American law digests at the Law Society of Upper Canada's Great Library at Osgoode Hall, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. By Alan Shin via Wikimedia Commons (an Open Source tool)
Note: Since I wrote this post, legislators in the U.S. backed down. More than 100 withdrew their support of SOPA and PIPA. They will be rewriting the acts and taking them back to committee. Canadian legal scholar, Michael Geist, quoted below, states that the U.S. has particular aims and will continue to work toward them regarding these issues. Some of those aims aren’t jake and we must continue to be vigilant. You can find his site through the links below. — Jan
Yesterday, I observed a 24-hour blackout at Jane Street Clayworks to protest legislation before the U.S. Congress, in the Senate and House of Representatives. The bills are named the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). On the face of it, it doesn’t sound so bad. In addition, I do not support piracy and anything that smacks of plagiarism is deeply ingrained in my nature. Yet, I am also a big supporter of Open Source material and the philosophy behind it. Having researched these acts, though, I am livid over this legislation and what it could do to Internet and the blogosphere. Call it what they will, it amounts to a fight between the Old Power/Big Power versus Innovation and Technology. Such legislation would have far-reaching consequences for journalism at large, online media, and the blogosphere, in addition to many areas out of the scope of this blog. There are a number of issues and I’m going to tackle a few that are relevant to JSCW:
But first, let me give you a little background information about myself. I am a trained journalist with an M.A. in Journalism and have also taught writing at the university level. My work, journalistic and literary, has been published and I have also been an editor of both a newspaper and literary magazine. Most recently, I’ve engaged in professional development about and for social media.
What SOPA/PIPA means to me and Jane Street Clayworks:
Example: I use many youtube videos on this site. They are legitimate videos made by ordinary potters and ceramists who do demos and upload the videos. However, if SOPA/PIPA are passed, one of the first things that will happen is that youtube will go down. Youtube will become mired in litigation because entertainment industry lawyers will be going after copyright infractions and piracy. In fact, they are gunning for youtube. Yet, those of us who have learned how to convert an electric Skutt kiln by watching a Simon Leach video do not have bad intentions and our actions are not illegal. My placing such a video on my blog is not an act of piracy. Yet, they would throw the baby out with the bathwater and the whole site would go down.
- No more links on this blog, despite proper attribution.
Example: If SOPA or PIPA goes into effect, the following quotation with link will be taboo: “The proposed law, as it stands now, would require Internet Service Providers to block access to any site accused of posting, or linking to, copyrighted content,” according to Robert Hiltz’ article, in the Montreal Gazette. What of the person who wants to publicize news or upcoming current events like I do with Ceramics News Briefs International? I won’t be allowed post such information. It will be back to ‘Old School’ methods… paraphrasing without links to the primary source. The very idea of it is regressive and it would be highly deleterious to the Internet, like tossing computers and going back to typewriters.
- SOPA and PIPA would mean that U.S. law would not be confined to U.S. boundaries.
Example: Because I can without legal reprisal, I will use another quote from the Hiltz’ article in the Gazette: “The proposed law would do this because, (Michael) Geist explains, it is written so any website domain name registered in the United States is treated as if it were a U.S. page. That means any website that ends in .com, .net or .org – Postmedia News’ website, canada.com, included – accused of breaching copyright could be blocked by a U.S. court.” I chose a .com address for this blog because I believed it gave me greater currency worldwide. I did not use .ca (for Canada) because I thought it too limiting in a Global Society. If SOPA/PIPA passes, I will be beholden to U.S. laws even though I have a Canadian website just because of this blog’s address.
Michael Geist, quoted above, teaches law at the University of Ottawa in Canada and he specializes in Internet and Media Law. His article, Why My Website Went Dark Yesterday” states
the U.S. intellectual property strategy has long been premised on exporting its rules to other countries, including Canada. The same forces that have lobbied for SOPA and PIPA in the U.S. are the primary lobbyists behind the digital lock provisions in Bill C-11 and the recent submission to the U.S. government arguing that Canada should not be admitted to the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations until it complies with U.S. copyright demands.
SOPA virtually guarantees that this will continue. Not only is it likely that the U.S. will begin to incorporate SOPA-like provisions into its IP demands, but SOPA makes it a matter of U.S. law to ensure that intellectual property protection is a significant component of U.S. foreign policy and grants more resources to U.S. embassies around the world to increase their involvement in foreign legal reform.
One of my friends recently described the United States as “avaricious.” I will add to that, saying it is also litigious by nature. The world doesn’t like what is happening, though. According to Google, seven million people signed its petition protesting SOPA. Will it make a difference? To date, eight legislators have backed down and it looks like the acts will be rewritten. I don’t hold out much hope for revisions because the powers that be won’t let up. I enjoy writing for Jane Street Clayworks and working on a blog about creativity and all things ceramics. It has been one of my little dreams, exploring ceramics. No one likes a bully and bullying is something that is aggressively dealt with these days in schoolyards everywhere. Yet, it looks as if the U.S. is poised to bully its way toward what it wants, regardless. As Geist states,
Canadian businesses and websites could easily find themselves targeted by SOPA. The bill grants the U.S. “in rem” jurisdiction over any website that does not have a domestic jurisdictional connection. For those sites, the U.S. grants jurisdiction over the property of the site and opens the door to court orders requiring Internet providers to block the site and Internet search engines to stop linking to it. Should a Canadian website owner wish to challenge the court order, U.S. law asserts itself in another way, since in order for an owner to file a challenge (described as a “counter notification”), the owner must first consent to the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts.