SOPA – Opinion and Review: Stopping Online Piracy

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            The internet is a platform where we can all share ideas, hopes, potential dreams, get an education and shoot ourselves some bad guys while not going to jail for the crime of homicide.  It is also a platform where lunatics, sexual predators, identity thieves and the “anonymous” criminally minded can prey upon others, within reason and in most cases without fear of retaliation or being apprehended.  Everyone likes “free” stuff, free music, free videos, free design templates and free games.  An explosion of awareness a few years ago, helped to drive this vast internet to what it is today and with the rapidly growing changes, comes a need to adapt certain rules and law to help regulate against things such as Identity theft, cyber harassment, cyber bullying and now, stopping piracy.  This idea, like most others, is gaining opposition from citizens based on the principals of freedom, the sense of having our rights reduced or infringed upon and has caught the attention of this author.  Time for our truth glasses, let’s pull up a chair 
and find out about the hype of SOPA (stop online piracy act).

            Our truth quest will cover the Bill (October 26, 2011 version) that is of interest to our readers, beginning with the introduction of the Bill.  “To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes,” the idea of prosperity and the other items listed is not new to our United States; in fact it is our entrepreneurial spirit and creativity that founded this great nation.  In title I of this Bill (judiciary.house.gov), it outlines the definition of both domestic and foreign domain names, the internet and advertising, IP (internet protocol) addresses, internet sites and includes references to the Trademark Infringement Act of 1946.

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            If we as citizens work hard to accomplish a successful business it only stands to reason that we would want ordinances or laws in place to help protect our vested interests.  For example, if we owned a 4 star restaurant, surely we would enjoy the peace of mind knowing our doors or lobbies would not be overflowing with loiterers or vagrants while trying to appease the normal flow of customers and that we could easily pick up a phone and call our local law enforcement officers to remove them. An empty answer of , “sorry, you are on your own” would certainly aggravate and leave us feeling somewhat stressed, especially in a world where there is a good chance your simple, “you need to leave” could be met with a loud voice, embarrassing situation or violence.  The context of SOPA is really no different in its quest to protect citizens from undue harm. In our digital lives, face to face contact or the ability to drive to a location that we do business with is on the decline while purchasing items online is on the increase, this means we have to use good judgment in determining what is valid and what risks we find acceptable.

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 18:  Protesters demonst...
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            The majority of the language of the Bill reflects our rights to use the internet safely and without fear of having our advertiser have some altered purpose for the money they want to earn. Citizens that become aware that the “company” they hired to advertise for them are using the money to supply weapons or drugs to kids, combatants or citizens with a cause (militias), would more than likely not invest and would want someone to do something to stop them.  SOPA gives the U.S. government the ability to do just that and protect the “whistle blowers” from harm should they choose to announce the fraudulent practices.  One item in American Justice is when legal issues or contexts come to the forefront of our society; we expect that “due process” will take precedent over a public stoning and within the proposal of SOPA; one will find those exact parameters beginning on page 25 and continuing through page 47.  22 pages dedicated to setting the parameters of what constitutes infringement and what it means to the citizens when someone purposefully commits criminal acts and what our system of justice must do to pursue action.

            Ever apparent in the digital based planet is the growing concern over predators of all types, including those that will counterfeit for the purpose of personal gains by feeding off of unaware or uneducated citizens (phishing) and in order for our country to keep up with the changing technologies and environments, we must ratify our laws to reflect those changes, otherwise, the only persons we can pursue must use a telegraph or other means to bring us harm before we can act upon the crime. History has taught us by examining the mistakes of our past and applying them to our present in order to facilitate a brighter future.  Without these lessons, police could feel free to shoot us upon fleeing the scene of ANY crime, there would still be racial inequality, women rights issues, no Miranda upon arrest, no due process that gives felons the right to an attorney and more importantly no way to control free markets from predatory and unethical conducts and no way to prevent piracy (unlawful taking of another’s property).  This in no way helps any citizen enjoy “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 18:  Protesters demonst...
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            Other than our rights to enjoy our internet lives safely, the SOPA Bill also introduces the very realistic approach to public health concerns.  In the sense of public health and rising costs of medications, the Bill covers that those sites who offer to sell citizens medications and other items, without credible means and potentially selling the wrong items are subject to prosecution by our government.  Many citizens enjoy the benefits of sites such as these and predators of the digital lines know this and could place a site that looks credible in that world, take the business of “selling” prescriptions and give it to our citizens knowing that a simple letter attached to the package stating “the manufacturer of your drug no longer produces it and therefore we have sent XXX in place of it at no additional cost to you.”  Most citizens will not think twice about verifying that style of information, yet when we are victims of a mild stroke that is a result of that, without the parameters of SOPA, there will not be recovery (pgs 49-52). 

            Title II of the Bill opens with the following:
‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—Any person who willfully  infringes a copyright shall be punished as provided  under section 2319 of title 18, if the infringement  was committed—  ‘‘(A) for purposes of commercial advantage  or private financial gain;  ‘‘(B) by the reproduction or distribution,  including by electronic means, during any 180- day period, of 1 or more copies or phonorecords  of 1 or more copyrighted works, or by the public performance by means of digital transmission, during any 180-day period, of 1 or  more copyrighted works, when the total retail value of the copies or phonorecords, or of the  public performances, is more than $1,000; or  ‘‘(C) by the distribution or public performance of a work being prepared for commercial  dissemination, by making it available on a computer network accessible to members of the public, if such person knew or should have known that the work was intended for commercial dissemination.”

            Many citizens enjoy the freedom of watching movies and listening to music online, however, if the movie they are watching was recorded by someone sitting in the audience on a phone camera or the music they were listening to came from a site that released songs that were not part of the agreement of the band or musician distributing them, the person(s) who distribute those items are now considered criminals (reference the DMCA, Digital Millennium Copyright Act). This is evident at a website known as “just in TV” where the movies and television shows they allow users to see are played in a mirror, re-recorded and then placed upon their website for the audiences to view.  This is due to copyrighting laws placed upon reproduction without consent of the original producer, a law that has been around for scores of years.  Further historic evidence supports this with the famous “FBI warning” in the opening scenes of the BETA or VHS versions of movies (remember those?) When citizens work and accomplish something that requires us to copyright protect it, it generally means no one else can take that away from us in the sense of ownership and if someone did and it cost us financially or otherwise infringed upon our rights, restitution or at the very least an explanation would be warranted. 

            Pointing out the concerns over a Bill that is being considered for review is a natural occurrence in modern governments as well as those of the past.  We the people of this “more perfect union” do appreciate having the right to express that voice openly and with just concerns for the benefits of our nation, it is what makes us the world’s leader in Democracy.  In reviewing further into the bill, terms outlining the guidelines of harmful commerce and trafficking in dangerous or illegal goods is considered.  These guidelines are clearly for the people’s benefit of knowing that what we buy does have parameters for safety and peace of mind in purchase, that is of course unless one could verify that the nice jacket they just bought from the online store didn’t come direct from a factory ran by children and organized by criminal minds. 

            In conclusion, it perplexes most citizens when something new is introduced in order to benefit the majority and those who are slightly misinformed or may not like the new parameters will easily misinterpret what the laws intend as an infringement upon them personally.  History and its lessons give us the rights to say, think and pursue every avenue imaginable and extend those rights, either by way of protesting or by direct interaction, to everyone.  We must never forget that technology advances such as the ones we enjoy were not in focus in 1946, 1976 or even 2001.  Not only has a terrible act of deliberate heinous proportions changed our lives, but a new realization of how vulnerable we may be is now a forefront, with it comes technology that evolves continually (Moore’s Law) and the need to keep privacy, ownership and the things that make us a great nation safe from harm.  We may not all agree that the things that are being enforced and passed are for the people, but we can all agree that in order to change it, we must utilize our basic rights of voice during all periods of election and place persons in those spots who are for our common good.  God Bless this United States and all its people, truth glasses back in their case, everyone have a pleasant day.
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