SOPA / PIPA / ACTA Ultimate Doom


Piracy is an issue that the pirated fight with rigor against pirates who defend it with vigor. On the one hand we have a community that watches movies, TV shows, listens to music, plays video games and utilizes software without paying a single Rupee to the creators and on the other hand we have creators who have begun over charging for content that was once included in an affordable package (e.g: Bonus content DVDs).

The logical thing to do would have been to find some sort of middle ground as attempted by EA’s Origin store, which has brought their prices down to a relatively affordable range. But instead we as part of the global community are faced with SOPA and PIPA, which is like bombing a country because there might be a terrorist or two in there (sound familiar?).

Normally, I prefer talking about the big picture of how things are in Pakistan and how they can be changed for the better.  SOPA is no exception. We have, on our hands, an unreasonable situation. SOPA and PIPA, Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act respectively or the Full Title: Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011. The details of which can be found on Wikipedia.

I will spare you the grim details for your own leisure part and will dive right into why this is a terrible idea. I won’t even talk about how this is effectively the US government killing flies using cannons, I want to talk about what these ominous rumblings might portend. This is seen as the end of freedom on the internet. If this falls through, your future browsing experience will be greatly affected (discussed in detail later). Numerous websites and the bigwigs of the industry have already addressed what this means for the internet in general, but what is most important to Pakistan is the end of an industry.

Allow me to elaborate. Pakistani bloggers, websites and e-commerce businesses rely heavily on AdSense for revenue. A very healthy livelihood can be earned online if one is so inclined. An idea that is becoming increasingly popular amongst the youth of the nation as it offers revenue earned by generating traffic to their page and they are compensated through the ads placed on that site. With SOPA in effect, this would mean these blogs and sites will be subject to entire hit squads out to shut down and prosecute anyone who is
suspected of using copyrighted material. The most egregious case being a woman fined $1.9 Million for downloading 24 songs. Let us not ponder over what mathematics lead to a situation where the RIAA demands $80,000 per song from a mother of four but understand that this system will spare no one.

This problem becomes our problem when we realize that users cannot always generate their own content, for a 1000 word article, they might have to look at for some supporting images or link some YouTube videos or share your favourite song. All of which are going to become offenses punishable for up to 5 years in prison under SOPA. This is inevitably going to drive away business which is going to hurt how things are done in Pakistan.

Megaupload is also a good example of what this mechanism can do, where employees were arrested and the company’s assets were seized. This affected legitimate users as well, those who paid good money for an account and never used it for piracy had their accounts seized along with their membership fees. Without such unremitting monitoring, AdSense and other assorted Ad services will not recognize non SOPA compliant sites as worthy and a huge chunk of web content will go unpaid.

Another consequence that is direr in my eyes is that the next step would be the implementation of pay-per-use internet; which seems inevitable. This might be great news if we are discussing cloud computing but just the worst thing ever if we are discussing our modern
day usage. This will enable a mechanism that allows for pay-per-use charges for internet consumption. If our current usage is a buffet, we will start ordering from a menu soon (hint: buffets are cheaper and more satisfying). Imagine going online but having access only to e-mail, because your package plan does not include web browsing or streaming. This is a very real possibility as it will make monitoring easier, during which process it will make it easier for organizations to charge more for services that you are currently getting as part of your monthly internet usage. This is the equivalent of getting a separate meter for the kitchen and a separate one for heaters.

Additionally, there is a treating going around by the name of ACTA (Anti Counter fitting Trade Agreement) which is a global phenomenon and it will encompass all signatory nations. Which means all of us. Everyone with an internet connection.

So we as a nation are poised to be on the losing end and we are the quietest on the matter so far. There will not be a truly free forum for sharing ideas. News sites, tech sites, blogs, start-up sites and the likes will be run out of business and an entire generation of ideas will go to waste. The purpose of the article is to encourage readers to do something about it while at the same time, to be aware of what the future is.

Author’s notes:

1- This is not “A coin lands on its Edge” because there I propose solutions. Here, the solution is not one I can expertly comment on.

2-  Those who stand to make money from prevention of piracy are already making money (I don’t think these musicians are what we would call poor). These are corporate manipulations to milk every last penny out of the public’s pockets and to hell with those who cannot pay.

3- Our protests will only strengthen the argument against this bill as it is being processed on the 24th of Jan. It has been vehemently protested by the world, but Pakistan has no share in the protest, our voice WILL help.

4- Once this is crushed, it will be back later, dressed up better, in glossier words and modified terms to satisfy the corporations but we have to be aware every time.