Tag Archives: SOPA

Links Roundup 1.24.13

As part of today’s festivities, a site called InternetFreedomDay.net was launched. One of the several organizations behind the effort, Fight for the Future, tried to make a point about copyright law by posting a video that included footage of Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. Why? Because, as Fight for the Future’s video explained, King’s speech is still under copyright—and therefore sharing it is an act of civil disobedience that honors both Internet Freedom Day and Martin Luther King Day this Monday. Fight for the Future’s video also explained that SOPA would have made streaming the film a criminal offense—a crime like kidnapping, bank fraud, anddownloading too many JSTOR articles in violation of terms of service.

Yet just after 1 p.m. on Friday, the video had been removed from the video sharing site Vimeo, presumably at the request of EMI, which, with the King estate, holds the rights to the speech. You may not realize it, but, as Vice’s Motherboard explained, “You’d be hard pressed to find a good complete video version on the web, and it’s not even to be found in the new digital archive of the King Center’s website. If you want to watch the whole thing, legally, you’ll need to get the $20 DVD.”

“Do you think it’s easier to look beyond race in France?” Most Americans assume this is true, but even from my few days in the country so far, I’d seen evidence to the contrary. Christine’s favorite leftist newspaper Le Canard Enchâiné regularly satirized former president Nicolas Sarkozy and his hardline approach to dealing with immigrants of color.

“Maybe,” she answered. “You’re less ‘not supposed to do something’ than in America. I think the pressure is stronger over there because society is not going to want you to mix in that way. Even inside your family the pressure is going to be stronger. And not every mixed couple lives in Manhattan either. Imagine if you live in Arkansas; your life can be hell! In France it can be the same thing if you live in a small village. Mais, the less you are together, the less they are going to expect you to be together, and in France we are not as apart from each other. You don’t have a separate Black school here where they’re teaching you how wonderful it is to be Black and what Black people did to make humanity grow.”

Some of us matured away from the idea of a Black culture that thinks with only one point of view about things like interracial marriage, and others never would. My opinions now are a lot different than they were before I graduated my own Black college alma mater, but I tried explaining to Christine—the product of a supposedly colorblind society—my younger attitude about preserving and protecting the Black community from being watered down. She laughed.

Many argue that Indian popular culture is full of misogyny, and Bollywood too needs to own up to its role in fuelling this culture. As Ritupurna Chatterjee writes, “it will be highly presumptuous to assume that Hindi cinema is the root cause of a spike in sexual assaults. But Bollywood and regional cinema in equal parts, because of their reach, scope and influence, have a larger role to play in assuming responsibility for the message it sends out to millions of audience — some highly impressionable.” India’s population has now exceeded 1.2 billion, and even though literacy has increased quickly in the past years, a little over 25 per cent of the country’s population is still illiterate.

Is it fair to blame Bollywood, or even expect it to produce movies that adhere to a higher standard? As Bollywood mega star and bad boy Salman Khan argued in an interview — each movie has a good guy and a bad guy. It isn’t Bollywood’s fault that people choose to follow the villain. The superstar also added that if not the death penalty, rapists should be sentenced to life. Others, like director Anurag Kashyap, agree with the general sentiment that Bollywood, being such a huge influence for Indian society, has a responsibility to produce movies that show women in progressive light, but hold that censorship is not a viable way to achieve this goal, tweeting that moralising censorship would create “another kind of Taliban”.

While the film has obviously found its supporters, backlash against it continues to grow. Yesterday, director Kathryn Bigelow defended her film from charges it promotes torture in an Op-Ed for the Los Angeles Times . Bigelow claimed artistic license writing, “those of us who work in the arts know that depiction is not endorsement.” While this is obviously true, the film goes further than depiction. AsDeepa Kumar wrote the film promotes extra judicial killing and the drone warfare that has become the hallmark of the Obama administration’s “war on terror.”

People like outsourcers and Jeremy Scott greatly affect non-Native people’s perceptions of Native American art and aesthetics. They also impact our economies.

Back in the 1920s and 1930s, non-Native ‘friends of Indians’ noticed that the creation and marketing of Native American arts could have a positive economic impact in Native communities. Thus, the Indian Arts and Crafts Act was enacted to protect Native artists against people who falsely suggested that their artwork was Native-made. This act sought to help protect Native artists who were working to bring money into their communities from companies who would mass-produce cheap knock-offs, and thus produce unfair competition and redirect money into the pockets of a few versus back to where the money was needed to continue these important living artistic cultural practices. Over the years, the IACA hasn’t always been supportive of Native artists and has lost a lot of clout – big companies with big lawyers find ways to circumvent our rights to our cultural capital, imagery and names. Furthermore, the jury is still out on whether or not ‘fashion’ is considered ‘art,’ adding another potential loophole to the mix.

I apologize for the longwindedness, but this legacy is important to note since it continues to affect us today. When companies like Forever 21Urban Outfitters, or Adidas put out tacky images like this, they perpetuate the idea that Native art is in the free bin (as if we have no sense of ownership or artistic legacy when it comes to our art), and anyone can reach in and grab it, tack their name on it, and make a buck – all the while putting forward the idea that our art is ugly and cheap.

We Stand Against SOPA

On Thursday, Racialicious joined the many websites around the world in shutting down for most of the day to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which threatens to undermine the same creative freedom it was allegedly designed to protect.

SOPA supporters say the bill, introduced in the House of Representatives in October 2011, would protect copyright holders against online piracy. SOPA’s counterpart in the Senate, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), is scheduled for a Jan. 24 vote.

The idea is, the two bills would give authorities more ways to starve  “rogue sites,” as Politico’s Mike Zapler and Kim Hart explain:

Here’s how it would work: If the Justice Department or a copyright holder believed a site was directing users to pirated content, they would go to court. Depending on who’s complaining, different remedies would come into play: In some instances a judge could order an Internet service provider like Verizon to cut off access to a site. In others, a search engine like Google could be directed to delete links to an infringing site. The idea is to starve the offending sites of the web traffic that keeps them in business.

Though much of the debate around SOPA and PIPA centers around copyrighted content involving movies and music, is it really so hard, in the age of Occupy and of increased scrutiny of public officials’ malfeasance, to imagine certain cities’ police forces wouldn’t go to court to sue someone for “illegally displaying their likeness” on YouTube?
This past Saturday, President Barack Obama’s administration released a statement saying the White House will not support “legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.” But, as this is an election year, we agree with most experts – this issue isn’t even close to being settled.
ProPublica has a breakdown of where each member of Congress stands on each bill. You can write to your congressional representative or petition the U.S. State Department against the act here. And Google has a petition of its’ own. We urge our readers to speak up against this legislation, and we’ll be back with regular content Thursday at 8 a.m. EST.

Why Racialicious Went On SOPA Strike

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.


And, already there are indications that companies are interested in bringing broad actions for infringement against organizations that most people would consider perfectly legal. Advertising giant GroupM recently asked its entertainment industry customers to compile a list of “sites dedicated to infringement,” not unlike what’s found under PROTECT IP. Universal Music, Warner Bros. and Paramount were three key providers to that list, which ended up covering a large number of perfectly legitimate sites including the famed Internet Archive (widely recognized as the library for the internet). It also included numerous innovative startups that are frequently used by content creators to get their works out, such as SoundCloud and Vimeo. Even more worrisome, it included a variety of publications and blogs, including Vibe Magazine, the quintessential hip hop and R&B magazine founded by Quincy Jones, as well as Complex, a popular lifestyle magazine recently recognized as one of the most valuable startups in New York.

Even worse, it appears that Universal Music also included the personal website of one of its own top artists, 50Cent. The hiphop star has a personal website as well as a website owned by Universal Music. The personal website is much more popular… and it appeared on the infringement list. Suddenly, you can see how letting companies declare what sites are dedicated to infringement can lead to them looking to stifle speech and competition.

— “The Definitive Post On Why SOPA And Protect IP Are Bad, Bad Ideas” by Mike Masnic for TechDirt

So why did Racialicious go dark yesterday?

SOPA and PIPA are bad business for the internet, but are particularly problematic for those of us who engage in cultural critique. If we discuss TV shows, music, movies, comics, and video games, that means that we will illustrate our points with music videos, clips from TV shows, promotional trailers, scenes that make it to YouTube, and scanned images. And all of those things could technically be put under a copyright claim.

We rely on the really tenuous concept of Fair Use to continue to exist. We have some legal protections, but not as many some groups of people (like documentary film makers) who have fought these issues in court. Without fair use Byron Hurt wouldn’t have been able to create Beyond Beats and Rhymes and Sut Jhally would not have been able to create Dreamworlds 3 – if they had to seek permission from the person they were critiquing they wouldn’t have been able to use the material. The problem is there are no hard and fast rules for Fair Use. The EFF cautions us to guidelines and best practices but it is really a matter of what will stand up in court.

I’ve talked to Patricia Aufderheide, director of American University’s Center for Social Media and author of Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright, off and on for about two years on these issues. She has encouraged folks like me to continue to do our work since, in her summation, fair use is part and parcel with freedom of speech.

But as the owner of an indie media site, there are some serious risks with that. A while back, Boing Boing pointed their readers to a piece by Waxy, who talked about how his transformative project involving Miles Davis turned into a legal nightmare. The quick and dirty – Waxy cleared the samples he used for the album tribute, but pixelated the image cover believing that the work was changed enough under the guidelines. The judge on the case disagreed. While Waxy and his legal team believed they were in the right, he eventually settled for $32,500 – just to stop the mounting legal fees. Aufderheide, who I interviewed for a piece that will run next week on the ONA site, says that this is part of the process and that by exercising free speech, we are also accepting some of the risk that things won’t be seen our way.

But most of us out here in the internet wilds would drop cases and abdicate our rights because our pet projects and sites would not make enough money for us to defend ourselves, let alone continue operations while we do so. And it’s always the little things that can get you – Sepia Mutiny’s legal issues from a few years ago taught us that we have to watch not only what we say about folks, but also what commenters say – since we actively moderate comments, the court of law might see us as endorsing a commenter’s statement even if we disagree and challenge it.

SOPA and PIPA would essentially take the perilous place in which we operate and obliterate that safety net. If we could get shut down every time we post a Beyonce video or a segment of a movie or show that is outside of the promotional material, then this site isn’t worth running. Especially since these arguments wouldn’t be in public – the way the bill is written means that they would shut us down first, and force us to prove why we were not infringing before we could come back up. Allegedly, SOPA and PIPA would mostly target foreign websites – but we all know how legislation and laws tend to creep and mutate depending on who is doing the interpretation.

We aren’t saying intellectual property is a bad thing – for African Americans in particular, it is important to understand our rights to the work we create, for both historical and financial reasons. However, the laws governing intellectual property have not kept pace with the way we live and passing vague new laws is not going to solve this problem.

So do us a favor – write your congressperson. (And someone write for me – I live in DC now, so I don’t have anyone to appeal to with voting power.) If you’re outside of the US, petition the State Department. We have until January 24th to formerly protest, and while most of the co-signers of the bill are backpedaling, it doesn’t mean the bill is dead.