Yesterday, in protest of SOPA / PIPA many websites went dark as a way to show just what would really be left without them. It isn't like the internet shut down or anything but still, without Wikipedia, Google, Craigslist and my blog I'm sure the world was crumbling.
Wait, what? You didn't notice my blog was dark? Yeah, not surprising.
But I stood for it anyway even though I knew no one would see but me!
I'm sure a lot of you are wondering why I'd be against these bills, why I would even think of throwing my support against the possibility of lessened copyright infringement punishments and increased risk of piracy. The answer is simple, the bills put forth in Congress and the Senate do not contain those issues in a way that makes me comfortable to release my work under their protections.
Do you know what SOPA and PIPA are? Before I continue I should probably link you up to a whole bunch of places to build your knowledge on these issues that I've been all jacked up about since last October/November.
SOPA Full Bill text
PIPA Full Bill text
What it means for you, me, the internet as we know it as found on Google.
The best explanation in simplest terms so far is here on forbes.com from yesterday.
Now that you're back from your light reading I think its safe to say that the single most important quote of all in the Forbes article is direct from the mouth of President Barack Obama "Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small."
To be clear, it isn't that Google, Craigslist, Etsy, deviantART, Wikipedia, and me (among hundreds of others), are for online piracy, au contraire! What we aren't for is the potential that these bills allow censoring of perfectly reasonable site content because of the mistakes of a few. What do I mean?
Okay, say someone who is an online pirate of music has an underground blog on blogger.com where they share the link to an album they stole. The link is so underground that you have to know the exact moment it will be available and click to download before it's gone. One day the musician in question actually stumbles upon the link. In normal circumstances this person's site would be taken down and everyone would applaud the musician for the tenacity and vigilance.
Where the likes of SOPA and PIPA come in** the government would have every right to shut down blogger.com because of the one offender. Yes that's right, every single one of the blogs on blogger would go bye-bye. Mine included, most of my bloggy friends, etc.
The thing about this is that it affects every single last one of us in the long run and completely undermines the internet. Say blogger goes down. I had posted some kind of brilliant article (dare to dream) that thousands of people linked to inside and outside of blogger. My link is now broken, those people's stories are now broken...and so on...
The sweep would be so far reaching that in a matter of days, hours, minutes most every free sharing site and every single search engine on the web could be shut down.
Want to share your last birthday party video on YouTube? Sorry but that site is gone. Want to sell your most recent handmade mini-zine? Sorry Etsy is shut down too. Well who cares about all that silly video and retail stuff, surely we'd be able to find credible information for our school papers by conducting a search on Google. Oh, I'm sorry, Google who?
The thing is, as a general concept I have zero problem with what I think they're trying to go for here. I don't want my work stolen either, used for someone else's benefit. I mean that's my intellectual property right there and I deserve the right to protect it. But I will not protect it by watching the entire Information Age crumble under the weight of two far reaching bills.
If you have anything on the internet - pictures, a profile, a blog, articles, video, etc. - please review the Full SOPA text and the Full PIPA text above if you haven't already. Get educated, get informed, don't wait until it's too late. Some of us have been talking about this bill** since last fall and are just happy the masses have finally begun to see just how dangerous it would be.
** Though separate bills in separate places (Senate/Congress) for the sake of simplicity I'm bundling them. Please read the full bill text for both if you would like to know the differences in their overall sweeping attention.