Some thoughts on copyright

I’ve been watching the debate in the US over the heavy-handed and inappropriate Stop Online Piracy Act, and fully support the actions taken yesterday by Wikipedia and others. Even allowing for what seems to be a certain amount of unsubstantiated rhetoric, the potential consequences of the Act on freedom of speech are alarming, to say the least.

It is, of course, the likes of Hollywood and the music industry who stand to gain from this. The losers will be the rest of us – individuals who create and share content online. SOPA and PIPA are a disproportionate response to the problem of illegal file sharing, their ramifications are far-reaching and they’re likely to be just the beginning. But the truth is that this isn’t a totally one-sided issue. The Bills would never have gained the traction they did if it weren’t for the all-too-common mindset that intellectual property – the result of other people’s hard work – should simply be given away for free.

I spend a lot of time and money creating my images and I hate them being taken and used without permission. But the fact is that as soon as you put them online there is no way to stop this happening. There are ways to make it a little more difficult but nothing will prevent anyone with a bit of technical knowledge and time on their hands. In fact, if you research the subject in any depth you will, like others, quickly come to the conclusion that if you’re that concerned about people stealing your images it’s best not to put them on the web at all. How depressing.

Is this really how we want the web to be? A lawless place where everything is up for grabs and theft is viewed as simply unavoidable?

SOPA is a classic case of the end not justifying the means, but, let’s be honest here, the widespread disregard for intellectual property is partly to blame. Copyright exists for a reason but there seems to be no shortage of people who think that Adobe owes them a free copy of Photoshop, or that hard drives filled with pirated music and films are somehow okay. The last thing we need are tighter controls and more restrictions on the way we live our lives and it dismays me to think that people are playing right into their hands. Rant over.

If you are a British citizen or UK resident you can sign this petition: