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SOPA / PIPA - Why was the web dark for a day?

Posted by Andy (admin) on Jan 19 2012
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(Originally posted on January 18th, the national day of online protests)

As you roam the Internet today, you'll notice a great number of sites have been blacked out, in protest of pending legislation: PIPA and SOPA. A number of technical entities like the popular link aggregator reddit and the ubiquitious wikipedia have turned off for the day to show what the world might be like if these bills passed as they stand.

I make my living producing intellectual property, so you might wonder why I am not in favor of acts that prevent online piracy. After all, the only thing I have to offer is my ideas. If they are stolen, I'll have to go back to singing telegrams as a career option.

I'm not in favor of online piracy. I believe it is a real concern, and some sort of legislation should be in place. PIPA and SOPA are inadequate and dangerous in their current forms. The biggest problem is a provision that makes site owners responsible for any potential links to pirated information. So, if somebody enters into my forum and posts a link to a website in China with bootleg movies on it, my site can be taken down indefinitely.

The real fear is that this will be used as a form of censorship. Here's what could happen: Suppose you don't like a web site: all you have to do is add a link to someplace bad on that website's forum or comment section. If the link leads to copyrighted information, the copyright holder can turn off the site you did not like. In effect, any user can put a bomb in any web site that allows user interaction. It will become too dangerous to allow user interaction of any type on your web sites. If you want to keep a site alive under these rules, you must be careful what you say so you offend nobody, or you must disallow any kind of user feedback. This is a chilling prospect.

The decentralized open nature of the Internet is one of the most exciting changes in human communication. Ever. The power of the printing press has been granted to everyone, for the first time in history. This is fueling social change like we have not seen since the Protestant reformation (when a similar change in technology coincided with significant social upheaval.) It is vital that we allow this channel to remain open. The Internet is increasingly where free speech and free assembly occur.

It is important to protect the interests of those who create intellectual property. As one of those people, I do not believe that SOPA and PIPA protect me. Instead, they actually make it much more difficult for me to make my living on the Internet, and will have a very serious negative effect on online interactivity. Please consider writing to your representatives and senators about the impact these bills would have.

Last changed: Jan 19 2012 at 12:08 PM