The internet is a beautiful thing. It amplifies our ability to do that which is most human: connect. We connect with people in our classes, our next-door neighbors and the mailman. The internet allows you to connect with other fans of a South African rap group, debate with Russians if Han Solo shot Greedo first or write a poem for someone studying in Ireland.
The Stop Online Piracy and Protect IP Acts, the bills which failed this month, threatened to taint one of the greatest inventions of the century in their effort to protect against copyright infringement. The heavy-handed legislation, mostly backed by TV and movie companies, would have been a shotgun blast to internet, creating collateral damage. Its general language and legitimization of censorship was astonishing.
Rather than focusing on removing copyrighted material, sites like YouTube and Facebook would be held responsible for user content, resulting in the sites being severely limited or even blocked. This is because the general language of the bills goes after sites that “facilitate” copyright infringement. It would also have allowed litigious plaintiffs to attack the sites without the involvement of the attorney general.
While the bills are dead for now, the issue is not. Protecting copyrights is important. Creating TV shows, music and movies is extremely expensive. And why create anything if it’s going to be stolen? But you can’t protect copyrights like this.
Sites like Google, YouTube and Facebook are not full of criminals making money off copyrighted content. They are full of communities of people spreading the word about “Dexter,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II” and Adele’s new single hit. These sites generate buzz about content.
The real enemies of copyright are sites like The Pirate Bay and MEGAUPLOAD. The latter was recently shut down and its operators arrested. The site was set up to host copyrighted content and charge users to view it. It wasn’t hosting someone’s commentary on the latest episode of “Gossip Girl,” a parody song of “Tik Tok” or a review of “The Phantom Menace.” It was stealing.
Sites like Megaupload are the real enemies of creativity. Bills need to strategically target them rather than nuking the whole internet with the threat of litigation.