We’re going to step aside briefly from talking about film and television to talk, instead, a little politics. HTTP is not taking political stances as it’s irrelevant to our goals, but there are currently several bills being pushed through the United States Congress that not only directly effect us but pretty much every other media networking and content group on the Internet, along with the Internet as a whole. This includes everything from Facebook to YouTube to our own site (which shares massive numbers of videos and photos). What’s worse is that these bills, at least until the Internet started fighting back, are/were very likely to pass both Congress and President Obama’s desk, something that would be the beginning of the end of free speech. It’s tricky because I start to sound like some extremist conspiracy theorist, but for once these bills are real.
The first is called SOPA: Stop Online Piracy Act, and is a Republican-sponsored bill in the House. The second is PIPA: Protect IP Act, and is a Democratic-sponsored bill in the Senate designed as a “less extreme” version of SOPA, though it is anything but. If you have any moderate to major sense of internet presence, these bills are hopefully not new news to you, but many people do not scour the internet day after day for news. Here’s the basics: these bills are designed to fight piracy and copyright infringement of American corporations (i.e. illegally streaming movies, spreading songs on YouTube, so on, so forth), but they do so by giving the United States government the authority to censor by way of shutting down entire websites. Beyond this, the government is legally permitted to shut down a website (by DNS blocking) if it has the capacity to infringe copyright.
This discussion could get really, really, really long, so I’m going to leave most of it to some YouTube videos embedded below, but before that I’ll give a few examples. First, this website, our website, could be shut down because I’m embedding someone’s copyrighted YouTube video on it without their permission. Moreover, this website infringes copyright, and we do it a lot. We post pictures, trailers, videos, and all sorts of music/film/television/internet media. That’s what the internet does! Except we don’t profit from it. We post pictures and trailers to promote these products and help spread the word about certain films or television shows. This is where American copyright laws (specifically the Digital Millennium Act) are antiquated and in no way respective of the times. It’s looks at copyright infringement solely from the accusation of the publishers without taking into considering the context of the distributors.
What does this mean? Right now, Universal Music Group can file a copyright infringement claim on a YouTube video I uploaded and have it taken down/profit from ads placed on it. They do not have to show YouTube which part of the video infringes copyright, they just have to say it does. Beyond this, while I can “appeal the decision,” YouTube is damn disgraceful when it comes to communicating with users who are not major YouTube sponsors, so even if my video has no copyrighted material in it at all (this happens a lot), I’m powerless in fighting Universal Music Group. Take, as an example, our Death Of Trailer, which was recently flagged for copyright infringement by some nonexistent music loop company. They claimed we were using one of their loops. We aren’t; the trailer uses free Garageband loops and we can prove it. Except the burden of proof doesn’t fall on the accuser, it falls on us, and our appeal comes in at about a 0.003 on YouTube’s priority list. Groups like these are literal copyright trolls who flag videos they have no connection with and then profit off ads placed on them because YouTube does not require them to show evidence.
This is the sort of disgusting copyright harassment that happens now, under the Digital Millennium Act. SOPA/PIPA will take this to a whole new extreme by allowing the US government to literally block my entire website just because of one picture or just because my website has the capacity to upload pictures/videos. You might think, “Please, Congress would never take down YouTube and Facebook,” and you’re right. That might well be the only thing stupider than these acts to start with, but they will use it to take down the hundreds and thousands of smaller sites that truly make the Internet what it is. Megavideo, Reddit, HTTP! The list goes on and on.
Corporations claim that piracy is a problem because there are so many websites available to view these things, and because these corporations pump so much money into Congress American politicians think the same thing. These are politicians so old they probably still type with two fingers let alone would they have any idea what Reddit is, and yet they are being given the power to censor the entire Internet. Why the entire Internet? Because sites like YouTube, Facebook, and others networking/media content sites for the globe are based out of the States, which means they are subject to American censorship and regulation.
Notice how long I’ve been talking about this already, and I claimed I would keep it to the basics and let the videos do all the talking. It only proves how important and how utterly ridiculous these bills are. To start, they are a literal violation of Constitutional free speech, something every politician including the Constitutional-constructivist Republicans seem to be skipping over. Anyways, thanks to the Internet, the bills were delayed in the Judiciary Committee until Congress comes back in January. Someone decided that millions of people across the entire planet screaming at Congress for being dumb asses probably warranted slowing down and getting some more information. Good to know.
What can you do? The most important thing is to tell people. Mainstream media is literally giving 0% coverage to these bills because they are supported by the corporations who own televisions stations: NewsCorp, Viacom, Time Warner, Disney, so on, which means the average American is receiving no information from their daily evening news about what might be the absolute worst thing the American government has tried to do in decades, and yes I’m making implied comparisons to certain disastrous wars. Beyond spreading the word, go online and sign a petition or email/call/write your local Congressman to tell them you do not support these bills (or if you do, in which case I would love to hear your argument in the comments). I’ll put a bunch of important links below you can check out/forward to your friends and family.
Think what you will of American politics or party divisions, the American people (and people of the globe, for that matter) still have the power to take a stand when they do so in enough force and with enough determination. Corporations are powerful, but the people still elect the politicians. Things may seem pessimistic at times, but on the large scale these bills can be defeated if we speak up, and we need to speak up. So speak up with us, speak up with the rest of the Internet! Or it may well be the last time you’re able to freely speak anything on the Internet.