WordPress.Org (the site owned by Automattic and which also owns WordPress.com) went dark yesterday in protest at US Senate Bill 968: the Protect IP Act, commonly known as SOPA.
There is a wide range of opinion about internet piracy, about copying, and about its near-neighbour, plagiarism.
Some of the activity is criminal and intended to profit from theft.
It is clear in my mind that stealing an as-yet unreleased film or song or some proprietary software and then making it available via a torrent site falls into that category.
At the other end, there are many highly-regarded sites where people bring bits and pieces they have found and make collections for all to see and for those interested, to discuss.
YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, Reddit, Wikipedia – the list of sites where this happens, goes on.
Somewhere in the past ten years, five years, two years, there has been a paradigm shift in the way people view ownership of things shown on the web.
When I say ‘people’ I mean the people who use the web every day and regard the shared spaces they occupy on the web as their own home.
They have populated the spaces; moved in the furniture, and when things are changed around them by the owners of the shared space, they complain just as vociferously as if the landlord came and tore out the windows in an apartment.
The desire to share, to show, to ‘show don’t tell’ has become a torrent.
The reason it can be done at all is of course that in the digital world a copy is as ‘original’ as the original.
Things in the digital world – be they articles, photos, videos, songs, voice recordings – are broken down into their constituent bits and rebuilt each time they are displayed.
It is a wonder of technology.
Thirty years ago, if I wanted to tell you about the film (movie) I saw, I would have to do just that – tell you – recount it in words.
I could drag you along to the cinema and show you the poster on the wall, and that would be the limit of what I could do.
Now, the makers of the film (movie) will have put out a trailer on the web and I can direct you straight there.
I can also show you an image in my own space or in a shared space we both occupy (WordPress, for example), just by referencing the URL.
This image isn’t ‘here’: It is on another website. I have just pulled it in like Captain Picard appearing in the teleportation room.
I hope to go see the film. It’s about J Edgar Hoover and his life and times, so it is also a film about America.
Leonardo diCaprio is a fine actor. I saw him in Revolution Road recently and he and Kate Winslet were excellent.
Clint Eastwood, the director of J.Edgar, has made films that look behind jingoism with Flags Of Our Fathers and its counterpart Letters From Iwo Jima. So all in all, it is a film I want to see.
I am more likely to see the film if images from it keep popping up in the places I look around the web. That is what the makers of the film (movie) want. The want me to go see it. Sharing and copying ancillary stuff helps them. It is better than advertising: It is editorial.
Sometimes the link is more tenuous. Sometimes, branding is more of a series of stepping stones – but the principle is the same.
So where is the line drawn between outright theft on the one hand and community and sharing on the other hand?
What Content Producers Want
It’s a funny old world. A creative person produces some content and wants to get it out there, He or she is delighted when it is picked up by some big names.
‘Page views’ rocket and suddenly the creative person has a business on their hands. Now is the time for the shift.
Now is the time that as likely as not the creative person doesn’t want any Tom, Dick, or Harry copying and sharing the work for free.
Banksy stands out because he is an adept draughtsman with a clever political and social wit. He also stands out because his work is distributed everywhere – and he doesn’t issue takedown notices.
On the contrary, he tells visitors to his site to “…feel free to copy any Banksy imagery in any way for any kind of personal amusement.”
So What Is Wrong With SOPA
This is what is wrong with SOPA: It gives too much power on too little evidence to people with power to do irreparable damage to sites without any regard to where they fall in the spectrum I have just described.
This video from FightForTheFuture.Org explains it very well.
As well as Photographworks.wordpress.com (this site) I also have a site on a separate web host – that site is simply Photographworks.com
In support of SOPA I turned it off yesterday with the aid of a clever graphic that enabled visitors to move a spotlight around the front page and to highlight the link to AmericanCensorship.Org
Tamara and I didn’t turn off our ecard and print site because members depend on it, and I couldn’t speak for them.
But Photographworks.com is for my pleasure and I felt sure that most of my few hundred visitors per day would understand and support it.
So my contribution to Project 365 today is a screen grab of PhotographWorks as it was yesterday, and as it will be for most of today.