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SOPA provision kills flattery

By Staff | Aug 23, 2013

Zombies are coming in the form of legislation. In other words, the Obama Administration is trying to bring a part of an unpopular bill back from the dead.

The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, was a bill whose aim was to curtail piracy of copyrighted material-movies, music, you name it. However, the language in it was so convoluted it was hard to tell where the means toward stopping piracy ended and the means to censor the Internet began.

In late 2011, thousands of websites, including Google, Reddit and Wikipedia, altered their web pages in protest to SOPA. Some of them altered their sites to the point where they weren’t accessible, saying that SOPA would do the same thing.

In January of 2012, SOPA was shelved, and the death of the bill was celebrated as though the Wicked Witch of the West had died.

But now the White House, under pressure from the Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force, is bringing back to the table a provision from SOPA that would make the “unauthorized streaming of copyrighted material” a felony. Unfortunately, once again its language has people scared. Scared that some people will be fined/jailed for singing a song by someone else and uploading it on YouTube to share with the world.

Preteen and teen girls should be outraged by this, especially those who are “Beliebers”. Despite any ill will I have, being an ardent “metalhead”, this bill would turn kids like Justin Bieber, or even people like Karmin, Walk Off the Earth, and Greyson Chance, who got famous by covering songs and uploading them to YouTube, into criminals. Our prison system already has a problem with nonviolent drug offenders being lumped into environments with serious and violent offenders, the last thing we need is someone being in an orange jumpsuit for simply sharing how he or she plays and sings “Wagon Wheel”.

Not to mention what it would do to sites like YouTube. There are several users who make covers of songs, both instrument and vocal covers. Some of these users have a lot of subscribers. There are also video game commentators who have gameplay footage over what they say, like username “MinnesotaBurns”, whose videos are popular with my brothers and me. A long time ago I had a YouTube account with guitar covers on it, which I shut down in protest to SOPA. This piece of legislation would force users to either severely cut down on the number of videos they have or shut down their channels out of fear of prosecution.

And if you think this doesn’t affect foreign users, you’re wrong. In January of 2012 the Hong Kong based site MegaUpload, a site that ran online storage and viewing services, was

shut down because copyright infringement was taking place on the site, and it’s founder, New Zealand resident Kim Dotcom (Kim Schmitz) was arrested. Since then Dotcom successfully battled attempts to have him extradited to the U.S. But if this legislation goes through, other foreign users who are supposedly costing the entertainment industry money by videotaping themselves covering songs and sharing on YouTube might not be so lucky.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m against plagiarism, the taking of one’s ideas and passing them off as yours. There are some who will try to do this with music, and those people should be punished. But then again there are those who are just paying tribute to their favorite artists by making covers, and as the old saying goes, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Some artists, believe it or not, watch these covers and don’t pursue legal action, because it would hurt their fanbase, the very people who made these artists as big as they are today. This legislation would stifle talent that could be “the next big thing”, and it would also be the death of flattery.

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