There’s been a lot written about SOPA/PIPA, so I don’t know that this post will do much more than add one more voice to the discussion. But that’s good, because they’re not being talked about enough, publicly. Ask someone not somehow heavily invested in the Internet what they are, and you’d likely get nothing. Were one cynical, one would say that that’s because of a lack of coverage. One could further extrapolate that that lack of coverage could stem from the fact that the parent companies of many of the major news networks (MSNBC, Fox News, ABC, NBC, CBS, etc.) support SOPA/PIPA. Were one cynical.
SOPA is the Stop Online Piracy Act, which comes from our House of Representatives. PIPA, the Protect IP Act, was created by our Senate. If they’re passed into law, they’ll work in conjunction to basically shut down everything the Internet does well. Both bills are overly broad, not written with a real understanding of what the Internet is and how it works, and, in short, are bad ideas. See that fly, the one on your glass table? I’ll smash it with this cinder block. They’re that kind of bad idea.
Here’s an excellent video that can explain these bills far, far better than I can:
Make yourself a pot of coffee (big pot, strong coffee), read SOPA, and tell me I’m wrong. Tell me this doesn’t put more discretionary and punitive power in the hands of corporations than anyone in their right minds should be comfortable with. Tell me that this doesn’t give corporations the right to basically blacklist sites they don’t like and make them invisible (no links from search engines, no domain resolution, no nothin’) and unable to conduct commerce (corporations will be able to directly appeal to payment providers to have sites cut off). C’mon, tell me. I dare ya.
(If you don’t want to read it, then, yeah, it does all that.)
And they leave it up to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, bloggers, et al, to police this themselves. Every post, every comment – all potential powder kegs. Say goodbye to user generated sites, because even if they could hire the staff necessary to constantly monitor for misuse of copyrighted material, the potential for increased risk aversion is really high. Why take any sort of risk if it’s easier to just not post the comment/video/photo/post/etc.?
Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, who’s sponsoring SOPA, keeps screeching that the “vocal minority” against this bill haven’t “read the language.” Yeah, we have. I’m starting to think he hasn’t. Were one cynical, one might think that, if corporations are indeed people. they’re people who are a little more equal than the rest of us.
Best part of all, SOPA doesn’t even do what it says it’s going to do. If a foreign site has pirated your copyrighted material, SOPA allows for the blocking of the site by preventing the domain name of that site from resolving to its IP address. This action prevents the site from being accessed domestically, but not globally. Anyone in the world besides the U.S. still has free access. See that fly, the one on your glass table? I’ll smash it with this cinder block. Whoops, missed. Too bad about that table – it really tied the room together.
Piracy is a problem. The content industries don’t know how to fight it well, and neither does our government. They’re not even 100% sure what constitutes piracy. It’s not well defined. Going to a premier, surreptitiously filming the movie, burning it on DVDs and selling it in a kiosk – that’s pretty clear cut. Posting a YouTube video of your kid’s school concert in which the kids sing “Let it Be,” well, did the teacher get permission from Sony? Nobody but pirates and people who don’t like to pay for things openly support piracy, but using the same type of censorship used in China, Syria, and, recently, Spain (with, scarily, the blessing of, if not outright pressure from, our State Department) is not a solution.
So, hey. HEY! You like the Internet? Learn about SOPA/PIPA and contact your representatives to tell them that if they want your support, they shouldn’t support these bills. Here’s a great place to start learning more and taking action: Stop American Censorship.
BTW – no pressure, but the Senate votes on January 24th.