you have undoubtedly heard by now, many websites on the internet, including Wikipedia, were blacked out today in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). The goal of the bill is to go after pirates distributing copyrighted material, however, the provisions in the bill severely encroach on freedom of speech liberties. Basically, it allows for the censorship of websites and material on the internet.

I'll direct you to a few places to get more information:
Here's a good summary of what's going on with ways on how you can sign up against SOPA:
Here's a great video explanation.
Here's some more information as well.
And here's the Wikipedia article on SOPA and Google's End Piracy, Not Liberty page.

I am opposed to the bill, but as a citizen abroad I'm not sure how well I am represented. Still, it's good to hear that my comrades in the States are also against this and have been calling their representatives to make their voices heard.

If media corporations want to fight piracy, here's what I suggest: provide affordable alternatives worldwide. You remember back in the day when people would download music illegally? Well, if you want some music now, you can use Amazon, iTunes, and a number of other services to get your music legally and reasonably priced. With easy alternatives like that, there's no incentive for average people to resort to piracy.
Ideally, this should also extend worldwide. Our society has become globally connected, we hear about news and events from all over the place and can talk to people across the planet in an instant. Yet it is annoying when I go to Hulu and find out I can't watch some TV episodes because I am in Chile. The reasoning behind this is copyright restrictions on different countries. Perhaps when you start having piracy problems, these corporations should look to the source. I would say the solution is not to tighten your grip and lash out at your consumers, but to explore new ways to release your products.

This is part of some drastic and alarming changes taking place in the US ever since 9/11. It's as if people collectively (or, perhaps more accurately, those in power) are afraid and are happy to give up freedom and basic rights in exchange for a little safety. Remember the days when you didn't have to take of your shoes at the airport to board a flight? It seems to me that rather than 'innocent until proven guilty', we've been changing it to 'assume they're guilty... just in case'.
While this isn't 100% related to SOPA/PIPA, I think all of these things are pointing to a very dark future ahead of the US in terms of civil liberties. I recommend reading 1984 by George Orwell, to see how a heavily censored police state works.

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