On SOPA

The title says it all. If you don’t want to hear me talk about SOPA, then stop reading now.

If you have been well-informed, you know of the Wikipedia blackout today (and if you have not been well-informed, your tweets are likely being retweeted by either of these two accounts). Not all major websites have taken part, but we can also include one of my favorites from my younger years (read: last year), and that is the comics website The Oatmeal. Since the owner of The Oatmeal, Matthew Inman, gave his blessing to “pirate the shit out of this animated GIF,” I have provided a picture from said GIF below, as I am not technically skilled enough to actually “pirate the shit out of this animated GIF.”

Would dressing Jesus and Oprah like pirates make this picture meta?

I, like many other people you may now, am opposed to SOPA. Yes, it’s designed to stop rogue websites from stealing content from companies. But it also has the potential to shut down innocent websites. For example, this one.

Yes, Off The Mark would be in violation of SOPA. Take a look at this post back in May 2011. In tackling a particular play in a game against the Detroit Tigers, I used screenshots from a video highlight to present my argument that the umpires made an incorrect ruling on this fan interference play. With what I understand from SOPA, if MLB were to find this post, they could have this site shut down, if WordPress didn’t get to me first. If the government had Off The Mark shut down, then WordPress could be shut down as well for failing to get to me first. Also, websites that have linked to Off The Mark could disappear as well. All because I wanted to explain why the Twins got screwed in a game from early last season.

Another post that could end Off The Mark is this one, where I used song lyrics from Rise Against’s “Help Is On The Way” to describe how the Twins’ bench and minor leaguers were not actually providing much help to the major league club. I’ve been discovering that record labels are having their bands’ lyrics copyrighted on lyrics websites (so you can no longer copy and paste lyrics from the website), which could very well mean that simply posting the lyrics to a song would be in violation of the copyright. Now, it’s possible that I’m fine because I did cite Rise Against and the song when posting it, but living in fear or having to even take down the post is not right.

I don’t draw in many readers with this blog, but that was never my intention when I started. I started this blog because it gave me a chance to do what I wanted (write about the Twins) while avoiding what I didn’t want (editors, deadlines, and majoring in English, communications, or journalism). If Off The Mark was to end because of SOPA, I certainly could just start up a new blog. But I don’t want to do that, nor do I feel that I should have to, just because I violated some copyrights in the name of enhancing my own creative content. I would appreciate it if you contact your state representative and/or senator and tell them that passing SOPA is not in the best interest of this nation. Thank you for your time.

*trips off soapbox*

5 Responses to “On SOPA”

  1. Patrick Says:

    I am glad to see more and more people speak out against SOPA and PIPA.

    These laws are far to restrictive and punitive. They will create a significant chilling effect on the internet. It could easily be argued that all of the examples you mention fall under fair use and are not violations of copyright but in a SOPA world people will be forced to shoot first and ask questions later. That will significantly harm the internet as we know it.

  2. Patrick McDougle Says:

    This is a rather good explanation of how the legislation would effect websites.

    • Bryz Says:

      I’m glad I did a good job tackling it. The whole time I was typing this post, I had the feeling that I was only getting the gist of it.

      Also, I see someone thumbs-downed the post. Apparently they didn’t listen when I said, “If you don’t want to read about SOPA, stop right here.”

  3. TT Says:

    Actually, you did a good job of explaining the dangers. But you really messed up the copyright discussion. Copyright is automatic. You can’t publish song lyrics without permission of their creator.

    But there is something called “fair use”, the rules for which are both arcane and fuzzy. But under fair use you can make use of copyrighted material for criticism and other purposes the way you have done here. The problem under the law is that your site could be shut down based on someone else’s interpretation of the law without any chance for you to dispute it.

    The other problem is that if someone were to use copyrighted material in a post here, your site could be shut down even if you were unaware they had copied it from somewhere else.

    The goal of the proponents in the entertainment industry is to transform the web from a multiparty communication network into a network where they deliver their content and you view it. They have a lot of very powerful allies, including most of the mainstream media.

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