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Americans are currently up in arms over the Stop Online Piracy Act, making its way through the United States’ government. And if you’re not in the US and think SOPA is something that’s happening far away and won’t affect you, think again. If passed into law, our lives online will be very different.
In short, SOPA is attracting attention due to its broad nature. As the internet is so vast, there’s no knowing where the line is. If passed, the act will give the United States Attorney General the ability to close down websites which infringe copyrights, as well as ban them from using online paying facilities such as PayPal and Visa. He’ll also be able to prohibit their online advertising and could go as far as disabling Google from ranking them in search results and linking to them.
It doesn’t stop there though. The law spills over to other countries too, because court orders will be given to those outside of American jurisdiction who infringe American copyrights. Foreign websites will be just as vulnerable as those established on the act’s home soil.
Although there are pros to this act — it will protect the intellectual property market, resulting in revenue and further jobs — the cons are hard to ignore. In an attempt to keep their websites running, companies and businesses will be forced to censor themselves, being careful about the information they use and videos they upload.
For instance: YouTube may have to rethink its set up as it was created as a platform on which internet users could upload, watch and share videos with each other on the internet. When uploading a video onto YouTube, users are faced with a message stating:
“Do not upload any TV shows, music videos, music concerts or advertisements without permission, unless they consist entirely of content that you created yourself”.
Despite this, YouTube is full of channels which consist purely of downloaded and uploaded videos. If the SOPA is passed, these channels will all be deleted, the websites which share links to them will be closed down and if a blogger users the video in a post they’ll suffer penalties.
YouTube will be held responsible as the host platform.
Some of the most watched YouTube videos in the five years that the platform has been running will be considered offensive if SOPA is passed, including the celebrated Here It Goes Again music video which was copyrighted by Okay Go and has been reloaded through several other personal channels.
The various and incredibly popular Hitler rants — in which the subtitles of a scene from the 2004 movie Downfall have been edited to make fun of pop culture annoyances — will also have to be removed as they utilise a scene from a copyrighted film, mashing it up with their own original content.
And let’s not forget all those Justin Bieber fans — Beliebers — who have devoted their YouTube channels to the seventeen year old singer, each one aiming to be better than the next. The countless Belieber blogs have shared and linked these YouTube Channels, creating a formidable teenage presence on the internet that will undoubtedly have to be edited if the SOPA is passed.
Lastly, some of today’s most famous faces have made their names through reality television and talent searches. Their debuts can be watched again and again on YouTube, originally uploaded by the producers of the show or television company before later being illegally uploaded by fans of the stars and the programmes. Adele stunned crowds at the 2011 Brit Awards and we can watch her performance on the “Texnician”, “geomandre” and the “TheSportsMan02” channels…To name just a few.
YouTube has an online copyright centre which outlines the rules and regulations for using its platform. With the help of the SOPA it’ll be able to enforce this further. This isn’t necessarily a negative as copyrights will be protected and YouTube users will no longer be flooded with illegal videos when searching for the original.
However SOPA gives the Attorney General the ability to act against infringing websites without a court hearing or trial, and the act would undeniably affect millions of websites (as the internet’s main purpose is to share information), millions of businesses, and individuals will suffer too. A prospect which will completely transform the face of the internet as we know it today, forcing it to take a backwards step and altering its ability to act as a source of information.
YouTube may be an online platform where SOPA has a beneficial role to play, however it’ll easily be able to overstep its mark to affect the more innocent users who simply utilise online information, albeit copyrighted or referenced, to aid their businesses or education.