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It’s Not A Big Truck

Internet freedom comes under fire

Published: Thursday, November 17, 2011

Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11


            In 1982, the movie industry was in an uproar. The VCR had just begun its rise to video supremacy, and viewers had a unique ability never before held by the general public. With tapes, they could copy the tape many times over and make bootlegs for friends and relatives.

            Hollywood was furious. They made numerous futile attempts to ban the medium, until they began using VCR to their advantage.

            Nearly 30 years later, the same story is beginning to unfold again like a terrible movie sequel.

            A bill is making its way through congress that will put Internet copyright laws on more steroids than Barry Bonds' ass. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was originally designed to enhance a piece of legislation from the Senate. Instead of fixing it, however, it made itself into a Frankenstein's monster of copyright.

            Proponents, reflecting legislators' highest standards of remaining unbiased, have dubbed the law the "E-PARASITE act." It allows the Justice Department to seek out so-called "parasite" foreign websites, a la The Pirate Bay and cut its funding.

            Once the Attorney General determines the site, or a portion of the site, is committing or "facilitating" certain copyright and trademark violations, they would be able to get a court order. Then, they would have the ability to force Internet service providers and search engines to block the websites.

            On top of all that, SOPA will make it a full-fledged felony to stream copyrighted material. Legislators say it won't be used in minor offenses like putting music in the background of a YouTube video, but the language seems to indicate that as long as the use had a retail value over $1,000, prosecution is possible.

            Defendants would have to prove they reasonably believed their content was legal to defend against the charges. Apparently legislators have forgotten about the whole "innocent until proven guilty" thing.

            Hollywood wants us to believe they're in a hard place, but let's be realistic. Since the proliferation of the Internet, box office sales have gone up consistently, with the extremely minor drops well balanced by the increases.

            Maybe the general viewing community would be more excited about Hollywood releases if they weren't all remakes or bad sequels.

            Entertainment industries have continually failed to look at their own practices to explain why they are struggling, and have tried to use copyright infringement as a scapegoat. The music industry will continue to lose revenue, even if the law is passed and copyright stops because people have a way to download the songs they like, and not the whole album.

            That's a drop from $12 or so for an album, to $0.99 for the only song you like. The math is pretty obvious; the music industry is changing.

            Copyright infringement is not right, but this law not only fails to combat the problems that really plague the creative industries, but also opens the door for censorship on a large scale.

            Through vague language and increases in power, congress is seeking to give one man the ability to ban websites based on technology he or she might not fully understand.

            It threatens people who generate good legal content, and has draconian punishments that harm consumers, not help them.

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