Why SOPA Sucks

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by Red Slice on January 18, 2012

Not to be confused with a new made-up Mexican dish at Taco Bell, SOPA is one scary piece of legislation worming it’s way through Congress.  While aimed at protecting copyright holders, which I’m all about, it seems to be more an unrealistic mashup of political jockeying, corporate greed and inane lobbying.

The way this legislation is worded, folks who have blog comments enabled (like moi) could face fines or prison if someone posts something copyrighted. And the klugey (is that the right spelling) notification framework means you may not even know you’re in violation until it’s too late.

Mashable did a great job of breaking down the proposed bill and offering a link to the actual verbiage.  Among the most disturbing aspects of this (besides the blog comments piece) was this little gem that could result in a precocious 14 year old’s video of herself signing a Beyonce song landing in jail and paying a hefty fine, From Mashable’s Chris Heald:

…Total retail value may be shown by evidence of the total retail price that persons receiving the reproductions, distributions, or public performances constituting the offense would have paid to receive such reproductions, distributions, or public performances lawfully.

This means, for example, if you upload a video to YouTube of you singing a popular song, and that song might sell for $1, and your video gets 2,500 views, you are guilty of felony copyright infringement. Furthermore, you can tack on “willful infringement for commercial gain or valued at more than $1,000.”

This would make you a felon, and if a copyright holder were to bring a suit against you, would give you a criminal record that would make it virtually impossible to gain future employment, and may subject you to up to three years in prison for singing a song. You don’t have to receive any money. You don’t have to gain anything from your video. Simply receiving 2,500 views on a song you sung, which happens to have copyright held by someone else, makes you a felon

Yikes. Really. I guess I can get hauled off to jail for singing Backstreet Boys’ tunes in my car (yes, I have a closet love for boy bands) And what about when you video your daughter’s dance team busting a move to Usher. Yep, that would be a violation.
The description of website’s who can profit from such theft is so vague, it’s ridiculous. And the way they determine monetary value of the infraction is even crazier. It’s (number of views)  X ($ they could have earned for each playing). So, if a copyrighted tune is heard over a mall’s loudspeaker, do they get to claim the 235 people listening to the song as valid.
Not to mention the aspect that allows the government to take over the offending site or domain if they decide it’s in violation. That’s a whole other ball of scary wax.
Read up on this on Mashable. And then contact your representative or senator.  Yikes. PS: Image credit to fbi.gov – just in case….

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