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Copy(right) and paste

Nice column in the North Carolina State University paper, the Technician, from a student who understands that copying is not theft, and that to oppose SOPA you must oppose copyright:

Copy(right) and paste

By Brian Anderson, Staff Columnist

Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 21:02

Brian Anderson, Staff Columnist© 2012 N.C. State Student Media

Brian Anderson, Staff Columnist

I was happy to see Technician release an editorial two weeks ago in opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). While I agree with the editorial board’s view on SOPA, though, I cannot help but worry about its view on piracy.


For example, the editorial summarized Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian’s depiction of SOPA, writing, “…its treatment of piracy is liken to a robbery being committed in a neighborhood, and then the neighborhood being demolished to prevent future robberies.”


I do not agree with this context for the clear reason piracy should not be a crime. And I would change Ohanian’s story to a version reading, “A man takes a photograph of a house and magically creates a new house out of thin air based on the original image. Then homebuilders lobby Congress to throw him in jail for teaching others how to do it.”


Indeed, if you were able to download a free Lamborghini without stealing anyone else’s Lamborghini, would you do it?


The reason it is vitally important to discuss the illegitimacy of intellectual property as opposed to the legal failures, i.e., guilty-by-accidental-association provisions, of SOPA is because the former feeds the latter. SOPA is a natural extension of stances in favor of intellectual property, which, contrary to real property, is simply a monopoly granted to corporations by governments that will later fine or imprison individuals who do the same.


After all, the original intention of copyright legislation was purposeful censorship, not some kind of incentive allowing musicians and other artists to make money. We shouldn’t be surprised copyright has finally returned to its maker. A more modern example of intellectual property-fueled censorship is the Church of Scientology’s usage of Digital Millennium Copyright Act-required takedown notices against its critics.


Many insist people would have no incentive to produce new entertainment, or particularly important in our technologically-advanced age, new software. Yet a quick look at Linux and Apache demonstrates even open source companies—those without a reliance on intellectual property—can thrive in the free market. You’ll be surprised how often you can find Linux’s source coding used around your house, e.g., in your TiVo.


As for entertainment, we can look back to the 1909 revision of the U.S. Copyright Act, which extended the copyright renewal period to 28 years. One would think that a major extension like this would surely give artists incentive to create newer pieces of work, but, from that time until 1999, the world saw no increase in artistic productions.


And thus Napster began. In 1999, the Recording Industry Association of America—yes, the same organization patting SOPA on the back—sued Napster. Not only did this lawsuit fail in stopping downloads, but the trial’s publicity turned Napster’s less than 500,000 user base into a huge peer-to-peer file-sharing community of 38 million people by mid-2000.

No matter what any government does, decentralized individuals will always find new ways to download these commodities for free. It is time that musicians, artists and other Los Angeles suit-and-ties realize we’re entering a new economy filled with non-scarce resources for which we would have only been able to dream a few decades ago.


Musicians should feel lucky to have their content displayed so frequently on websites like YouTube. Few people these days will even consider buying a song without hearing it at least once, and even fewer will attend a concert without such an experience. If nothing else, it is amazing advertising for established and upcoming musicians.

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To the extent possible under law, Stephan Kinsella has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to C4SIF. This work is published from: United States. In the event the CC0 license is unenforceable a  Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License is hereby granted.