photo by tomasmikula
Because today is the five-year anniversary of “Blackout Day,” the day millions of users were suckered into doing the internet industry’s bidding for no good reason, the always-relevant BuzzFeed offers us a missive published by the organization ReCreate Coalition called “12 Things You Can Do Because Congress Protected Internet Freedoms,” by which they mean backed off the passage of SOPA/PIPA on January 18, 2012.
But there’s something magical about the twelve things listed; it’s kind of like a palindrome in that it is also a list of things you would still be able to do if SOPA/PIPA had passed. Let’s not equivocate on this matter. I mean not one of the activities mentioned was in any way threatened by SOPA/PIPA. And you know how we know this? Because those bills didn’t expand rights or restrict exceptions like fair use under the copyright law. If you engage in any or all of the listed activities and actually infringe a copyright, you’re just as potentially liable right now as you would be if those bills had passed. For reasons known perhaps only to the folks at ReCreate, they chose the following:
1. Share puppy videos instantly to Facebook.
2. Post a breaking news clip on Twitter.
3. Review a new restaurant on Yelp.
4. Comment on an article at a news outlet like Deadspin.
5. Use Wikipedia for that history paper on Alexander Hamilton…
6. Post a funny meme to Reddit.
7. Save a healthy recipe on Pintrest…
8. Repost a motivational quote on Instagram.
9. View and share family photos on Flickr.
10. Write a political opinion blog on WordPress.
11. Post a manequin challenge on YouTube.
12. Listen to a podcast on SoundCloud.
None of these actions inherently requires the use of copyrighted works. Some are actually hard to fathom how such a use is even implied. For instance, it’s pretty tough to share your own family photos and infringe a copyright, which suggests the ReCreate folks really put their A-Team on this little project. But, don’t kid yourself. If your political opinion blog includes the publication of a copyrighted photograph used without permission, you’re exactly as liable right now as you were before anyone even heard of the acronym SOPA. Those bills were aimed at foreign-based, enterprise-scale pirate site operators and required substantial, costly evidence to enforce. It would not have been legally possible for rights holders, under SOPA, to give any more of a damn about private videos and restaurant reviews than they do right now.
The remedies provided by SOPA/PIPA were based on existing practices already used by courts when providing injunctive relief—all of which have been applied in various cases, and all without destroying the internet, the First Amendment, or your ability to “share puppy videos instantly on Facebook.” Since 2012, sites have been shut down, URLs delisted, and credit card services denied to various types of bad actors; and yet the web keeps humming along in all its mannequin-challenging, motivational-quoting, and funny-meme-making glory. The anti-SOPA campaign was one of the most effective fake news stories of all time, and celebrating the anniversary of being fooled is well…you finish the thought.
I assumed the buzz in BuzzFeed referred to current events, but perhaps it’s a literal reference indicating that any party, no matter how stoned they are, is free to publish any nonsense they cobble together via their platform. So, I guess we should add a thirteenth item to the list that would also, sadly, still be kosher in a world with SOPA & PIPA:
13. Click-bait bullshit could still pretend to be information.
© 2017, David Newhoff. All rights reserved.