Wednesday 18 January 2012

The Wikipedia blackout

Did you have a look at Wikipedia today?

If you did, you wouldn't have seen anything. You may have heard that Wikipedia had a blackout today and shut down in protest against the Stop online privacy act otherwise known as SOPA.

Those protesting against the proposed US legislation argue that if passed it would strike a blow against free speech on the internet and set a precedent for internet censorship.

I'm instinctively against the proposals set out in SOPA, and I genuinely support Wikipedia's actions, but I understand why this legislation is being proposed.

The more I think about it, the more I realise that I'm quite conflicted on the issues at stake.

There's no denying that the film and music industries are suffering due to the power of the internet.

These industries want to find ways for copyright holders (artists/media companies) to stop websites accused of containing illegal films, music and TV programmes, distributing this content for free to web users.

For example if this Bill is passed, you could have clips from a Hollywood film uploaded onto Youtube. SOPA could have those clips removed but could also bring about action against Youtube for allowing those clips to be made available on its site.

I understand why media companies want to do this. Last year I read this article in the Guardian entitled: "How the internet has all but destroyed the market for films, music and newspapers".

As you can guess from the title, it talks about how the internet and online piracy have all but destroyed the culture industries. Film, music, newspapers, they're all suffering a slow and painful death!

The old businesses models for these industries are collapsing as companies struggle to survive due to falling revenues, caused by piracy and the free availability of so much content on the internet.

So I suppose I do have some sympathy with those major media companies in support of SOPA. They're the ones along with people like music artists and other media creators that are suffering by losing out in revenue.

When I say that, it's not because I want the big major media players to continue raking in huge profits, it's because I understand some of the profits made have to be reinvested within those industries, in order to help produce products of quality and value.

That thinking probably explains why I continue to buy CDs and newspapers. I understand that sometimes you have to pay money and invest in people and industries if you want to help create products and content of value.

I think I'm just confused, as I love the internet and the flow of information available, but I understand the problems facing the creative industries because of the internet.

The problem for the big media organisations is that they have to accept that the genie is out of the bottle. The old business model is dead and they can't go back to how things used to be. I understand the need to try and gain some profits from the content produced, but I don't think trying to impose restrictions on the internet that essentially amount to censorship is really the way forward.

It's a real tough one this. I am on the side of Wikipedia, but there are more questions and debates to be had on this topic, following today's actions.

Let me know what your thoughts are? I really would like to know other people's opinions.

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