It’s Blackout Wednesday, everybody (don’t run to the liquor store, this is serious.) As you may have heard, there are two pieces of legislation in the works that aim to stop piracy online but could threaten the freedom of the internet in the process. Sites from WordPress to LOL Cats are ‘blacking out” today in protest.
Orange Juice in Bishop’s Garden has been a victim of piracy from around the world. However, it is the openness of the internet that allows web-series like us to grow and flourish– even if as a result we lose some of our revenue to piracy. Because we produce content for the web exclusively, we rely on the internet to distribute and promote our show. Much of our success has been from the organic promotion of people talking about and sharing our show with each-other through blogging and social media sites.
While we don’t support piracy or copyright violation, we also do not support the maiming of free speech and creativity, in order to stop it. Piracy is a problem, but this censorship is not the solution.
Right now, the entertainment industry is pushing the passage of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act (I would link to the Wikipedia page for each of those, but ironically it is blacked-out in protest today). The intention of these acts is to stop the piracy of music, movies and television online– but in reality it will have a huge impact on much more then that.
This video helps explain the potential effect of Protect IP and SOPA:
Instead of fighting it to the death, Hollywood should embrace and adapt to the internet as a new medium. The internet is a platform for creators to share content in new and exciting ways and makes it easier then ever to be creative. The television and movie industry will adapt to the internet, the same way the radio industry had to adapt to them. We’ve evolved from listening to The Lone Ranger on old-time radio to watching Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog on our iPads– and that’s OK. Entertainment changes (and grows!) with technology. The internet is also a way to preserve and share our beloved mediums of entertainment, old-time radio shows can be listened to online at Archive.org (which is also blacked-out today.)
Right now, websites are required to remove copyrighted content if presented with a formal DMCA take-down request. With the passage of these bills, the government would be able to block entire web domains for one violation and make websites responsible for what their users post and comment. Start-ups could be shut down easily and links and content shared on social networks would be heavily censored by the sites in order to avoid being blocked by the government. Think of all the spam comments and pirated TV episodes that show up on YouTube– should the entire website be taken down because of it?
With the internet, anyone with a webcam and some talent can become a star. With SOPA, Less piracy = less innovation, less creativity, and less content like OJBG. Is that a fair trade?