what SOPA means to a pop culture fan

(The following post is strictly from the POV of a pop culture fan.)

The past week has been an eventful day online. Oh, not only because of the usual dramas that we watch, but because of the protest that some websites have launched against the very controversial SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act).

from tumblr (@dreamlights)

I support the protection of intellectual property, but I do not support the suppression of the online community.

The law is being proposed in the US but even if you don’t live in America and is not an America citizen or voter, you will still get affected, especially since most sites that we know and use are incorporated in the US.

To drive home a point on how the Internet could look like once SOPA is legislated, the Feds brought down megaupload. Megaupload has been a provider of countless pop culture products for me and many many others. How will the Internet look like once SOPA is enacted?

Megaupload is gone but its reincarnation, megavideo.bz will be gone too. So will MediaFire, 4shared, YouSendIt, YouTube, DailyMotion and many others. Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites will stop looking so dynamic as they are now.

I know sharing files online is “stealing” but this is one way by which fans are able to share and spread pop culture across the world. Why and how?

  • Because at the moment, there is no dynamic system that would make available say, subbed Japanese, Korean or Taiwanese dramas at your fingertips;
  • CDs of Asian artists are not sold in domestic markets as soon as they are released in their original markets;
  • DVDs of concerts, films (subbed) take time to reach domestic markets.

So unless these are addressed, there will always be people who turn to the Internet to “acquire” these things.

Sure, you can watch Korean dramas as soon as they are aired if you have cable (and again, not all channels). But not everyone is a polyglot. And yes, CDs and DVDs are released shortly after their launch on online stores but not everyone could afford to pay the customs duties attached to these.

So two things: not everyone is a polyglot and a millionaire.

I am not saying this to justify why we “steal” from online sources. There is a demand, so why aren’t the producers meeting this demand to address the piracy issue? Release subbed dramas and films right away, make CDs available in domestic markets by making them affordable, which can be done by having local companies produce and release them. There are ways, in as much as there are ways for people to download these online. As they say, if there’s a will, there’s a way. So why can’t that be true for those crying out IPR? There has to be another legal way of addressing this issue but not through a draconian law.

Also, do these music, drama, film producers really think that on their own, Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, Chinese, Hong Kong etc pop culture would have been spread like this? Then we’d go back to the era before the Internet. Before technology made pop culture cease to be an elitist preoccupation but a common enjoyment shared by a lot of people.

Why are these Kpop stars famous anyway? Would people in Africa or Europe have heard of them without the Internet, without those websites that stream concerts, shows and whatnot, and those online sources that allow anyone to download their music? Would the world even know of Johnny’s Jimusho without the fans who spread the love of the Johnnys? The Internet has helped spread pop culture across territorial and language barriers. That is one phenomenon that was brought about through technology, the spread of soft power.

The latest news is, Lamar Smith, the main sponsor of SOPA, has withdrawn the bill “until there is an agreement on the solution”. SOPA is dead… for now. But it can be resurrected like Frankenstein as long as there are businesses, companies, groups etc who will be lobbying for this. Again, there is nothing wrong with protecting intellectual property, but please do not kill the Internet. Like in an abortion, an innocent baby is murdered. The Internet is a beautiful invention of the 21st century, address the problem, don’t murder it.

For some perspective, here are companies that have been supportive of SOPA:

They do have business interests to protect, so it’s up to you to boycott them or not. Just bear in mind those who are trying to kill the baby have also contributed to its inception and took advantage of its growth.

Copyright © 2012. theasianpopculturist. All rights reserved.

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