If you came to this blog between 12:30 and 8pm EST today, you probably found that it was blacked out as part of the Stop SOPA blackout protest. The main protest had started by 8am, but I was late finding out and later in deciding to join.
SOPA – the Stop Online Piracy Act, and PIPA – the Protection of Intellectual Property Act, are both proposed laws currently considered by the US congress. Either or both would give the US government, and entertainment industry copyright holders such as the companies comprising RIAA and MPAA, broad powers to enforce a kind of ‘digital shunning’ of any web domains, especially those with foreign registrars who can’t be directly attacked by US action. If a site is been accused of hosting pirated material under SOPA provisions, the powers that be can force any website, search engine, or ad service with a .com, .net, or other US-registered domain to delete all links to the accused site – whether or not those links have anything to do with the pirated material.
And notice that I said accused – there’d be no need for the record labels or movie studios to, say, prove their case. Their word, almost literally, would be the law of the land as far as removing links goes.
Now, I’m not too worried on a practical basis when it comes to this blog – yes, it’s on the .com domain and would be subject to SOPA and PIPA court orders, but as I’m the primary author I can check my links carefully, and the links that my followers leave when they comment aren’t too hard to stay on top of. But the difficulty of keeping track of every posted link becomes a bit trickier when it comes to a small internet community like Stringing Words. And then, there’s some of the larger forums that I’m a member of – like the Straight Dope Message board – or National Novel Writing Month.
I can’t really argue with the point that copywrite holders need a stronger legal weapon to fight piracy with. But this is not your weapon. SOPA or PIPA would be the fuse to a bomb that could leave the internet as we know it, in ruins – and it would’t be the pirates in the blast zone.
Don’t let the MPAA and RIAA force us to delete first and ask questions later. Don’t let them force us to do the dirty work and fight their war on piracy this way. Contact your congresscritter, senator, or other government representative.
And long live the free internet.