Tuesday, January 24, 2012

SOPA and PIPA dropped by Congress

Yes, it's officially done for now and probably won't come up again until 2014.

And that's a good thing. We do not need another "Internet Law" to make book piracy illegal. It already IS illegal. Just ask the FBI and the US Copyright Office.

I've seen many posts on FACEBOOK lately, both for and against these laws. Many post that they don't want to lose "the right to make copies of books or music to share with their friends." None of them seems to understand that sharing e-books, movies, and music on line is Already Against the Law! We don't need a new law passed by Congress against this activity. We already HAVE a good one.

SOME posts, quite a few in fact, denigrate those laws because they don't want a law passed that "makes it illegal to copy and share material on the Internet." They really believe it is legal to do this and that someone is trying to take away their "freedom!"

BUT it already IS illegal to copy and share books, music, and movies. Half the stuff on U-Tube is in violation of someone's copyright. The other day I saw a video of some dogs playing Frisbee in the yard with John Denver singing, "Sunshine on my shoulders," in the background. Cute. Enjoyable. Sweet slo-mo of Rotweillers leaping in the sun...

Now John Denver is dead and cannot sue the dog owner, BUT his music publisher and heirs still hold his rights for the next 150 years, and can certain sue the playful dog guy if they wish to spend the time and money for a lawyer.

They won't, because the dog guy isn't in business, probably doesn't have enough assets to make it worthwhile, and is not using the material to sell a product, but they COULD, and they'd be within their rights. And they'd WIN. Because cute, or not, the dog guy broke the law.

In all my travels on line, I have rarely seen any "used with permisssion" copyright notices attached to uploaded material. Some books have them. Heather Summerhayes Cariou's SIXTYFIVE ROSES certainly does and books that Write Words, Inc. has published with musical references, like Brenda Boldin's series, also carry copyright disclaimers. Or we edited out the illegal references prior to publication.

It is legal to use song titles and the names of song writers. It's perfectly okay to write here that John Denver was singing "Sunshine on my Shoulders," as I just did. But it is NOT legal to use the recording as background music for the dogs at play, NOR to quote from the song lyrics in any book without the music publisher's written permission.

That's the Publisher, folks, not the song-writer.

Now back to the book pirate situation. As I mentioned before. Pirates are in business to collect your ID information. They don't care about the books. That's just the bait they use to get what they really want. It's not going to stop, even if another law IS passed here in the US. Another law will only complicate things, causing courts to wander back and forth about which one applies and how it should be interpreted. If you think this issue is a muddle now, just wait....

We don't need another new law here in the US.

NOW, or in 2012, or ever! We need a Worldwide International Trade Agreement with some teeth in it.

NO law passed by Congress will ever address the bulk of these pirates, who almost always operate Outside the United States -- with China and India leading the pack and Brazil running a short third -- and since they don't live here, they are Not Subject to Any penalties under the US Copyright Law OR any US law at all.

Web hosts will usually drop their sites if they get enough complaints, but those outside the US often don't bother, don't respond to complaints from US publishers, and so on.

ANY law ever passed by the United States will only affect citizens of the United States or people living Inside the United States. I know. I've a whole set routine of complaint procedures developed over the past ten years, and have succeeded in getting some pirate sites removed by their domain hosts. I just complained to the domain hosts that their customer was operating illegally and their site was removed from the web.

And what happened when I did? Pirates.com (not the real name) was back in business as Buccaneers.com within a month, hosted by another web host and with the same web site design, pages, and the same books listed, just as before. Even the old passwords worked. Only this time the web host was in India and they didn't do anything about my complaints and the complaints of other publishers.

Okay, that's negative. The whole situation is negative. And until folks realize that they are breaking the law by sharing their files and stop making copies to give away, the pirates will certainly stay in business, regardless of any and all laws passed. Knowing that their giving away the material to people who will almost certain steal their identity is no real comfort.

No one can legislate morality. Congress tried that with the Volstead Act and gave control of the country over to the law-breakers. Plenty of ordinary citizens ignored that law, because they didn't see any harm in breaking it, and they did whatever they wanted.

Plenty of ordinary citizens ignore the Copyright Law as well. Most would think again if they realized that they were actually stealing the money from another person's pocket. Until we, as a people, become aware that this is a wrong thing to do, nothing is going to change, no matter how many laws are passed.

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