By Mohamed AlJunaibi (@maljunaibi)
This January, and the opening month of 2012, the internet became (once again) the area for discussion, debate and even conflict. The topics of internet censorship and protection of intellectual properties came crashing together at the very mention of two bills that were proposed to the US Senate. They were the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protection of Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).
Simply put, SOPA is a bill that would grant creators and owners of intellectual properties (IP’s) a tremendous amount of power over the way their content is handled. This includes movie studios and other sources of IP to be able to use law enforcement authorities to issue court orders and can have a sentence of up to 5 years in jail for streaming of copyright material via various Internet means.
The whole aim for SOPA is to prevent and destroy websites that have been known to be “safe harbours” to various illicit activities violating and infringing on copyrighted material.
When discussing the sister bill PIPA, it follows the same line as SOPA but also puts in place focus on foreign websites that infringe, distribute and violate copyright with the assistance of a court order (in rem) to transfer back ownership to the person raising the complaint. PIPA is a step towards allowing the US in taking legal and law enforcement actions outside its borders with the assistance of the US Justice Department.
The two bills (SOPA and PIPA) have caused a lot of anger to many websites, activists, and in general a large population of people who feel that these are steps towards a regulated internet that would later become a tool for governments to be able to further control on what topics or subjects can be “searched” and which items go to a filtering or blacklist somewhere.
A lot of people in the UAE have also raised concern on the whole fiasco surrounding SOPA and PIPA. But truth of the matter is that we (in the UAE) already use a regulated form of internet. The issue is primarily the two pieces of law (SOPA and PIPA) that are now taking the formal processes in order to have them eventually voted into law. While this is a tremendous change to the way the Internet will be governed, it “technically” has not much weight within the UAE and the already existing set of cyber laws in place.
SOPA and PIPA are laws that are filled with many ambiguous portions. The laws show an attempt by many media groups (and the usual Hollywood studios) to reduce the losses of the current entertainment industry. Let us face it, the entertainment business has not been able to maximise on the existing set of technologies that have made illegal trading of TV shows, movies, and series so easy.
People like to be entertained. I recall when movies would be released and we would wait a good 2 to 6 months before the movie would actually be in the region.
This was because in the early days, film distributions happened via the regional distribution mechanisms. Distribution companies would get the rights to distribute and show a movie to a particular region (ex: Europe / Asia / Middle East) only once certain profits and earnings have been secured in the North American market (usually).
But with the globalisation that had taken over many developing / progressing countries, distribution companies and studios have realised that release dates of some of their movies be best done globally. This mind shift was very significant since it made entertainment companies wake up to a failing business model that the film industry had in place.
Today, technology has changed. And much of the entertainment industries’ failure is to do with their overall inability to catch up to the various new methods in distribution of content.
When comparing two industries, the video game industry (in comparison with the film industry) had been able to use the current distribution methods on the Internet to their advantage with sales and profits from video games now competing with the music and film industries. It even surpassed both industries in 2005 and 2007[i].
So the whole fuss is really a technology issue, the majority in the entertainment industry have been unable to do two primary things:
1) Utilise the current set of technologies to their advantage
2) Have a working business model to cope with the technologies available
While people may think that Wikipedia, reddit and other sites have already proven their points, it is still an interesting thing to watch since on January 20th, the SOPA/PIPA bills have been pushed to February for further discussion. This came on the same day when the hacker group of Anonymous brought down the websites of the US FBI, Justice Department, US Patent Office, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and others in a show of opposition towards the legalisation.
A sign of things to come? Only time will tell.
23rd Issue – February 2012
Here We Start – Art of Living 101 – Beyond Inspiration
First Years Last Forever – Scenes from Our Lives – Society of Tomorrow
The Mind’s Eye – To The Point – Words, Observations, and Ramblings
Mohamed enjoys reading literature and political commentary, with a love for Sci-Fi reading and writing. He’s also a big Formula 1 fan, and also heads the Mercedes GP UAE Fan Club based in Abu Dhabi.
Latest posts by Mohamed Al Jneibi (@maljunaibi) (see all)
- The Polarising Effect of the Internet, Cyberspace Discussions - March 1, 2012
- Laws of the Internet: What are SOPA and PIPA? - February 1, 2012
- The UAE: My 7 Wonders Of The World - December 2, 2011