You need to stop what you’re doing right now, and read this post. The free exchange of ideas that takes place on the internet everyday could begin to vanish as soon as this Wednesday.
House Bill 3261 (Stop Online Piracy Act) and Senate Bill 968 (Protect IP Act), collectively known as the Internet Blacklist Legislation, are two bills currently making their way though the United States Congress under the guise of combating online piracy.
However, the passage either of these clumsily written bills would usher in an era of intimidation and censorship that would drastically alter the open landscape of our information highways.
I know this sounds alarmist, but I’ve already read too much about this issue to sit idly by and not get involved.
No due process
I’ll give you some links to read below, but here’s the gist. As a result of this legislation, your site could be shut down simply for linking to a site that has been suspected of copyright infringement—not proven and convicted, but simply suspected.
What’s more, even if your site isn’t shut down, your payment processors and advertisers would be required to cut you off, without a court order, in order to avoid any liability.
Think it’s too far fetched? Here’s a simple scenario, as I understand it.
Say someone, for whatever reason, creates a website and copies some of your content to it. Under this legislation, all that person would have to do is accuse you of copying their content. While you two fight out it in court, your source of revenue gets cut off. In the worst case, Google removes your pages from its search results, and your ISP takes your site down altogether.
If you’re not a blogger, you should still be concerned because these two bills make it far too easy censor a website simply by filing a copyright complaint that results in shutting down the site.
I’m all for protecting intellectual property. But these two bills are like using a jackhammer to perform brain surgery.
Read the links below, and if you’re at all concerned, call and mail postcards to your Senators and Representative and tell them to oppose the bills. At the very least, Electronic Frontier Foundation will automatically create and send an email to them for you.
Update: Several news outlets reported early Tuesday morning that the House Judiciary Committee cancelled today’s hearing to vote on whether to bring the bill to the floor of the House. It looks like the hearing will take place in early January. PIPA has already been moved to a Senate vote in January.
So we have some more time. Please spread the word and keep pressuring your politicians to oppose the bills.
The Mac Observer – SOPA Vote Hit with Surprise Delay – A good, short synopsis of SOPA (the House bill).
Wired – Stop Online Piracy Act Vote Delayed – More details about SOPA.
TechCrunch – Kill Switch – In-depth look at the Senate bill (IP Protection Act).
An Open Letter From Internet Engineers to the U.S. Congress – An open letter signed by 83 prominent Internet inventors and engineers opposing SOPA and PIPA.