“You Don’t Get To Break The Internet Because It Doesn’t Fit Your Business Model!”
(for action steps, see the comments below)
Yes, I know. You hate politics. Especially on a non-political site. And the last thing you want to read from me is a lecture about the importance of your voice, or yet another overblown whine about proposed legislation and how it’s going to kill the Internet.
So instead, I’m going to violate that proposed legislation in a dozen different ways, and embed a video that explains it brilliantly and with much irony:
Watched it yet? Awesome.
Now, in case you live under an internet rock, “Hitler Reacts” is a video meme that takes that clip of Hitler, and adds English subtitles to suggest he’s outraged by all kinds of (often absurd) things — he’s ranted about being kicked off gaming networks, not being accepted into Hogwarts, and even poor Rebecca Black’s viral video, ‘Friday’. Like most memes, it’s often lame, but just as often damned funny.
But this one? It’s frighteningly ironic, because if SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) passes, the original film makers could conceivably get YouTube shut down for hosting the subtitled clip. The government could seize the YouTube.com domain ( so web traffic wouldn’t reach it) and they could block Youtube’s ability to receive payments through banks or Paypal, all without a court case even being filed.
That’s right. All it would take is someone CLAIMING a clip is infringing, and all of YouTube could be shut down both financially, and by rerouting the web traffic trying to reach it.
And it’s not just YouTube at risk.
Because of the poor wording in the bill, anyone viewed as promoting the pirated content is at risk. I’ve embedded the video here, and linked to it on Twitter, so my site would be at risk. My webhost and Twitter would also be at risk. The various search engines link to it, so they’d be at risk. And we wouldn’t just be liable for any potential damages to the original film makers in court – we would lose our ability to do business, again, without a court case.
Current law protects companies like YouTube, and people like me, from being held liable for the infringing content that users may post. This law? It strips away that protection and goes further, giving the government the power to shut down internet sites and change the way that domains are routed.
The idea is that if the pirates can’t be stopped directly, the traffic to the illegal content can be stopped by scaring the hell out of any company that might link to (or allows links to) the content, directly or indirectly, knowingly or unknowingly.
The really weird bit? If taken to court, it’s very likely that these meme videos would be ruled as Fair Use. They’re parodies of the original film (they mock the over-emotional acting) and therefore not a violation of copyright law. But long before that court case could be ruled on, the damage would be done to me, to YouTube, to Twitter, and to the creative freedom of the people who created the offending clip.
But oh, it that wouldn’t happen, because the law wouldn’t be abused, right?
The current copyright laws are already abused, and not just by malicious individuals. The film company who owns that Hitler clip? Yeah. A while back, they sent take-down notices to YouTube about the meme videos, and Youtube (understandably) complied, even though the videos should be covered by fair use.
So the only reason those videos are on YouTube today is that the meme participants makers wouldn’t stop making and posting them. Eventually the company opted to allow the videos on YouTube, but with advertising attached. They figured out that not only was the fight pointless, but that the meme benefits them. (Well, duh. People have been trying to explain this to entertainment companies for years)
Now, I’m a big believer in the concept of Intellectual Property.
And yes, the ‘net has made the wholesale theft of Intellectual Property remarkably easy and profitable for pirates. It is a problem.
But SOPA is an abusive, over-reaching and frightening bit of legislation that doesn’t just address the piracy issue — it threatens to chill creative expression and technological advancement. It threatens to destroy the way content is shared on the internet, to stifle social media & networking, to set technological communications back 10-15 years, and to literally break the Internet.
Which, I suppose, would be just fine with the Entertainment and Publishing industries, whose business models have been disrupted by how we share content on the internet.
Oops. I said I wasn’t going to whine… Sorry about that.
But seriously? When even Hitler knows it’s a bad idea? Something is seriously wrong.
Please let your voice be heard on this.
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