By Lauren Begley, PepperDigital
The Internet has introduced a new frontier when it comes to intellectual property law. With the click of a mouse information and multimedia files are shared, altered and repurposed. Most of the time, the transfer of content is harmless; casual Web users in no way setting out to infringe on another’s original work. Though search engines, music streaming platforms and video sharing sites have made it easier for content to flow into more dangerous territory where copyrighted content becomes less protected.
This was the rationale behind the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill, which aims to crack down on the online sharing of copyrighted material. A similar bill called that Protect IP Act (PIPA), was approved by the Senate in May. While these pieces of legislation were written with good intentions, the minutiae of the bills would make it much easier for the government to shut down sites that host allegedly pirated content, thus putting sites like Wikipedia at risk.
The result was a widespread protest led by internet-based companies large and small. Wikipedia shut down for 24 hours and posted a banner encouraging visitors to write their congressmen. More creatively, The Oatmeal (a favorite of mine!) shut down its site and reduced its homepage to a black background with an animated gif to demonstrate how the restrictions would reshape the blog if SOPA was enacted.
In one day, more than eight million Internet users took action against the bill resulting in Senator and PIPA co-sponsor, Marco Rubio, to reverse his position. The New York Times called the grassroots efforts a sign of the tech industry’s “coming of age.”
In a world that has been so changed by the advent of the digital age, it would be reckless to impose blanket legislation without thoughtful consideration of the implications on e-commerce, information sharing, intellectual property, and our first amendment rights. It is exciting to see how the Internet can empower individuals and serve as a tool for proactive change.