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by Uncle Alan

You might have heard about SOPA — The Stop Online Piracy Act. It’s a controversial bill proposed and backed by major content creators, designed to make it easier for them to protect their copyrighted works from being stolen by rogue file sharing sites that facilitate infringement.

There shouldn’t be any controversy at all. While it might sound noble, the bill is idiotic, an over-reaction designed to put ultimate power in the hands of mega-corporations who can easily abuse the law to stop everything from content sharing services to competitors for eyeballs they’d like to wipe out, furthering their own monopolistic maneuverings.

That Congress would even consider this travesty is yet another sign of who’s really running things in Washington these days – and it’s most decidedly not the voting public.

Essentially, SOPA enables content providers to accuse any Website of theft of intellectual property or enabling the theft of that property. The result of this complaint is an immediate block of the DNS for the Website, virtually stopping all traffic. To lift the block, the suspected offender has five days to respond to the accusation and disprove the claim. However, the accuser then has five days to refute the response.

Meanwhile, all business for that Website is pretty much non-existent, guilty or not.

I’m a content creator. I hope you are, too. I want my copyrighted works protected. I believe in intellectual property rights and count on them for my living. I also believe the types of sites that facilitate theft of intellectual works are the scum of the earth worthy of whatever punishment we could dream up for them.

A "soap-on-a-rope" approach to something as important as freedom of the Internet is not the answer.

But, I also believe in due process, and SOPA ain’t due process at all. It’s a hatchet in the hands of major corporate players frustrated by the freedom of the wild and wooly Web.

I also believe the people who have proposed SOPA and back it with major dollars lining the hands of our Congress want this axe in their hands for more than just enforcement of their intellectual rights.

Imagine with me for a moment…

You have a blog – I hope you really do! You post something totally original and unique, written by you. It’s your intellectual property and you have a right to produce it and post it.

Then someone posts a comment. This is good, right? Comments are the very kind of interaction you publish a blog hoping to see. This comment, however, includes a video clip to help make a point. That video clip, from a little-known video sharing site, happens to be a snippet from someone else’s intellectual property.

Whether you are aware of this fact about that clip or not, SOPA would allow the producers of that video clip to shut your blog down and force you to prove what you didn’t know – a pretty difficult position to prove. And your blog would remain down until you’ve responded and they’ve either refuted your response or the proper time has lapsed without a challenge to your rebuttal.

Meanwhile, your business isn’t offline – it’s just unreachable.

Imagine with me again. This time, no intellectual property was “violated” at all. Instead, a competitor of yours has decided they’ve had enough of your popularity and they’d like to pull you down a bit. They file a SOPA complaint. You respond. They don’t.

Same result: your blog is down up to 10 days and there’s little you can do about it.

I’m not fear-mongering here. This shit is real. It’s before Congress now. It hasn’t passed yet — it’s been stalled by the debate over extending the payroll tax cut. But, it’s going to rear its ugly head again early next year when Congress re-convenes. Before it does, it needs to be shot dead, before it has a chance to leave the chambers, or our freedoms online are in jeopardy.

We already have copyright laws. We already have due process in civil courts to protect our intellectual property. There is an International Trade Commission to go after the worst offenders. We don’t need an axe that can be swung indiscriminately, effectively killing creative endeavors in the name of preserving profits for mega-corporations.

The best way to stop it is to stop supporting the assholes pushing this insanity on us. Recently, Go Daddy publicly supported SOPA. The company quickly faced so much consumer backlash they’ve backed away from their support. I say keep pulling your domains from Go Daddy. They supported this idiotic measure until they felt the economic sting. Don’t pull back now. Show all the supporters what they’ll face if they continue.

The problem is, there are more than 400 known supporters of SOPA, including:

AFTRA – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists
AFM – American Federation of Musicians
AAP – Association of American Publishers
BMG Chrysalis
CBS Corporation
Cengage Learning
DGA – Directors Guild of America
Disney Publishing Worldwide, Inc.
EMI Music Publishing
Graphic Artists Guild
Hachette Book Group
HarperCollins Publishers L.L.C.
IATSE – International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, its Territories and Canada
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Kaufman Astoria Studios
Major League Baseball
Marvel Entertainment, LLC
McGraw-Hill Education
MPA – The Association of Magazine Media
NFL – National Football League
National Music Publishers’ Association
NBC Universal
News Corporation
New York Production Alliance
New York State AFL-CIO
Pearson Education
Penguin Group (USA), Inc.
The Perseus Books Group
Producers Guild of America East
Random House
Reed Elsevier
SAG – Screen Actors Guild
Scholastic, Inc.
Silvercup Studios
Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Sony Music Entertainment
Sony/ATV Music Publishing
Time Warner Inc.
United States Tennis Association
Universal Music Group
Universal Music Publishing Group
Warner Music Group
W.W. Norton & Company
Wolters Kluwer

A much more comprehensive list of the more than 400 firms supporting this abomination can be found here.

A lot of companies do opppose SOPA, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, eBay, Mozilla, Yahoo, AOL, and LinkedIn.

Focus your attention on all the supporters. Write them. Call them. Express your displeasure. We can live without all of them, even though it might be tough, so long as the Internet remains open and free. We’ll produce our own content. We don’t need theirs, if they’re going to destroy the free and open Internet to “protect” what they create in a maniacal, monopolistic manner.

By the way, a lot of companies oppose the measure. More, I suspect, than those who support it. They’re just not as easy to track down since they haven’t added their names to the list backing the bill in Congress. These include Google, Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, eBay, Mozilla, Yahoo, AOL, and LinkedIn.

Don’t want to boycott 400+ companies? Fine – write your senator and congressman. Let Congfress know your vote counts and you will be voting them out if they support this draconian measure.

There are better ways to police the Internet and, between you and me, I don’t want that task handed over to that list of 400+.


6 comments to SOPA Dopa

  • Greg

    Your statement from this story,
    “This time, no intellectual property was “violated” at all. Instead, a competitor of yours has decided they’ve had enough of your popularity and they’d like to pull you down a bit.”

    I had placed stories on Google reviews about businesses I have dealt with. The stories were all in good faith including truthful facts about the dealing, all stories were about local companies. I think some of my competitors flagged the contend as false and made up so Google pulled the stories.

    I was never questioned or asked about the stories. Much like the SOPA I was guilty before being questioned all because someone accused my of making up the stories.

    One of the stories I wrote was about how I received some really good personal service at a car rental company. The guy did me right. He rented me a Mustang at the price of a compact so I was doing him right by writing the story.

    Who ever it was that flagged me also looked up some of my shared photos on Google review and they too were removed.

    Google Law is what I dealt with. Guilty without a trial.

    Could you imagine if somehow the SOPA becomes real law.

    • Yes — it’s bad enough when a corporate entity takes it upon themselves to act as you described. But at least that is limited to their own online property. Since they own it, they can pretty much do what they wish. However, you have the right to tell others and if word spreads enough, pull customers away from Google as a result. If SOPA passes it’s Internet-wide and International, regardless of who owns the site.

      It’s kind of ironic that Google acted this way toward you but is also against SOPA. What does THAT tell you?

      I’m also a little confused by the fact that Facebook is against SOPA but News Corp, Facebook’s owner, supports it. How does THAT work?

      We simply can’t let this bill pass.

  • Richard Posner

    This is why so many countries in the world – Japan, my residence being one – look askance at America’s excessive dependence on litigation, rather than reasoned discussion, to settle disputes.

    The list of corporates sponsoring this Gestapo measure are too predictable. They have never and never will accept the new realities of the Information Age. If push comes to shove, they will buy stronger-arm tactics than even the Chinese use in controlling their nation’s discontents.

    There will likely arise a counter-Internet from some rogue country that will allow the wild west unfettered, beyond the legal grasp of the American corporate hounds.

    I need to go mystical a bit. The seed is the Maker’s gift to the world. There is no charge for a seed blowing in the wind, finding hallowed ground, and creating life anew.

    We too are Creations brought into this world to give off the divinity wrapped in our essence. Ideas and creations are what set us apart from other elements of Creation, but every idea and creation is part of a collective consciousness that was given to us out of grace and should be disseminated to others in such a manner.

    So how should brainy ideas and inventions be compensated in the 21st Century and beyond?

    One thing is for certain. Regardless of whether compensation is rewarded for new ideas, inventions, arts, etc…people will still create. For most of the history of Mankind, people created because of a desire to know and please their Creator for nothing other than the satisfaction of having done so.

    The scales tipped too far in the Twentieth Century and beyond to money-mongers selling others God-given gifts for what the market would bear.

    It is time to balance the scales. If we don’t, the Internet will become a propaganda machine of monied interests willing and able to squash expression for the many in order to protect it for the miniscule few.

    The type of mind control which may arise can be seen in the surreal wails of North Koreans at the death of Kim Jong Il.

    Censorship is to art as lynching is to justice.
    ~Henry Louis Gates~

    BTW, I stole this idea from Mr. Gates. I wonder who he stole it from?

    • Very interesting view, RIchard. I’m reminded of the American Indian laughing as the white man built fences and claimed land as theirs. To them, the land and all of nature belongs to everyone. How one man ever claim to own it?

      Still, I would prefer to see a world where creativity is also rewarded, capable of earning the creator money. I suppose that comes from living in a capitalist society. Despite what some might think, because of my liberal leanings, I am a capitalist at heart. But I also believe that freedom of expression must be preserved over all else. After all, freedom of expression is required for true art to flourish.

      I’m glad you mentioned balancing the scales. In the end, it’s all about balance. It should never be one at the expense of another but one to preserve all.

  • Thank you for the good information as always. This is not a good thing to let pass. In the end, this will hit them just as hard-people can use this law against them just as much as they will use it against us. I thing that they are not seeing that they also are at risk here, not just us little guys.

    They have probably asked for look holes to keep them from being targets.

    This is not right. Lets do what we can to do something about this.

    Thank you for the information. Have a great day.

    • Good point, Deanna. Loop holes may exist for those pushing for this. I can’t imagine any way they could want it otherwise as it seems to me it would make them as vulnerable as we are.

      Stopping it’s the best way to go for sure!

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