We Don’t Know: What is Internet Property?

Remember SOPA? In a few days, it will be the one year anniversary of the “Stop Online Piracy Act,” when legislators of the U.S. government sought to draft a bill that would “promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes.”

SOPA’s intentions were theoretically “good,” because ripping a DVD without the content owner’s permission and downloading it should be punished, right? Well… yes and no. It depends on what we consider a DVD. Is it property like a car? Sort of, it was a physical thing, but when it’s downloaded and shared, you’re not actually taking the DVD away from its original owner, you’re just distributing more copies. Is this theft and, if so, should we deal with it in the same way that we deal with physical theft?

No one can really agree at the moment, but the issue remains even though SOPA was indefinitely postponed, we don’t know what making and owning internet property means. If we can’t rip and share a DVD that somebody else made, can we remix it and share it? Can we profit off that remix?

Let’s just say it’s a mess, but precedent is being set.

Photo by Michelle White

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