Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What's wrong with SOPA? Should Catholics care?

You've seen the headlines, and probably wondered first off what SOPA meant and then once you found out it referred to a proposed law (the "Stop Online Piracy Act") wondered who could possibly object to such a goal. I found a helpful interpretation, from the standpoint of a Church musician who helps maintain a site devoted to Gregorian Chant (emphasis added):
The proposed legislation... would effectively end free information flows on the web. The sharing of content has been the key to the renaissance of sacred music in our time. ...
....There are always deep pockets ready to make a claim of ownership, whether true or not and however ambiguous the claims*. The legal tangles and possible penalties alone would have been enough to keep the entire [chant] library off line.
As an example (though not specifically about the Internet), I remember reading about a little T-shirt shop in New Orleans whose owner created a design reading "WHO DAT?" when the Saints were headed to the Super Bowl. She got a big scary "cease and desist" letter from the NFL, claiming ownership of the phrase (which my 80+ year old mother remembers as a cheer from high school sports when she was a student). No T-shirt shop owner is going to succeed in fighting the NFL. The woman took a loss on the shirts she had created. The NFL won, even though they had no real right to the phrase in question.

That's what SOPA wants to extend to the Internet. I can imagine my own blog being run through a series of algorithms that would reveal that 96% of my expressions are really not original, and that there is a copyright owner out there somewhere who said it first... leading up to a big, fat "Cease and Desist" order on Nunblog. Scary.

SOPA and its Senate twin, PIPA (Protect IP Act) seem to be ham-fisted approaches to protecting intellectual property. It's a noble goal (hey, my community runs a publishing house!), but there is too much not to like about the way that goal would be achieved. Jeffrey Tucker's point (quoted above) convinces me that the same behemoth organizations that crafted the bills would be given the virtual run of the Internet, since they are the only ones who have the funding to pursue any and every potential infraction and pretty much stifling open communication.

Let's find a better way to stop Internet piracy.

1 comment:

Ruth Ann said...

Thank you for this explanation, Sister Anne. I didn't understand the hoopla until I read your blog. Yes, let's find a better solution to the problem.