The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) were introduced in 2011 as a way to drastically cut down on the number and frequency of pirated U.S. goods, particularly overseas. The bills were designed so that any website with links or promotional pages for copyrighted materials would be shut down, and this sparked enormous controversy (Migid). In layman’s terms, it would be like a teacher making all of their students stay inside during recess when only one or two of the kids had misbehaved.
I don’t know about you, lovely reader, but that analogy makes much more sense to me than all the technical jargon, so let’s talk about SOPA and PIPA and something most all of us are familiar with: the sale of off-brand items.
My favorite retailor is Target, and they have a wonderful section dedicated to skincare items. I see fancy brands like Neutrogena, and Clean and Clear, and then I see, right next to the name brands, an identical line of Up and Up cleansers for remarkably less money.
So here’s the big question: is it illegal to make a product identical to the original, change the label, and call it an original too? Should it be illegal for retail stores to market their own knockoffs?
I’ll ask you a second question: does it matter? Neutrogena and others are in no way going to suffer from Target selling knockoffs. The big brands have their reputations to speak for their products: you pay for what you get. The big name items are going to be more expensive because the company specializes in making that item and they have proof that their product works. When I pick the Target brand, I know going in that the quality is not going to be the same. Target has a market for everything, so of course they’re not going to dedicate the same resources as a company who’s sole purpose is to make those products.
The same theory applies to pirated music or movies: the quality is never going to be as good as the original material. Anytime music or movies are downloaded, some of the quality is lost. It’d be like photocopying a page in a book. The first photocopy isn’t bad, but it certainly couldn’t pass for the original. That’s what pirating is: degradation of the original source material, and that’s why it’s so cheap. It isn’t worth the same as the crystal clear original.
So where does this leave us? Are SOPA and PIPA necessary to halt the production of pirated materials? Let’s be honest: no. Pirating is not a large enough issue worth spending the time, money, and adding extra pressure to hosts like Google to track down every YouTube video that has a copyrighted song playing in the background. There will always be people who want to download something from the Internet because it’s not available in their country or they don’t have an extra twenty bucks lying around to pay for a new CD release, but there will be more people who will pay to see the movie and buy the CD. It’s never worth punishing the masses over the slights of the few.
“List of Organizations with Official Stances on the SOPA and PIPA.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 15 July 2016. Web. 13 Sept. 2016.
Magid, Larry. “What Are SOPA and PIPA and Why All the Fuss?” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 18 Jan. 2012. Web. 13 Sept. 2016.
Photo Credit: http://beautyindulgence.yolasite.com/resources/Body%20Wash.JPG