SOPA – About Copyright & Trademark violations

The author of the original, now nearly dead, SOPA legislation in the US was Congressman Lamar Smith. As word spread about the draconian measures in the bill, someone decided to check Lamar’s website and found that his site used a Creative Commons photo without attribution. That means his site was infringing on copyright. Shortly after the news broke Lamar’s site was taken down. It reappeared later with the images removed from the background and banner.

Legislators in Ireland are under pressure to pass a SOPA like law from the subsidiaries of the same companies that lobbied the US for SOPA. Earlier today, news broke on Twitter that Sean Sherlock’s (the man behind the Irish version of SOPA) site also contained copyright infringement. This site was also taken down today and probably we can safely assume that it will reappear without copyright infringement.

In Canada, there is pressure on parliament to pass Bill C-11 (Canadian version of SOPA). Can you guess what’s coming next?

The party currently in power in Canada is the CPC party. Lo and behold, In the lower right of the CPC website is a fake Youtube Logo:

Youtube does provide a terms of service for using their logo. Youtube also provides the approved logos in downloadable form.

Yes, those three sites only had minor infringements. But, they are infringements nonetheless.

  • How many websites currently have accidental fake logos?
  • How many websites currently have an image downloaded from a photo hosting service (ex. Flickr)?
  • How many websites currently have an icon the developer borrowed from Windows, OSX or an application?

The answer is probably millions. Is there a point at which technically illiterate politicians will clue in that the laws they are proposing will negatively affect millions of existing websites?

The additional irony with the CPC instance is that Youtube might end up being blocked from Canada if C-11 is passed.

SOPA & PIPA Blackout

I wanted to give a brief non-technical explanation of why we participated in the Internet blackout in protest of SOPA & PIPA. To start, here is a great TED talk:

Under current law (DMCA), you & I are allowed to incorporate existing content into our own works so long as it falls within “fair use”. Fair use means you can use short clips from movies, short music clips from other artists, quotes from other written works, etc. without it being copyright infringement. SOPA & PIPA eliminate fair use.

Further to that, the proposed laws also make linking to web sites that contain copyright infringement (under the new definition) illegal (on the grounds of aiding and abetting copyright infringement). What that means in practical terms if SOPA & PIPA pass into law is that most existing blogs both foreign and domestic would fall into the definition of a copyright infringing website and/or intellectual property theft.

A person who has a site offering free yoga videos and instruction is technically taking revenue away from the traditional entertainment and broadcasting industry. However, most like the person running that site is making money from advertising and/or creating a customer base for one on one consultation. From an economic standpoint, the site may be eliminating a job at News Corp or one of the other media conglomerates but it is not costing the economy a job.

The media conglomerates cannot get legislators to shutdown the distribution infrastructure (the Internet), so they drafted legislation that targets the content producers (ie. you & I). If you have not already done so, I encourage you to contact your representatives to let them know that you do not want the Internet to be censored.