In the past few years, there are notable and controversial legislations that deemed as the apocalypse of Anime Industry and its fandom. Just last year, I have shared my thoughts on Tokyo passing a very controversial ordinance called “Bill 156” also known as the Nonexistent Youth Bill, which aims to restrict sexual content. Up to this day, the industries’ impact of the bill is still questionable, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. (Image Source)
If you haven’t noticed through American Censorship Day, the House had a hearing yesterday on an extremely controversial bill supported by Hollywood and corporate executives that will change the Internet forever. SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act, also known as E-Parasites Act) aims to take down sites that serve copyrighted content that is outside of the US. In reality, it intends to censor the Internet and take down many innocent websites, social networking sites, search engines, etc. This bill inevitably caused a lot of outrage from normal people, various technology companies (Google, Facebook, Mozilla and eBay), the Electric Frontier Foundation and various human right groups.
So, what is the Stop Online Piracy Act? It’s a piece of legislation drafted by the House of Representatives, which aims to give government power to shut down any infringing website. They can block sites on a DNS (Domain Name Server) level, making it impossible to visit the site just like the Great Firewall in China. Websites can become blocked just from one infringing link or material on the page. On the other hand, website owners can get impacted with funds being cut off until they shut down and the possibility of imprisonment up to 5 years. To add salt to the wound, this act will effectively kill Fair Use rights, DMCA safe harbors along with putting restrictions on alternative DNS, VPNs, proxies, SSH, and TOR privacy that can bypass the blacklist. Seems scary? That is only the beginning.
How about the bill’s impact on Anime? Although I am against streaming for other mentioned reasons, people can still watch their favorite shows considering that majority of the shows are now being legally streamed and obtainable on physical media. However, it mostly hurts few of the titles that will possibly never get licensed or simulated. As a result, subbing these shows will become a substantial risk that fewer groups will do it. Also, sites like Anime Suki (including Anime Suki Forums) and torrent index sites like Tokyotoshokan will also get blocked under this law. However, I’m more concerned about the impact to the Aniblogohpere and the community as this will have a huge impact on what I do.
As for the effect on the Aniblogosphere and its community, this is where things can get ugly. Considering that what we write is based on derivative content along with the use of screenshots from shows, this gets very dubious. Normally, using copyrighted material in reviews, parodies, etc. are protected under Fair Use. If this act were to pass, we would have to ask permission from the companies to use their content or get shut down and possibly go to jail. This not only affects blogging, but social networking sites and anime communities we depend on to communicate with others. Sites like Twitter, Google+, Youtube, Tumblr, MyAnimeList and Anime Planet could get censored or shut down because of the difficulties to regulate user generated content. Not only that, podcasts, music reviews and “let’s plays” will also become banned content. Therefore, it can effectively exterminate the entire Anime Fandom from the Internet.
Overall, Stop Online Piracy Act is an extremely dangerous bill that won’t stop piracy, but end freedom of expression. Let’s face it, piracy is here to stay and there’s nothing we can do to stop it completely. However, companies can limit the impact by adjusting their business models so that people can get motivated and use the legal alternative. Even so, I feel that it’s not the government’s job to protect a company’s outdated business model. Therefore, the bill needs to be scrapped for the sake of preserving the greatness of the Internet.