Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Speaking out while you can

It is all over the news. It is all over the social media. Although, from Spain I see very little of the "protesting," that has been reported such as the Wikipedia blackout (this links to Wiki's explanation of the blackout and some more info about the whole idea.)  and Google's photo of the day. However, I have read some articles and seen videos explaining the intent of a new bill/resolution introduced to the U.S. Congress. In the house it is commonly referred to as SOPA, or Stop Online Piracy Act; and in the senate the name is so long I will only refer to it by acronym, PROTECT IP.

I am going to try to keep this blog fairly short so if you want a lot of details I would encourage you to look at some of it yourself. Some of what is reported that the bill would do is require all websites such as YouTube, facebook, etc to remove any material that might infringe on any copyrighted material. Those that don't would suffer from fines and penalties. Search engines and advertisements would have to remove all links to infringing websites. And the government would be able to block access to the websites. That sounds like a very dangerous precedent to allow to be set to me--the government being able to block access to any website deemed to be in violation.

I was glad to see an announcement stating that the white house does not support this bill. For once I can agree with them. I know in countries such as China many websites are filtered through the government. For instance, without a special way around their filters Facebook is not available in China. Now, this bill may not exactly let the government pick and choose what sites to filter but it is still a dangerous precedent. What might be next?

At the same time I can somewhat sympathize with the entertainment industry. They spend thousands or millions of dollars to make a movie or an album, only to have it end up on the internet where anyone can download for free. But, if I am a true fan of an artist I am going to want to buy their products to show I am a fan and to support them. Without the sales they may not be around for long. As far as music goes, being able to listen to songs on Youtube or other websites doesn't mean I won't buy a CD, in fact, if it is often why I buy a product. If someone sends me a link to listen to a group and I like it, I might buy a CD. Without Youtube I would probably never have heard of the group. So banning all of this could actually hurt the industry even more. If I can't preview music I won't buy music. I have enough in my collection already and there is always the radio.

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