Wednesday, 18 January 2012

SOPA - Effect on the Industry?

This post is particularly off-topic, but it kind-of relates to film distribution, and I needed an excuse to have a rant. Here goes!

For those not in the know, the US Stop Online Piracy Act is a proposed legislation designed with the intention of preventing online piracy, thus stopping potential revenue being held away from intellectual property owners. However, it just so happens that the proposals appear to have been written by people who know nothing about the way computers, the internet or pretty much anything works.

Instead of just targeting those who share copyrighted files with those who do not own a license to use them, the legislation would target everything on the internet that happens to use copyrighted media.

So why is this a problem? Well, it's pretty clear that nearly all media production companies have made great use of online hype to market a product. For this to work, fans of the company will need to be allowed to talk about it on the internet, be able to share previews and leaks, make their own graphics/videos based on it, start up fansites etc.. If this law passes it will be extremely difficult for this to work, which will make media marketing even more of a challenge than it currently is.

On top of that, attitudes towards media consumption have changed significantly over the last few years. People no longer want to just sit back, watch a film and then forget about it. The influence of online culture now means that people want to take constant interest in the product and its company; they want to be able have easy access to media relating to it, and they want to create their own fan work. It's more or less an unwritten rule now that your product hasn't made it until there is an autotune remix of it on YouTube. This kind of behaviour not only maintains existing fans, but also brings in new ones - meaning that the company has a great chance of success with potential sequels.

Even the big-names would be affected by the legislation; think of all the big American-based film websites out there who review all the new releases. They often have short clips and screenshots from the film, right? That'd be illegal. The new ruling gives copyright owners the power to have sites which share even small fragments of their material taken down, meaning there is massive potential out there for production companies to make copyright claims for the sake of spiting those who give unfavourable reviews for their products. As if media journalism wasn't biased enough already...

It should also be noted that if one inspects the wording of the bill carefully, posting a link to or embedding an official film trailer on a blog/webpage would be a criminal act. A criminal act which could lead to prison time. I don't really need to explain why this is ridiculous.

So in short: if the act is put in place, online fandoms will be destroyed. If online fandoms are destroyed, media owners' chances of marketing a product will also be destroyed. As much as I would like to break up the BVB Army and get the band to stop making their "music" forever, this is most definitely not the logical way to do it.


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