Wikipedia is making a powerful statement against two controversial proposed pieces of legislation in Congress, SOPA and PIPA, which are aimed are combating Online piracy by blacking out their website today. The White House opposes the legislation which is apparently being advanced by a small number of powerful entertainment interests to stem foreign websites such as the Swedish based PIRATE BAY website. However, many Internet freedom interests argue that both SOPA and PIPA are like using a sledgehammer to stop Internet piracy, which is better combated by more careful monitoring efforts by Websites to respect the copyright interests of others.
Further complicating the whole Internet piracy issues are many video posting Websites such as YouTube, which allow both individuals as well as companies to post materials on that site. For example, it is a known fact that the producers of SNL sometimes post deleted segments on YouTube that didn’t fit into the 90 minute time schedule of the program on YouTube as a service to fans. This is material that the producers of SNL wanted to share with the public. Other times, either NBC or the producers of SNL have demanded that YouTube remove some videos that public viewers of YouTube have posted on their own. This leads to a complicated mix of authorized and unauthorized videos on many Websites such as YouTube and other sites where both businesses and viewers both post materials.
Some foreign Websites and those dealing in adult content make the problem of Internet piracy or the occasional posting of highly controversial content even more complicated. Some Websites have registered domain servers in places such as the Bahamas or the Czech Republic, where both businesses and individuals both post materials on the sites, where copyright violations or some extremely offensive material may exist on the sites for some time before both the material or the link are removed. It appears that much of the motivation of Congress to combat Online piracy appears at shutting down American access to copyright violating websites overseas where lax rules or business procedures allow films, music or software to be too freely exchanged on pirate websites. However, sites like YouTube and others have proven that using a careful scalpel to remove some content that violates someone’s copyright can be removed carefully by request, Every website worldwide just needs to have a clear link where these issues can be addressed to the site, and the staff needs to have some oversight over the website as well.
Some Internet file sharing or video posting sites do a very fine job keeping both copyright violating materials or highly offensive materials off their sites. YouTube has policies that remove highly offensive materials. Further, one adult video file site with a server in Greece publishes a list of sources that no one is allowed to post materials from. Some of these sources are banned because that material is either too highly controversial or offensive, while other sources are interested in keeping their copyrighted material off the site. This careful self-policing of the site seems to work as a good role model where this site appears to be one of the most responsible among the numerous sites on the Internet where video files can be posted by both business as well as users.
Another complication is that some material falls into the public domain after a number of years, so some posting of some entire movies that were once considered copyrighted is now permitted with these films. However, it appears that this public domain consideration doesn’t seem to work with some materials such as music, where it appears that a copyright still is valid. So for example, the catalog of The Beatles doesn’t become a public domain after a number of years unlike some grade B horror film.
Copyright law is complicated, where there exists American law and foreign laws as well as international copyright agreements. But, the solution of Congress in SOPA or PIPA are just too heavy handed of solutions. But, it should be agreed that any website that allows video or file sharing needs to more carefully monitor their sites to make easy access by a copyright holder to request the immediate removal of some copyright violating materials..
The solution by some in Congress to force the blackout of some sites because some possible copyright violations may exist is simply too strong of tool to protect some copyright holders. More careful steps to protect copyright holders work far better, and protect the free flow of information on the Internet.
One strange little footnote here. Strangely it was the courage of former Speaker Of The House Newt Gingrich that has been most responsible for making the Internet as free as it is today. Some years ago, in his role as Speaker Of The House, Gingrich opposed some legislation that would have put heavy restrictions on the Internet.