There are some laws that really don’t require a full legal analysis to recognize they are too bad to pass. SOPA and PIPA are two such laws. One doesn’t need to have a law degree, or any sort of legal background to understand this bill will affect your favorite websites and social media. If you like internet access in China, you’ll just love SOPA and PIPA.
In short, PIPA does the following things:
It forces U.S. internet service providers to become a sort of Digital KGB. They are compelled to block sites that are “deemed as enablers of copyright infringement.”
It allows suits against search engines, blog sites, directors or any site to have the black listed sites removed from their website.
It will force advertisers to remove their advertising accounts from infringing websites and those supporting them.
Corporations can also sue any new websites starting after PIPA is passed if they believe those websites are not doing a good enough job of preventing infringement on another website.
The original version of SOPA does the following things.
The Attorney general can see a court order to force search engines, advertisers, DNS providers, servers and payment processer to refrain from any content with allegedly infringing websites.
It allows private corporations to create hit lists of websites they think are breaking their copyright policies. These companies will be allowed to directly contact the website’s payment processors to cut off all payments to the targeted websites. The payment processors and the allegedly infringing website will have five days to comply before the website is simply taken down.
Payment processors will have the power to cut off any website as long as they can provide a strong reason they believe the site is violating copyrights.
One should note that SOPA was shelved, it is not dead. As reported in Forbes:
The official vote on SOPA scheduled for late January has been cancelled, and the bill has been pulled from the floor.
While the President and Congress have come around to opposing this version of SOPA, the desire to pass a version of it remains. In fact, the President’s official response says so:
“While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response…” followed later by ““That is why the Administration calls on all sides to work together to pass sound legislation this year that provides prosecutors and rights holders new legal tools to combat online piracy originating beyond U.S. borders.”
So who are the great minds in congress who support these bills?
Propublica.org is keeping track of the politicians supporting and opposing SOPA/PIPA. You can see their updated list here.
Backers of these laws claim their purpose is to stop piracy on the internet. However, the ramifications extend to basic civil rights like freedom of expression and due process.
SOPA backers have said they’ll eliminate the more controversial provisions within the bill. Yet, some people who know a lot more about the internet and this bill than I do argue that revision is not enough:
As Jason Easley wrote:
Even though the Obama administration has now publicly voiced their opposition to SOPA and PIPA, those who value Internet freedom must remain vigilant. Even if SOPA is defeated, the mainstream media will not give up until the Internet is under their control.
Not surprisingly, Rupert Murdoch is leading the smear campaign against those who oppose SOPA and PIPA. Murdoch has even taken the twitter to get the spin out.
“So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery,” News Corp’s chairman and chief executive officer posted on his personal Twitter account Saturday.”
The corporate backers of censorship are extensive. Here is a comprehensive list gathered by gizmodo.com.
Unlike most attacks on civil rights, there are prominent and powerful Democrats supporting this bill. As Jason Easley reported, Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, is trying to sell censorship as job creation.
Ironically, Paul Ryan, of Ryancare fame has changed his turn on SOPA/PIPA. According to Huffington Post, Ryan made the following statement regarding SOPA:
“The internet is one of the most magnificent expressions of freedom and free enterprise in history. It should stay that way. While H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act, attempts to address a legitimate problem, I believe it creates the precedent and possibility for undue regulation, censorship and legal abuse. I do not support H.R. 3261 in its current form and will oppose the legislation should it come before the full House.”
Darrel Issa’s concerns are less civil rights oriented, but they reflect another consequence of censorship as proposed in these bills isn’t talked about as often. As reported by thedomains.com:
“Chairman Issa intends to continue to push for Congress to heed the advice of Internet experts on anti-piracy legislation and to push for the consideration and passage of the bipartisan OPEN Act, which provides an alternative means for protecting intellectual property rights without undermining the structure and entrepreneurialism of the Internet. “
Until it lost customers by the 10’s of thousands, godaddy.com supported SOPA and PIPA. That was before reddit started a campaign to boycott godaddy.
There’s something about losing lots of customers that is more persuasive to corporate interests than a civil rights argument.
The opponents list is also extensive, with its most recent member being the President of the United States. As Jason Easley reported in The White House Labels SOPA Censorship And Refuses To Support It
“While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”
That is why many websites will be joining the internet protest on Wednesday, January 18th between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. The idea is to protest SOPA and PIPA by giving a real taste of what a SOPA/PIPA regulated internet would look like.
Among the higher profile sites going dark:
According to E Hacking News, AOL, Facebook, eBay, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yahoo, and Zynga will also be joining the protest.
A list of additional websites that will be going dark on January 18th can be found here.
If you are on Facebook, you can also go dark to oppose PIPA and a possible reincarnation of SOPA by participating in this event.
My website, nutsandolts.com will also be going dark on Wednesday. If you have a website, I hope you will consider joining the protest.
Even if you don’t have a website, you can still do something. Contact your representatives in Congress and tell them to oppose internet censorship.
Kid you not, if these bills go through, the internet will be a much darker place than it will be on Wednesday, January 18th between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. (e.s.t.)
Image from http://www.sopastrike.com/