2011 was a banner year for web video. More content was watched online than ever before with YouTube hitting ludicrous milestones like a trillion views and going on to make reasoned and yet utterly hyperbolic statements like "90% of Internet traffic will be web video" at this year's CES. Arguably one of the standout viral videos of last year was the tiny Nicki Minaj fan and her cousin who after uploading a video of themselves singing along to super hit Super Bass became something of a media sensation; appearing on the Ellen DeGeneres show where they got to meet their idol in person and sing a duet. This may never happen again.
Any reasoned person would agree that the Internet is a global community that should be prized for being a bastion of free speech, freethinking and free opinion. The Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act serve to dismantle the very fabric and makeup of the internet in a bid to save the entertainment industry, an industry that has failed almost conclusively to protect itself from the onset of technology, and the overwhelming power of the internet and sharing.
The SOPA and PIPA acts, if passed, could present a bleak future for sites like YouTube where uploaded videos would have to pass even more stringent copyright tests. By handing the reigns over to the entertainment industry the US government is giving them power to sanction, take down and prosecute anyone that infringes on copyright. Thinking about uploading that video of you singing a Drake song? How about uploading that footage of a concert you went to? Or making a 'supercut' video (one of the most popular viral memes of 2011)? You could get up to five years in jail for breaking the rules laid down by these acts. All for uploading a YouTube video.
The language used in the acts is so broad that sites such as Tumblr, Vimeo, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and even the beloved Facebook could all come under threat and even face being shut down. There would be no due process with SOPA and PIPA, just a shutdown notice.
The great irony? If the entertainment industry put more effort into harnessing the power of the Internet they would not have to resort to these tactics. Networks post content to YouTube and other video sites all the time in an attempt to garner the millions and billions of views that are accrued every day for the most innocuous of clips. Films can be streamed online, web video providers are competing with the big studios to create their own content now. Payment should not be an issue; there is advertising revenue, you can charge nominal monthly fees as Netflix do or one off payments to films via Ultraviolet or special studio websites.
Piracy is a problem and something that must be dealt with through well thought out and customised strategies. SOPA and PIPA will not end internet piracy and in fact the easiest way to get around a SOPA blocked site is to merely type in the IP address into your browser. The outcome of the bills fundamentally will mean a less stable and less secure internet as it will meddle with the various systems that hold the net together.
There are a number of ways that entertainment industry can already take action against copyright infringements; content can be removed from YouTube, file-sharing sites have been successfully sued and taken-down, families have been taken to court over web vide- based copyright infringements. Clearly the industry has the power to bring a halt to copyright theft whether legitimate or petty, there is no need to bring in SOPA and PIPA, it only serves to set a dangerous precedent for web censorship in western society.
Think of all the amazing things that web video can do whether it is making you laugh, keeping you informed, encouraging your opinion, testing your beliefs, making you listen, giving you advice and numerous others. These are now all under threat thanks to SOPA.