Opinion: Why the Pausing of SOPA & PIPA is a Landmark, Occupy-Like Event

January 21, 2012, By George Lang

This week, congress put the brakes on legislating protections for copyrighted artistic works. But the Stop online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) are about far more than instituting justice for creative individuals. The battle to pass this legislation has re-opened age-old questions concerning the concept of ownership itself: what can be owned, what should be owned, and what will be owned.

True, no one should question the rights of those who labor to write a book, to compose a piece of music, or to make a movie; and very few are! But when protecting those rights backfires, as these bills have the very real potential to do, the rights of many more creative individuals could become compromised.

Large corporate entities like Hollywood movie conglomerates and recording industry moguls support these all-encompassing bills because they would blanket the entire creative ecosystem with automated, digital enforcement procedures. This world-wide blanket would have an extremely coarse oversight with very little finely-tuned ability to provide justice for the smaller creative entity.

When protecting “what should be owned” becomes a problematic issue, “what will be owned” becomes a difficult proposition; so much so that “what can be owned” becomes questionable. The Occupy Wall Street movement has recently demonstrated how this concept works in the current foreclosed American real-estate industry:

Occupiers have leveraged so-called squatter’s rights in an effort to place low-income families in large unoccupied homes. This, of course, has failed. But what happens when enormous numbers of Americans are placed in the same situation and tens of thousands of these events take place?

SOPA and PIPA represent a similar state of affairs. Ownership of intellectual property may not be enforceable without greater attention to detail and by using a finer point on the legislative pencil. Analogically, if millions of Americans are left standing in the cold, while tens of thousands of beautiful, bank-owned properties lie empty, what do you think will happen next?

Billions of dollars of profit have been lost, by both creative individuals and by those industry magnates who represent them, through online piracy. This has happened because the Internet has made it easy for people in their own homes to claim ownership of “illegal copies” of the digitally-recorded, intellectual property.

This can be compared to the advent of the dual-cassette tape deck back in the 1970s and 80s. Legal owners of the deck simply placed a legal blank cassette in one side, and their copy of the legally purchased Doobie Brothers album in the other. SOPA and PIPA-like legislation would have the FBI sending agents into your home to put you in jail for buying a legal copy of the album, then buying a legal blank cassette tape to “burn” a copy on!

This week’s events are an important landmark for ownership rights wherever they reside. A time-out has been declared for the sake of getting it right before passing. Based on expert IT recommendation, pausing the legislative process is the most intelligent thing the United Sates congress could have possibly done. Kudos to those whose protesting efforts forced their hand.

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