I could have joined other websites in “going dark” today. WordPress made it very easy for us, as you can tell by the “ribbon” I have up on the site. Wikipedia, the WordPress frontpage, and many other sites are “dark” in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act. BW Media Spotlight could have joined in and The Clutter Reports, my other site, has done so, although I could use some extra readers over there. However, this site has always been about my opinions, although that’s usually me making some comment about what the comic industry, Hollywood, and other media creators are cranking out. I tend to stay out of politics. For this protest, instead of screwing with my usual schedule I’m going to postpone the daily comic review and go into my opinion on SOPA. Besides, the protest is missing one element of its “marketing”, the fact that the internet could end up looking like this if sites are blocked. I haven’t really followed its sister act, the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and it doesn’t seem to be getting the same coverage. I think it’s just the Senate version of the bill, but both titles are wrong.

As a would-be creator I do see the point of SOPA’s defenders. There is a lot of trouble with piracy or people who just don’t give a fig about anyone’s ownership of the material. They want everything for free and frag you if you think you deserve to make money back on your investment and hard work. I know I’d hate people to steal Jake & Leon for their own purposes (not that anyone would, really, have you read the strip? (PS please read my strip)) and screw me over. These people work on these shows, comics, games, and music, putting a lot of work into it and a lot of their own money. If they don’t make money back they will stop making or distributing it. BanDai is shutting down North American distribution because people get their anime illegally (and even think fansubs are better–for some reason) so they lose money trying to distribute it locally. Why bother? Why bother making content except for fun, and that’s never going to be as good or come out as often as the stuff that has a decent budget behind it.

That said, SOPA isn’t the way to go about it. It’s the wording that has people, mostly reviewers in both video and text form, upset. This isn’t going to stop sites like The Pirate Bay from streaming or torrenting illegal material. There are already ways around what SOPA is going to do. Here’s basically how it’s going to work:

  1. Company sees material that it owns the rights to.
  2. Company complains to a judge.
  3. Judge orders the offending site’s IP address blocked. Now nobody can find the site (unless they have a workaround plug-in for their browser or know the right code to reach the site directly.
  4. Sites like Reviewers Unknown or BW Media Spotlight will now have no visitor, and no income. We don’t stream full episodes, only reviews. (In my case, there’s the Saturday Night Showcase, but my stuff either comes from Hulu or similar legal postings so long as it is available that way. I don’t post stuff that is available otherwise, and even then I post one or two episodes or do a video review to encourage you to track down the full series.)
  5. Company creates a blacklist and encourages internet service providers to block it without using the judge as a middleman.
  6. The blacklisted/blocked sites have little in the way of legal recourse and may go out of business even if they are within the rights of current “fair use” laws or to plead their case to the judge.

The way it’s worded is the biggest problem. It talks about “foreign” sites being blocked but a number of “local” sites are hosted on foreign servers or mirrored for international viewing. As the reddit blog noted:

The concept of ‘domestic’ versus ‘foreign’ on the internet is complex. For example, reddit’s primary servers are located in Virginia, however we have domain names through foreign registrars (redd.it, reddit.co.uk). The site is hosted via a third-party content-delivery network (Akamai). This means that if you connect to reddit from a foreign country, you are likely connecting to an Akamai server not located in the U.S. This legislation naively ignores this complexity, and simply labels a site ‘foreign’ or ‘domestic’ based solely on the domain name.

The legislators sponsoring these bills have indicated that they are only targeted at truly foreign sites. However, the language is so loose and ignorant of what is truly a foreign site that there is a huge amount of room to argue what is actually “foreign”.

And if you think there won’t be abuse by the movie and music studios, you don’t understand them very well. Under current laws an intellectual property owner can already call for a site to take down certain content. I’ve noted in a previous article that this can be done lazily with no thought to how the property is used. A tribute to a loved one or fanvideo is treated the same as a full episode or unapproved song posting, and while they are within their rights it seems a bit harsh, especially the tributes or reviews that only use clips as part of that review. Now imagine if any site that used a clip or full episode, whether they were aware of the misuse or not, or even if the company called misuse (as the producers of The Room, a rather infamous Tommy Wiseau film, did to reviewers at That Guy With The Glasses) the judge ordered the site blocked, without warning or time for the the site to plead their case. Said site will go through a lot of legal matters, often pricey, in order to restore their income source. Remember, Fawcett Publications WON their lawsuit from National Publications/DC Comics when the latter sued over Captain Marvel allegedly being too close to Superman in concept. Fawcett eventually shut down due to legal fees and an inability to update to changes in the market.

Heck, pro-abortion groups tried to use an anti-rackettering law called RICO against abortion protestors. That’s abuse of a law that was used in a way not intended. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last time. This is just the example that came to me at the moment. The way the SOPA law is worded it’s very easy to misuse this law on everything from reviews you don’t like to someone setting pictures of their new baby to a copyrighted song owned by a company who doesn’t care how you use it, just whether or not they’re getting paid. And some guys will actually go to stores and insist that if you play a certain song over the loudspeakers that person X deserves compensation, sometimes in violation of current laws or fees said store already pays.

Opponents of the Stop Online Piracy Act (except for any actual pirates who can’t come up with a workaround) aren’t against the GOAL of the bill, but the METHOD used to achieve that goal. I encourage everyone to look further into this act. Right now, the originator has shown that he doesn’t care what legit internet creators want (he may well be in the pocket of the studios who are TOO gung ho about this) and will still try to push this bill out of committee regardless of what HONEST uses of the internet want. You know, the people who elect these officials to do what THE PEOPLE want, not people in Hollywood.

If I haven’t convinced you, read this article and the ones I’m linking to below. This is why BW hasn’t gone dark like other sites (even though The Clutter Reports has), to explain why the protest is happening in the first place and link to sites who can go into greater detail. If this ever does get out of committee, please contact your congressman and women and tell them that this bill will stifle free speech while doing nothing to stop internet piracy. If your Representative or Senator is on a committee that is voting on SOPA/Protect IP, then call them now and tell them that this bill must not pass. Otherwise, you may lose access to perfectly good sites thanks to a few vigilantes and free speech on the internet will be in serious trouble. If you opposed the “Fairness Doctrine” on radio, you need to oppose this as well. the same result will occur, with people afraid to use the internet and the stifling of free speech, regardless of what Congress intends for it to do.

About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

One response »

  1. […] fair use. Ask let’s players what they’ve dealt with from Nintendo. Article 13 is like SOPA. They may (or allege to) have good intentions but the end result will hurt smaller creators while […]


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