The internet has been buzzing for months around two bills that were written to prevent the unlawful use of copyrighted material on the internet.
These bills are SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), which is under legislative review by Congress and its sister bill PIPA (Protect IP Act) which passed in the Senate back in 2010.
PIPA: Protect IP targeted companies hosting unauthorized content from movies, songs or software.
SOPA: Stop Online Privacy Act goes much further and would grant the government the power to shut down any domain using copyrighted content, even if it was for one minor violation. And when I say any domain, this includes your personal blog, your company website or your fan site for Justin Bieber. Doesn’t matter what the copyrighted material is, if you post it or – more importantly – link to a web site that posts copyrighted material, you would set yourself up for legal action.
Protecting copyrighted intellectual property and stopping the trafficking of counterfeit goods is important, but from all that I have read, SOPA and PIPA are not the way to do this.
Several large websites like Wikipedia, Craigslist, Boing Boing, and Reddit are going dark on Wednesday, January 18th in protest of these bills. Craigslist put together a link-filled page with several resources you can read to get up to speed on the issues at hand, with a notable link in the middle of the page on the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN), which looks to be a good alternative to SOPA/PIPA.
Craigslist also lists some of the key people for, and against, these bills which looks like ‘the web’ on one side and ‘content providers’ on the other. Interesting.
Opponents of SOPA: Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, craigslist, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, eBay, AOL, Mozilla, Reddit, Tumblr, Etsy, Zynga, EFF, ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Darrell Issa (R-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Ron Paul (R-TX)
Supporters of SOPA: RIAA, MPAA, News Corporation, VISA, Mastercard, Pfizer, Comcast, Time Warner, ABC, Nike, Walmart, Dow Chemical, Tiffany, Chanel, Rolex, Monster Cable, Teamsters, Lamar Smith (R-TX), John Conyers (D-MI)
There is a lot of read on this subject, and here are some of my favorite articles and resources:
- Cory Doctorow explains how by merely linking to another website can leave you open to legal action.
- This is a great article from Melanie Jones at the International Business Times giving you seven things you should know about SOPA.
- The Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote a good one page document (opens as a .pdf) explaining the costs to enforce these bills and how it won’t really stop online piracy anyway.
- Interview with Publisher and Technology Influencer, Tim O’Reilly on why he is fighting SOPA.
- Write your senator to voice your opinion on these bills.
- Add a ‘STOP SOPA‘ or a ‘Censored‘ Twibbon to your Twitter or Facebook profiles.
- Great video on why we should fight SOPA/PIPA and how these bills can actually make the world wide web less secure.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: This weekend brought news that the President Barack Obama wants more discussions around SOPA as the White House strongly opposes critical elements in the bill.
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.
Washington needs to hear your best ideas about how to clamp down on rogue websites and other criminals who make money off the creative efforts of American artists and rights holders. We should all be committed to working with all interested constituencies to develop new legal tools to protect global intellectual property rights without jeopardizing the openness of the Internet. Our hope is that you will bring enthusiasm and know-how to this important challenge.
Moving forward, we will continue to work with Congress on a bipartisan basis on legislation that provides new tools needed in the global fight against piracy and counterfeiting, while vigorously defending an open Internet based on the values of free expression, privacy, security and innovation. Again, thank you for taking the time to participate in this important process. We hope you’ll continue to be part of it.
This is good news as it gives us users of the web more time to connect with our Senator and provide feedback. So pick up that phone, and make a call. Or write a blog post. Or sit on the steps of your Senators office. Just do something. There is too much at risk to sit in the back seat of this one.