With the whole Internet protest going on today, I figured maybe I should throw in my two cents. If you still don’t believe that the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) or it’s evil twin brother Protect IP Act (PIPA) will become a tool for censorship, then you should at least know that these bills will give even more copyright power to media corporations who already wield too much copyright control.
Copyright law in the United States is messed up, favoring media corporations because they’ve been lobbying for years to get these laws passed. SOPA and PIPA are just the most recent (and probably most insane) examples. It’s a crazy system, made only worse by additional laws and further restrictions. That Disney Vault picture above? I put that picture up there because that is where all old movies go to decay. A corporation like Disney only needs to endlessly extend the copyright on properties like Mickey Mouse, but other, lesser known properties also get extended as a result. Because Disney can’t make a profit remaking or re-releasing these old properties, they end up rotting away in the Disney Vault. And Disney is fine with this, because restricting access to old properties creates a demand for the newer properties. This isn’t just Disney – every media corporation has a bunch of old movies that they keep locked away. This is one of the reasons I love sites like Network Awesome – they save these old films and videos and let everyone see them. Sure, some of them are bad, but that’s no reason to lock them away forever.
Still not appalled? How about how Nina Paley, an independent filmmaker, was originally charged $220,000 for the usage of 11 songs in her film Sita Sings the Blues, a film that didn’t even cost that much to make. And how these songs were from 1920s singer Annette Hanshaw, and how the recordings were in the public domain, but the compositions, the actual sheet music, were not. She managed to get her cost down to $50,000, but with so many strings attached, she could be sued at any time for illegally distributing the songs. Even though she gives the movie away for free, she could be accused of selling the songs for zero dollars.
Still haven’t thrown up in disgust? What’s wrong with you?! Throw up! Right now! All over your computer! Okay, how about how Shepard Fairey, the graphic designer behind the Obama HOPE poster, was sued in 2009 by the Associated Press for copyright infringement because he used one of their pictures as reference, even though Fairey’s usage should have fallen under Fair Use, because last time I checked, Obama’s skin is not red, white, and blue.
Still not quaking in your boots? Okay, well here’s something that should scare all the media corporations that don’t view my site – before The Hangover II was released, tattoo artist S. Victor Whitmill sued Warner Bros. for copyright infringement because Ed Helms had a tattoo that was similar to the one he created for Mike Tyson. If it was taken to court, there was a good chance that Whitmill could have stopped the distribution of the film. But of course, Warner Bros. settled, because you’re not going to risk losing several million dollars.
So how does this relate to SOPA and PIPA? These are essentially copyright bills, designed to protect copyright by getting rid of online piracy through shutting down entire sites and cutting off their funds. The messed up thing is, even if the bill is passed, it won’t stop online piracy. There are simple workarounds to the proposed DNS blocking (sound familiar? That’s because China and Iran use DNS blocking). To use a Star Wars metaphor, this is basically the Death Star of copyright protection, where the lowest setting on the laser is “Destroy Internet.”
That’s all I got to say right now. Go call your Senators.