Opinion: How the Internet Piracy law could sink the good guys in San Antonio
You know that annoying "SOPA" Internet protest on Jan. 18 that blacked out everything from Wikipedia to LOLCats?
Why should you care?
The so-called "Stop Internet Piracy Act" is about as close to your life as the screen where you're reading this article.
As written, SOPA could let someone try to blacklist NOWCastSA for daring to webcast the part of a Fiesta parade where the high school band plays "Seventy-six Trombones."
Under SOPA, if NOWCastSA webcasts the University Of Incarnate Word synchronized swimmers doing their routine to the music of Michael Jackson's "Thriller," someone could demand that NOWCastSA be taken off the Internet.
Under SOPA, if, during NOWCastSA's webcast of Luminaria, a local band plays Elton John's "Rocket Man," the government could seek criminal charges against NOWCastSA.
"Thriller," "Seventy-six Trombones," and "Rocket Man," are copyrighted material.
Among other things, SOPA makes it a crime to stream copyrighted content on the Web without permission, even in noncommercial instances. Although the law's authors were targeting foreign traffickers in copyright material, there are no exceptions for local, nonprofit community news organizations in the U.S. The proposed penalty for streaming copyright materal without permission 10 times in six months is five years in prison, a longer sentence than a judge gave the doctor convicted of killing Michael Jackson.
Supporters say SOPA is necessary to stop the theft of copyrighted works. It would allow the government and copyright owners to seek court orders against websites accused of violating copyright.
I agree with those who say that if SOPA becomes law, it will hurt the Internet, stifle innovation and hamper free speech very close to home.
Far smarter people than I have written about this issue, and I urge you to read what they've written and make up your mind.
Here is a blog post by Lahnam Napier, the CEO of San Antonio's Rackspace Hosting: Sink the Pirates, Not the Internet.
Here is a post by Media law expert Travis Crabtree, a Houston attorney retained by NOWCastSA: SOPA: The debate in plain English – The Update and Editorial.
And here is a link to the Wikipedia entry with citations from all sides.
According to the Library Copyright Alliance, SOPA's provisions could "encourage criminal prosecution of libraries," according to the Wikipedia article.
For more on reactions to the Jan. 18 SOPA/PIPA protest, see:
Disclosure: Rackspace Hosting is a sponsor of NOWCastSA, which receives in-kind and financial support.
Credit: Images used with permission from Fight for the Future and ProPublica. For full Sopa/Pipa Strike infographic, see http://sopastrike.com/numbers/.