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Dispatches from the Digital Revolution

Let’s talk about SOPA. Again.

Let’s talk about SOPA some more. Because it’s one of those weird things that is both laughable and terrifying all at the same time. (Clowns, anyone?)

For those of you who don’t know SOPA, its real name is the Stop Online Piracy Act, or House bill H.R. 3261. Introduced to the house in October 2011, the gist is this: the bill seeks to protect copyright by blacklisting and barring access to websites that post any content in violation of copyright. You can find out more about this in a post written earlier this week by my colleague, Keira.

But it’s not just the link-sharing, Limewire-downloading average Joe who’s anxious. Independent artists, musicians, and writers are getting the willies, too. Because without these social media sites, they will lose their primary means of distribution.

And, on a theoretical scale, that’s not to mention the implications for Web 2.0, the Internet’s current evolutionary stage, which is primarily driven not by web pages, but by social networking sites.

Which brings me to an idea that has been niggling at me for a while: maybe the problem isn’t copyright infringement—maybe it’s copyright. The term copyright literally means “the right to make copies.” But does that apply in a digital world? Are “copies” measured in the number of YouTube videos posted of a Maroon 5 song? Or are “copies” measured in the number of views of that song across all posted videos? And then how do we count linking that song to Facebook?

The world is changing. Maybe it’s time to change with it—not by blacklisting, but by changing the way we define ownership.

Postscript if this is all news to you: sites such as the falafel are making their own witty statements of opposition. But even humor will have a hard time beating a threat of Internet blackout, including sites like Etsy, LinkedIn, Google, Facebook, and other giants. The idea was instigated by Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales, who suggested shutting down the crowd-sourced encyclopedia in protest.

And extremely timely post-postscript: multiple media outlets have reported that Reddit is confirming a 12-hour blackout on January 18. And so it begins…

About Leah Thompson

Writing and publishing professional in the Boston area.

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This entry was posted on January 12, 2012 by in Business, News, Opinion and tagged , , .

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