Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA Blackouts, Censorship, and Jesus

Today, a significant chunk of the 'Net is either going dark or protesting a bill wending it's way through Congress.  That bill, entitled the Stop Online Piracy Act, or "SOPA," is intended to prevent folks on the web from copying and profiting from content that others have created.  It would allow owners of Intellectual Property to sue and/or take other legal action to shut down any site hosting or linking to purloined copyrighted material.

That's the idea, anyway.  The reality is different.  The reality is that such provisions would paralyze YouTube, Facebook, and Google.  It would make the broader functioning of the least, a net as we know it...impossible.

Having experienced Net censorship myself a few years back, I know how quickly something like that could deteriorate.  Having pitched up a bit of gentle YouTube push-back against some neoatheists, someone claimed terms of service violation, and my video was summarily removed.  To the credit of the atheist film-maker I was satirizing, he spoke up in favor of leaving the vid up...but no dice.   Once the censorship djinn is out of the bottle, things get bad fast.

There are a couple of places you can school yourself about the ramifications of this bill.  One of the better ones was pitched out by Gizmodo, and came my way via the net-savvy Vice-Moderator of my denomination.  Reading through their description, and following the link to the folks who are supporting SOPA, I encountered something that presses my buttons.

Among the many entertainment industry intellectual property holders that were actively supporting this misbegotten piece of legislation were the following:
Given that I'm reasonably sure that True Religion Brand Jeans isn't actually faith-based, this means that amidst the corporations that put their own profit above a just measure of Net-freedom, and alone among the world's religious traditions, we find Jesus people.  Or, to be more accurate, we find representatives of AmeriChrist, Inc.

These are the community of folks that send the letters to churches, pressuring Jesus people into paying for the right to sing songs about Jesus, and honeychild, that has always ticked me off in a Matthew 21 sort of way.

Way I figure it, if you write a song and say you're singing it to the glory of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, you have no right to keep other Christian people from singing it too.  None.

Sure, we should pay for your albums and download your stuff from iTunes and not try to sneak in at your big venue events.  We should buy your hymnals and songbooks, those few of us who still do that sort of thing.  Let the oxen eat what it's treading out, as the Apostle says.

But the moment you tell me that I need to license your song before my choir or praise team can sing it in worship is the moment I know you're not really serious about the whole Jesus thing.  The moment you tell me I can't put my rendition of your song about Jesus up onto my congregation's YouTube/Vimeo account as a way of sharing the Good News, well, that's when you're no longer in the Gospel business.

You're just in the entertainment business.

Because the Gospel is always free, brothers and sisters.  The Gospel is always free.