Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Sincere and Honest Demand for Copyright Reform

Dear Representatives Speier, Pelosi and Senators Feinstein and Boxer

Who do you stand with? The ludicrous idea of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP reaching actual discussion within Washington has given citizens rationale to question the authenticity of our elected officials. Do you serve to protect the rights of American citizens or the sanctity of the profits of corporations? SOPA is treasonous, evil and the single greatest affront to American freedom since the institution of slavery.

In discussion of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which would have criminalized displaying “indecent” material to minors, Judge Steward Dalzell wrote “As the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed, the Internet deserves the highest protection from governmental intrusion”. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision in Reno v. ACLU, acknowledging that government-based filtering of content was contradictory to the First Amendment.

creative commons image

We have entered the twilight weeks of 2011, and SOPA and its cousin PROTECT-IP have garnered massive outcry from 95% of Internet users. Under the terms of the bill, “rouge sites”, web sites located on servers in other nations with more hospitable copyright laws, will be blocked from access in the United States. This will be accomplished through a method called DNS filtering; the very same censorship tool utilized by authoritarian states such as China, Syria and Iran. SOPA effectively erects the Western equivalent of China’s Great Firewall.

Since the advent of mass use of the Internet, public discussion has been sorely needed to reform archaic copyright laws that restrict the intellectual freedom of content producers everywhere. The rise of user-generated content hosted on media-sharing sites like YouTube, Flickr and Bandcamp has created a new form of art based on modifying existing work. Derivative works, such as covers, remixes, image macros and mods are the pieces of this amateur movement. An example of such memetic art that has received widespread media attention is the infamous “Pepper Spray Cop”, in which Lt. Pike’s nonchalant visage is Photoshopped into famous works of art. In the spirit of the hackers of the 1980s; media like “Pepper Spray Cop” is released for free online under open licenses like Creative Commons. Blocking such media on the grounds of copyright infringement is proof positive that traditional copyright is incompatible with the freedom of the Internet age.


Furthermore, the Internet has revolutionized content sharing and communication through startups like Facebook and Twitter. Private entities will be forced to censor and redact copyright infringing links and content at the brutish command of both bill’s parameters. The practice of downloading an amusing picture to one’s hard drive to share on one’s Facebook page would cease to exist. As a result, private communication between individuals becomes heavily monitored. Our privacy is invaded not out a tenuous concern for national security, but out of concern for the profits of media companies like VEVO, Sony and Warner Media Group. For these corporations, it becomes clear which half of “Intellectual Property” takes greater precedence.

My sincere and honest demands are threefold and are listed below.

1. Kill PROTECT-IP and SOPA in their respective branches when the time to vote on their passage comes around.

2. Reaffirm the government’s role to protect the interests of individual citizens rather than the corporations that have destroyed democracy and freedom through their insatiable greed.

3. Enact active discussion to reform the restrictive copyright law that has restricted the freedom of derivative artists everywhere.

I am certain that PROTECT-IP and SOPA will die in Congress, however, the mere fact that such an act was even brought into consideration necessitates a critique of our current copyright laws and the extent the government should be involving itself with corporations. The Internet has been a boon to free-speech everywhere, I thus implore you to side with the citizenry of the United States and protect the integrity of online communications and the hope that the web’s decentralization will pave way for a more participatory culture.

Thank you

           Kevin Wong

A Sincere and Honest Demand for Copyright Reform by Kevin Wong is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. You are free to remix, redistribute and modify this work as you see fit under the conditions that the license remains the same.

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