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Hollywood versus the modern day swashbuckler

By BEN WILLIAMS, Staff Writer
We live today in a world with predominantly un-policed Internet freedom and with that freedom comes resistance. Today the debate about Internet freedom rages on due to two legislative bills that were recently put before Congress, SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act). Though the bills have been temporarily shelved, the debate continues.

The purpose of these bills is to provide a legal requirement for Internet Service Providers to block access to websites that are deemed to be infringing on intellectual property rights and in violation of government-legislated copyright laws. At the heart of the opposition to this dispute is the idea that with a government-policed Internet, our freedom of speech and right to free expression will become an act that could be deemed as illegal.

It appears that because of these bills, the gap between content producer and consumer has been driven even further apart. Each side continually presents its own case in front of the global media on an almost daily basis.

Backing the financial interests of Hollywood’s biggest players is the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). In a recent report, IFPI claims that 28 percent of all Internet uses access pirated content on each month. IFPA also suggests that “surveys consistently find that piracy undermines the incentive to obtain music using legitimate paid models and depresses spending, even among those consumers willing to purchase music.” Findings like these are used by proponents in favor of SOPA and PIPA to prove that online piracy is a financially debilitating issue for the entertainment industry.

Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media and a strong opponent of SOPA and PIPA, points out that “the losses due to piracy are far outweighed by the benefits of the free flow of information.” O’Reilly also claims that most consumers of O’Reilly books download unauthorized copies but hundreds of thousands more books are purchased globally because of the accessibility of digital media.

O’Reilly comments that “American publishing, now the largest publishing industry in the world, began with piracy.” Furthermore, he believes that Internet “protectionism” is not the way to support the American economy.

Ultimately, it really comes down to a question of morals. Do you as an Internet user believe that it is OK to sit behind a keyboard, dressed as a modern day Jack Sparrow-esque swashbuckler pillaging the stockpiles of free information? In reality, everything we do online can be considered an act of copyright infringement. The last time you posted a picture you did not take yourself on Facebook … potential copyright infringement. The last cover song you heard on YouTube, sung by a talented individual looking for their big break … copyright  infringement.

If SOPA and PIPA ever get passed into law, the way we all access information online will change, for better or worse. Whether you are for or against the acts discussed in this article, if they are passed things will change. We will adapt and we will live on, but our “freedom” will never be the same again.

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