Maybe you've heard a lot of buzz surrounding SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act). You might have even thought that it was harmless (after all, what could be so bad about a law that protects musicians and movie makers from having their works stolen online?) While it could potentially be used for this valiant effort, the danger of SOPA is far worse than anyone expected, and this is why bloggers and those in the online media are fighting so hard against it.
SOPA hasn't passed yet, but the ramifications of such a broad, vague, and misdirected legislation could essentially kill everything you love about the internet. That's right... KILL. In fact, many online gurus are so afraid of SOPA, that they've threatened to shut down their sites in protest of the bill being considered. Sites includes Google (bye-bye Blogger blogs like this one, search engines, Gmail, and the like), Facebook, Amazon, and even Ebay. Could you imagine?
While SOPA wouldn't outlow these sites per se, the law would make it so unreasonable for these sites to operate that they would have to shut down. SOPA makes it a crime punishable by fines and jail time for anyone to embed, link to, or host copyrighted third-party content. That means that just one of Grandma's YouTube videos where she karaokes to a Lady Gaga and uploads it to the internet (unknowingly using a copyrighted art form) could land her and YouTube in trouble. And who wants that? YouTube would just cease to exist. There is too much risk in something like that.
For a blogger, it gets worse. Suppose you are savvy about copyright laws. You know to use background music in your videos that you own or to use tunes that are free for everyone to use. It could still have chilling ramifications, especially for a review blogger.
Here's an example:
Awhile back, I was paid by a major retailer to review the Paper Jamz Guitar toys. I was asked to make a video. I recorded my children playing with the guitars, and I used the sound coming from the guitars as the only music in my video. I even amplified it a bit so the viewers could really hear the sound. (The song coming from the guitar, by the way, was "Sweet Home Alabama" and the Paper Jamz folks had obviously gotten permission from the artist to license and use the song in their toy.)
Germany, however, didn't think that I had the right to use this song (remind you, I was paid by the retailer with the cooperation of the Paper Jamz distributor to do the video) and blocked my video for the good people of Germany. The government didn't want its citizens exposed to what they may have considered piracy.
Now, imagine that this happens to all videos on the internet with third-party content, only instead of listing "Germany", they include "United States." Those U.S. residents who go online won't even be able to see these videos -- they will be blocked. The blogger who embeds video on their their site will have big black boxes in place of their review videos. Their adsense revenue from all videos will cease. They could even end up in jail.
Or YouTube could just cease to exist.
Either way, the censorship that could occur under SOPA would kill all online media forms. Businesses would die. People would lose their jobs. Freedoms would be severely limited. Government workers would be standing by, reviewing Etsy listings, Facebook posts, Twitpics, and more. Here is what that would look like:
I encourage you to take time to learn more about this dangerous legislation. Visit Stop American Censorship or Fight for the Future to find out how you can help. (We placed a "censored" block over out blog header as a reminder. We will remove this once SOPA has been placed in the garbage bin -- where it belongs.)
Did you write about SOPA on your blog? Comment with your link, and we'll add it here:
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