You may be hearing a lot today about the “Stop Online Piracy Act” and the “Protect Intellectual Property Act”. If you use the internet you should be concerned about these bills!
There is a lot of complicated technical jargon being used to explain why these bills are a good idea (or a bad idea). The Electronic Freedom Foundation has a great chart that explains these terms, and their potential impact.
Proponents of this bill are arguing that this legislation will help stop copyright infringement by foreign websites. Unfortunately, the bills are poorly written, and are drafted in language that is overly broad, with the result that the passing of either of these bills would create a precedent for blacklisting and removal of websites by the US Government.
To give a very simplistic and extreme example, let’s imagine that I upload a photo of myself and Mickey Mouse (the trademarked property of The Walt Disney Company).
Under the provisions of SOPA, Disney could send a cease-and-desist letter to Dreamhost (which is the company that hosts this blog), WordPress (which makes this blog look pretty), the Domain Name Services (which make it possible for you to type funkinaround.net into your browser rather than a bunch of numbers), or even our Internet Service Provider (which allows me to access the internet and add material), and without a court order or other proof of infringement cause the site to be shut down.
Obviously, no US Court is going to ask me to take down a vacation photo, but the concerning part of this legislation is that it would not matter.
Just Game Over.
The language used in the legislation is sure to be abused and gives unprecedented power to individuals, corporations and the US Attorney General to moderate and control what is shared via the internet.
If that doesn’t convince you, consider that this is the type of control that is utilized by the governments of Egypt, Iran, China and other countries that want to control what information can be accessed by their citizens. Lovely.
Please take two minutes to contact your elected officials (by phone is best – staffers log phone calls) and ask them how they plan on voting on these bills and letting them know your opinion. If you don’t have their numbers on speed dial, the list can be found here: http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml