I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but the Internet has been, from the very beginning, this thing we use to store and access documents. It didn’t take us long to figure out how to add pictures to those documents, and then we started experimenting with other media, like awful MIDI songs. So the Internet has always been a little squirrelly when it comes to “intellectual property” and copylaw.
I certainly hope you’ve already heard of the Stop Online Piracy Act, which was drafted by a congressman from Texas named Lamar Smith. Lawmakers are trying to enact SOPA here in the U.S.; this is terrifying.
Like, maybe you guys don’t love video “supercuts” as much as I do; that’s fine. But you do want me to post leaked song tracks, right?
Because that’s how the economy of information works: I don’t leak it, but I might post a link to it. That video, up at the top? I “embedded” it in the page, which means it is streaming from someplace else, but by golly, you have the freedom to watch it right here. Yeah, in a way, I filched a video. I pilfer constantly and merrily. But if I get a DMCA threat—hell, if I so much as get an angry email—that link or media comes down. I mean, most little celebrity gossip blogs are trying to operate within the confines of lawfulness. We, uh, like existing.
What I’m saying is, I’m innocent! I should not have to worry about going to prison for five years every time I post somebody else’s YouTube clip.
The above Daily Show clip is horrifying, by the way. Aaauuuugh! The way Jon Stewart just drops his MacBook Air! On the desk! Auuuuuugh!
The clip is horrifying for other reasons, though. It’s basically just a supercut, in fact, of U.S. congressmen, one after another, shrugging helplessly and going, “Well, I’m no nerd.”
“Really?” Stewart asks the camera. “Nerds? You know, I think actually the word you’re looking for is ‘experts.'”
Stewart is right to worry that U.S. lawmakers do not seem to understand how the Internet—or media! Media in general!—works. But in another way, Stewart misses the mark.
Here is an excerpt from an editorial at Mashable:
I had an epiphany today. The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, was not written by people who fundamentally misunderstand how the web works. They understand all too well, and want to change it forever.
Behind the almost unreadable (yet truly scary) text of SOPA (and its Senate doppelganger, PIPA, or the Protect Intellectual Property Act) is a desire, likely fueled by powerful media conglomerate backers, to take us all back to the thin-pipe, content-distribution days of 1994—right before the World Wide Web launched.
[…]Yet the language in SOPA is so irrational that I can only assume that the authors and backers wanted nothing more than to fundamentally change the rules of the web: To shut down the open post fields, kill reposting (goodbye, Tumblr), end shared videos (sorry, YouTube), expand the definition of what it means to infringe (sorry, Twitter, no sharing links that aren’t yours).
When you turn copyright infringement into a felony and say that anyone can accuse a website of providing “infringing” tools (and apply severe penalties whether or not you do something about it), you are essentially making it impossible for anyone to do anything online without fear of retribution.
If SOPA and PIPA pass, they will fundamentally change the type of content and information you are permitted to get at any sort of U.S.-based “entertainment” website—like this one—and that is exactly what SOPA intends.