Archive for January, 2012


Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Somehow, my previous blog got lost, so I have to start over. I hadn’t done much with the blog, though, so there wasn’t much to loose.

SOPA and PIPA laws before Congress

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Media and software companies have been trying to get laws passed that would cripple the Internet and infringe even more on our freedom of speech. A concerted effort by concerned citizens has gotten one of the bills postponed for now, but the threat is still out there. If passed, any web site could be blocked (censored) in the U.S. because a company claims that it promotes online piracy (or engages in any other copyright violation), or even if it links to a site that they claim promotes piracy. Think of the effect on you if your web site was taken down because a company claimed you somehow violated their copyright, without even having to go to court or provide any evidence! Don’t think it could happen? Many sites, such as YouTube, have already been required to take down content solely on the word of a media company – no day in court or any other controls – even when it has later been determined that there was no infringement.

To bolster their claims of why they “need” these bills, industry spokespeople have been making claims of great losses, but these claims have not been backed up by ANY credible research or information. Here is an article on InfoWorld that describes some of these inflated claims: Scam: SOPA advocates’ claims about piracy costs.

These same companies are trying to eliminate “fair use”, which has always existed in copyright law. Fair use is the principal that allows you to copy music that you have purchased onto your own devices for your own use (but not to distribute it to other people). It allows you to quote part of an article or book for something that you write. It allows you to write a parody of another work. But under laws already passed, as well as laws that media companies are trying to get passed, those rights that we still have would go away. For instance, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) it is alreadyillegal for you to circumvent copy protection measures, even for uses that would already be legal. In effect, this allows the publishers to write their own laws – if they want something to be illegal, they just distribute it in digital form with copy protection. They can make something illegal that Congress has refused to make illegal.

They are also constantly trying to get the scope of copyright extended. Copyright now prevents actions that used to be legal, and the media companies are not satisfied yet. For instance, Associated Press recently claimed that anybody who copies more than five words from one of their articles has to purchase a license from them, which not only costs the person quoting the article, but their license terms define what you cannot say in what you write. Think about it – many headlines are more than five words. They are trying to define what is fair use, rather than allowing the courts to decide. If they get their way, nobody would be able to write anything without permission from numerous sources, because everything would already be copyrighted. Try to find a phrase that isn’t in some work already published; I bet you can’t come up with one. I hope the politicians think of this the next time a vote comes up for a law extending copyright, or they will have to get permission from these companies in order to make any speeches!