I had heard rumblings of legislation in Congress that meant ostensibly to retard online piracy, but in reality opens the door to a huge variety of corporate and special-interests-driven censorship of the internet. I hadn’t realized until the other day that this was serious, imminent, and that the protest movement against these bills, known as SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act–the House bill) and PIPA (Protect IP Act–the Senate bill)–was underway, and fast gaining ground. As usual, it’s not only what the laws say, but also what they don’t say–the loopholes they leave open, the actions and initiatives they leave unregulated and unchecked, the responsibilities and terms they do not clearly define (and we got taste of how risky that is with the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, about which I’ll be talking in the near future). For my own part, I think the critiques of the bills are sound, and urge you, if you have not done so already, to join the protest movement against these bills.
However, just to forestall the question: I have decided not to black out my own blog, since I think under the circumstances of the present day (meaning my day, today) that would in fact be counter-productive to spreading awareness of the issue. I’m using WordPress’s option of a ribbon in the right corner, rather than a complete blackout. Most important, though, is to read, communicate, and take these issues seriously–before we lose the chance to do so.
The text of the bills can be found here: PIPA (Senate), and SOPA (House).
As you may expect, perhaps, Wikipedia’s page on SOPA/PIPA contains a wealth of relevant information on the bills and their implications (one hopes that none of the links are to foreign copyright-infringing websites…). If you wish to find and contact your local congressperson or representative, just try going to Wikipedia’s home page, and try searching something, anything.
Jason Harvey’s analysis at Reddit is worth reading–straightforward and simply put. So is Joe Brockmeier’s well-taken piece about an unspoken aspect of the protest movement: it shows that most of us don’t keep up on what Congress is doing most of the time anyway, which is why this is more of a last-ditch protest effort against a long-ongoing process. Also see the video of Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian speaking out against the bill(s).
To sign Google’s protest pledge and get more information about why human rights organizations, legal professors, and entrepreneurs are condemning the bills, visit Google’s “take action” page.
WordPress, which hosts my blogs as well as thousands of others, is also taking these bills very seriously, and this morning Jane Wells from WordPress sent out a detailed email outlining their reasons for opposing the bill, and giving directions to various petitions and resources you can use to find out more about them. This includes the WordPress page on SOPA/PIPA, as well as a concise video on the subject by Fight for the Future (3 months old, I’m embarrassed to finally see…). Also links to pages at americancensorship.org, which seems to be one of the leaders of today’s strike, and FightfortheFuture’s actual sopastrike.com page.