Welcome to the Fightback: The Internet (and The White House) Wakes Up and Takes on SOPA/PIPA

Hey, folks. Those who visit the site regularly might’ve noticed that yesterday Space City Rock looked a little different (at least, erm, from 9AM or so ’til 8PM); specifically, it looked black, with words something like “This is what the web could look like under the Stop Online Piracy Act.”

That’s because here at SCR, being a rinky-dink little music blog that from time to time posts videos and MP3s and pictures and whatnot, this whole thing’s a little personal. And in case you live under a rock (or, at least, don’t use the Internet for any-damn-thing), we’re not the only ones. Google, Amazon, Yahoo!, Facebook, and eBay are just as freaked out about it, and for good reason.

Back 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 pieces of legislation, as they stand right now, can be used to shut down any Website anywhere, simply based on an allegation of copyright infringement. No proof is currently necessary — all it takes is a complainant saying, “Site X is infringing on our copyright,” and the authorities will be forced to cut off DNS service to the Website in question. According to some readings I’ve seen of the legislation by people smarter than me about legal stuff, they may not even have to notify you when they take your site down.

Now, I’m all for musicians and studios making the money they deserve from their hard work; I’ve never, ever condoned piracy. Here at SCR, we do our best to credit all the pictures we use, we only post MP3s or videos we’ve been told are okay to post, and if any issues come up, we address them immediately. Under SOPA/PIPA, we wouldn’t even get that last option.

The really stupid thing is that these sorts of copyright-infringement issues are already handled under the DMCA. If somebody decides something on the site infringes on a copyright, I get notified or my ISP gets notified, and that piece of content, whatever it is, gets taken down.

It’s happened recently, actually — just last month I got an email sent through the DMCA complaint process, alleging that an MP3 linked on SCR was posted illegally and was infringing on the record label’s copyright. I removed the link immediately, and used the DMCA form to respond and explain that the link had been permanently removed and also note that we got the MP3 from the publicist hired by the label, who explicitly authorized us to post it, and we definitely wouldn’t have done it otherwise. And that was the end of it.

If this legislation passes, that scenario would go a little differently. My first notification that something was wrong would be me trying to log into the SCR admin interface and getting a DNS error. I would then (most likely) freak the fuck out, contact my ISP — who would probably not have any idea what was going on, since they weren’t notified, either, and since it doesn’t really affect them directly if somebody cuts off DNS service to a particular domain name. (Unless, of course, they too found themselves shut down completely, since, y’know, they’re technically hosting that infringing MP3 file.)

I would then have to figure out how in the hell to get my Website back up online. In the meantime, thanks to a wonderful section in PIPA, any advertising services that serve ads to our site would be forced to stop advertising, period, either on or for our site. I’d check the mail, and then get the notice that the site was being taken down — except that that notification’s up to “the plaintiff,” which in this case means the record label itself would’ve had to email me. When do they do that? The law gets a little vague, there.

Essentially, we’re fucked. (Can you tell how much this whole mess pisses me off?) We don’t have the budget for lawyers; hell, we don’t have the budget for writers. We are a shoestring operation that runs on the kindness of volunteers and an overarching love of music, and yet with SOPA and PIPA in place, all it would take would be one disgruntled complaint — potentially even regarding an MP3 or video or whatever that we’d been told was okay to post by representatives of the copyright holders — to shut Space City Rock down for good.

Obviously, we here at HQ do not want to see that happen. We like what we’ve been doing here in our little tidepool of a music scene for the past decade-plus, and we’d very much like to continue doing it. We’re told, at least, that people like the site, and we like writing and posting and picture-taking for it. I’d like to urge you to please, please, please help us to fight this, so we can keep doing what we do, without fear of being suddenly vanished from the face of the Internet.

And hey, if my impassioned personal plea doesn’t do it for you, maybe Jon Stewart can:

“Dramatic Chipmunk is right!” He is indeed.

Now, despite my gloominess above, things are looking better. Organizations and people across the country have risen up in protest of both SOPA and PIPA — more than 100,000 Websites and something like 13 million people, by one count — and the White House recently announced that it would veto the bills as they stand. SOPA, the House version of the legislation, has reportedly been shelved “indefinitely” (although that doesn’t mean it’s totally scrapped, mind you).

At the same time, though, Senate leader Harry Reid is pushing to get PIPA (the Senate version) to a vote on January 24th. Thirteen Senators have already changed their tune and are now no longer supporting the legislation, five of whom were previously co-sponsors of the bill. It’s not enough, however. The count is currently at 22 against versus 37 for, with 6 leaning “no” and the other http://www.sopastrike.com/numbers unknown.

What really, truly pisses me off about this, as somebody who’s been a lifelong Democrat, is that people I’ve personally supported in the past — folks like Al Franken, Patrick Leahy, Barbara Boxer, and John Conyers — are still supporting this thing. Sure, there are Democrats against it, too, like the awesome Ron Wyden and Lloyd Doggett, but seriously, I cannot believe the Republican party is the one shifting because of the opposition to this. Even the President doesn’t want it to happen, y’all (which does a little bit to redeem my disappointment with him in the last 12 months or so); is all that movie money really worth it?

At any rate, you can take a look at the Pro Publica site to see which way your Senators and Reps are currently going: SOPA Opera: Where Do Your Members of Congress Stand on SOPA and PIPA? For me personally, this marks the first time ever that I and both Rep. John Culberson and Sen. John Cornyn have agreed on anything, which is a bit of a weird feeling…

Here’s some more places to look for info on this fight; don’t buy into the hype currently being spun about “scare tactics” and “misinformation,” folks. I’ve looked at the actual text of both PIPA and SOPA, and it’s freaking scary.

As a closing note, I just want to say that unless people change their tune on this legislation, and quickly, I’m done with donating money to them or their organizations. I’ll donate cash directly to Ron Wyden, sure, but I won’t be helping out the DSCC the next time they come calling, or the DCCC, either. Ladies and gentlemen, there are repercussions to what you do while you’re in office, and you may be feeling the brunt of them come Election Day.

Post by . This entry was posted on Thursday, January 19th, 2012. Filed under Posts.

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