I’m sure that I’m not the only student who really felt the World Wide Web’s online protest to U.S. House Bill 3261 SOPA (Online Piracy Act). Wikipedia, the organization that bolsters itself as the ‘free online encyclopaedia that anyone can edit”, and is responsible for being central to helping millions of desperate students around the world bull shit their ways through last minute essays and assignments, was part of this online protest. The bill itself is being proposed with the hopes to expand the U.S. government’s ability to combat and enforce the trafficking of intellectual property and counterfeit goods. For all those who enjoy threads, music blogs, and sites with ‘free’ downloadable online content, say goodbye. If SOPA is passed, this would mean that the government could also enact harsher punishments for the illegal streaming or downloading of copyright content.
Obviously if this was to happen, it would affect more than just this group of frantic students struggling to write papers, chugging Gatorade, and nursing serious hangovers unable to get their Wikipedia who would be outraged. This means that law enforcement could block access to any domain name that they feel is in violation of this Bill, which would make the internet act against the very thing that it was created for: freedom. With the loss of freedom to share, there is no doubt that soon to follow is the loss of the freedom to speak. As stated, many online data banks and repost sites like Wikipedia, Reddit, and WordPress blacked out for one full day, in order to show their solidarity with the millions of people around the world who felt like the preposition of this bill is a step towards the American government entering a George Orwellian 1984 world.
The film industry hasn’t put up any real type of fight, publicly at least, against the SOPA act being passed, and one wouldn’t have to wonder why it would. The film industry has been fighting internet piracy for many years now, but after some serious leaks ( x-Men Origins: Wolverine 2009) that have cost studios big bucks in post production, its fair to say that film execs and industry leaders are taking the threat of online piracy more seriously than ever. As someone who frequently contributes to box office totals and an who is an individual not afraid to admit to his free online film consumption, I feel that I can say that I belong to that particular group of film patrons who can see both pro and con to the film industry’s lobbying with the bill.
Despite my feelings of moral ambiguity towards the situation, there is still one thing that remains unbelievably unclear about the grounding behind the industries battle against piracy.The moving picture practice has always been well acquainted with ‘borrowing’ others ideas, stories, and even technology, and its quite fair to say that it wouldn’t be in the incredibly powerful position that it’s in right now with out these ‘borrowing’ ways. The bitter copyright wars that moving picture pioneers Thomas Edison and George Melies not only mark the beginning of the century long endurance of the film industry’s career, but also people being aware of this business existing on an international scale. As time has passed this industry has showed us that it is willing do whatever it needs to in order to guarantee its profitability. First came moving pictures, then moving pictures with sound, moving pictures with sound in colour, and finally moving picture with sound, colour, and 3D capabilities. There is no denying that as the technical aspects of the film industry evolve, the talent and the skilfulness exhibited by filmmakers and actors has continued in the same pattern. Still, living in the 3D age, its possible to see that Hollywood’s still hasn’t lost its “if its bigger, its better” attitude.
Because the film industry has reached a paramount in its power, as this year with its record breaking 28 sequels, has proved that it can be sure of knowing always making profit. It’s very hard to imagine this business on its hands and knees, still if one were only to look back to the 1960’s the image of Hollywood was just this. Between competition with the invention of television, the radically changing societal standards and progression, and Hollywood being utterly unaware of what the youth wanted on screen, Hollywood was humbled. Hollywood survived the decades to follow by getting rid of its ultra conservative production code, saw through with the creation of the Hollywood blockbuster (films that could gross hundreds of millions of dollars in a few days), and took chances on edgy younger directors.
Now, in the 21stcentury, the film industry feels it is being put in jeopardy for the first time in over 50 years, and this might be the biggest reason for its lack of resistance to the SOPA act. However, this attitude refuses to remember just how much online sharing has contributed to it becoming what it is now: an all powerful world presence, that has shown that international borders can be transgressed with the click of a button, subtitles downloaded in a second, and films from any country made accessible to anyone around the world who desires them. It seems like the industry hasn’t seriously considered the negative aspects of what SOPA would bring about, primarily being that if people can’t download and stream films, the playful demeanour that the public has adopted to this business’ ‘timidness’ to creativity as of late, may not be so easily forgiven. The fact that 9 out of the 10 top grossing films this year were all sequels and that each of the top 3 grossed more than 1 billion dollars shows that the industry has us on a tight leash, and SOPA may make us move away from the peg .SOPA has the potential to push the industry back to that moment in time when it was out of touch what the people wanted, and utterly desperate to do anything that will reingratiate itself with us.
Check out Wikipedia’s full stance on the SOPA act here