With Wikipedia, Reddit and the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) protesting via website-blackouts, this seems like a good time to explain those 4-letter acronyms. Don't worry, I'll keep it short! (under 500 words).
In 1998 the Digital Milennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was a first, imperfect step, in figuring out how to handle copyright on the Internet. Basically, it allowed copyright owners like Disney or Sony Music to tell uploaders to take down certain content, or go to court and prove the content wasn't stolen or copied.
However, the Recording Industry and the Motion Picture Associations of America (RIAA and MPAA), or in other words: the music and movie companies, thought this wasn't a powerful enough method, and ever since they have been trying to get more agressive laws approved, but (luckily) failed most of the time.
Then in 2011, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) appeared on the horizon. SOPA and PIPA are important for two huge reasons: they have much more political support, and there is MUCH more at stake. Whereas DCMA is about taking down a single file, SOPA and PIPA are about banning the entire site and forbidding banks to do business with it. Imagine that. They find one copied video on YouTube (which isn't that hard), and suddenly, the entire YouTube website is gone.
What's more, these laws will not stop piracy. Actual pirates will find ways to reach their own servers via direct IP, proxy servers, tunnels - and they can of course just go back to handing out illegal DVDs. The only ones these laws hurt are legitimate users and sites who get caught in the crossfire, and anyone that's not tech savvy. Your mum, for instance.
So why do traditional media like MPAA, RIAA and big TV and newspapers want these laws enacted if they won't solve the piracy problem? To censor 'unwanted' opinions, media and content. The power of the internet is user-generated content. Like Twitter, which is becoming a pretty important source of news. Or you guys, making pixel-art. But user-generated content is also it's weakness (if SOPA or PIPA passes) because traditional media can then simply claim copyright infringement on any website that doesn't agree with their point of view. If there's even a single pixel-art piece that's infringing (like one of these), our entire site could be taken down.
In short, these laws:
- are far too agressive and have lots of collateral damage
- will not prevent piracy or copyright infringement
- can, and most likely will, be used to censor the internet
Oh, and did I mention, 83 people who literally invented the Internet together oppose these laws?
Now, what can we do? First, tell your friends, family and coworkers about SOPA and PIPA. Second, try to convince U.S. Congress to stop these laws.
Together, we can save our Internet.
Thanks for your time.