Stop Censorship, Keep the Internet Open: Fight the “Stop Online Piracy Act,” Right Now

Okay, so I’m about to say five words I never, ever expected to be saying, and believe me, it’s gonna burn: “I agree with Justin Bieber.” No, seriously, I do. Not about everything, obviously, but about one thing in particular, the so-called “Stop Online Piracy Act” that’s going to be discussed in a hearing on Capitol Hill tomorrow, Wed., November 16th.

The pop star has come out very publicly and blasted SOPA as a massive infringement upon American freedoms, and yeah, I agree. I understand the need to protect a copyright, absolutely, but the way this bill is currently written, it’s so wide-ranging that if your cousin Billy posts a video on YouTube of his pal singing “Take On Me” at a birthday party, he could be slapped with a felony, possibly including 5 years of jailtime.

The reason Bieber’s up in arms about this? Well, if this had been around when he started making his name, essentially by filming himself singing various songs and posting ’em on YouTube, he would’ve been risking going to jail or paying huge fines.

Now, why am I in agreement? Well, look where you are right now, reading this. On our blog, we’ve posted videos and MP3s for years now, and that fact alone could very well take down SCR. See, under the bill, if the entity holding the intellectual property rights to some piece of music or video decides that our little site is infringing on their property (or even “enabling” other people to infringe), they can immediately block access to the site by redirecting all traffic elsewhere, possibly without even bothering to get a court order first.

Obviously, we’re small potatoes; it sucks for us, sure, but so what if the government shuts us down? Think bigger — what happens to Facebook when they continually have to monitor every single thing every single user posts to their own Wall? See, the language in the bill says that you’re breaking the law not only if you do the infringing yourself, but if you don’t take serious action to stop anybody else on your site from infringing, as well. (Oh, and it’s also vague as hell, which makes it extra fun.)

This means that big boys like Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter, and Yahoo will all have to seriously start “policing” every bit of content that goes through their respective sites or risk their entire business being shut down and revenue being cut off. Think what The Internet As We Know It looks like then. Supporters of this mess are claiming there’s no “blacklist” language in the legislation, and sure, it’s not in there explicitly, but just because you don’t call it a “blacklist” doesn’t mean it isn’t one.

And if you think the content/IP owners won’t go after stuff like this, well, you haven’t been paying and attention to what the RIAA has been doing the past several years. They and other supporters of this bill will happily use their new powers under this bill to smack down anybody they just plain don’t like or don’t think is doing a “good enough” job of monitoring themselves.

Watch the video below for a better explanation than I can give it:

The bill’s technical name is HR. 3261, and the companion bill in the Senate, the “Protect IP Act”, is S.968. You’ll note, by the way, that this is one of those remarkable times when Congress has somehow managed to do something in a bipartisan way — nice that the Democrats & Republicans can see past their differences when it comes to screwing somebody over for what is undoubtedly a shitload of money from the entertainment industry.

This kills me because politicians I’ve liked and supported for years, people like Sen. Patrick Leahy, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Al Franken, Rep. John Conyers, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (who’s actually come out and attacked Justin Bieber for his comments), & Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, have all signed on as cosponsors to the Senate and House versions of this legislation.

Seriously, folks? Alright, fine — if you back this, then I’m done with you. You won’t get another dime from me, and yeah, you’ve gotten some in the past (looking at you, Rep. Conyers and Sen. Feinstein). Congratulations; you’ve proven that you either don’t give a damn about people’s freedoms when money’s involved, or you just plain don’t understand this fight in the first place.

Doesn’t this whole thing remind you at least a little bit about all that nasty, evil censorship of the Internet that Egypt was doing back at the start of the year? You know, the stuff the President pushed the Egyptian government not to do? Or, hey, to go a little further back, the kind of thing the President pushed China not to do? Is a free Internet only necessary in the rest of the world, not here at home?

I do want to thank Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, btw, for standing up against the Senate version of the legislation; unfortunately, the House version looks very, very likely to pass, despite misgivings of House members like Rep. Darrell Issa (and yeah, this is most likely the one and only time he & I will ever agree on anything).

Thankfully, while the noise around this horrific piece of legislation was pretty small at first, it’s growing, and advocacy groups like Free Press, Fight For The Future, the Free Software Foundation, Public Knowledge, Demand Progress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation are fighting back against it, as are industry folks like Yahoo, Facebook, eBay, Google, Techdirt, BoingBoing, RedState.com, and more than a hundred startup companies.

On top of that, the groups fighting the SOPA and PROTECT-IP legislation have declared tomorrow to be American Censorship Day, and are asking anybody who cares about this issue to help out in any way they can.

Tomorrow’s hearing, predictably, is going to be stacked with supporters of the legislation, with Google being the only opponent — yay, fairness! — but if enough people make their voices heard outside of that room and online, well, things can change.

What can you do? Well, here’re a few things:

  • Call your Congresspeople. Real-live phone calls always, always, always get the most attention.
  • Sign the petitions at Free Bieber and Bieber is Right! to demand that Congress stop the bill.
  • Sign the petition at Fight For The Future.
  • Sign the petition at SaveTheInternet.com.
  • Sign the petition at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
  • Sign the petitions at Demand Progress here and here.
  • If you have a Website, “censor” your Website’s logo using the code over at American Censorship Day (starting at midnight tonight).
  • Sign up to participate in the Internet-wide day of protest against the bill, again at the American Censorship Day site.
  • Let friends now what’s going on via Facebook, Twitter, email, word-of-mouth, or however else.

Please, folks. As one of the people who’s likely going to be pretty severely impacted by this — and no, SCR ain’t big enough to shrug off a fine like the ones we could potentially be hit with just for putting up a link to a video already online somewhere — I’m asking you to help fight this in any way you can.


One Response to “Stop Censorship, Keep the Internet Open: Fight the “Stop Online Piracy Act,” Right Now”

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » Welcome to the Fightback: The Internet (and The White House) Wakes Up and Takes on SOPA/PIPA on January 19th, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    […] in November, I went into why both SOPA and its counterpart PIPA (aka PROTECT-IP) scare me, but here’s the gist of it: both […]

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