SOPA, PIPA and Us

The most important thing to remember about freedom is that it’s never really free. Yours was paid for in blood and tears, by the struggle of your ancestors through the passage of time. Some got theirs much later and some, sadly, still need to be freed. There are people who want to take away your freedoms. The other important thing to remember about freedom is that it is never completely secure. We not only fight to obtain freedom, we must fight to retain it.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senatorial equivalent, the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) are being protested today across the internet. But what are they and why should we be worried?

Basically, the acts are propositions with the goal of combatting online piracy and the means used to promote it – especially that which is hosted on servers not within the United States where regulation is already fairly strictly observed. Under the proposed new laws, if a person was found to have downloaded or streamed copyrighted material ten or more times in a six month period, they would face up to five years in prison. So, download Michael Jackson’s Bad album and you could spend a year longer in prison than the doctor that caused his death.

[drop2]SOPA and PIPA aim to give the US Government and copyright holders the ability to seek court orders for the removal of sites that are “enabling or facilitating” online piracy. SOPA extends this to search engines that return results which contain prohibited links. So theoretically, Google could be suspended because it links to the Pirate Bay which tracks torrent files enabling piracy. Movie studios would have means to silence free sources of information. It’s a system which even the least knowledgeable of us can see is open to extremely worrying levels of abuse.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) would be prohibited from dealing with alleged copyright infringers – without proof of infringement. So would sites like PayPal and any advertisers, effectively cutting off all sources of income for websites alleged to assist in the infringement of copyright.

Until very recently, SOPA and PIPA also contained clauses which would allow for DNS blocking to prevent certain sites from appearing to users at all. That’s a measure which is currently used by Iran and China to prevent their citizens from accessing information which may conflict with what their government wants them to know. This measure has since been dropped from each act but it was on the grounds that it would undermine the way the internet works, rather than any civil rights objection.

We should be clear here: piracy is bad. Taking something which isn’t yours, against the wishes of the person who made it is wrong, it always will be. It’s hard enough to get anywhere in a creative field without losing out on your best work. The protests aren’t in favour of piracy, obviously, they’re in opposition to the loss of something extremely important to US law and, to a wider point, law in other free countries throughout the world. SOPA and PIPA sidestep the need for due process.

The simple principle of due process means that you shouldn’t be punished for a crime without there being a comprehensive investigation and a fair trial. SOPA and PIPA allow for punishment when a crime has only been alleged. Essentially, it takes the rights of the individual – things like freedom of expression – and makes them subject to the suspicions of copyright holders. Even without considering the disparities between the terms “copyright holder” and “creator”, that is fundamentally opposed to what most people would consider fair.

So, you might be asking yourself what this all has to do with videogames? Well, as creative works, games are included in the acts. SOPA and PIPA would mean that this website, hosted in the UK, could become subject to the accusations of rights holders. We could be removed for posting screenshots that a big publisher doesn’t want shown. We could be prohibited from posting trailers if the publisher doesn’t want us to report on them for any reason – if our previous reporting isn’t favourable, for example.

What SOPA and PIPA will do is remove the voice of the internet. Parody videos on YouTube, animated GIFs, funny meme pictures which use a character or likeness could all be gone. Sites like Wikipedia would struggle with media and everyone would struggle with an article’s accompanying imagery and video content. This applies not only to the content but to the sites that host that content and the methods you might use to find it. Gone.

Everything on the internet would need to be more closely monitored for fear that it would cause an allegation, meaning that forums and places where information is shared freely would be heavily moderated and more stringently censored.

TheSixthAxis is not joining in with the blackout that many sites are taking part in to protest SOPA and PIPA. We don’t want to punish our users for the foolishness of their leaders. However, we do support the immediate removal of both proposals and we urge you all to write to your political leaders expressing your concern. This is especially important if you’re one of our US readers as it’s your Representatives and Senators that will be deciding the future of these two acts. But make no mistake, this is not simply an issue in the US. SOPA and PIPA will be carefully watched by governments around the world and if they are allowed to pass in the US then it will only be a matter of time before similar proposals are raised elsewhere.

SOPA and PIPA are currently being reviewed with the aim of rewriting them to make them less egregious to people who want to retain the freedom to share information. Let the people in power know that you support a creator’s right to their material but not at the expense of freedom of expression. Continue to fight for your freedom and the freedoms of others.

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40 Comments

  1. Perfect.

  2. These sort of draconian measures will harm the internet quite a bit. Add to this that 99% of artists are poorly looked after anyway and it’s about big business feeling like they’ve lost out and are looking to justify their exorbitant prices.

    As an aside – when it comes to music I far prefer dealing with the band themselves. Something I find myself doing more and more as smaller acts realise they don’t need the major record studios these days.

    • I attended an interview with Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim) on Monday who said that whilst he didn’t feel major labels were dead they were pretty close and floundering heavily.

  3. It’s too late. SOPA-esque legislation already passed in Spain, after a media industry flunkey got the relevant cabinet job in their elections, and after years of pressure from the US and years of protests within Spain against it.

    Nobody noticed.

    There’s also countless other examples where something gains a BIG public outcry in whatever country, and the legislation is then pulled, reworked a little and then pushed through in another form when nobody is looking. Think EU Constitution – Lisbon Treaty, or Merkel’s economic measures of late where she’s breaking parts of the German Constitution like an egg smashing hammer.

    Just watch. SOPA and PIPA will get pulled, and then 3 weeks after a new Republican president gets in power, these measures will be pushed through in some other guise.

  4. “So, download Michael Jackson’s Bad album and you could spend a year longer in prison than the doctor that caused his death”

    Amazing writing!

    • it just shows, some people think profits are more important than people’s lives.

    • Have to agree. Though the entire article is expertly written and I agree with everything that is said, that sentence stands out the most.

  5. As I finished reading that, I actually clapped.

    Bravisimo!

  6. Posting this article was a better idea than a blackout.

  7. American law is absolutely ridiculous, did you know companies can actually patent genes over there? In my mind that is even more ridiculous piece of legislation.

    ‘The land of the free’ really doesn’t seem to understand irony at all.

    • That’s not that odd given that the basis for many medicines are naturally occurring, in the same way that genes are. They have to extract the gene, refine it and prove a use of it (such as for DNA profiling or curing some disease), they can’t just randomly patent chunks of genetic code.

      It’s equivalent to patenting drugs which has a whole other host of issues attached but is not that ridiculous if you want drug companies to continue to exist.

      • Some doctors legally cannot even give advice for certain diseases relating to owned genes without paying royalties or they are liable to be sued.

        It acts as a huge impediment to research as the owner can charge an exorbitant amount for the privilege of doing research relating to the gene and it costs ordinary people as it allows the creating of monopolies for various treatments; they can charge $3000 for a $30 test and legally it is all fine and dandy.

        I call that pretty damn odd.

      • The same thing applies the medical injury in general. It’s frustrating and perhaps wrong, but the question becomes what is the incentive for companies without the ability to patent?

        Obviously we as individuals want these things to be available, but the point of a company is to make money.

        I guess what I’m saying is picking out just gene patents is odd, why not look at the drug patent system, something that many consider generally broken? Why not look at the fact that the production of new anti-biotics is close to non-existant as there’s little profit in developing a drug that people will take once a day for a week, much better (from their perspective) to make drugs they take once a day for the rest of their life. Gene patents aren’t the only (or to my mind the most significan) issue in medical innovation, and some of the others have a far more global spread.

      • You do make an extremely valid point, I just can’t help but rage at how ridiculous everything has become. Humans disgust me.

    • It wouldn’t be the ‘land of the free’ if they weren’t allowed to do it now would it?

  8. Hope to god these bills don’t get the seal of approval from US Congress. As stated this will effectively cripple most of the Internet especially when it comes to media based sites. I agree with Ben, this article will certainly be more effective than a blackout, and have seen similar articles crop upon other sites.
    If publishers are not happy with a site’s previous reporting they can get you shut down? Damn!!

  9. Something does need to be done about piracy, but this kind of heavy handed approach is terrible. SOPA and PIPA should not be passed in its current format.

  10. Some youtube channels I visit daily went black today and I support their act. Would have been cool if you guys did the same. I wouldn’t have minded not having the best gaming news site at my fingertips for a day if it’s for the greater good. :)

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