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YouSpeak: Combating Piracy on the Internet

What role should the government play?

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Two Congressional bills designed to curb pirated content on the internet were stopped dead in their tracks earlier this month after a massive protest by Wikipedia and other websites persuaded lawmakers to take a closer look at the legislation.

The bills, known as PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) in the House and SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) in the Senate, would curb access to websites abroad that provide pirated content—chiefly, music, television, and movies.

The legislation has the backing of publishers, the entertainment industry, and pharmaceutical companies battling counterfeit products, who say that government intervention is needed to stop piracy and curtail copyright infringement. It is opposed by technology companies, who argue that it undermines freedom of speech and is almost impossible to enforce.

This week’s “YouSpeak” asks, “Should the government regulate the internet?”

YouSpeak” typically appears each Monday.

If you have a suggestion for a question we should ask, post it in the comments section below.

Alex Stout (COM’13) and Kara Siebein (COM’12) assisted with this video.

6 Comments
Nicolae Ciorogan

Nicolae Ciorogan can be reached at ciorogan@bu.edu.

6 Comments on YouSpeak: Combating Piracy on the Internet

  • Anonymous on 01.30.2012 at 9:50 am

    The government should play no role in censoring the internet–none, zip, nada. If developers are having a problem with piracy, that’s because the pirates are providing better service than they are. Take a movie, for example. If you get certain DVDs, they will come loaded with all kinds of copy protections and zone restrictions and DRM. Download the same movie from the internet and suddenly you are free from the curse of DRM, allowing you to use the product as you wish. I absolutely believe that the piracy problem is a developer/distributer-side problem. Piracy will go down when developers start providing better service to their customers and stop treating them like pirates by giving them restrictive DRM.

    Attempts by the government to solve the problem will inevitably be overreaching and infringe on the internet as a place for free speech and fair use. SOPA, PIPA, ACTA all need to be stopped.

    • Tom on 01.30.2012 at 1:09 pm

      This. Netflix did more to reduce piracy when they introduced their instant streaming service than any government legislation will ever do. It’s all because most distributors don’t understand how markets have changed in the past few years and that consumers *want* fast and easy access to products.

  • dan on 01.30.2012 at 3:16 pm

    Who enforces copyright laws NOT on the internet? Librarians? Nonsense. Who agrees to copyright laws in international law? Governments all over the world, AND businesses all over the world – businesses that respect intellectual property rights. It is discouraging that people are soooo accustomed to FREE information that they do not seem to understand that downloading copyright protected information is AGAINST THE LAW; pardon me, but the argument that the movie, song, or whatever is otherwise WAY too expensive – Please! Netflix, etc. Boohoo! Pay up! Support American business, and to Hell with the likes of megaupload.

  • Nathan on 01.30.2012 at 3:21 pm

    There is no Online Piracy.

    There have been a handful of cases of Online Blackmial. Where a major corporation is threatened with a denial of service attack if they don’t pay up.

    What we have is Online Petty Theft. Some petty thieves are kleptomaniacs, but most petty theft happens when someone quite literally can’t afford to buy what they want as often as they want it.

    Hundreds of students amd faculty at BU pay a few pennies for a ringtone or android game, because they can pay a few pennies for them as oftens as they need new ones. They pay for NETFLIX On Demand, because they percieve a value in unlimitted play of a large collection of movis and TV series. The same students and faculty DON’T pay for online popular fiction, because they can’t pay a few dollars each several times a month. It ISN’t WORTH $35 a month or more to read a limitted number of new online fiction books.

    This isn’t pricacy, this is looters borrowing virtual items and cutting into to the marketers profits because the marketers have priced items too high to sell. The old marketing trick of cornering the market doesn’t work because virtual data is virtually free.

    In an electronic marketplace, publishers have no value except the content improvements they make in editting. Youtube and Wimeo already outmarker anything a record company can do. Books will follow the same trend.

    I am against theft, but it is time music and book publishers recognize their business is becoming a niche business as fast as newspapers and buggy whips. All the laws in the world wont keep them in profits when they provide no value.

    • Nathan on 01.30.2012 at 3:30 pm

      Just to clarify, people who CREATE have a right to sell their creations. 1/2 million downloads of a book where the author or musician make 50 cents each would make most authors and musicians. At those prices, compliance to copyrights would be easier to enforce. It is the extra $4-$10 in markup to the middlemen publishers that noone wants to pay.

  • Chase on 01.30.2012 at 4:20 pm

    Some specific provisions of the bill, such as the extent of punishments and web provider blocking of foreign hosted sites that violate copyrights, are excessive, but on the whole these bills only give law enforcement the tools to back up enforcement against online piracy that is already illegal but under-supported.
    If the creator of music or a book decide to make their product free, that is for them to decide, not people who pirate in the name of a free internet when really they just don’t want to pay for their entertainment. When intellectual property isn’t protected, people lose the incentive to write, make music, or make movies for a living. I agree that excessive prices are often demanded by middle-men, but the internet has already shaved away some costs and will continue to do so: it is cheaper to download mp3s and stream movies on netflix than to buy physical copies of the same material.
    People are against anti-piracy laws because Google has told them SOPA is going to violate their “freedom” to steal; bear in mind that Google is a corporation too, and it stands to lose advertising money from illegal sites and will bear greater financial responsibility for the piracy on its new acquisition YouTube. Wikipedia’s protest more seems out of the bill’s excesses than its purpose.
    The price of music and movies is high for one reason: people value music and movies at that level by paying the amount they do. If a song wasn’t worth a dollar, they wouldn’t buy it.
    SOPA should be moderated through amendments, then passed to protect intellectual property.

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