January 17, 2012

On Intellectual Property and Copyright Protection

By Marc Esadrian

As most who are familiar with my creative values will know, I am highly supportive of the idea copyright should be enforced regularly and fairly across the Internet. I detest thieves who steal the original work of artisans and content producers, only to pawn it off as their own so as to profit from it in some form. Frankly, we all know intellectual property and content theft is a problem on the Internet. We also know the digital world, overall, is a magnet for these unscrupulous practices and simultaneously a justification for stealing. With a simple drag and drop and a few clicks, Internet thieves and careless users can severely harm the creative or monetary rights of others. Something does have to be done about the way we protect copyright on the Internet, even if in small steps.

At the same time, however, we don’t want to stifle the very essence of what makes the Internet so viable and worthwhile for all of humanity. While ensuring the protection of copyright and intellectual property, we don’t want to smother free speech and free expression, or the freedoms needed in the digital age to make worthwhile human use of the Internet beyond the almighty profit motive.

Currently, there are two bills working their way though the United States Congress and Senate, both backed by large corporate interests (MPAA, GoDaddy, etc.), to give government the power to work in unison with these corporate interests to change the way the Internet works, from Google search results, to social networking sites, to websites in general, in and outside the United States. These two bills are the United States Senate’s Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) and the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bills. Unlike the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), PIPA and SOPA make little to no compromise between the Internet community and its producers. These bills, while perhaps well-intentioned on some level, go too far; they would effectively give government and big business too much power to change the Internet as we know it today, allowing authorities to block a site’s web and search traffic using the same website censorship methods used by China and Iran. These bills would likewise flood the digital economy with substantially increased legal risk. Certainly, the “Land of the Free” can do better than that.

Here’s a fairly good video summary of what these laws intend, if you would like to learn more.

SOPA, at the time of this posting, has been “shelved” (for now), but PIPA is still active, and a potential threat. Please help the Internet community reject these bills in favor of better or existing alternatives for user freedom and copyright protection. Write to your local state representative and let your voice be heard. You can write to your representative easily with Mozilla’s help by clicking here.