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.
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
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
MPA – The Association of Magazine Media
NFL – National Football League
National Music Publishers’ Association
New York Production Alliance
New York State AFL-CIO
Penguin Group (USA), Inc.
The Perseus Books Group
Producers Guild of America East
SAG – Screen Actors Guild
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
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+.