At 32, I’m finding more and more things that make me feel old. And I imagine it’s all downhill from here. Or uphill, depending upon your perspective.
I remember growing up in Cerulean with nothing but an old-fashioned television antenna that picked up, at best, five channels. I didn’t have cable access until I was 16. We got the Internet at about the same time.
Even at its most rudimentary, the Internet seemed fairly amazing at the time. Using telephone lines to communicate via computer? Wow!
That’s right, kids. There was a time when we couldn’t be on the Internet and use the phone at the same time.
What sparked my most recent trip down this particular memory lane was the recently proposed United States Senate and House bills titled Protect IP (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011) and SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act).
My generation will also likely be the last to remember trading tapes. Those of us fortunate enough to have cassette players with two decks could make copies of albums to share with friends. Some of us did the same with movies recorded on TV. (Kids, think of a standard DVR but on a video tape. Less recording space, but easier to share.)
With the growth of the Internet came the ability to accomplish this type of sharing on an exponentally wider scale. The first big boom in trading music and video as computer files came with the advent of Napster. It was eventually forced into a pay model, but the cat was out of the bag. Now, there is a plethora of sites specializing in file trading.
Let’s call it for what it is. It’s piracy.
Copyrighted material accounts for the vast majority of files being pirated online. Should this be happening? No.
Currently, however, it is clear that there is no good way of preventing everyone from participating in this crime. Sure, some unlucky individuals have been prosecuted, but most suppliers and consumers do their business without ever being detected. I’d wager that many people – even some of our readers, maybe – have become adept at finding and downloading files without even realizing that what they’re doing is wrong.
With all that said, are Protect IP and SOPA good things? On the surface, yes. Dig a little deeper, though, and you find some fundamental problems.
In addition to numerous technical issues, perhaps the most prevelant problems with these proposed bills involve the potential stifling of free speech. In response, popular web sites like Wikipedia will enact a blackout on Wednesday as a form of protest.
Sometimes, technology advances so fast that we aren’t prepared to deal with certain issues that arise because of it. The Internet is a prime example of this. Clearly, there needs to be some type of policing, but asking internet providers to do it is unfair. Leaving it solely in the hands of the government raises an entirely different problem.
What do you think? Or, did you even know any of this was going on? If not, Google it. Assuming it didn’t go dark today.
Justin McGill is general manager of The Cadiz Record and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.