Right now everyone is up in arms about Hollywood media conglomerates screwing over the visual effect industry (and rightfully so), but guess what? Those same assholes are now gearing up to screw you, too. Yep. Starting today, if you get your internet through one of the following providers: AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, or Verizon, you are being spied on.
After a year of backroom dealings with Disney, Sony, Viacomm, the MPAA, and RIAA, your internet service providers are allowing these companies to watch what you do online in the name of protecting their “intellectual properties.” There are a lot of problems with this, violation of our privacy rights being one of them. But the problem goes deeper, because Hollywood has some VERY strange ideas as to what qualifies as “unlawful” use. Here’s a list of things that could get you busted:
● Fan art. If you draw a popular character and post it on Deviant Art account, guess what? You are in violation. Think I’m exaggerating? Remember, Disney is involved. This is the very same company that sued an elementary school because kids painted a mural featuring Disney characters. Disney and Warner Bros. lawyers routinely cruise comic conventions looking to bust small time artists for drawing their characters. Same goes for fan videos, parodies, etc.
● Now let’s say someone sees that same Disney fan art. They think it’s cool, so they share it on Tumblr. Now they are guilty of piracy. And if another person decides to print that art and hang it on their wall, they’re guilty of creating bootlegged material. Think all of this is too small fry for a huge corporation to care about? Think again. Viacomm twice now has tried to shutdown YouTube and Facebook for this very reason. Viacomm even went so far as to post their own material on YouTube under a dummy account, then file a suite against Youtube for “hosting” pirated content.
● Alright. Another example. Let’s say you record your kid brother’s birthday party and post the video on YouTube. Did you happen to sing Happy Birthday? Well then you just created a “bootlegged” version of a copyrighted song. In fact, RIAA actually tried to sue a family a few years back for just this reason.
● So what about family photos? That’s got to be safe, right? Nope. That photo of your kid posing with Princess Jasmine at Disneyland? If you share it on Facebook it becomes copyright infringement. Or what if your kid just happened to be wearing a Superman t-shirt in a photo? Yep, that’s copyright infringement, too.
● Or even WORSE, what if you’ve got a TATTOO of the Superman logo on your arm? Well if you’ve attended any of the major comic conventions lately, you may know that Warner Bros. lawyers have been slapping people with cease & desist orders. Why? Displaying “unlicensed images of Warner Bros. characters” in the form of tattoos / body art. I hate to think what this might mean for the future of cosplay.
NOW HERE’S THE BIGGEST PROBLEM OF ALL.
Because this was a back door deal with internet providers there is no due process. The way the system works is if you are suspected of a violation, you will be penalized. The Hollywood conglomerate does not need to actually prove damages, or even if an actual REAL offense has occurred. Suspicion alone gets you busted. So how will you be punished? First your internet speed will be severely reduced. Then, you lose your connection entirely. And if you want to contest the accusation? That will cost you $35.
What can you do? Get vocal. Get mad. Share this information. And then give your internet service provider hell. This link will send you to a site where you can add your voice to a massive email campaign telling ISPs to back off, or else.
Next step? If ISPs don’t see the light, we do a repeat of the SOPA war. We take the battle to Congress. We won the fight over SOPA. We can win this one, too.