The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) have to be understood in this light: it’s just another IP land grab. It’s an attempt to frighten those who would compete with the established media companies, an attempt to assert monopolistic control over creativity. The ability to take domains offline without due process, even on the basis of inadvertently linking to copyrighted material, is nothing if not an attempt to legitimize theft on a grand scale. Because there is no due process, a defendant can’t respond until he’s already out of business; and then, it’s a matter of whether the defendant can outlast Hollywood in their ability to pay legal fees. “Justice” is meaningless if you run out of money before you get to the end of your case.
Then as now, borrowing wasn’t limited to theatre. Mashups, which have been repeatedly attacked by the entertainment industry, are by no means a new art form; they’ve been central to creativity for years (related examples are embedded below). Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” incorporate a number of popular songs of the era, including the always popular “Cabbages and Beets drove me away from you,” in its entirety, along with “Get closer to me, baby” (that’s what the German really means, except the “baby” part). So did Beethoven’s sonatas, particularly the second movement of the magnificent Opus 110 piano sonata (“Our cat had kittens” and “ I’m a slob, you’re a slob”). I could list examples for pages; musicologists spend entire careers searching for this stuff. The complexity with which these songs are woven into a much greater piece is amazing, but they’re there, they’ve obviously there once you know what to look for, and they go way beyond what would survive “fair use” and the DMCA, let alone SOPA and PIPA.