Through the lens
SOPA AND PIPA sound like two unfortunate nicknames for a couple of snot-nosed, pigtail-wearing schoolgirls. You’ll be disappointed to learn the ill-sounding words are actually acronyms for the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, not awkward baby names that Beyoncé Knowles discarded in favour of Blue Ivy.
The two pieces of proposed United States legislation, which were suggested in May and October of last year, have made quite an impact on news headlines lately. Both SOPA and PIPA protect property creators instead of individual users, and would extend copyright laws against piracy in the digital seas.
Current legislation in the United States allows companies, usually within the movie or music industry, to report and shut down U.S.-based websites found pirating material, but can’t act against foreign-based sites doing the same.
The two bills aim to solve these problems. If passed, both SOPA and PIPA will stop search engine powerhouses like Google from allowing these sites to turn up searches and cut all U.S. support, advertising, and funding from websites that engage in piracy.
Although U.S. politics and law may be interesting to a certain extent, a lot of Canadians may be left wondering how this impacts us and if we should even care about our southern neighbours.
The short answer is: Yes. Canadian websites will feel the wrath of SOPA and PIPA, because our sites will be treated as foreign sites. The law will treat .com, .org, and .net websites as domestic regardless of where the site is based, meaning many Canadian websites will be affected because of their current domain names.
We all noticed when Wikipedia, along with other well-known and used websites, went “dark” during an online protest aimed at stopping SOPA and PIPA. Suddenly this pesky American issue became prominent in our homes when the sixth most-visited website wasn’t available at the click of a mouse.
It shouldn’t take an online protest for the illegal download debate to become a concern of ours. Some students may be surprised to learn that our own piece of online copyright reform, Bill C-11, will likely pass this year. The bill—which has been deemed, by some, as an infringement on our freedom of expression—has been introduced largely because of American pressure on Canada’s lawmakers.
Bill C-11 aims to lock all digital content, making it illegal to transfer music or movies from one device to another. Simply put, imagine buying a book on an e-reader and not being able to transfer it to your computer or your smartphone. Wouldn’t that just suck?
It isn’t cool to steal content. It’s not fair to the producers and artists, but it’s also not fair to infringe upon consumers’ own property rights. If I buy a movie, it should be my choice how I view it—be it on my computer, iPad, or DVD player.
Clearly this debate isn’t leaving the House of Commons or Congress anytime soon, so maybe it’s time politicians and industry producers wake up. Instead of tying up our courts and taxpayers’ money with tedious legislation, how about attempting to find a solution.
Look at iTunes or Netflix for example. Both companies have become cutting edge leaders in the digital age because they’ve adjusted to our needs. We’ve changed the way we use technology, so we need platforms, such as iTunes, to complement the way we like to listen to our music and watch TV.
It’s up to the same industry members who are up in arms over stolen content to change the situation, not hide behind new regulation. Consumers are willing to pay for their content and entertainment; it’s just about finding the right service to fit our needs.