We've all heard of the ridiculous stunts that the entertainment industry has tried to take to protect intellectual properties. I'm sure many of us that used to find new music through fan-made videos on YouTube or clips from the latest episode of a popular show we had to miss remember the mass purging of infringing material when Viacom began making copyright claims en masse there. That got way out of hand when one of Valve Software's own creations, "Meet The Scout," a video promoting Team Fortress 2, was taken down due to a copyright claim. At this time, if a person flagged a video as infringement but didn't bother to verify that they were the rightful owner, YouTube still took it down and defaulted to saying the claim was made by Viacom. the RIAA completely wiped out peer to peer programs due to the exchange of music through them. There was definitely a legitimate claim and reasons for those copyright crusades in the beginning stages of them, but they all get out of hand. I remember reading a news article stating that the RIAA was planning to push making the playing of your radio or CD player in front of other people illegal because it was essentially handing out free music in their opinion.
They don't see that a lot of what I just stated acted as free advertising. For instance, I would have never bought any music for my iPod if it were not for Pandora Radio, which used to be commercial free radio that handed you the ability to freely listen to an artist or band you liked or wanted to get into while sprinkling in related artists. Jonathan Coulton has a section of his website asking "Already Stole It?" which says that if you've pirated his music, hand out copies to your friends so that maybe they'll buy something. And you know what? He sells out shows and makes a lot more money now than he ever did as a software engineer. If you don't get your music out there, how are you supposed to stand out?
All we would get is exactly what happened when YouTube introduced the Partners Program. It worked to actively bury videos not officially supported by YouTube through this program and of course promote partners' videos whenever possible, because they have ads and make everybody money. YouTube used to be about cool stuff that people posted that rose in popularity only through other people. Now it seems you need a successful webshow in order to make it to the top, because YouTube wants you there.
Protect IP is a different monster.
This would cause the mass censoring of tons of sites if it were abused, which it very easily can be, and knowing the entertainment industry, definitely will be. It is a sad day when singing your interpretation of your favorite song on YouTube will land you potentially in jail for 5 years (since it's now a felony) after paying a fine and getting all of YouTube shut down. The big hitters in entertainment like Viacom would have a serious grip on the industry, since it can silence and destroy anything that dares oppose its decision of what should be popular, since the apparently vague language of the bill could allow them to stretch it to find some way to shut you down and take what money you did make from your site.
Remember how we all used to make fun of the censorship China has for its nation's internet? That would be us, but with a lot more lawsuits against children and people who are being held liable for something one of their potentially millions of members has done.
This won't stop pirates either. This is exactly like EA's SecuROM DRM disaster in that it will accomplish absolutely nothing except for anger, discomfort, and inconvenience for all of the people who do follow the rules. Censor torrents or file sharing sites from pirates? They'll just punch in the IP into the address bar (which only makes it more annoying for everyone) or go down under the surface and into the Deep Web. That is a place that young users should be wary of, because it could lead to an encounter with the Dark Web, which is not at all where you want your children to end up after looking for a song.
The Internet is actually a gigantic contributor to the United States' economy and the global economy, and some of our leaders think it would be a good idea to cause a blackout across the whole of the net for stupid little reasons? It would bankrupt companies, cost thousands their jobs (people make their livings from running websites,) gain loss of respect for America for losing its biggest vehicle of free expression, and cause a huge amount of unrest among its peoples. You thought the Occupy Movement is a mess? Those were just some of the people that wanted to change the way corporations influence politics in whichever way. This affects them and everyone else. There are so many books and poems and songs and short stories written about what would happen if we lost our free expression in the form of a blanket banning on books or music, but imagine if we lost the internet, possibly the most important tool in shaping our generation.
This is the time that we leave our mark on the world, deciding whether or not the internet should be for the growth of humanity through sharing and the free exchange of opinions and information or a vehicle for being fed only what the current big names in the industry want you to be watching or listening to.
Imagine a Facebook where videos or even posting lyrics in a status were banned because they could potentially infringe on a copyright.
In the past few days, according to AmericanCensorship.org, the bill was fought off for the second time, but it is coming back and will need to be fought once again.
A lot of people may be asking "Where is Anonymous in all this?" Truth is, they've been going against Protect IP since its inception, and to be honest, the public outcry over this proposed bill is proof enough that this time we don't need Anonymous. No one needs to don their masks today, because they're probably emailing the local Congressman. Sure, there are plenty of videos on YouTube titled "Message from Anonymous" or something, but there has been no giant fist of mystery and wrath, no unified war cries standing tall above and making headlines like they were during the Scientology protests a few years ago, the destruction of cat torturer Kenny Glenn or the splinter groups that are taking part in the Occupy movement.
That is because this time they are with everybody else. They are not here to make a bold challenge and raise an army out of sparked political unrest. This time the army's already here. It includes Google, Facebook, 4Chan, Mozilla, and Reddit, for examples. The whole of the internet stands united against this threat to itself, and so we absolutely need to contact our local politicians.
Quick, entertaining video on Anonymous for those who still think it's primarily a small evil "hacktivist" group:
The moster has been fought back, but we need to keep up our efforts every time it comes back.