Copyright vs. Copywrong? The Case for SOPA
Adapted from Brian Selznick’s 2007 novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Martin Scorsese’s recent adventure movie Hugo – the director’s ode to the forgotten era of silent film-making – is a curiously contemporary affair. With Paramount Pictures finally releasing the film in late 2011, Hugo inadvertently provided a neat parallel to the public furor which surrounded the U.S. SOPA bill (Stop Online Piracy Act – not the similarly abbreviated Scottish Organic Producers Association). The SOPA bill is an anti-piracy legislation to combat the trafficking and unauthorized streaming of copyrighted material online. Backed by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), SOPA prompted a coordinated ‘blackout’ of previously accessible online material by those who opposed the measure. On January 18th, approximately 7,000 websites ranging from the social news site Reddit, to the Internet heavyweight Wikipedia, ceased functioning in some form, in protest over SOPA’s proposed censorship of the World Wide Web. A rally was held in New York City, and Google collected over 7 million signatures for a petition to “Save the Internet” from intellectual and digital castration. Events got so heated that Facebook founder and world’s favourite entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg weighed in on the debate by posting his first tweet in over 3 years on the subject. Such a rare sight must have prompted astronomers to check for unusual solar activity.
Scorsese’s luxuriant and extraordinary visual style in Hugo makes an unintentional case for the manifestos of SOPA, and its sibling organizational body the Protect Intellectual Property Act (or PIPA, for those of us still clamoring after a certain Miss. Middleton’s sculpted rear). Even with the vehement opposition to SOPA’s regulative campaign – see the ‘concerns’ expressed by AOL, Twitter, Mozilla, PayPal, LinkedIn, Google and Vimeo – Hugo’s cinematographic charm reminded spectators precisely how video piracy is an inferior second-cousin to cinema’s big-screen splendor. It is certainly not an allegory about SOPA’s initiatives, but in my world it could be. Online piracy (when it comes to movies, at least) simply replaces the wondrous attraction of cinema spectatorship: a spectatorship that SOPA’s safeguarding measures are only trying to protect.Continued on the next page