Why a stance against SOPA and PIPA is important for all Internet Users

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Wikipedia and Reddit were blacked out today in an attempt to highlight to Internet Users - the serious likely impact of this legislation on the basic rights of freedom of the typical netizen.

These 2 new bills - Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) - are in the process of passing through the House of Representatives and the Senate respectively. They would end up giving Copyright Owners way too much power in shutting down and commercially crippling any site/s they choose to target - fairly or unfairly. Copyright Owners already have the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to effect similar actions - in enforcing take-down notices, and there are already numerous cases where the DMCA legislation has been abused - even though it does require a degree of due process.

SOPA and PIPA are far too broad and far reaching in their applications, and would end up a weapon of censorship and restriction - closing down and curtailing the open and organic nature of the Internet. The legislation requires no court order to force a take-down notice, and can be so broadly applied that any vague 3rd party reference to another allegdly suspect site can result in an injunction against the referring party.

The problem with the Internet at large is that so many of the daily services we use are based / legislated from the USA - Google, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia - what with Social Content Contribution - any one of these could easily end up with potentially disputed copyrighted material and be forced to shut down.

UK citizens should be far more worried than most, as has been seen by the recent extradition case of Richard O’Dwyer - a UK citizen who has actually broken no UK or European laws with his UK-based links website - but is still being extradited to the US for summary judgment and punishment.

I’m certainly not a fan of piracy, but totally understand why it happens, and this draconionan legislation will not be the cure. The vast majority of media companies are overly greedy and totally out of touch with reality - and are almost as much a part of the problem as the pirates.

I can buy a pretty decent gaming app on the Apple App Store for just 69 pence - a venture which has taken several months to produce and contains sound and vision, and creative flare, and typically involves a significantly sized project team. Yet for a new sound file - ’single’ I’m expected to pay 99 pence - something that was bashed out in a few days - these price points don’t equate - how can a music single cost more than a team-developed application? Live X-Factor songs were being made available on iTunes the day after the programme for 99 pence each - no discount on buying a bundle; in fact many albums are just priced at the price per single x 10 rate. Buying traditional music, the price of an album used to be the equivalent of a few singles - somewhere along the way, the pricing model has gone askew.

I of course don’t deny anyone the right to a reasonable income, but most forms of digital media have been overpriced for a long time. SOPA and PIPA will allow Copyright Owners to maintain their unreasonably high prices, and will give them an easy route to take down anyone and anything that stands in their way - competitors, not-for-profit services and the like - including essential web resources like Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter and Google.

The CEO of Twitter sounds totally out of his depth, calling this an insignificant single policy of only national importance. The truth is that if this legislation gets through, all Internet Users around the world will suffer - as all the socially connected resources will be affected - the majority of the sites I use on a daily basis stand to be affected by this legislation.

The UK and Europe need to take their own measures in counteracting the potential impact of such legislation. At their heart, these acts strike at everything that is currently good about the Internet. Cinema Box Office was down in 2011 - not really because of the actions of Piracy, but more to do with the poor quality of output. In many ways SOPA and PIPA are a form of protectionism for an industry out of ideas and down on innovation. We cannot allow them to take away our freedoms!

All this reminds me a lot of the ridicilous Privacy Injunctions we had in the UK throughout 2011, as well as the equally ridiculous and seemingly never ending farce which is Patent Trolling. The primary question that has to be asked in each case is "Is this in the Public’s Interest?" - in each of these cases the answer is a resounding NO!

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