Definitional Essay – Rick Casario

Internet censorship is the control or suppression of what can be accessed, published or viewed on the internet. That nation’s government is usually who controls the flow of information, but private corporations at the behest of the government can also have a say. Censorship at it’s core is a means by a government to control the information available to the public and is commonly practiced in countries with very strict regimes or dictators but is also alive in the United States as well.  The kind of content that could be found on the internet could be anything from written work such as stories or news articles, to videos of popular television shows or even work from cinema. Censoring the internet would be a serious damage of not only culture, but how we communicate on a daily basis today, it would hurt creative works, and give the government too much control over our privacy with acts like SOPA.

In 2007 Stephanie Lenz posted a twenty second video of her child dancing to “Let’s go Crazy” by Prince. Prince’s record company Universal Music Corp. sent a takedown notice to YouTube saying it broke copy right laws protected by the DMCA. “Under federal copyright law a mere allegation of copyright infringement can result in the removal of content from the Internet” (EFF). YouTube wanting to steer clear of a disaster, took the video down immediately. Lenz fought back in court stating that she used the video under “fair use” exception to copyright. The fair use exception is a doctrine that allows limited use of the copy righted material without needing permission from the rights holder. That seems pretty fair. It gives a balance between when something is deemed illegal and needs to be censored, or when it is fair to use.

Acquiring music through non-legal means in today’s world means to us, using something like Spotify. Spotify allows people to listen to whatever it has on its database for free so long as you listen to a commercial every once in a while. “Listens” credit the artist with different rates of exchange that creates a cycle of artist allowing their music on Spotify, and in return, Spotify paying artist back. Instances where SOPA would actually even be needed would be like stoping sites like Pirate Bay. Pirate Bay allows users to illegally access material off of their site, but Pirate Bay steals terabytes (1000 gigabytes) worth of copyrighted material every day.  In April of 2009 four men were convicted for the file serving service that is The Pirate Bay. The Pirate Bay is where thousands of terabytes of music, movies and television can be found. These four men were convicted as the principle administrators of the site and responsible for numerous copyright infringements. “Each man was sentenced to a year in prison and $3.6 million in damages to leading entertainment companies” (NYT). Instances like this are really the only instances when SOPA would ever need to be.

Giving the power of controlling the internet almost exclusively to the government would easily allow them to manipulate and regulate everything on the internet. That could have catastrophic blow backs because millions of Americans who actively use the internet would see that as infringing on the rights of U.S. citizens under the constitution.  The Arab Spring was a massive movement of revolution and civil war in the middle east. Technology, mainly, social media became an invaluable tool in allowing protestors to secretly arrange meetings for protests. They had to do this in code because anything that went against that countries government was immediately censored out from all sources of information, not just the internet. In fact, because the government was having such a hard time controlling the people, they shut down the internet for a short duration and that really cause a bigger problem. The method in which the government took control of its people was a poor choice because instead of working on a solution, they just shut down the voice of the people.

The act known as Stop Online Piracy was an act brought to congress back in 2010. The bill proposed that government censors could follow up with calling out anyone who posted or shared copyrighted content to the domain’s administrator who would then have to take down the infringing material posted by a user or face legal consequence. If the site did not comply, the site would get a ban notice and advertisers and other sources of income for the site were forbidden to participate. The law could be taken directly to the offender for fines in damages and potential prison time. SOPA supporters say they wants to achieve the elimination of piracy but yet it has all the potential in the world for becoming a tool for a government that could reach over our rights and have a jurisdiction all its own.

Works Cited

Pfanner, Eric. “Four Convicted in Sweden in Internet Piracy Case”. April, 2009. “Four men convicted of Piracy In Sweden”

EFF Lenz v. Universal Case

Pepitone, Juilanne. “SOPAexplained: What it is and why it matters”. January 20, 2012. “SOPA explained”

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3 Responses to Definitional Essay – Rick Casario

  1. davidbdale says:

    Hey, Rick!
    As you may know, I write comments as I read your essay, to give you “live” feedback of how your argument is received as it unfolds. I hope you find this helpful.

    P1. These sound like good notes in preparation for your essay, Rick. You’re touching all the bases, but out of order. Maybe someone told you to build an introduction with background information, then gradually move in the direction of your thesis statement. It’s an effective strategy . . . if you want to shed all your readers before P2. Find a way to make your material seem essential from the first sentence. “Internet censorship is the control or suppression of what can be accessed . . . . ?” Snooze. Instead, maybe you could take a single illustrative instance of the worst imaginable abuse of the SOPA law and offer it up to snag your readers early: “The government wants to shut down the internet, selectively.” It wants the right to take entire domains offline if there is “reason to believe” that they are hosting materials that violate copyright protection, correct? So, for example, if Wikileaks posted something they couldn’t immediately prove they had the author’s permission to publish, could they be shut down? You tell me. If that’s an imaginable scenario, you have some very provocative material to share in service of your definition. Get to it right away, before your readers have a chance to think you might be wasting their time.

    P2. I’m sorry, no. I get to the end of your paragraph, Steve, and I answer: No, let’s not take a look at what the DMCA has accomplished since its creation” because I have no idea why I should be interested in the DMCA. It’s “a law that came to be from two pre-existing treaties”? So? Again, you need to pre-load this material with significance.

    You cannot excuse the material for being boring. It isn’t boring. It’s extremely significant and of vital importance to our future, once we know what we’re looking at. Your job as the essay writer is not to make the stuff interesting; it’s merely to reveal the amazing stuff that’s going on.

    P3. This is a brilliant example. Could you make even better use of it? Under SOPA (I know it didn’t pass, but it had so much support it could pass next time, when we’re distracted, or bored by the topic.), could the government, in an extreme example, have shut down youtube itself? Don’t say it can’t happen; it happens in countries all over the world. A sizable minority of our lawmakers want permission to do it here too.

    P4. Your argument here is a little unclear. There is no offense when the offense is small? Or it’s a misdemeanor compared to a felony? You haven’t said whether Pirate Bay was dissolved or still operates. You haven’t said anything about whether those who illegally uploaded the massive data stockpile were prosecuted. You haven’t said whether individual users who downloaded terrabytes of material to their own hard drives (and, who knows, used it to create their own paid sharing services?) were also prosecuted.

    And what does this example have to do with censorship exactly? Was the material silenced because of its content? Or were the operators jailed because they stole copyrighted content? They’re two very different cases, don’t you think?

    P4. Here’s where the lack of clarity comes to bite you, Rick. “Censorship” doesn’t protect copyright. Censorship strikes content because of its content, to protect the creators of the content. What’s scary about the American version is that proposed legislation creates the mechanism to censor objectionable material while using the excuse of protecting the rights of copyright holders. Right? (You need to cite a source for the information in this paragraph, I think.)

    P5. “follow up with calling out”? Huh? Also: “calling out . . . to the administrator”? or: “shared content . . . with the administrator”? I can’t tell which.

    “Even more is that the law could be taken directly to the offender for fines”? Huh?

    Rhetorical Questions are no substitute for bold clear claims, Rick. Here, when you should be drawing conclusions and persuading your readers you know what’s best is no time to be hiding behind questions. If the “rally” is timed to provide the government some new clandestine power, say so. If fair use doctrine protects the rights of users and domains, say so.

    You do draw your line eventually, but you’ve done so on the basis of unanswered questions, which does not begin to compel persuasion.

    There’s solid material here, Rick, and plenty of argument angles to frighten us that the government is more interested in controlling information than allowing us to share it. But you need to first alert us to the danger so we pay attention, and then guide us through the argument so we reach the conclusion you want us to.

    Grade recorded. Easy to improve by responding to feedback.

  2. rickc1030 says:

    Okay, thank you.

  3. rickc1030 says:

    Hey Professor, I revised this to make it more clear, and I took out that highly unnecessary paragraph about the DMCA which I realize now was just bogging my essay down. I also made sure to take out those rhetorical questions in paragraph five, and fix my argument in P3 so that I am not contradicting myself any longer by saying that stealing a little is not a crime unlike stealing a lot. I hope this will live up to be higher grade material like you said in the grade report. Thank you again for your time and effort! I can not express my gratitude enough!

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