With the need for the human race to explore every depth of the unknown, the internet is indeed the last frontier. On Jan. 24, the U.S. Senate will begin voting on legislation that will compromise and restructure the way our internet works.
Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) do not allow for due process. As a form of censorship, if a site is reported to be infringing upon copyrighted material, service providers have to do everything in their power to prevent users from getting there by, for instance, taking down the content.
SOPA and PIPA are gaining a surprisingly large number of supporters including the American Society of Composers (ASC), Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Directors Guild of America (DGA), Go Daddy, etc.
Luckily, there is also a large following in opposition to the two bills. Yesterday, Wikipedia, WordPress, Craigslist, Reddit and many more websites joined in on a 24-hour blackout.
Wikipedia stated boldly on its only accessible page: “Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge.”
If these bills were to pass, they would be, by far, the most damaging piece of legislation to come out of Congress for some time.
First of all, SOPA and PIPA will make it nearly impossible for entrepreneurs to start up their businesses if their websites were taken down for hosting any copyrighted material. Keep in mind that this could be for something as small as a reference. More importantly, these bills will greatly throttle innovation.
The Washington Post asked back in November: Will SOPA protect artists’ work or hinder their creativity?
From a very personal stance, it would destroy every source of inspiration of every piece of artwork I have made up until today.
Like many others, I use the internet daily to gain inspiration for all of my work. In fact, it is a part of my creative process to search the web for inspiration. If it weren’t for the circulation of information on the World Wide Web, I would have never discovered Edward Burtynsky or Leslie Shows — two major sources and muses to my paintings. This goes for every other aspect of my life. I learned how to play guitar and piano via YouTube, how to use Photoshop and Illustrator through seminars posted on blogging websites like Tumblr.com, how to sample songs via SoundCloud, etc.
All of these websites promote creativity and a visual language that transpires from sources passed along through normal individuals like you and me. It’s an invaluable network that promotes innovation and creativity.
And it’s not just me. If you ask any living artist today, there will always be someone else’s artwork that stimulates their own. That’s what artists do: we recycle and appropriate ideas in ways that are new and exciting. That was the basis of Andy Warhol’s work. That was the basis of Jeff Buckley’s thinking when he covered Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” or when Eric Clapton covered Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads.” Or look at hip-hop as a genre; the sampling of beats and songs has been a huge part of its history. Some of the greatest musicians today have made their career from sampling songs. Pogo, for instance, has made a name for himself by editing Disney and Pixar films to create hypnotic songs.
If SOPA and PIPA go through, these types of material will be censored or taken down. There would be no room for artistic freedom.
I rarely like to mix politics with music or art. But in this case, there’s something that goes beyond the apparent tactic of stopping piracy. If these two bills pass, the livelihood of many artists will be jeopardized. We are a generation that relies heavily on the technologies and advances of the internet. If the government begins to censor and regulate our right to the free internet, it could be fatal.
Whether or not SOPA or PIPA go through, this will not be the end of attempted censorship of the internet. Go to house.gov/htbin/findrep, find your representative, and let them know where you stand. Call or e-mail them to STOP SOPA and PIPA.
UYEN CAO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.