January 24th, 2012
Spark Comic #30 - Kill Bills
Hey Sparky-Fans, I made it to 30 comics! I'm even on time with the comic this week! It even features the lovable Shad, from my first animation, the Legend of Shad!([link]
) WHOO! This is a cause for celebration, but I'd like you to hold that thought while I drop some mad politics on y'all.
Besides being a witty spin on a Kill Bill poster, this is actually a political cartoon going after the recent assault of OUR legal rights; as in you, me, your friends, your neighbours, your mom, etc. If you've been living under a rock for the past few months or at least for the past week, you've probably heard about SOPA and PIPA, two horribly flawed pieces of legislation to censor the internet that almost got fast tracked through the US Congress. These bills would effectively make our internet similar to China. PIPA was held back by one man, Senator Wyden, for almost a year at a point when it was almost past by the US Senate, no questions asked. Then SOPA was introduced in October, which was around the time I learned about both of them and have been trying to spread awareness about ever since. What these bills would do is allow for VERY broad enforcement of copyright laws to the point of insanity to combat "piracy" (Something the bills totally fail at). Under these bills, a copyright owner or the governemt could tell an internet provider to take down or censor an entire website with little to no evidence of them doing any sort of infringing activity as well as force advertising and payment companies to cut off all ties and hold funds from the owner. All they need to do is say you have even a SMALL piece of copyrighted content on your site and POOF! The entire site is dead (Though it's relatively easy to get past a DNS block if the site is foreign). The only real option to counter this would be travel all the way to the US and go to a long, costly, and lengthy legal battle to prove you aren't infringing. If that just flew past your head, then it basically means you instantly become guilty until proven innocent, not the other way around like it's supposed to be. While this is targeted to foreign sites, provisions in the bills allow it to be easily applied to domestic sites and it doesn't discriminate. User-Generated Content would instantly become the first casualty since sites that rely on that cannot possibly go through the millions of entries submitted per day and sites like Facebook, Twitter, DeviantArt, and especially Youtube would be effectively crippled if not totally dead as a result since the bills make them liable for EVERYTHING posted by their users. Not only that, but it makes it a criminal felony to stream any sort of copyrighted content. By streaming, I don't mean livestreams, though that counts. I mean doing something as simple as posting a wedding video and there's a copyrighted song playing in it. It also becomes a felony or legal liability to simply link to that infringing content. These are just SOME of the biggest issues in these terribly written bills and they are so flawed they can easily be used to censor any information and the internet in general. Why do this? In the name of protecting copyright, as if there aren't already enough laws for that. Not only does this give companies too much power, but if you do even minor research about corporate lawsuits you'll see companies try to sue everyone left and right for the smallest things and abuse any power you give them. The DMCA law is one of them (Though I believe that law might be a necessary evil).
Now you may think that there's no way this could happen, and you'd be what Lex Luthor would call, "WRONG!". The problem is that the representatives in the US Congress are 40-80 somethings who quite literally have no idea how the internet works. Scary thing is that most of them fully admit that and still eagerly supported the legislation. The people who were the voices of reason on both the PIPA and SOPA debates were the minority, believe it or not. I listened to most of the livestream for the SOPA debate just before Christmas came while doing an animation project and as a person who is very interested in the law and legal rights and am thinking of pursuing that once I get my New Media degree, this pissed me off greatly. I am not kidding, even to a person with barely any understanding with legal terms would find this maddening as they all admit they have no clue what the fuck they are doing while calling each other a "Nerd" like it's a new racial slur. There were about 20 - 30 amendments to SOPA being heard. Any amendment that would've made SOPA the slightest bit sane and or fix any of its problems were almost unanimously rejected. Even worse, they got a letter coming from several internet experts and brushed aside their concerns like it was nothing. The only ones really fighting against SOPA was Rep. Issa and a few of his congress friends. For a while, it looked like both PIPA and SOPA were becoming VERY likely to pass... Then Congress went out for Christmas Break, awareness about SOPA grew, and the Obama Administration announced opposition to the bills (Which I find hard to trust since he signed the NDAA, something you should also research). On January 18th, 2012, Reddit led the charge of an unprecedented Internet Blackout to protest SOPA joined by Wikipedia, Wordpress, Tumblr, The Oatmeal, and over 100, 000 other sites all accross the world wide web (It's likely you even first heard about the bills because of that). Even my own website, SparkComic.com, participated in the day-long blackout (You can find a lengthy list of sites on SOPASTRIKE.com). Our glorious blackout caused public outrage that almost killed the bill in a day, with politicians pulling support from it en masse, and now SOPA and PIPA, while not dead, are shelved indefinitely, meaning that they are effectively frozen for the time being, but still a possible threat in the future.
You may wonder why I, a Canadian, am so passionate about this. I care for several reasons. This affects Canada directly since our IP Addresses and most web domains are stored in the US, which the bills would treat as domestic and put us under US law online. Also, Canada's ever debated copyright laws would be directly affected by its passing. This is already apparent, despite stopping SOPA, since corporations are already pressuring Canada to put SOPA-like laws into a revised version of our copyright bill, Bill C-11. These already are affecting legislation being applied around the world. Several SOPA clones have popped up in Europe and I think one or two of them have succeeded in passing. ACTA is a treaty negotiated and signed behind the public's back by unelected officials that is potentially worse than SOPA and PIPA. Canada and the US have signed on for regrettably. The European Union is now the only hope to deal damage against ACTA. Their decision to sign it is going through their legislature. I can only hope they reject it. Worst of all though is I'm a New Media student. These bills are direct attacks on the New Media Profession that corporations, the MPAA, and the RIAA are infamous for as they previously tried to stop the VHS and MP3 Players from existing. They are ruthless corporations who seek nothing but to milk money from their often sub-par and vindictively silence anyone who oppose them, as well as bribe ignorant politicans. These bills would effectively make my degree useless if I want to make a new business or invention with my degree since companies will abuse these laws to destroy small competition (as if they don't do enough of that already). If these bills or anything like it pass, it effectively proves they can pay politicans to control entire countries in order to establish a monopoly, all because they are threatened by technology. EVERY industry is threatened by technology. They have to adapt a new business strategy or die. That's how the market works and there is no reason why they should be treated any different. I don't believe this to be much of a legal problem. Ignoring the fact that companies don't give a shit about fair use, I believe that it's a service problem. Steam, iTunes, and even Netflix are prime examples of innovative business strategies that are very profitable. Why Hollywood can't bother to adapt to this is beyond me.
Personally, as an artist, I don't believe copyright protection is as big of an issue as idiots like Lamar Smith put it out to be. Piracy is proven through study and common sense to be not as big of an issue as the media makes it out to be. Companies already abuse copyright laws in their favor like the DMCA as if it's going out of style and constantly ignoring fair use. We've already seen copyright nazis like Prince get anal over seeing any song of his used online and the FBI is doing a bang up job taking out MegaUpload (unjustly in my opinion), and trying to extradite UK student Richard O'Dwyer to the US (A story that pissed me off over how unjustly he's being accused [link]
). I am a big believer in Creative Commons licenses, which are pretty fair and reasonable and don't limit creativity or free speech. SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, Bill C-11, and any bill like it are just more prime examples of political corruption. Doesn't the US have better things than try to impose fascist law on citizens and other countries, like trying to catch real criminals like murderers?
Whew! That was a long description... Anyway, I urge you to do independent research of all the topics I've told you about. The sites I listed on the comic are perfect places to start your research. SOPA and PIPA will surely be back and the new OPEN Act Alternative is... Weird to say the least. Watch out for similar laws, as they will surely come eventually. Spread the word.
See you next comic!
P.S. There will be no comic next week. New comics should start back on February 7th.