Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Not Just No But HELL NO! To SOPA And PIPA

You may not have heard of this but with all the publicity you probably have. Congress is working on a new bill called the Stop Online Priacy Act or SOPA. It has been introduced and championed by none other than those who refuse to change their business models to meet popular demand and attempt to punish their customers as a means of survival: The Entertainment Industry.

Here's a snippet from Wikipedia:
The originally proposed bill would allow the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as copyright holders, to seek court orders against websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. Depending on who makes the request, the court order could include barring online advertising networks and payment facilitators from doing business with the allegedly infringing website, barring search engines from linking to such sites, and requiring Internet service providers to block access to such sites. The bill would make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a crime, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison for ten such infringements within six months. The bill also gives immunity to Internet services that voluntarily take action against websites dedicated to infringement, while making liable for damages any copyright holder who knowingly misrepresents that a website is dedicated to infringement.[4]
Proponents of the bill say it protects the intellectual property market and corresponding industry, jobs and revenue, and is necessary to bolster enforcement of copyright laws, especially against foreign websites.[5] They cite examples such as Google's $500 million settlement with the Department of Justice for its role in a scheme to target U.S. consumers with ads to illegally import prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies.[6]
Opponents say that it violates the First Amendment,[7] is Internet censorship,[8] will cripple the Internet,[9] and will threaten whistle-blowing and other free speech actions.[7][10] Opponents have initiated a number of protest actions, including petition drives, boycotts of companies that support the legislation, and planned service blackouts by English Wikipedia and major Internet companies scheduled to coincide with the next Congressional hearing on the matter.
Here's the part that concerns me.  It requires "Internet service providers to block access to [infringing websites]." ISPs are a utility, not an enforcement agency. It's like asking the gas company to patrol the streets and turn off the gas to the homes of suspected drug dealers. It's an impossible task.

Okay, maybe ISPs won't have to patrol for the sites but simply block them when they are informed about them. Well, that currently requires a court order and sounds a lot like DMCA takedown notices and we all know how well those have worked out.

Boil it down and it's censorship without due process. I am all for copyright owners protecting their works but this is not the way. It blatantly ignores the concept of fair use which includes criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.

How You Can Take Action: (many taken from the EFF website)

  1. Via Google:
  2. Call your Senators and Representative and tell them to oppose Protect-IP and SOPA, respectively.  Click here for some suggested talking points.
  3. Contact Congress through EFF’s action center.  Customize your letter to explain who you are and why you are worried about this bill.
  4. Do you administer a website? Then put a banner on your site protesting censorship or link to EFF’s action center. I put a banner on my wav site.
Don't be silent or you may be silenced.

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