UPDATE: Ultimately, a less severe version of the bill described in this post was passed instead. It still represents the latest of many government restrictions of our digital liberty and access of information for the sake of corporate interests, and the threat of further encroachment is still very real. For that reason, I will keep this post up as I originally wrote it. People in the future deserve to know what our government tried to do and may very well attempt again.
For those unaware, a draconian, short-sighted, impossibly destructive bill will most likely be passed by Congress in the near future. This bill will effectively nullify the ability of content creators to exist on the internet because copyright strikes will now be treated as a felony. It was a slow and arduous fight, from SOPA/PIPA/CISPA to the death of net neutrality, but our ridiculous copyright laws finally killed the information superhighway. (As we all knew it was destined to do, sooner or later.) I feel the need to repeat that statement: the world wide web, which had the potential to be humanity’s greatest achievement if utilized properly, has been destroyed by the greed of a select few corporations and their puppets in the government.
The main person spearheading this legislation, Thom Tillis, is a Republican. But never doubt the ability of our neoliberal overlords in the Democratic Party to work with the other side if it means screwing over the little guy.
I just don’t even know where to begin with this. I’m so frustrated, and fed up and just done with our government right now. Hell, with all the bullshit about Qanon, the stolen election conspiracy theory and Trumpists running rampant in DC, I’ve given up on this whole damn country from top to bottom. I’ll let the legal expert in the article cited above explain why this law is dangerous to non-violent, good-natured Americans. I’ll just add a few quick points of my own:
- We desperately need copyright reform in this country whether this bill passes or not. Life plus 70 years is putting a stranglehold on our culture, muzzling young artists and storytellers, not to mention costing good people a lot of unwarranted trouble with the law. A culture is supposed to grow organically as the new generation builds upon the music and stories from their elders, developing personalized twists on the old tales. Now, thanks to Disney, nobody can do that and corporations control our creative heritage. Never before in the history of mankind has such a select few held such vast and indefinite power over culture itself.
- We need parliamentary procedure reform in Congress, because these “must pass” omnibus spending bills, along with the government shut downs and gridlock which inevitably precede them, has to stop. It’s destroying our government’s ability to function, creating a chaotic environment for public service employees (which disincentivizes good people from getting involved in such important work) and allowing nefarious lawmakers to ram through malignant legislation without following proper procedures. I blame Jimmy Carter for starting the trend (before him, the government continued to function under the old budget until a new one was passed.) But I blame the grandstanding from Newt Gingrich to Mitch McConnell for accelerating the problem.
- This bill should make it apparent to you, if it wasn’t already, that our government requires a permanent underclass to kick around. They need to have an excuse to send their goons, the militarized, trigger-happy police force, against the populace and call it “legal.” The threat of arrest keeps us docile so that we do not speak out too loudly. If any of us do, they’ve criminalized victimless acts so there will always be reason to forcibly silence dissent. The go-to justification for this strategy used to be weed, but the public has largely begun to push back on that nonsense. So now they need a new reason to be able to legally bust down the doors of 90% of Americans. This is it. That’s why we have, by far, the most incarcerated population of any country. Land of the free, and all that.
- Placing certain works on streaming/video hosting platforms is, in some ways, a public service. A lot of older films and TV shows fall through the cracks, one way or another. Usually the copyright holders don’t care about them anymore because they didn’t make money or contain controversial subject matter. For me, finding streams of certain half-forgotten ’60s art films and ’70s exploitation films online has been one of the few things keeping me sane in this 2020 nightmare. It’s really fucking hard to find physical copies of some of these movies legally, much less rent or stream them on legitimate platforms so one can ascertain which are worth the money. I’ve purchased several movies in this manner which I otherwise never would have heard of–and how is that bad for the content creators/economy exactly?
Without the efforts of amateur preservationists/archivalists, certain lost/unreleased media would never be seen again, like Cracks and Eureeka’s Castle. (You think Nickelodeon’s ever gonna release that officially?) Other films contain beautiful music which has never been officially released on CD or vinyl, like Venus in Furs or Devil in the Flesh. So, what, no one can ever listen to them again just because the copyright holders don’t feel like throwing us a bone? Even movies with officially released soundtracks often have several musical cues which are left off, like “Barracuda Hangout” from Saturday Night Fever and this gem from La Matriarca. Are we just never allowed to experience these because the corporate overlords don’t see the importance in releasing them? We’re really just going to let pieces of our cultural heritage fall into oblivion because it’s not profitable enough–even with well-meaning amateurs like myself willing to share them for free? What sense does that make, I ask you?
What Does This Mean For theCarbonFreeze?
Well, I’ll admit I’m not the best at interpreting legal jargon, and it’s hard to know exactly what the scope of these new regulations may be with the lack of mainstream media articles to break it down in layman’s terms. (Our news outlets are largely owned by the media conglomerates who are pushing for this shit to pass, hence the lack of widespread attention to this issue.) So it’s hard for me to fully comprehend what my liability is if this new change goes down. Mostly I hear about twitch streaming and music DMCA strikes when it comes to this law, but I see no reason to think that YouTube uploads are safe. And the aforementioned articles seem to imply that just embedding other people’s videos with copyrighted material in your own separate website could make a person legally culpable.
With all that said, I’m going to have to err on the side of caution here (again, if this thing passes) and protect myself. I’m not well-known enough to be able to fight back against this in court. I’m too flawed of a person to be an effective martyr to take one for the team and inspire widespread backlash with my arrest. I’m a transgender woman in an age where our shit hole government is rolling back as many rights and protections for trans inmates (much less trans people in general) as it can get away with. I really don’t want to risk being sent to a federal male prison for five years (!) because I had the audacity to share cool, obscure media online. It really sucks that this is the choice that’s been thrust on people like me, but that’s the diabolical US political system for ya.
My YouTube channel is going to have to be culled. It breaks my heart to have to do this–you have no idea. My YouTube channel is my oldest surviving online account. I started it almost ten years ago solely to share music from the then-lost film Cry Baby Lane. I’ve posted all my SMiLE mixes on there over the years, which were a source of creative fulfillment and personal joy in my life. I’ve used it to archive the lost media I had access to, like Just for Kicks and Uccidere in Silenzio. It may sound stupid to some people, but bringing forgotten media to a wide audience, flawed as they may be, was an accomplishment I felt proud of. It warmed my heart to see how many views they each received, knowing that I’d saved these works of art from complete obscurity. I can’t speak for the original content creators, but if I were them I’d want my work to be available in some capacity, and lord knows Nickelodeon and Novarolfilm have no desire to make that happen.
Ironically, or perhaps fittingly, this purge must include my vast archive of political media. I wish it weren’t so, and in a just world it wouldn’t be the case, but they’ve been copyright stricken before and I can’t take the chance. (Yep, apparently political oration addressed to the public is copyrighted. I once had a Chinese company claim Lyndon Johnson’s DNC speech, for God’s sake.) I painstakingly tracked down as many historical speeches and debates as I could find, so that other people seeking them out after me would not have to go through the same hassle. I was the first person (which I still can’t believe, by the way,) to catalog the video recordings of our inaugural, farewell, convention and state of the union addresses into convenient playlists for ease of access. I did the same to primary and general election debates. Some of these old debates, like Dewey vs Stassen and Kennedy vs McCarthy were incredibly hard to find, and I don’t know if the sites where I got them are even still operational. Again, it may be small in the grand scheme of things, but I considered this endeavor to be my humble contribution to our American heritage. (So much for that, ya filthy bastards.)
I don’t have the hard drive space, much less the patience, to back all this shit up on my home computer. So once it’s gone, it’s gone. And I’m sure as shit not going through all the trouble of uploading these videos ever again. Even if this particular bill is not specifically intended for YouTube uploads, the threat of overzealous DMCA strikes coupled with felony charges is enough to deter me from uploading almost anything to any video hosting site going forward. I’m really sorry to all of my YouTube subscribers and casual viewers that it had to come to this.
Besides that, I’ll have to see what the deal is with embedded videos before I do anything to my blog. Certain videos may have to be taken down in any case. But no matter what, I will always share my writing on theCarbonFreeze.com. It’s my pride and purpose, even if I have to reduce it to a text-only format, without links or embeds. (I really, really hope it doesn’t come to that.)
What Does This Mean For Everyone?
I really feel as though this new law, plus the reorganization of the entertainment industry to a perpetual renter’s-only model, is sending us a clear message. It’s time for us to start hoarding as much of our treasured online media as possible while it’s still available. Your favorite YouTube videos, obscure films not on traditional outlets, your own original content? Back that shit up now, while you still can. Buy several external hard drives in case one fails. Get as much of it as possible on home media or downloads before it’s too late. Because before you know it, all the free methods of content consumption are going to be monetized or dismantled one way or another. (YouTube is already beginning to trend that way, even without this bill.) Physical media will be discontinued, or so littered with DRM that it may as well be. Everything will be herded over to paid streaming platforms, where availability is unstable, censorship is rampant and nobody owns shit except the big corporations. Obscure and/or unprofitable content will be allowed to slip into oblivion and anyone sharing it will be severely prosecuted. That’s the dystopian future we’re heading for, and anyone who doesn’t see the writing on the wall by now is a fool.
Hey, at least it’s an excuse to finally read all those books on my queue right? *Sigh*
And seriously, if you have the means, it’s past time to start thinking seriously about getting the hell out of the United States. This country is shifting closer to fascism every day, and it will not stop with Trump out of the White House. The powers that be won’t even let us have the goddamn internet anymore to keep us sedated at home, they’ve gotten that brazen. I know people with programming experience who are too stubborn or too proud to leave. I know someone who is engaged to a European and planning to move back to the US (!) rather than settle in Europe itself. I just don’t understand how these people can’t see how bad shit is, and how much worse it’s about to get. As Peter Bailey said to good ol’ moss-back George: “This [country] isn’t fit for any man unless he’s willing to crawl to Potter. Get yourself an education and get out of here.”