Why PIPA and SOPA have to go
By Ernest Barteldes
For the last few days, I have been following the news on of the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) bills supported by the entertainment industry that would force Internet suppliers and website owners like Google or Wikipedia to filter out foreign (or American) sites that infringed copyright laws – like, say, an independent musician singing a Beatles tune on Youtube.
Sure, the bills – at least in principle – have noble intentions: to protect moviemakers, songwriters and other creative individuals from having their work stolen and misused online. But given the breadth of the bills, the law would ultimately create censorship on the Internet for countless Americans and potentially for those abroad.
Say, for example, that I posted a video of my band playing “The Girl From Ipanema.” Just the presence of that clip would allow BMI (which administers Jobim’s music in the US) to not only remove the clip but shut down the entire website that broadcast the video in the first place. Such a move would make online phenomena like Justin Bieber never to be noticed (he was discovered after posting clips of himself doing covers of Beatles songs).
The bills would also force the sites to become an ‘online police’ that would filter unauthorized content. Now let’s say that Brazil’s O Globo is doing a live feed of Carnaval in Rio via its site – this could be interpreted as illegal by the international filters and then millions would be unable to see the parades online because the content is likely to lack some kind of Internet license.
Another example: Let’s say that WIkileaks has unearthed more secret documents that expose the American government. The site could be blocked to American viewers due to that (some argue that the legislation pieces were created as an attempt to deflate whistleblowers like Julian Sage).
A few years ago, the American press was very critical of the Chinese government because of agreements made with countless search engines (Including Yahoo) that block what they consider ‘subversive’ content. However, that is indirectly what SOPA and PIPA propose – to censor the Internet should the content be objectionable to a handful of executives with a lot of money.
SOPA and PIPA are just wrong. Sure, we need to bring internet piracy down, but this is simply not the way to go. I urge all to write to their representatives in both houses of Congress so they will withdraw support – as many of already have – from these dreaded pieces of legislation.