Say a French company just started a social networking site in which users can upload videos of themselves singing. Now let’s say some kids upload a video of themselves singing their favorite Britney Spears song, not even playing back the original recording but simply singing along innocently to a song they like.
In the eyes of Spears’s record label or any number of parties associated with her continued cash flow, that might very well look like an instance of piracy — and indeed, major labels have had content pulled off YouTube for similar “violations.” All the label has to do is send a letter to someone such as your ISP and request that the service stop routing traffic to the offending site, and, boom, no more French-sharing site for U.S. Internet users. And what’s really scary is that U.S. Internet service providers have immunity when it comes to what they can pull from their networks, so that French site might not even have a clear path to resolving the issue.
Now take that concept and begin to apply it across all the places you could potentially find “infringing” material. Sites about art, sites about movies, sites that let users generate content of all types — some of that content containing pieces of other work that should be considered fair use by any modern standard. Suddenly, a lot of destinations on the Internet will begin to look like island vacation spots — that is, they’re really hard to get to. And the impact won’t just be cultural or legal; the technical workings of the Internet itself will be dramatically affected.The SOPA and PIPA bills are being driven through our government by lobbyists who have been given a mandate to protect private companies and their profits by any means necessary. The laws are too far-reaching and too simplistic to accurately police real piracy online, and they have been created by people who either don’t fully understand the Internet or can’t appreciate its value. (Wash Post, 1/18/2012, Joshua Topolsky is the founding editor in chief of the Verge, a technology news Web site.)