Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA: Should Photographers Care?

If you've used the internet at all today, you should have noticed by now that there's an on-line "protest" occurring, led by Wikipedia against SOPA -- the proposed "Stop Online Piracy Act." While the protest today is largely being led by big corporations and groups that accumulate online content, photographers who produce copyrighted materials have an interest in the outcome as well. Should you, as a photographer, care? I do.

Not long ago I posted an entry about finding a web site that was ripping off the content of my humble blog (read about it here), and my efforts to deal with them. So far I haven't been successful. That experience, and others, have convinced me there is a real need for some reform and enforcement in regard to online copyright violation -- not just for the movie and music industries, but for us little guys as well.

So on one hand, I'm happy to see Congress attempting to address the issue. The problem is, as proposed, SOPA is seriously flawed in my opinion. In fact, I don't even think it would stand up to court challenges if it passed, and would be tossed as unconstitutional. So I see little point in proceeding with this version of copyright reform, which would possibly do more harm than good, and would likely simply generate a rash of court challenges and wind up being tossed out in the end.

I'm not trying to tell other photographers what to think about this issue -- I am hoping to encourage photographers, as producers of copyrighted materials, to look at the issue, decide what it means to *you,* and then get involved with your local congressional representatives to voice your opinion. However you come down on the issue, be part of the process...the more we "little guys" voice our opinions on issues that affect us, the more likely it is we'll get legislation that is meaningful and helpful to us, and not just the "big guys."

You can read about SOPA here, the only Wikipedia page operating today. I hope you'll take the time to look over the proposed bill, and let your representatives know how you want them to vote on it. It won't take much of your time, and it could make a difference in how we photographers make our living for the next 10-20 years. And if you're not in the US, consider this a prompt to find out what your own country is doing (or planning to do) about copyright law and online content, and to stay informed and involved to protect your own interests.

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