Wow, that was an interesting day. It seems like nobody knew anything about this stuff, then suddenly, everyone became mildly aware. Wikipedia’s decision to go dark was a major catalyst for other folk’s decisions, and ultimately all of the hubbub got a partial result–the legislation is effectively dead.
But how did this even happen to begin with? Why is Congress so willing to do something as far reaching to something they have very little knowledge of? I’m going to guess it has a lot to do with the lobbying of the entertainment industry. No other group could benefit nearly as much from this kind of IP law.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m firmly on the side of IP holders–they deserve compensation for their hard work–but we’ve gone too far in our punishment of those that would infringe on these copyrights. Perhaps the punishment should be commensurate with the crime rather than far in excess of the damages?
For instance, the case of Jammie Thomas-Rasset, who at one point was ordered to pay $1.5 million for downloading 24 songs (24 songs!?), is a prime example of excessive punishment. In all honesty, were the artists damages really that high from this one individual? You can’t extract from this one person the damage that everyone has caused. The punishment is beyond excessive–it’s almost too difficult to believe. Fine the lady $5000 and be done with it–can an average individual be expected to pay $1.5 million when over one’s lifetime they’re only expected to earn between $1 million and $2 million? Unbelievable.
Copyright wasn’t meant to protect a creation for an eternity, virtually guaranteeing perpetual income for the creator and their grand children, nor was it designed to severely punish those that might copy. It was designed as a way to protect the creation of some thing for a short time in order to ensure that your creativity would be rewarded; this was seen as a way to encourage the creation of new work and nothing more. We’re approaching something more sinister, and one can hope that we will eventually develop saner copyright laws.
For now, stick to open source software where you can.