17 January 2012

SOPA & PIPA: Why they matter

Are you reading this on the internet? If so, have you heard of SOPA or PIPA?

These are two bills currently in the U.S. Congress: the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IPs Act.  They represent the potential to end the internet as we know it today. Yes, potential. That means NOW is the time to be educated about what could be the future. For more information (specific details), scroll down to the text below, from SOPABlackout.org.

  • Tell people!  It's amazing how many people might not notice.
  • COMMUNICATE with your congresswomen and congressmen.  Click here for phone numbers & contact info, and click here to send an email directly to yours.  Click here for Bethann's letter to her congressional representatives.  Note, the final paragraph (more or less) is a template you can use when contacting your representatives.  Personalized letters have a bigger impact!
  • If you're not in the U.S., you can follow the suggestions outlinedby Wikipedia (below) to express your opinion to the relevant government officials wherever you are.
  • Join the global blackout January 18th - see next point.
  • Black out your site(s) using the script available here (http://sopablackout.org/).  Simply cut & paste the top line of HTML code into a section of your site (header, footer or side bar) which is present on every page of your site.  DON'T WORRY if you don't know anything about code.  Just cut & paste; click here for basic step-by-step directions.
What does Wikipedia have to do with this?
Even Wikipedia will be joining the blackout!  Take a look at Wikipedia's proactive effort to maintain the unparalleled internet we enjoy: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:SOPA_initiative/Take_action)



What is SOPA?
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA, H.R. 3261) is on the surface a bill that attempts to curb online piracy. Sadly, the proposed way it goes about doing this would devastate the online economy and the overall freedom of the web. It would particularly affect sites with heavy user generated content. Sites like Youtube, Reddit, Twitter, and others may cease to exist in their current form if this bill is passed.

What is PIPA?
The Protect IP Act (PIPA, S. 968) is SOPA's twin in the Senate. Under current DMCA law, if a user uploads a copyrighted movie to sites like Youtube, the site isn't held accountable so long as they provide a way to report user infringement. The user who uploaded the movie is held accountable for their actions, not the site. PIPA would change that - it would place the blame on the site itself, and would also provide a way for copyright holders to seize the site's domain in extreme circumstances.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation laid out four excellent points as to why the bills are not only dangerous, but are also not effective for what they are trying to accomplish:

  • The blacklist bills are expensive. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that PIPA alone would cost the taxpayers at least $47 million over 5 years, and could cost the private sector many times more. Those costs would be carried mostly by the tech industry, hampering growth and innovation.
  • The blacklist bills silence legitimate speech. Rightsholders, ISPs, or the government could shut down sites with accusations of infringement, and without real due process.
  • The blacklist bills are bad for the architecture of the Internet. But don't take our word for it: see the open letters that dozens of the Internet's concerned creators have submitted to Congress about the impact the bills would have on the security of the web.
  • The blacklist bills won't stop online piracy. The tools these bills would grant rightsholders are like chainsaws in an operating room: they do a lot of damage, and they aren't very effective in the first place. The filtering methods might dissuade casual users, but they would be trivial for dedicated and technically savvy users to circumvent.


Cindy Gilbert said...

Thanks! I was planning on this but am so glad that you're rallying more troops!

Lisa R. said...

Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

Yup, most everyone I know that does web development is doing the blackout tomorrow.
Glad to see you caught up even from afar! :-)

Jason V. said...

Yes this is serious stuff that's been public for awhile now. Luckily Obama vowed to kill the SOPA bill just today, now to kill PIPA.

Anonymous said...

Yay! Good job!

M said...

Cool, that was a nice demonstration! Now, what's next? I believe lobbyists will push these laws (or other similar ones) ever and ever. After all, that's what they're paid for. See: https://www.readwriteweb.com/enterprise/2012/01/what-i-wish-wikipedia-and-othe.php

Without a strong and constant effort from citizens (that is, us), it will never end. Now, what we really need is a citizen lobby strong enough to counterbalance industry lobbies, because we will never do it regularly by ourselves (that's human, after all). I guess the EFF would do the job on this side of the ocean (see https://www.eff.org/about). You can start donating :)

There is also this kind of thing in France, since we have, like everywhere, similar problems: « La Quadrature du Net » (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Quadrature_du_Net).

The war is definitively not over, this is a kind of trench warfare. The first side to release its pressure looses...

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