I watched the SOPA protests closely last week with complete amazement.
In summary, SOPA is a proposed anti-piracy law in the US which would help prohibit illegal content on websites by imposing harsh penalties on sites that host it.
Protests were held by some of the highest traffic websites on the Internet including Google and Wikipedia and were reported by the TV news.
Remember that Google own YouTube, which allegedly hosts many videos of illegal TV broadcasts (broadcasters and content owners can upload it to YouTube if they wish).
That’s one aspect of SOPA. Another aspect is that many websites that show illegal content use advertising as a source of revenue. SOPA wants networks which provide this advertising to become liable for where they are used.
If you took the Google search algorithm and posted it online, Google would take you to court and try to shut down any sites that host the illegal content. Yet Google refuses to be held accountable for the thousands of allegedly illegal videos it hosts on YouTube. These videos are illegal because they are TV recordings and violate copyright. Either Google does, or does not respect copyright.
Google are rumoured to be bidding for the Premier League rights. It will be interesting to see if Google win the rights and then watch their lawyers report websites which contain illegal footage. Will Google remove these websites from the search results? Will Google remove their adsense and adwords accounts?
And the same applies to Wikipedia. Whilst I’m not suggesting that you actually do this, if you set up a website tomorrow and wrote a script to copy all of Wikipedia’s comments to your site, would you expect a legal letter from Wikipedia? Of course you would, because we understand copying content without permission is illegal from our school years onwards.
The value of content has been steadily fallen and the Internet has accelerated this. I don’t want people to copy my content illegally, and I respect the US for trying to help protect content.
Photo courtesy of KierDuros on Flickr