SOPA, for those who don’t know, is an American bill and an acronym for “Stop Online Piracy Act.” If passed, it’ll change the entire internet to allow the US government to shut down any website that they believe to contain even the smallest piece of piracy. It’s a big deal and will change everything about the internet. Here’s how I foresee it changing magic:
Online footage from magic TV shows will be gone
We’ve heard of how David Copperfield walked through the Great Wall of China, but how would you see it without having an old VHS copy of his TV special? YouTube, no doubt! How will you watch David Blaine apparently levitate? YouTube, of course.
If SOPA is passed, those videos, and all other magic TV clips will certainly be removed by the TV companies.
We’ll get fewer new magicians
It’s these videos of the great famous magicians that have inspired a whole new generation of magicians. If they can’t see these videos, it’s possible that far less people will start to learn magic.
Performance videos and showreels could be removed
Magicians like to record magic tricks and share them online. Any of those magicians who use music that they haven’t purchased a license for could be removed. Hundreds of thousands of archived magic performances gone for good.
Many magic websites could be blocked or removed
It’s not just these video sharing sites that could be taken down: any website linking to YouTube videos that are infringing on copyright could also be removed. So if I wanted to share a video of a great TV clip on my blog, it’s possible that my site could be blocked within the US because of it.
Finding a magician might be more difficult
SOPA will allow the US government to dictate to search engines, such as Google, what can and can’t be included in their search results. That means that you could miss out on hiring the best magician for your job because they have a piece of unlicensed music, video, photo, image or text on their website.
Magicians might not be able to interact online
Some magicians use magic forums to communicate and share performance videos. But if enough users shared videos that infringed on any copyrights (however small), those forums could get shut down … even though the owner and majority of users are operating within the law.
In the extreme, it’s even possible that a company could have Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other major websites taken down (whether temporary or permanently). According to the bill, if there are enough copyright violations, this is entirely possible and therefore could not only change how magicians interact, but how everyone interacts online.
Magic-based content could be lost
Magicians blog quite a bit. If just one person who uses the small blog company (example: Blogger) puts piracy on their website, the US government would have the power to shut down that entire company without warning. Therefore, magicians (and many other people) will lose their blog posts and other content even though they did nothing wrong.
Magic piracy won’t be affected in the way you might expect
The magicians amongst us might be pleased that piracy of magic books, DVDs and downloads could be stamped out by this act. However, it’s my belief that we won’t see a big reduction as this bill is all about helping the big companies (Sony, Nintendo etc) protect themselves and not small magic producers. I’m pretty confident that this will be such a small change that magic producers won’t notice a difference at all.
And most importantly …
Magicians could go out of business
That sounds like hyperbole. But it’s true. Here’s why: most modern close-up magicians rely on their website as their main source of gaining new customers. If that website links to copyrighted videos, or uses copyrighted music on their websites, their website could be shut down without warning and US companies could be forced to not do business with them.
It’s possible that after reading this, you think that everything will be fine so long as magicians stick to the law. I wish that were true, that very few magicians are copyright thieves (and those that are seem to be more naive than deliberately trying to break the law). But magic websites like this allow user-submitted content that is sometimes out of the owner’s control. Therefore, if someone even just links to a copyrighted video, or uses copyrighted text, this entire website could be taken down.
It feels like there’s not much I can do about SOPA as I’m not American. But I hope that this post at least gives a personal perspective on how I feel it could change magic. I don’t claim to know everything about this act, but this is my interpretation of what I’ve read so far.