Not the delicious Spanish dish we all know and love, I’m talking about HR 3261 Stop Online Piracy Act.
In the event that you’ve missed what SOPA is all about or if you haven’t had a chance to read the bill, don’t worry, neither has most of congress. All you need to know is that several bills like it are currently being rushed through congress (SOPA, PIPA, the OPEN act, etc.) that are going to give corporations and the government absolute power to control/censor the internet in the United States.
Various theories have been tossed around for why the government would even consider a bill that would very clearly violates first amendment rights. Some claim it’s about jobs, others maintain it’s about safety and national security, but at the end of the day it’s really only about money.
Content creators (corporations) are upset that music, movies, and other forms of media are being pirated illegally by people online and feel that limiting Internet access to certain sites will drive revenue back into their industries. There’s talk that congress has been enjoying political campaign contributions to rally against this bill (a.k.a. legal bribery). Some even suggest companies that generated advertising revenue by supplying the software to download illegal content initially are the same ones that are now supporting the bill to outlaw piracy.
Opposition coming from major internet moguls such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, eBay, Wikipedia, and others as well as political figures such as Al Gore and Hilary Clinton suggest that congress’s lack of understanding of how the internet works should be more than enough to stop this bill and argue that censorship of the internet would put the United States’ access to information par with the most oppressed countries in the world. Too bad the house doesn’t feel the same.
There may be a lack of technical knowledge in the legislative process, but let me clear, these guys aren’t stupid. I mean sure, people in Congress aren’t the brightest bulbs on the tree, but their actions up to this point suggest that meticulous steps have been taken to ensure this bill will pass. The author of the bill, Lamar Smith (R. from Texas, huge surprise) tried to sneak this bill passed the house during the holidays (and almost did) before being met with vehement opposition. The wording in the bill has been carefully chosen to seem just vague enough to be interpreted in many ways, one of which is that it would be opposing job creation to oppose SOPA for lawmakers. Major newscasters (with the exception of CNN) have remained suspiciously silent about covering this story to avoid panic amongst the US population. Even after industry expert testimony on the subject have voiced clear opposition to the bill, more than ¾ of the house is still in support of HR 3261.
I take issue with that.
A wave of online insurgence has risen from the potentially crippling affect this bill will have on the Internet. Hundreds of videos, thousands of online posts, and scores of digital petitions and boycotts have cropped up in opposition of HR 3261. But for the millions of Americans it will directly affect, these efforts aren’t even close to enough.
To fight back there’s been talk of a nuclear option amongst the major Internet companies such as Google, Amazon, eBay, facebook, Wikipedia, YouTube, Twitter, etc. for a 24 blackout period of service slated for January 23rd. 2012 in protest of the Bill. At stake is the risk of losing millions in profits for a day of denial of service, but if this bill passes, those same companies risk losing their business entirely.
Here’s the ironic part.
The US government already has the ability to take websites offline in the US whenever they want. The most recent example was hundreds of websites that were blacklisted just before Black Friday and Cyber Monday because the “US feared that money for counterfeit products would be used to fund terrorist activities”
…a bit of a stretch, but I’ll buy it. Case in point, if the US government wanted to take websites down, they could.
The entertainment industry wants the same ability requesting extraordinary powers to block site they feel are infringing on copyright and argue that loss of revenues due to online piracy leads to loss of jobs, hurts the economy, and encourages cyber terrorism.
…that one is a bit harder to swallow.
Exaggerated estimations aside, the reality is that if a person illegally downloads a movie or song that they would’ve never downloaded otherwise, the losses to an industry are unclear. But the benefits however, are.
Secretary of State Clinton said, “…when ideas are blocked, information deleted, conversations stifled, and people constrained in their choices, the internet is diminished for all of us”
I’m not advocating for or against piracy. But I will say with absolute certainty that no bill, no law, no technology, no amount of effort from any entity will ever stop piracy. Butchering the internet is not a way forward for America.
I, like many americans, am a staunch advocate for freedom of speech with all of the benefits and detriments therein. You have to be willing to take the good with the bad. Industries can blame what they like on what they don’t, but if the fabric of the Internet is unraveled, progress for the future of America is unraveled with it.
This is a very serious and very real threat to personal freedoms, and there’s not much time left. Tell everyone you know. Write your congressman. Sign petitions. Watch for other bills like it (there will be others), and fight the good fight with us.
This legislation must not stand. Do not let SOPA pass!