by Ginnie Seger
I remember sitting on the scratchy carpet, staring at the radio, waiting. What was I waiting for? The perfect song to complete my mixed tape. In order to record a song, I would wait patiently through advertisements, listener’s phone calls, and DJ announcements and at the right moment hit record button. Listening to this story now, you would have the sense that I am telling a story from a time long past and to a certain extent you’d be right but the issues of copyright infringement and piracy rage on.
SOPA and PIPA
The Stop Online Piracy Act, or as it is commonly known SOPA, and the Protect IP Act or PIPA, are both fighting to protect copyright. Both of these bills want to raise the stakes for people who violate copyright law, and eventually make the risk of violating law so great, that people abandon these businesses altogether. The way they would do this? They would identify sites that violate copyright and remove them from the Domain Name System or DNS, which essentially translates names like wordpress.com into code that machines read or their IP addresses. So would you still be able to access sites that violate copyright? Yes, if you typed in their IP address, but this will greatly reduce their accessibility. However, would this stop copyright infringement? Probably not.
Thus, begins the government and the internet’s game of Whack-A-Mole. The government has already seized domain names through Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE, under their Operation in Our Sites program. ICE has seized hundreds of websites, (many operating outside the U.S.) for selling counterfeit sports apparel, and streaming television shows and sporting events. If you try to access these sites a banner featuring the seal for ICE appears and informs you of the domain name seizure. The problem with these seizures is that they hardly last long, a simple Google search of most of these seized sites direct you to another version of these sites oftentimes using a new domain such as .WS or .ME or some domain name associated with a country code such as .EU, which falls out of the jurisdiction of ICE. With countless time and resources aimed toward ending copyright infringement, it leaves me wondering if it is worth the effort?
A Global Sharing Culture
Making my perfect mix tape was actually considered legal under the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992, as long as I didn’t try to make a profit or mass-produce the tape. Yet, the internet has changed all of this. It provides a platform for sharing globally. This sense of a sharing culture has taken off, tremendously. Platforms such as Wikipedia, Twitter, and Tumblr all exist on the ethos of sharing. Measures like SOPA and PIPA try to reverse this trend, but the historical outpouring of support against these measures demonstrates how this sharing culture has real clout.
SOPA and PIPA are on hold for now. So has the Internet won? That answer remains to be seen. This week, former U.S. senator and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Chairman Chris Dodd told FOX News: “Those who count on quote ‘Hollywood’ for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who’s going to stand up for them when their job is at stake. Don’t ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don’t pay any attention to me when my job is at stake.” I think in the game of whack-a-mole against the internet, the stakes have just been raised.
(The photo is by Phillip Stearns of Brooklyn, New York via Flickr using a Creative Commons license.)