First some background info.
I love Doctor Who (It is my favorite TV show). I also collect magnets (not so much now because of this story).
For several years, I would go to an online site (not planning to give the name) and customize magnets; usually with a clever Doctor Who saying, but I also did totally unique ones as presents for family, coworkers or other favorite sayings (and sometimes images from old TV shows that I am the only who cares about). I had probably spent well over a 100 dollars at this site over several years on magnets, and a couple tees or bumperstickers etc.
Most items I left up on the site to save others some work. And also because it saved me some money when buying them for myself. (Disclosure: I think people bought several magnets (less then 10 I’m sure) so every so often I would get a credit for what basically amounted to 1/2 a magnet which I would use when buying another batch of magnets. I can’t actually remember.)
I loved that site. I told everyone about it. My magnets were on display at work – I called it my flair board. I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread because I could get stuff that wasn’t available because no one else liked it.
One day, I got an email with a copyright notice that one of the products had been taken down because of a copyright infringement claim. I thought it was one of the few with images from a TV show. And I was OK with that because after all I already had my magnet and after all, the image wasn’t mine to begin with (I believe in copyright, but I also wanted magnets for my collection). Then I checked what it was.
It was a magnet that simply had the word “Bad Wolf” – nothing else. It wasn’t an image or even a quote. Simply a very very old saying from a very old story that had been adopted by the BBC for a Doctor Who arc. And the BBC decided they owned the copyright to this phrase, and the website agreed.
Well, I was livid. and I emailed the site informing them there is no way anyone owns a copyright to “Bad Wolf.” The reply i got was basically “tough”. So I deleted every single item that I had ever created, private/public didn’t matter, and deleted my account as best as I could (everything is forever on the net). I wanted nothing to do with a company who would say that someone could own “Bad Wolf.” And I pretty much stopped collecting magnets because I couldn’t get the ones I wanted (didn’t want to try another site – once burned twice shy).
So what does this have to do with SOPA/PIPA.
If SOPA had been in affect, that site would probably not have existed at all, but if had. It would have been shut down or blacklisted simply because someone at the BBC decided that they owned the phrase “Bad Wolf” and took it out of the common domain. I remember thinking “whose going to tell Little Red Riding Hood?”
This is an example where something that is meant for good (supposedly) can be abused really really easily. All the BBC had to do was say they owned “Bad Wolf,” and I got a nastygram. No proof was required. What is to stop something like this from happening in the future on an even larger scale?
Now don’t get me wrong, I am for copyright. There are people online who irritate me because they say everything is free online, and no one should own anything or get money for it (I was surprised that people actually believe that when I read it this morning). That’s crazy talk. Would we have our culture if people had to work 40 (or more) hours a week at a day job and then go create a TV show or record music or whatever? Well, yes to a point, but it wouldn’t be as vibrant or as much variety. But I don’t think creating a Smoke Monster, the Slitheen or Vampire Idols from Outer Space (Korean TV show) is something you can do in your spare time.
So while piracy might be a problem, SOPA/PIPA aren’t the solution.
Disclaimer: I’ve been known to download stuff occasionally because it isn’t available (old TV shows mostly) (I have very odd taste), it is because I know I will buy it when it becomes available. and I do because I am convicted that it would be stealing if I didn’t. Example, Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Once More with Feeling. I really liked the music, but it wasn’t available so I found a site that had it and listened to it for months and then bought the CD (and also the sheet music, DVD and other stuff) when it became available.