So if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you've seen me post a few times in the last couple of weeks or so in opposition to the House Bill called Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate Bill called Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). Both are financed by the movie, music and Big Pharmacy industries, and both threaten to destroy the Internet as we know it. In no uncertain terms, if either of these are signed into law, the Government will have forced the ability to shut down a site & fine its owner(s) for each IP-infringing instance onto Online Service Providers (OSPs), without any form of due process defined.
The bills shift the enforcement of the law to the OSPs, who are not trained in law enforcement. The way everything is worded, all a claimant (IP owner) would have to do is say that a site is infringing on their copyright or patent, and the ISP would be forced to shut that site down without due process for the owner(s) of the site! In other words, no more YouTube, Facebook, or any other sites in which music videos can be shared or embedded by the average person.
Regardless of the fact that the Internet is PUBLIC DOMAIN, and that once something is put into the PUBLIC DOMAIN, it is PUBLIC PROPERTY owned by no one, the MPAA, RIAA and Big Pharma feel the only way to stop piracy is to destroy the Internet. They have failed with lawsuits against individuals, they have failed to produce what people want, and now their sales are suffering from a dying business model. So, they're desperate and will try anything to save their livelihood.
But what does this mean for Libraries? Well, everything! If the Internet is censored and we haven't been in the fight, what does that say about Libraries, champions of free speech? What if it is ruled by some judge or jury somewhere that Libraries can be considered Internet Service Providers? Does that mean we have to start enforcing the law and approve every activity in which our patrons engage?
Well, for starters, how many of you out there in Libraryland provide Internet access to your patrons? How many of you actually filter or monitor what your patrons are doing? If it were determined that your library's IP address was the destination of some illegally-shared files, guess what? You're liable under these Acts for not stopping the downloads. You're aiding in piracy. You could have your Internet service taken away and face MASSIVE fines. The same would apply if it were discovered that either a patron or an employee were uploading illegally, or had set up a file sharing service through your Internet access. It wouldn't even have to be a library computer -- just about any laptop is capable of functioning as a file and web server. And then, the civil suits will follow.
I say, "No thank you!" I have too many other things to do in my job, than to have to sit an monitor a computer screen that tells me no one is doing anything or visiting a site with illegal material on it. As a consumer, I say, "HELL no!" If I can't buy a copy of a song at a reasonable price AND enjoy it the way I want to, then I don't want to do business with you. I want to download a song and be able to burn it to a custom mix on a CD to listen to in my car. Let's face it: you producers can't make a CD with one great song and ten other, crappy songs and continue to stay in business. I want to be able to make a copy of a movie DVD to prepare for the inevitable demise of the purchased copy. I can't afford to buy a new copy of everything I use every time one goes bad! Let me buy what I want to buy, and then use it the way I want. I'm one of those you will punish unintentionally, because I would never share any media over the Internet with anyone. You were never able to stop "illegal" cassette dubs, and you will never be able to stop illegal file sharing. The Internet and its users are bigger than you. Whatever happened to "fair use?"
As a rational believer in a free market system, I'd like to say also to the financiers of the bills: If you can't adapt to change and overcome your close-mindedness and other difficulties, then it's time for you to close up shop and let the next generation of content providers take over. Authors, unite under the banner of self-published! Hollywood -- the Indies are HERE, and more and more folks will get better at special effects. Just look at what's happening on YouTube! With the advent of cheap HD video-capable cameras & even smart phones, your days became numbered under your current business model. Musicians, follow Radiohead's example of pay-what-you-think-it's-worth if you are brave enough to see how good you really are. I'd bet we'd see a lot more musicians out there writing their own stuff, instead of these wannabes that perform the scripts the RIAA hand out!
The ISPs are not all against these issues either, though you'd think they would be. Having to police users' use of their services means increased costs, which of course would be passed on to the subscriber. GoDaddy.com, probably the largest domain registrar in the world with over 50 million domains, originally supported SOPA. This prompted a massive protest and call to action by GoDaddy customers, making Thursday, December 29th the day to boycott GoDaddy by moving their domains to another registrar. GoDaddy has since changed its stance, but it appears the boycott will happen anyway.
And of course, other providers are looking to cash in on this protest by offering deals and ramping up advertising campaigns. I personally administer accounts at 1and1.com, and got an email from them this morning that clarifies their stance on SOPA/PIPA and takes a not-so-subtle jab at GoDaddy.com:
You may have heard about Protect-IP (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act
(SOPA) currently under consideration in Congress. If passed, among other
things, SOPA requires Web hosting companies like 1&1 to police websites in
order to prevent them from communicating copyrighted information on the
internet. We would like to make sure you are aware of 1&1’s official
position on SOPA.
As a global provider of domains and hosting services, we oppose the Stop
Online Piracy Act (SOPA) or Protect-IP (PIPA) Acts currently under
consideration. While we observe the concerns of those who are troubled by
the potential impact on protecting intellectual property online, 1&1 feels
there is an urgent need to strike a balance between dissemination of and
access to information and protection against its illegal use within the
The US government is currently reviewing SOPA and PIPA as possible ways to
prevent unlawful distribution of copyrighted materials available on the
internet. These current proposals, if passed, would allow for significant
interventions into the technological and economical basis of the internet.
This could put the vast benefits and economic opportunities of entirely
legal and legitimate e-business models at risk. Generally, companies
offering technological services should not be forced to be the executor of
authority in such matters. If they were to act upon every implication of
content infringement without any judicial research into the actual usage of
its customers, the integrity behind their customer’s freedom of
information and speech would be enormously harmed.
1&1 Internet, Inc. has worked through associations and with related
companies to ensure that these aspects are taken into account. Thus, we
welcome the serious consideration by the US Congress of the potential
harmful effects on Internet freedom should SOPA and / or PIPA be passed as
law, and hope the stability of the Internet’s domain name system (DNS)
We encourage every Internet user concerned about these plans to contribute
to the debate and to raise their voice with their local representatives in
the House or Senate. One way to express your concerns could be to use one
of the websites that emerged to protect user interests in the current
legislative debate, such as http://fightforthefuture.org/.
At 1&1 we support you, our customer, and an open internet. If you find that
you are supporting a company that encourages SOPA and wish to drop them as
a provider, please follow the simple instructions contained on the website
Thank you for being one of our extremely valued customers, and for taking
the time to read this.
General Manager 1&1 Internet Inc.
I am happy that 1and1.com feel this way about SOPA & PIPA, and because of that I will continue to be their customer.
Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist and recent contributor to Business Insider, had this to say in his article:
The bottom line is that DMCA works. Its safe harbors have allowed the Internet to become the US's most important new industry in a century and an a critical job creator. If we need to amend the DMCA, let's do it with a negotiation between the interested parties, not with a bill written by the content industry's lobbyists and jammed through congress on a fast track. [emphasis mine]
You may want to take some action yourselves. I totally understand this, and once I got this email I immediately emailed my Congressmen. You can do the same, and the more voices they hear from their constituents, the less they will listen to the money coming in from the movie, recording & pharmaceuticals industries. It's an election year -- they WILL listen more closely to voters!
Contact your Representative through the House of Representatives' online form, which will help you ID your Representative. Alternatively, you can call the House switchboard at (202) 224-3121 (TTY at (202) 225-1904).
The Senate form isn't quite as pretty and easy to use as the Reps' form, but you can still select your Senator easily enough. This form, once you select your Senator, also gives their direct phone line so you can call them.
I urge you all to call and tell them to vote NO on SOPA and PIPA!
'Til next time...