Recently, many people have been made aware of a new bill that has been submitted called SOPA which allows the Government to shut down sites that either assist in providing or provide illegal goods and services. Many sites like Google and Wikipedia have worked hard to let people know about SOPA and their concerns about what damage it can do to the wonderful web that we know today. These events have prompted some thoughts I’d like to share.
What is truly illegal on the internet? It seems to me that the overall progression of the internet into our society has grown so quickly that our government has not had time to adapt and build laws to protect and secure our ideas and expressions. You might call the internet the “new wild west”, a place where laws apply lightly and what you produce you have to fight fiercely to protect. Much of what the internet allows us to do today bypasses the outdated copyright laws that exist. In fact many people who use the internet don’t fully understand copyright laws sufficiently and to be honest I too don’t understand copy rights laws to the fullest extent. But what I do understand leads me to believe that in order for our ideas and inventions to be protected we must seek a change in the way we access and share content on the internet.
Living on campus during my first year of college I am surprised at how much online piracy actually exists. Spending much of my time trying to understand the intricacies of the world-wide web my impression originally was that much of the illegal doings were mainly committed by torrenters or music crackers, not the kind of people I typically spent time with in the past. However, I see now that it is a common practice to commit piracy online by many of my fellow classmates. Many students (that I will not name) on a regular basis use the web to download or view illegally obtained video or music. The majority being the latter but in both cases the amount of pirate activity seems to have increased in the last few years possibly due to the popular rise of sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Many people love the ability to view and access the content that isn’t normally available to them through legal means. This is particularly true for us poor college students who are looking for some cheap entertainment. Regardless of the reason, we need to realize what kind of damage these actions are causing to our online future.
For example, my favorite band, the David Crowder Band has been a part of my music collection for many years. I love to listen to their music and I am always excited to hear new and interesting genres that my friends and family want to share. The more common practice of going online and downloading albums illegally is causing some serious problems for artists and record companies. The problem I have with today’s methods is that the acquiring of content in this illegal way screws over the artist or author of that content. If I want the new David Crowder Band album, I’m not going to download it illegally. Why? Because when I acquire that content illegally, David Crowder Band gets no revenue from their hard work and talent. If I truly like their music, then the right thing for me to do is to support them so that they can continue providing me with more valuable content. Buying what we want is how our economy works; supply and demand. But if we undermine the profit gained from the demand, then this will most likely impact the supply.
Enough of my ranting. Please take a moment and think about how you acquire your content and then think about the people who work hard and spend time and money to bring that content to you. We need to think more about these things otherwise proposals like SOPA are going to change our lives in ways we won’t like. If we take the initiative and educate ourselves about piracy and the way we share content, terrible proposals like SOPA will not need to be written. Clearly I do not support SOPA, but I do see where it’s coming from. Eventually we will need better and improved laws that protect our work online. SOPA may not be the answer but we need to start thinking about what the answer should be in order to fix the problem properly.
If you’re having trouble understanding SOPA or have not heard anything about it before, take a look at Khan Academy’s explanation to further understand how impactful it truly is…