Copyright, censorship and the Internet

Copyright infringement over the Internet is a real problem.  If I was an independent movie maker, struggling to make a living, I wouldn’t want to see free copies of my movie being downloaded without receiving any compensation.  But giving the federal government new powers is not a good solution to this problem.

Congress is considering two bills – the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House of Representatives and the Protect Internet Privacy Act in the Senate – intended to prevent Americans from having access for foreign Internet sites that don’t observe U.S. copyright laws.

The problem with this is that a web site with thousands of pages could lose its domain name if just one of the pages linked to a prohibited site. The entertainment industry has interpreted copyright in an extensive way.  Girl Scouts have been prohibited from singing copyrighted songs around campfires, and home videos of children have been taken down from YouTube because copyrighted music was playing in the background.

The broad provisions of the law would be virtually impossible to comply with, and experience shows that when you have laws that are impossible to obey, they will be enforced selectively.  You can imagine how easy it would be to drum up a copyright infringement issue on a site that links to Wikileaks.

The legislation is supported by the Motion Picture Association of America and Rupert Murdoch, head of Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and other media companies, and opposed by the heads of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, Reddit and other on-line companies and organizations.  Because powerful corporate interests are involved on both sides, and because enforcement of the law could inconvenience middle-class white Americans, it has drawn more controversy than what to me are more serious civil liberties issues.

But given the record of the U.S. government in the past couple of decades, and also given the record of Hollywood and the music industry in enforcing their supposed rights, we Americans should be wary of giving the government new arbitrary powers.  Sometimes it’s better to live with a problem than to do things that will make matters worse.

Click on How PIPA and SOPA Violate White House Principles Supporting Free Speech and Innovation for a report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Click on How SOPA would affect you: FAQ for analysis by Declan McCullough, chief correspondent for CNET.

Click on SOPA and PIPA: Just the Facts and SOPA explained: what it is and why it matters for discussions of the pros and cons of the legislation by writers for PC World and CNNMoneyTech.

The United States government has been critical of foreign governments, such as China and Iran, for blocking their citizens’ access to prohibited knowledge and ideas on the Internet.  Yet these laws would create enforcement machinery identical to those countries, although for a different stated purpose.  It is a big act of faith, requiring ignorance of history, to think this machinery would not be misused.

[Update]  Click on Why we need to stop SOPA and PIPA for the viewpoint of the head of the MIT Media Laboratory.

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2 Responses to “Copyright, censorship and the Internet”

  1. manonmona Says:

    Reblogged this on Espacio de MANON.

    Like

  2. lacasitaprod Says:

    Reblogged this on La casita productions.

    Like

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