“Hey, I’ve got the link to a free copy of Clockwork Angel, want it?”
Ever gotten an email like this? (and no, I don’t really have the link. Please don’t get mad at me, Cassandra Clare, I love your books!) What is your response? Do you think, cool, I get to read it for free, or do you send an email back saying that you’ll purchase your own copy? The fact that so many copyrighted works are now distributed online without permission of the owner is now the subject of a bill before the US Senate…but how will it really work? Will it work at all?
Senate bill 3804 is the “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” and the full text can be found at http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=s111-3804. The bill seeks to curb websites whose purpose is to distribute material (books, music, movies, etc.) without the copyright holder’s permission, and stop the sale and distribution of counterfeit materials via the web. The bill provides the office of Attorney General the power to force the service provider of infringing domains to lock a suspect domain so that users can no longer access it.
Sounds great…or does it? As an author, I’d really hate so see my book show up on a BitTorrent where anyone could download it rather than shell out a measly $5 to
compensate me for the work I put into it. And yet, I fully expect to see it out there someday, and not be able to do anything about it. If the government shut down the sites (or made them inaccessible) that’d work, right?
Maybe, maybe not. The other side of the coin is censorship. Does the bill provide for enough due process or does it give the government too broad of power to shutdown sites without enough cause? Shouldn’t we have the right to make our own moral choices about what we download? What about youtube…much of the content there is copyrighted, but they take stuff down all the time when they are told of a violation. Because of all the videos that haven’t been reported but are still copyrighted, would they get shut down, too?
The issue isn’t as clear cut as either side would make it out to be, and as you’ve noticed, I’m not offering any answers, only questions to discuss and ponder. The biggest question I have is, even if this bill passes and becomes law, can it really be enforced? To borrow one of my husband’s favorite phrases, it’d be like herding cats. The internet world is one of free information sharing and is a global phenomenon, not one limited to the United States. The US government is powerful, but can it really stop overseas websites? Sure, some offenders, possibly the biggest ones, could be cut off, but like weeds, three more will spring up to take their place, emanating from countries all around the world.
So is there any hope, or are we destined for a world where information is free and authors are not compensated at all?
I don’t know. What do you think?
Here are just two references on either side of the argument; there’s many more out there:
Register your vote: http://www.washingtonwatch.com/bills/widget/200525967.html
And above all, I’d love to hear your comments!