SOPA threatens Internet music

***Editors Note: This is the last installment of “Music To Your Ears” as columnist Molly Crain will be leaving the column to devote more time to her newly acquired position of news editor for The Rambler. If you’d like for a music column to continue please contact us to volunteer or suggest a columnist.

Through the lens of the music industry, sharing intellectual property via the Internet has considerable pros and cons.

On one hand, the Internet gives rising artists an easy gateway to fame. As simple as a Blue Skidoo into the blogosphere and connecting with people through servers like Dropbox, uTorrent and YouTube, music can be shared almost instantly — and for free.

On the other, the Internet inhibits artists who already have a considerable audience from receiving monetary feedback for their work. Sorry Beatles, but I’m not paying $200 for your entire discography. You don’t need it.

Considering that your favorite tracks are just a torrent away, I’d say that the Golden Age for downloading music is now.

However, our generation’s days of ripping tracks from the Internet are numbered — and you thought you were upset when the U.S. government took Napster away!

On Oct. 26, 2011, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was introduced to the House of Representatives.

Originally, the bill sought to “blacklist and block websites from posting allegedly illegal materials, without first taking court action,” quoted Pitchfork from a New York Times op-ed piece by Rebecca MacKinnon.

Causing uproar on Capitol Hill — as well as in the hearts and minds of every other tech-savvy American citizen — the bill was scheduled for a markup, which will happen Dec. 15.

Since then, the bill has undergone considerable changes that have given it ties to U.S. trade laws, which will ultimately make the consequences for illegally downloading music from foreign servers akin to stealing foreign goods.

By attaching SOPA to foreign trade policy, the government will have less power to take down websites based on mere suspicion. Whew. Instead, a board of magistrate judges at the International Trade Commission who are specialized in Internet file-sharing will drop the gavel if SOPA is passed. Gulp.

What is the reality of this? The age of the Internet as a free enterprise may soon be over.

Imagine every video that you’ve ever posted on Facebook, every link you’ve tweeted to Twitter, every MP3 you’ve ever posted to Tumblr and every Torrent you’ve ever downloaded. Don’t be modest. All of those forms of multimedia-sharing will be restricted, since the majority of that information is more than likely coming from a foreign server, and not your personal database.

Even more depressing, YouTube videos “going viral” may in fact be a novelty of the past. Remember Sophia Grace Brownlee, the sassy little girl who sang Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”? Not being able to view that won’t necessarily be the death of your musical excursions online, but it may however block off another audience from discovering Minaj — like your mom.

The issue is a double-edged sword. If the bill passes, perhaps artists will get the money they deserve for their creativity. From the self-employed musician’s perspective, “it’s about time.”

Rather, I think it’s as if America is shooting itself in the foot, and the only people who should be severely distraught about the situation are the artists who were around before the Internet to experience the stab. Poor Metallica.

It’s time for the music industry to adapt to the blessed and viral world the Internet has given them.

Now excuse me, while I ignore the consequences of Internet piracy and watch all three hours of “King Lear” for free on YouTube for my British literature class.


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