Sticking It To S.O.P.A.

Just the other day, the leading Internet sites of the Planet Earth in this sector of the Galactic Metal Empire “blacked out” and “censored” themselves in protest of a recently proposed House Bill called the “Stop Online Piracy Act” or “S.O.P.A.” for short. I’m not kidding about this for when you opened up Wikipedia or Google (to name a couple of the giants who did something) you would see some kind of self-censoring that prevented you from proper use of these mediums. It was slightly unnerving and I would like to think that it did send some kind of message to the people who support it. Let’s continue a little bit on this by looking at the actual proposed Bill.

The full title of the Bill is “To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes.” (H.R. 3261) and this was conceived by House Representative Lamar Smith. When one reads it straight through it really sounds like something awesome but then we have to remember that the politicians are behind this and they so seldom are truly acting for our benefit and yet always are out to serve their own needs and get re-elected to offices or raise their own standing in the larger corporate machine. Am I wrong here? In my humble opinion I am not and I say this because I vividly remember the group of Washington Wives who tried to censor and blacklist music artists “for the good of the children” some years ago as the Parents Music Resource Center or P.M.R.C. It amounted to a power play and a means to control what was being delivered in their musical forms of free speech. There are tons of clips about this stuff on with Dee Snider and Frank Zappa giving testimony and it makes for some jaw-dropping realization. Anyways, I am off course a little bit here so back to the main topic. As the principal creative resource for, I am responsible for much of its written and photographic content ans while I do have some help from time to time it is for the most part a small and focused D.I.Y. enterprise. Someone said to me that with this bill in place I could be in jeopardy of reprimand based on the images that I have taken from shows or while doing articles elsewhere in the Metal realm if someone wanted to make a case about their being posted. If this is the case then say goodbye to all of your Flickr, Photobucket and Facebook galleries because they would be breaking the same laws as we full on website and blog maintainers. I disagreed about the images being the copyright of anyone other than myself since that is my right as a photographer. The image is mine forever but it is available to others for use in a particular fashion for a price 🙂 Controlling this kind of stuff would be a herculean task for sure. Since starting the site I have found many of my images used on other sites without any crediting or linking back to where it was found and in some cases the other site branded their imprint across the image. If this act protected me from this then I would be all for it but I hardly think anything I am posting in terms of images would be considered important enough. I think they are more worried about political big wigs being caught off guard and having an image posted that would ruin their otherwise pristine reputation. Moving on.

As a music journalist I download music all of the time for the purpose of review but this is my right under the title of Editor In Chief of this online resource and every song is marked with my site branding in the event that I ever slipped and put these tunes up on a P2P server for the rest of the world to indulge in. Essentially we download because that is how the review materials are served up to creatives nowadays. I’ve also reviewed music on sites such as Spotify and MOG since these are legitimate resources that work with the record companies for the artists benefit. Well, they seem to be at least. The site only posts a stream to a song that is officially sanctioned and signed off upon. Having been in a band in my youth I know just how hard it is to make a living as a musician and if you are working in Metal then you really have your work ahead of you to make any financial difference in your life. Sadly, not everyone is pulling in the cash that Metallica and Ozzy Osbourne are. If this act prevented the illegal P2P sites from doing their thing and making a profit off the artists and thereby making my own job harder then that is wonderful but again I hardly think they are going to worry about all of this if it gets passed. At the end of the day this act appears to be the beginning of gaining complete control of the Internet by the Government and that is not a good thing. I do admit that I smiled just a little bit when I learned how was shut down based on just how many millions of pirated items resided on their servers. According to a recent editorial on Metal Sucks this domain earned millions and millions of dollars in advertising and was thereby sponsoring pirated stuff. I think that money would have better uses (perhaps some banner ads on – hint, wink, nudge).

Some supporters of the site asked me if I was going to blackout the site on January 18th like so many others were planning to do since I held some distrust in the bill in my own heart but alas this would not really be part of my agenda. The first reason was because I did not really know how to “shutdown” on the core site without causing damage to its Interweb standings and the second was because we don’t get the level of attention that folks like Google, Wikipedia or Facebook does anyway so it was not going to really impact the world. I also feared someone hitting the site and thinking it gone for good and never coming back so since I did not notice a bunch of my competitive peers being offline we remained open for interested Metal fans despite the blackout. I tried to steer away from being super political here because I’ve never been one to argue that kind of stuff with people even though many of my friends consider themselves political experts, activists or spokespeople to the truths that we don’t see. I just fear total control over anything and since review is opinion and with the website I am voicing my own again and again, I would hate having that needing the nod of approval to continue or risk being in jeopardy should the wrong person take umbrage to that which was being posted. The show “Person Of Interest” centers around a government operated machine that monitors email, cell phone and internet activity to see where potential problems might lie. The idea that such a fanciful H.G. Wells of a device could actually exist one day (or does already in secret) terrifies me. Could Skynet be far behind?

Interestingly enough some high profile people are in support of the S.O.P.A. bill and made statements about it, such as Duff McKagan from Guns ‘N Roses among others. Maybe its direct phrasing helps him out but again I fear this kind of thing morphing into something entirely different. The question remains does blacking out or turning off a site truly make the proper statement? I think not and feel the best way to convince a politician that you mean business about an issue is to get on the line to them or their offices or their sponsors. Threaten them with your vote, speak out against them in a civilized manner and let them know their livelihood is in jeopardy and boycott things they stand for if you can stand to not partake in them. What are your thoughts on this proposed bill my dear readers. I would love to hear your own two cents about the topic so please line them out in the comments section.

Read up on the Bill at the Wikipedia Entry HERE.

2 thoughts on “Sticking It To S.O.P.A.”

  1. I think Wikipedia should have shut down for a week! I wasn’t on the web the day of their black out cause I was working so I missed it. I know many who missed it. But, a week down would really make waves!

    I too confess to downloading music for review. But, as a fellow music reviewer what music is sent to me physically, direct from the labels and/or artists, is free as it is. It’s part of the job. And, I don’t in return share the music whether by stream or youtube. Sending stuff online is the trend of artists nowadays to cut down on overhead, including even sending fans to P2P sites to get the download. But, SOPA sees downloading as bad even when it’s not.

    The record labels didn’t see the warning signs that their industry was collapsing and are now stuck out in the cold with bad decisions. Bad business practices usually means the business suffers, but in this industry because they messed up they feel the consumer should be punished and hurt because it’s the consumer’s fault that online technologies made the record label’s offers less attractive. Why do they really believe anyone would want to pay $20 for a CD versus getting it for free online? Honestly, though, Amazon and iTunes are as much to blame as now I can download just the singles I want and .99 or $4.99 for a full album is a lot better than $20! And, streaming is a further culprit that’s completely legal. Spotify pays 1/10-1/14th of a penny for a stream! The only real money is in full physical album sales. Illegal P2P is not all to blame.

    As for those like Duff who support the bill. He obviously believes downloading pays his rent. I have hundreds of tracks downloaded a month via my own work (the same outlets that sell Duff’s work) and I’ll be the first to share that I make less than $20 in profit. Money is in touring, soundtracks, guest appearances and physical sales. Sorry Duff you didn’t get your 1/14th of a penny last month. And, 1/14th of a penny times a hundred downloads …… is it time to buy a new car?

    So, now, what essentially started as an anti-illegal downloading movement (like suing consumers or shutting down Napster) … that didn’t stem the problem … has now moved to just about destroying the Internet completely.

    I’m waiting for the first case of an unemployed father who posts a video of his baby dancing to a song in the background for 30 seconds and he gets fined by a judge. It’s going to be in the newspapers (i.e. Huffington Post). I’ve been saying for years we’re facing a economic civil war and this will bring us a step closer.

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