I’m talking about the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261, “SOPA”) and its Senate counterpart, PROTECT IP Act (S. 968, “PIPA”). The alleged purpose of these bills is to shut down websites that provide unauthorized access to copyrighted materials: books, music, movies, and other media.
I can get behind that idea. As a guy who makes his living with words and games, I’m not too keen on folks pirating those things and not paying for me them. I like getting paid. But still I don’t like SOPA / PIPA. Why not?
Here, I’ll post this handy list from the Entertainment Consumers Association hit the high points:
- It strips current laws by now making internet companies, which used to be immune, liable for their users’ communications. This means that Facebook, Youtube, WordPress, Google and more are now on the hook for what you post.
- It gives the US Attorney General, with court order, the power to seize websites that possibly infringe or partially infringe copyright. There would be no due process and no chance to defend yourself before the seizure. The mere accusation can get a website taken away.
- It violates Net Neutrality by ordering internet providers, advertising companies and payment systems to block accused websites with technology that just doesn’t exist.
- It threatens users by imposing fines or jail time for posting even derivatives of copywrited work(s). A video of your karaoke, playing the piano, video game speed trial would now all be punishable if a copyright holder decides to enforce it.
Furthermore (as if that wasn’t enough), even though these laws would make American Internet look like China’s or Iran’s, it still won’t stop piracy. The core effect of the bills is to target specific websites–and that sort of whack-a-mole legislation isn’t going to do anything. If we’ve learned anything from over a decade of trying to police content on the Internet, it’s that as soon as you shut down one “rogue site,” another one appears with the same content. Putting more laws on the books won’t change anything.
So what can we do?
I know it’s a cliche, but please, contact your Congressional representatives and Senators and tell them this is a terrible idea.
The ECA has a handy form for finding your congressional people, complete with a well-worded letter to copy, paste, and make your own.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation also has guidelines for contacting politicians.
Stop American Censorship has a full program of actions you can take to fight these bills and raise awareness of the problem.
Blackoutsopa.org has a handy tool for tweaking your avatars to support the cause. It’s a little thing, akin to wearing a pink ribbon. No, it doesn’t stop the cancer, but it does remind people there’s something out there trying to kill them (or in this case, the Internet).