Copyright VS. Downloading
Over the past little while we've been bombarded with massive amounts of information about SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and other bills such as PIPA, OPEN and in Canada, Bill C-11. It is no surprise that there is a major divide between those who are for and against these bills. For artists it would mean the best protection for their original works. But for consumers it would most likely mean "fair use," downloading and access to many websites would be abolished.
To understand this issue one needs to dial back the clock a bit to the late 1990s. at that time the first well known file sharing program became a reality, that of Napster. Created by Shawn fanning Napster allowed users around the world to share files. Unfortunately the files shared by most were films, music, software almost all of which was under copyright. It wasn't long before Napster had millions of users and after a lengthy lawsuit it was forced to shutdown.
I will say this for Napster. They committed no crime. They simply provided a platform that allowed users to share files. They hosted no illegal downloads for people to download. Users could have just as easily been sharing their own works but they didn't therefore every user was violating copyright not Napster. But it was simply easier to sue Napster instead of launching twenty million lawsuits against it's users. So Napster was reorganized into a legal downloading service but became a shadow of it's former self.
After that point a long line of many different file sharing services appeared from Kazaa to Emule and then eventually came torrent sites which again didn't have illegal files on their servers but simply provided a means by which individuals could share files. Now SOPA, PIPA, C-11 and other bills seek to target these sites but they also in the process threaten sites like Google, YouTube, Wikipedia and a huge lineup of other incredible sites.
Why? With the new laws it would be illegal for any website to link to a website that has links to illegal downloads. I know many are saying, "Well then don't link to illegal download sites.:" But it isn't that simple. Sites like Google which is a search engine has millions and millions of links all across the Internet. How could any company ever be sure that not a single site that they are connected to has no link to an illegal download. Also the Internet changes on a daily, hourly, by the minute/second pace. People continue updating their sites, new sites are added at a speed that boggles the mind. Why should websites, honest businesses be forced to shutdown because they are criminalized for what isn't even on their own website?
It would mean the end of YouTube. Which I might add generates millions of dollars in revenue for it's users. Those being paid create their own content and this is their livelihood. It would mean the end of Wikipedia which has lasted for the past decade, this online encyclopedia bring free knowledge to the world I use this site on almost a daily basis for research as do hundreds of millions around the globe. It would mean the end of Google which has jumped from being just another search engine to creating operating systems for mobile devices, their own payment gateway, and a long list of other projects.
If you think it would stop there think again, these sites are some of the larger sites but it would simply filter down through millions of websites as hosted sites become flooded with unreliable claims of infringement and effectively shutting down sites. The entire massive ecosystem of the Internet would degrade and evaporate. We will have allowed corporations and politicians to wipe the Internet clean. Maybe then they could start anew each cutting the remaining network like pieces of a pie and sell it off to the highest bidders. Will we honestly allow them to do this?
As an artist who creates not just written works and poetry but music, sculpture, paintings, films, cartoons and many other things I can honestly say I made my peace with the reality of downloading. This is something that is and will always be. For all artists I would say there needs to be a new way for them to make money from their craft other than simply selling physical copies. But leave the Internet alone. It is one of the few neutral places we have left where democracy rules. The Internet belongs to all of us and not just a handful of greedy companies.
Let me know your opinions on this either for or against I always listen.
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