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Anti-piracy laws like SOPA and PIPA highlight online priorities

The recent pullbacks of the two controversial anti-online piracy bills — SOPA and PIPA — don’t mean that users can continue indefinitely to download their favorite content whenever and wherever they are. But they also don’t mean that copyright-conscious content firms will be getting every penny and page view coming to them.

Proponents of tough anti-piracy laws will be back with more specific language about what defines a site that hosts online content and which punishments will be enforced for sites that host content “illegally.” Once that is settled, content providers can begin focusing on true pirates, not everyone who might have a rogue video posted on their server.

Assuming that eventually happens, the big issue seems to be users’ desire for online content and what they are willing to give up for it, whether it is a credit card or personal information or risk being able to download it at all.

While these fights are going on, lawmakers for the European Union are attacking another hazard of online life: privacy. EU officials are proposing privacy protections for data and individuals that are even more strict than existing EU laws. Opponents of these proposals say such stringent measures will hurt business and innovation.

I think it is interesting that the U.S.-based businesses (primarily entertainment firms) behind SOPA and PIPA are a lot more concerned about prohibiting unauthorized access to content than they are about protecting the privacy of their customers, whose data are mined by the terabyte every day in order to find more ways to get them to view all of that content.

What users should be fighting for is for more control over their online lives, and that means tougher privacy laws.

What do you think?

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