Twitter, Facebook and Youtube Users May Face Criminal Charges for Posts

Courtesy of WantChinaTimes.com

Many people who I know will never read this article. This may be the last article of this kind because we are moving into an era where the First Amendment is on the cusp of being rendered ineffective.

The new laws that our politicians are about to implement are said to be there to “protect American jobs.” What American jobs are they really talking about? They’re talking about the music and movie industries that are already making billions. Whenever politicians say “Americans,” they’re speaking code. They’re not talking about everyday people, they’re talking about the lobbying industries that have their hands in their pockets.

First, we have the Occupy protests around the country being shut down for reasons like lack of cleanliness or because cities need to hang up holiday ornaments. Well that’s fine, I guess. But as an American who should value the amendment that makes all other amendments and freedoms possible, are you comfortable with the police state using any excuse to shut down people’s First Amendment rights to protest? Do holiday lights and a few trash bags left here and there really trump the First Amendment? If it does, then what precedent does this set? What won’t the state be able to say to shut down free speech?

Before this occupy debacle, we had the net neutrality debate where people like Glenn Beck and Fox News spreading lies and misinformation (here is a more in-depth look into this issue). It was meant to keep the Internet open and to limit Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from discriminating or providing restrictions against competing companies, political parties and/or consumers. If net neutrality didn’t pass (momentarily), companies like Verizon, AT&T and Cox would be able to slow down competitors’ Internet speeds or block certain companies from posting political ideas on the Internet that these ISPs laid the wires down for. ISPs would even have the ability to block consumers from accessing certain websites that they might deem inappropriate. Essentially, the Internet wouldn’t be free.

Now we have Protect IP Act which is aimed at curbing access to “rogue websites dedicated to infringing or counterfeit goods,” especially those registered outside the U.S. This is really a response like whistleblower sites (which Obama said he’d protect) like Wikileaks. How dare people call the government out on their lies? The government has ways for dealing with “troublemakers.”

Similar to that act is the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The act was made to protect intellectual property. According to Wikipedia:

The bill is divided into two Titles with the first focusing on combating “foreign rogue sites”, websites outside U.S. jurisdiction that enable or facilitate copyright infringement, and the second focusing on increased penalties to combat intellectual property theft via digital means.

These acts mean a lot to the everyday citizen. It would mean that criminal charges could be brought upon users of Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and Tumblr who post unauthorized videos or content. It would do away with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) which covers Fair Use.

Under Fair Use, intellectual property can be exchanged on personal networks, but explicitly prohibits the uploading of these materials to the masses. Fair Use also protects users who upload and share material that is covered under the public domain (which happens once the intellectual copyright has expired). Users can also use these materials for criticism, comment, news reporting, scholarship, research and/or preservation purposes.

If these acts go into law, it might be a crime to post segments from the news on you video log (vlog) or website, even if you use them in parts for educational or satirical purposes like Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. Would the Daily Show and programs like Tosh.0 even exist anymore?

We are living in interesting times. We are living in times when we are being watched by more cameras (Maryland police vehicles now have cameras on the back of their cars to photograph license plates on the go), being searched unreasonably (TSA scans and gropers) and are having our First Amendment rights stripped away from us without a fight (I don’t even know if most of us realize what is happening). It is now illegal in some jurisdictions to record cop activity. But they can tape us? What’s up with that?

A lot of people will be okay if these acts go into law, but a lot of people will be upset. The Internet will no longer be the free and open society we all grew accustomed to. There will no longer be pressure on the music and movie industries to cut the crap and start making movie and music experiences more bearable; To start thinking about the consumers first. We don’t want to pay $12 for a movie when advertisements for 30 Rock and Kia are being shoved into our senses for an hour prior to when the movie starts. We also don’t care for product placement invading our senses for the two-hour period of the movie we just paid for.

If we didn’t have sites like Napster setting the trend, do people really think iTunes and Google Music would be here now to make life easier for the consumer?

*If you want to do something about this, here is a link where you can find your representative and tell them you don’t want this to pass. Or you can ignore it and let these acts go into law. As always, it’s you choice: http://www.tumblr.com/protect-the-net

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