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S.O.P.A. THE END OF THE WORLD ·wide web· AS WE KNOW IT?

1Last week on Jan 18th was blackout day for many important websites. It was done in protest to the proposed STOP ONLINE PIRACY ACT that is currently been considered in the USA as new legislation for the Internet. This black out was no ordinary protest, at stake is the very future of the environment of the Web. 

Here are some random comments we can take up in class.

CULTURES V SOCIETIES 

We should understand that the world wide web is primarily a digital culture, and like all cultures that evolve they have different ways of organizing & regulating themselves from the societies they emerge from. Cultures thrive within the confines of beaurocratic societies, when there is a balance between the freedom to express and its restrictions. Culture is an internal force expanding outwards society is an external force contracting inwards. Cultures resist when the restrictive force of society becomes intolerable or unjust. We have seen what happens when overtly controlling societies meet the force of a freedom culture from within. The Arab Spring events are a recent example of this. Neutralize  a naturally forming culture and you have a robotic society, North Korea is an example. Randomly organized cultures came first and then as cultures grow in size and complexity they evolved societies that impose regulations, but only so far. For example we all feel that abiding by road rules benefits everyone who drives a car. However the Information Super Highway is a bit different.

 So first we must understand that in any civilized society legislation is drawn up by governments to protect the rights of individuals, whether it be property, information or safety. Societies work because people follow laws that govern behavior. Cultures, particularly creative cultures work within societies boundaries until they are perceived as preventing creativity. Then there is a war.

COMMUNICATION & CREATIVITY

(SOPA’s) impact while professing to protect copyright (creativity) of intellectual property would totally change the internet as we know it as an environment for innovation & communication. Not only that it would limit the web as an educational medium, as kids would be restricted from making a home made video of themselves singing a pop song and uploading it to You Tube, or making documentaries that collate a wide range of video sources. There are however protocols that have formed in our REMIX online world such as acknowledging the original artist, but then the idea of ORIGINALITY as we have discussed is also a vague notion these days. 

I have posted this series on REMIX CULTURE before, now they are even more relevant. Remixing to create the new has been going on since the dawn of man, and i don’t think SOPA is going to stop it.

EVERYTHING IS A REMIX 1

EVERYTHING IS A REMIX 2

EVERYTHING IS A REMIX 3

MY CURRENT CONCLUSION is that there is more going on with this legislation than meets the eye, it seems to be another case where societies commercial power base is been diluted this time by a (digital online) culture that has up till now, had no means of control placed upon it (except from totalitarian regimes like The Fire Wall of China)  consequently there is a fight for control. The protection of artists copyright property like movies, songs & the live streaming of events exposed to the internet appear to be the issue here, but is it really?

The internet is such a different communications beast, the old measures of control that existed pre WEB simply don’t apply to it, why?  because for one thing the classical distribution system has been destroyed, technology has done that, and you can’t force the gene back down the bottle. 

Here is 2 approches to this issue

1. Ok in the online world some kind of protection is needed for an artists original artifact be it an image, a film, a song, a music score, or a live stream event but until the technology is invented to protect it if it is on the web it will be accessed and consumed. Legislation is not the way to counter this, i say let technology lead the way. Let the big broadcast /media companies invent technologies that prevent the downloading / uploading of content to begin with – electronically seal them somehow so that only people with paid access can connect. Is that so hard to do?

2. Or, do nothing keep the internet as it is, let it grow the way it has been growing, organically, technically culturally and creatively.Have people realize that if you put something online then others are going to connect, consume & create with it. Maybe the whole content of the internet is a collective commons that teaches us all about the real sharing of something truly amazing. Value of online content is not done financially but simply by peer to peer acknowledgment , the way Twitter works, and then leave the off line world to commerce. But i don’t think so, no that would be too much to ask. 

I look forwards to hearing from you in class.

OK here’s some more background.

Familiarize yourselves with what’s going on with this and we will take a closer look in class. The USA companies for SOPA are listed here they have their point of view which needs to be acknowledged.

A media report on the 18th Jan.

  • Web Goes on Strike: Largest Online Protest in History, precipitated by reddit.com, wikipedia and grassroots groups:
  • SOPA Strike Protest Happensbeurocracy
    • Largest online protest of all time
  • More than 1 billion people saw anti-SOPA messages on January 18
  • 4 top-10, 13 top-100 US sites, 115,000 small and medium sites participated in strike, 50,000 blacked out all or part of site (WordPress network: 27,000 blackout and 17,000 ribbons)
  • Participant list
  • Largest participants include:
    • Google
    • Reddit
    • Craigslist
    • Wikipedia
    • WordPress
    • Imgur, Pinterest, Flickr, Amazon
  • 10 million petition signers, 3 million emails, 100,000+ calls and 8 million Wikipedia call lookups to Congress opposing PIPA
  • 3 million+ tweets mentioning “SOPA”, “PIPA”, “sopastrike”, “blackoutSOPA”, “stopSOPA”
  • Top 10 trending search terms on google: “sopa and pipa bills”, “piracy”, “censorship”, “blackout”
  • Thousands protest outside senators’ offices in NYC, SF, Seattle, DC
    • Gallery of blacked-out sites and other actions here soon.
  • Senate responses:
    • At least 13 senators backed away from the bill in one day. 5 co-sponsors dropped their support of the bill: Blunt, Boozman, Cardin, Hatch, and Rubio

From http://sopastrike.com/timeline

—————-

And from Brian Barrett of http://gizmodo.com/5877000/what-is-sopa
What Is SOPA?

If you hadn’t heard of SOPA before, you probably have by now: Some of the internet’s most influential sites—Reddit and Wikipedia among them—are going dark to protest the much-maligned anti-piracy bill. But other than being a very bad thing, what is SOPA? And what will it mean for you if it passes?

SOPA is an anti-piracy bill working its way through Congress…

House Judiciary Committee Chair and Texas Republican Lamar Smith, along with 12 co-sponsors, introduced the Stop Online Piracy Act on October 26th of last year. Debate on H.R. 3261, as it’s formally known, has consisted of one hearing on November 16th and a “mark-up period” on December 15th, which was designed to make the bill more agreeable to both parties. Its counterpart in the Senate is the Protect IP Act (S. 968). Also known by its cuter-but-still-deadly name: PIPA. There will likely be a vote on PIPA next Wednesday; SOPA discussions had been placed on hold but will resume in February of this year.

…that would grant content creators extraordinary power over the internet…

The beating heart of SOPA is the ability of intellectual property owners (read: movie studios and record labels) to effectively pull the plug on foreign sites against whom they have a copyright claim. If Warner Bros., for example, says that a site in Italy is torrenting a copy of The Dark Knight, the studio could demand that Google remove that site from its search results, that PayPal no longer accept payments to or from that site, that ad services pull all ads and finances from it, and—most dangerously—that the site’s ISP prevent people from even going there.

…which would go almost comedically unchecked…

Perhaps the most galling thing about SOPA in its original construction is that it let IP owners take these actions without a single court appearance or judicial sign-off. All it required was a single letter claiming a “good faith belief” that the target site has infringed on its content. Once Google or PayPal or whoever received the quarantine notice, they would have five days to either abide or to challenge the claim in court. Rights holders still have the power to request that kind of blockade, but in the most recent version of the bill the five day window has softened, and companies now would need the court’s permission.

The language in SOPA implies that it’s aimed squarely at foreign offenders; that’s why it focuses on cutting off sources of funding and traffic (generally US-based) rather than directly attacking a targeted site (which is outside of US legal jurisdiction) directly. But that’s just part of it.

…to the point of potentially creating an “Internet Blacklist”…

Here’s the other thing: Payment processors or content providers like Visa or YouTube don’t even need a letter shut off a site’s resources. The bill’s “vigilante” provision gives broad immunity to any provider who proactively shutters sites it considers to be infringers. Which means the MPAA just needs to publicize one list of infringing sites to get those sites blacklisted from the internet.

Potential for abuse is rampant. As Public Knowledge points out, Google could easily take it upon itself to delist every viral video site on the internet with a “good faith belief” that they’re hosting copyrighted material. Leaving YouTube as the only major video portal. Comcast (an ISP) owns NBC (a content provider). Think they might have an interest in shuttering some rival domains? Under SOPA, they can do it without even asking for permission.

…while exacting a huge cost from nearly every site you use daily…

SOPA also includes an “anti-circumvention” clause, which holds that telling people how to work around SOPA is nearly as bad as violating its main provisions. In other words: if your status update links to The Pirate Bay, Facebook would be legally obligated to remove it. Ditto tweets, YouTube videos, Tumblr or WordPress posts, or sites indexed by Google. And if Google, Twitter, WordPress, Facebook, etc. let it stand? They face a government “enjoinment.” They could and would be shut down.

The resources it would take to self-police are monumental for established companies, and unattainable for start-ups. SOPA would censor every online social outlet you have, and prevent new ones from emerging.

…and potentially disappearing your entire digital life…

The party line on SOPA is that it only affects seedy off-shore torrent sites. That’s false. As the big legal brains at Bricoleur point out, the potential collateral damage is huge. And it’s you. Because while Facebook and Twitter have the financial wherewithal to stave off anti-circumvention shut down notices, the smaller sites you use to store your photos, your videos, and your thoughts may not. If the government decides any part of that site infringes on copyright and proves it in court? Poof. Your digital life is gone, and you can’t get it back.

…while still managing to be both unnecessary and ineffective…

What’s saddest about SOPA is that it’s pointless on two fronts. In the US, the MPAA, and RIAA already have the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to request that infringing material be taken down. We’ve all seen enough “video removed” messages to know that it works just fine.

As for the foreign operators, you might as well be throwing darts at a tse-tse fly. The poster child of overseas torrenting, Pirate Bay, has made it perfectly clear that they’re not frightened in the least. And why should they be? Its proprietors have successfully evaded any technological attempt to shut them down so far. Its advertising partners aren’t US-based, so they can’t be choked out. But more important than Pirate Bay itself is the idea of Pirate Bay, and the hundreds or thousands of sites like it, as populous and resilient as mushrooms in a marsh. Forget the question of should SOPA succeed. It’s incredibly unlikely that it could. At least at its stated goals.

…but stands a shockingly good chance of passing…

SOPA is, objectively, an unfeasible trainwreck of a bill, one that willfully misunderstands the nature of the internet and portends huge financial and cultural losses. The White House has come out strongly against it. As have hundreds of venture capitalists and dozens of the men and women who helped build the internet in the first place. In spite of all this, companies have already spent a lot of money pushing SOPA, and it remains popular in the House of Representatives.

That mark-up period on December 15th, the one that was supposed to transform the bill into something more manageable? Useless. Twenty sanity-fueled amendments were flat-out rejected. And while the bill’s most controversial provision—mandatory DNS filtering—was thankfullytaken off the table recently, in practice internet providers would almost certainly still use DNS as a tool to shut an accused site down.

…unless we do something about it.

The momentum behind the anti-SOPA movement has been slow to build, but we’re finally at a saturation point. Wikipedia, BoingBoing, WordPress, TwitPic: they’ll all be dark on January 18th. An anti-SOPA rally has been planned for tomorrow afternoon in New York. The list of companies supporting SOPA is long but shrinking, thanks in no small part to the emails and phone calls they’ve received in the last few months.

So keep calling. Keep emailing. Most of all, keep making it known that the internet was built on the same principles of freedom that this country was. It should be afforded to the same rights.

Here’s the Wiki posting  with some very extensive information.


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