If you surfed the Web Wednesday, I’m sure you ran into a SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) blackout somewhere. If none of that made sense to you, check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s one-page summary of the problems with SOPA.
It’s a good example of Congressmen not understanding what they’re legislating, or what they’re asking this legislation itself to accomplish. A SOPA supporter and PIPA (SOPA’s sister, the Protect Intellectual Property Act) co-sponsor Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) recently posted copyrighted video to his own YouTube channel. His excuse? “YouTube is excluded from the bill as it is written right now.”
This means posting copyrighted clips to YouTube violates the spirit of the law, but not the word of the law. In other words, someone can upload pirated crap to YouTube and get a free pass. (Or, more likely, it’s a matter of “We’re afraid of Google’s lawyers.”)
Make no mistake, this is not about protecting the little guy, it’s about protecting big corporate bucks in the guise of protecting the little guy. Do the Hollywood unions like the WGA, SAG, or the production support unions support these bills? Not the general membership. In fact, most creators oppose SOPA, but the bill’s sponsor, Rep Lamar Smith, says they don’t count. It’s all about the lobbyists who are protecting their own interests.
As a creator myself, I’m not a fan of pirates. In fact, I would prefer to deal with pirates like this:
Whoops, I guess that would get my site blacklisted! No, wait, the video is on YouTube. Guess I’m golden after all? Brain hurts. Moving on.
No, I’m not a fan of piracy. But I’m also not convinced they’re doing as much harm to me as some think, and I’m sure as hell not convinced protecting my meager income by destroying the very network I’m leveraging to make a living is going to do a damned thing to help any of us.
The worst case scenario? We end up with a censored, restricted Internet that countries like China and Iran have. We rally behind freedom of speech and condemn other countries for blocking their citizens from access to information, yet we’re attempting to pass legislation to give corporations the same capabilities to shut down websites that China and Iran have. It’ll be a new age of digital McCarthyism, where Hollywood will point a finger and someone will get blacklisted.
It just boggles the mind.
Here are the 67 pinheads (as of this writing) who think $$$ trumps freedom. SOPA may be “shelved” for now, but that’s not good enough, and PIPA has to die with it. Make sure these people understand the damage they’re trying to do, even if it’s just by taking a few seconds to sign petitions like Google’s.
Khan Academy has posted an excellent video explaining SOPA and its problems, as well as outlining some of the scarier provisions of the bill.