Barnard College's Monthly Magazine
There’s no denying that our society has very little respect for intellectual property. In an age where virtually anything is available for free online, few people still pay for the privilege to be entertained from their computer screens. Rec- ognizing the downside of a world wide web, Congress recently at- tempted to cut down on Internet piracy. However, it didn’t take long for hostile responses to convince the legislative branch that SOPA and PIPA would both be ineffec- tive and severe as they encroach on our right to free speech and would make libraries criminally respon- sible for infringing on copyright laws. However, we cannot continue to ignore that there is a need for some sort of government regula- tion online.
I’m probably one of the few people today who still pur- chases music. Though I’ve occa- sionally slipped up, I am proud to say that most of my digital music library was ripped from a CD or purchased on iTunes. Contrary to popular belief, downloading files for free off the Internet is stealing from another person. Musicians, writers, filmmakers, and artists make their living by producing media for the expressed entertain- ment of the public. When we ille- gally watch an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians on the re- cently deceased Megavideo, we are not just denying the Kardashian Klan a percentage of the profits. The cameramen, editors, and even summer interns are hurt financial- ly. If they’re not fairly compensated, these talented individuals have nothing to gain from continuing their work. What if you were the starving artist trying to make ends meet while others unfairly copied and distributed your brainchild?
Unfortunately, Internet piracy isn’t an easy thing to justly legislate, as shown in the intense backlash against SOPA and PIPA. However, it might be feasible to require web- sites providing copyrighted materi- al to obtain a license to ensure they adhere to copyright laws. Any web- site that isn’t licensed would be sub- ject to incrimination, so that only those who enable Internet piracy would be liable. For now, it’s im- portant to remember the principle of the situation – our inflated sense of entitlement and disregard for art has driven Congress to consider such a draconian legislation. It’s up to you to respect the people who make the music, books, films, and other media that you enjoy. There are plenty of outlets that allow you to enjoy media legally – think Pan- dora and YouTube – without having to pay anything more than your In- ternet bill. Sadly, we’ve proven that we cannot handle the responsibility of using the Internet fairly, and it’s gotten to the point where the gov- ernment wants to intervene.
- Laura Garrison
“Every political good carried to the extreme must be productive of evil,” wrote Mary Shelley on the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, lamenting as the worthy goals of liberalism and republi- canism were devoured by a wave of intolerance and violence.
The Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act come no- where close the horrors of the guillotine, but Shelley’s eloquent warning against extreme politi- cal action remains relevant. The bills, proposed in the House and the Senate respectively, con- tain various Internet regulation measures developed to curtail the online distribution of copy- righted materials. While both bills have sincebeen set aside, those in Congress are still push- ing a less dramatic form of on- line regulation. Many, however, are concerned – and rightfully so – with the constraining ef- fects that such radical regulatory measures will have on Internet freedom.
There is no doubt that copy- right infringement presents a serious problem to the integ- rity of the free market of ideas. Without certainty that an origi- nal concept or creation will be protected under law, there is little incentive to publish or oth- erwise spread unique inventions or novel thoughts.
Yet the answer certainly can- not be an overarching piece of
legislation, so extreme in its po- tentially repressive nature that the ultimate “political good” is reduced to over-regulation so intense that the lives of most Americans will be affected so- cially, academically, and profes- sionally. SOPA and PIPA were defined in incredibly broad lan- guage that would allow for shut- downs of entire websites rather than specific infringing content, forcing popular sites like Face- book and YouTube to tyranni- cally monitor all content or pay hefty fees to fight inevitable legal battles. What new legislation will Congress draw? Even graver than SOPA or PIPA would be the federal regulation of Domain Name System (DNS) -the basic structure of the Internet. This wave of governmental interven- tion can only be compared to the Internet censorship already demonstrated in countries like China and Russia.
The problem of online pira- cy must be fixed, but it must be done so carefully. Sweeping pol- icies like SOPA and PIPA do lit- tle to actually counter copyright infringement while doing much to set the government on an easy path of censorship. The solution should not be knee-jerk protests, but rather serious conversations about practical ways to end the harmful practice of piracy and copyright infringements that are fair and do not encroach upon our liberties.
- Ayélet Pearl