The debate on copyrighting the virtual world came to a head last week when the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was deferred in the US legislature. Attempting to curb online piracy, (or freedom, if you’re on the other side) the SOPA, along with its ‘brother’ the Protect IP Act (PIPA), was set for a motion in the Senate but the Senator who had proposed it backed down and ‘put off’ the issue.

Aimed at cutting off the lifeline of all websites which duplicate any copyrighted material or use the web for broadcasting any material, the Act, if it had passed, would have blacked out more than half the websites.

One does not really know all the technical details about what it would have meant for the entire internet but it is not difficult to understand that the potential damage to the virtual world would have included a black out of Wikipedia and YouTube. Quite unimaginable!

Such laws are the US government’s idea of curbing Internet content, gaining unprecedented powers over all Internet Service Providers and in short keeping a watchful eye over the world. Gives the Orwellian concept a chillingly real face, doesn’t it? Well, the long and short of it is that massive online protests were launched – and I mean truly massive – which included the Wikipedia turning its screen black, Google getting 700 million signatures on an opposing petition and US celebrities joining in the condemnation with some even withdrawing their support of the President. In an election year, that couldn’t be a very feasible situation.

Big brother should know by now that much as it rankles, there is no stopping the Internet and all attempts of controlling the information it disseminates is a near impossibility. Just take You Tube as an example which is a multi-billion dollar business raking in the dollars with every click of a visitor to its site. It is the most visited site in virtual land by being a continuous source of entertainment and information. You Tube has given ‘freedom of expression’ a whole new dimension by awarding hopeful celebrities the opportunity, space and a ticket to ‘broadcast themselves’.

While the YouTube sensations do not appeal to my idea of entertainment, they are unique and have not only captured the interest of YouTubers and have become household sensations, they have given ordinary people living in obscurity the encouragement to give vent to any creative expression that they possess.

Have you heard of Nigahiga, Rebecca Black or Tobuscus? Don’t worry, I hadn’t either until my 14-year-old told me that these rate amongst the most popular in the You Tube world. Nigahiga, is a You Tube channel created by a Japanese named Ryan-Higa who does comedic video parodies along with how-to-make-parodies and was until some time ago the most subscribed You Tuber; Rebecca Black gained fame after she sang a song called, ‘Friday’ which became famous only because it was so bad! Tobuscus (actual name: Toby Turner) is famous because he broadcasts funny video game commentary besides doing some other buffoonery and is ‘hilarious’ says my youngest. Reports say that he has 1.3 million subscribers for his You Tube Channel.

And then of course there is Justin Bieber, now a teenage pop singing sensation who started off when his Mom posted a video of him singing famous singers’ songs. I did have my own dream of becoming famous though and frequently thought of taking the world by storm with my amazing but obscure talent. Since these were just my adolescent years, I had not chosen a vocation so it was not very clear to me at the time what it was that would give me fame, but without worrying about such trivialities I continued to have illusions of grandeur in which there would inevitably be a thunderous applause in the background and I would be floating amongst an adoring crowd graciously thanking these enthralled people for their admiration.

Those dreams of course got buried under layers of reality which came with growing up and discovering that one needs to slog it out prior to taking the bow before any enraptured audience. And with no You Tube providing unlimited space and opportunity all dreams died a natural death.

maheenrashdi@yahoo.ca


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