Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Monkey + Seal Closing Down Shop?

While the last thing Monkey + Seal want to do is close down shop, if the upcoming Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect-IP Act (PIPA) pass in the upcoming congressional votes, we may have to.

So if you haven't heard about SOPA or PIPA, they're basically congressional bills that in theory, are made to stop online piracy. While this idea in itself is great (especially for small business owners and artists like Monkey + Seal), the bills themselves are inherently flawed. A much better article on why they're bad pieces of legislature is HERE.

However, most articles focus more on why SOPA and PIPA will take down free speech (very important), destroy stuff we love like YouTube and wreck our economy (all stuff that is very likely to happen if these bills pass). Since all those points are better discussed elsewhere by people who are also very smart and know what they're talking about, today we wanted to talk to you about the reason why content providers (also known as us artists) need to take a stand against SOPA and PIPA.

Good work will be stifled. Under the combined might of SOPA and PIPA, websites can be taken down simply by being accused of infringing on copyright. While you think this would be cool (hey, if someone steals you new illustration, shut 'em down!), this can easily get out of hand. Say, for example, you decide to post a process photo of your new character design. One of the many staff illustrators/artists/designers for big firms that like to steal from smaller designers comes across it and shows it to their boss. Instead of paying you for your design, they decide to just steal your design, post it on their blog, and then tell your Internet Service Provider (ISP) that you're stealing their design. They don't have to prove anything, they just have to claim that you're doing it, even if they're stealing from you.

Sorta ridiculous and paranoid, but since you, as a small business, don't have the time/money/resources to take them to court and battle this out, who wins? Not you. Artists will be scared to produce good work (or at least scared to post things online), and the big pirates of industry win.

Collateral damage will be high even to artists who create original work. So say your favorite small business like Monkey + Seal does their standard original illustration for their blog post. However, another artist comes across it and says "Hmm, that sorta looks like this one illustration I did years ago. Those bastards are stealing from me!" They contact our ISP and get us shut down. Huh? What? We had no idea that our illustration looked like someone else's. We didn't copy, but because it resembled something else someone else had created, we suddenly got the boot before we even knew what would happen. Assuming we clear things up and our hosting gets turned back on, are we really going to keep on posting illustrations and blogging? Imagine if your business got shut down suddenly and you're being accused of copyright infringement. You have hundreds of images, and you're not even sure what you're being accused of doing.

Budding artists will be discouraged from making art. While it's not cool to copy other artists, think about all the budding artists who make fan art. Sure, they're technically infringing someone else's copyright, but if some 8-year old makes a Naruto drawing and posts it on their blog, do they really need to be shut down? Fan art, we'd argue, if anything makes the original property even more valuable and sought-after. It's one thing to be selling portraits of Pokemon and the like, but think about all the sites like Deviant Art and such who will easily be shut down because some kid with a box of color pencils and a scanner loves Batman too much? Think about all the venues that kids and students use to share art with each other. To be honest, most of those kids are using infringing material, but as long as they aren't selling it, who cares? Hell, if we ever got people doing Monkey + Seal fan art we'd be super happy (hint hint, everyone). The point is, many venues that are utilized especially by younger artists will be shut down, and that stinks.

In our mind, SOPA and PIPA is sort of a stick of dynamite response when a scalpel is what is needed. While they have terrible repercussions in terms of life in general, as artists, they are exceptionally scary. Frankly, we don't want to have to live in fear of creating, and having our youth grow up in a hyper-paranoid world where our art becomes even more censored and feared than it already is. Join us by going HERE and signing the petition to stop these bills from passing.

PS - for possibly the best take on this from a creator that Monkey has seen, go HERE