Dress Down Friday,  Intellectual Property Law

Why I hope there’s a SOPA v2

This is a cross-post from America: Chris Rae’s blog

The purpose of having a blog, as we all know, is to complain about stuff in an acerbic fashion without proposing solutions. Today, we’re going to talk about SOPA. SOPA, as we all know, is a bill going through the the House of Representatives in the United States right now. It is intended to stop online plagiarism of intellectual property of various sorts, and proposes implementing this by allowing the police to delete Wikipedia, shoot internet service providers on sight, and detain potential suspects without trial indefinitely. No, wait, that was something else. Well, you get the general idea. It’s not a very well thought-through bill and I hope it fails.

SOPA inspires me to become grumpy about two things. Firstly, I’ve heard several times that this bill is being forced through by the film industry, who are incapable of waking up to a reality of digital distribution. And, of course, Viacom, Warner Brothers et cetera are all supporters of SOPA. It’s certainly true that these companies stand to make money if SOPA passes. But the list of companies that oppose SOPA isn’t a list of companies that have the best interests of the glorious internet close to their cute little altruistic hearts. It’s just an equivalent list of organisations that will lose money if this passes. It’s the companies who’ll have to spend a ton of money vetting user content, screening their output and adding infrastructure for reporting and monitoring. Facebook, Microsoft, Google, et al. The fact that some of these companies had the muscle to black out a chunk of the internet on January 18th is something of a confusing message, but I think we should disregard the corporate sponsors on either side and think about the bill itself.

The second thing I’m grumpy about is the fact that there’s far too much online piracy, and the death of this bill will probably mean the continuation of that. People justify ripping off films, music and software because they’re just taking it from a big company and they’re all bastards anyway. And I can see why that justification is socially acceptable most of the time. But this rampant stealing from “the man” has left people my age with a similar disdain for intellectual property rights in general. How many of us have needed a picture of two rabbits having sex for a work presentation, Googled “rabbits having sex”,taken the first image and stuck it in the presentation? Sure, it probably belonged to someone and they had some blah on their site about attribution but it’s only a presentation and, hey, they put it on the internet for heaven’s sake, what do they expect? My generation is habitually stealing this sort of content with only the merest hint of shame.

What I only really realised this week is that people younger than me are doing this with no idea that it could actually be wrong.

You can read the rest of Chris’s post here.

And, as it’s Friday, you might like to have a go at this quiz about Britain too.

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