Help Stop SOPA and PIPA

T wo dangerous pieces of legislation are making their way through Congress. Here’s what you need to know. p5rn7vb

Contrary to first impressions, we’re not talking about two cute Swedish milk maidens.

You may have heard grumbling around the Internet about the Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA.  It’s an important piece of legislation making its way through the House of Representatives, and you need to be aware of it, understand what the impact of it could be, and be clear about what you can do to help stop it. Oh, and the Senate is scheduled to vote on a related bill, the PROTECT IP ACT, or PIPA, on Tuesday, January 24.  Like it’s sibling, PIPA is rife with civil liberties issues and business and innovation issues.

Simply put, SOPA makes it easier for US law enforcement to fight online piracy and the trafficking of copyrighted material over the Internet.  Sounds innocuous enough?  Here’s what the Wikipedia entry says about all this:

The originally proposed bill would allow the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as copyright holders, to seek court orders against websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. Depending on who requests the court orders, the actions could include barring online advertising networks and payment facilitators such as PayPal from doing business with the allegedly infringing website, barring search engines from linking to such sites, and requiring Internet service providers to block access to such sites. The bill would make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a crime, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison for 10 such infringements within six months. The bill also gives immunity to Internet services that voluntarily take action against websites dedicated to infringement, while making liable for damages any copyright holder who knowingly misrepresents that a website is dedicated to infringement.

The Wikipedia listing also provide a list of reasons why proponents of the bill think it’s a good idea, which include

  • Protecting Revenues of Content Creators
  • Protection against counterfeit drugs

The list of arguments against is significantly longer, and include

  • Threat to online freedom of speech
  • Negative impact on sites that host user-generated content
  • General threats to web-related businesses
  • It’s ineffective against piracy
  • Negative impact on internet security

. . .as well as several others.

But let’s break it down even further: If you’re a creator or curator, here’s what Outside The Music Box wrote about what SOPA will mean to the creative community:

The inherent danger SOPA presents is that in the process of “protecting” corporate interests, the distribution, access & discovery platforms the Internet provides for independent artists, musicians and songwriters will be crippled or obliterated.

It also means that if you’ve got copyrighted music playing in the background of a video you shot of your kid, you could get sued, even though you’re not selling that video.  See any problems here?  There’s actually a provision that gives the government the power to put ordinary people in jail for up to five years if you post any copyrighted work.

At the end of the day, this is another attempt by corporations and other middlemen to control the internet.  And it flies in the face of our desperate need for innovation, all in the name of protecting copyrights.  I’m all for copyright protection, so don’t get me wrong.  However, when those protections are so one-sided and they stifle creativity, that’s a problem.  You can even make the argument that, at this critical juncture in our economy, we need all the innovation we can get in order to create businesses and jobs.

So, what can you do?

  • First, go to Stop American Censorship. There you can learn how you can contact your Congressmen and Congresswomen to urge them not to support either of these bills.  Remember, the deadline for the vote is Tuesday, January 24, so your taking action is critical.
  • Check out Fight For The Future, and learn how you can fight back against the corporate and legal assault on our basic freedoms.
  • If you’re on Twitter, go to BlackoutSOPA, and show your support by changing your Twitter icon.  Then encourage your friends and followers to do the same.  Getting a badge on an icon may seems like a little thing, but it helps raise awareness.  I did.  And don’t forget to tweet that you’re supporting from the BlackoutSOPA site.

I’ve also come across some great articles as I was putting this together

Get involved. Even Hitler is opposed to SOPA, and that’s saying something:

 

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Rob Fields is the founder and publisher of Bold As Love Magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @robfields.