Now for something completely different: SOPA
By now, you might have heard of this bill: The “Stop Online Piracy Act”/”E-PARASITE Act” (SOPA) as it is called in the House of Representatives.
Its’ companion bill in the Senate is Protect IP, which is just a mirror image in less stark but still chilling terms: it’s all about censorship of the Internet as we know it today.
What could it do if it were passed by the House?
From the EFF site:
Congress is debating dangerous legislation that would give the Department of Justice unprecedented power to “blacklist” websites without a trial and give Hollywood copyright holders a fast-track way to shut down a website’s financial services for alleged copyright infringement, endangering sites like Vimeo and Etsy. It’s nothing short of a bill to create a censorship regime in the U.S., and it’s moving fast.
The various bills define different techniques for blocking “blacklisted” sites. Each would interfere with the Internet’s domain name system (DNS), which translates names like “www.eff.org” or “www.nytimes.com” into the IP addresses that computers use to communicate.
SOPA would also allow rightsholders to force payment processors to cut off payments and advertising networks to cut ties with a site simply by sending a notice.
These bills are targeted at “rogue” websites that allow indiscriminate piracy, but use vague definitions that could include hosting websites such as Dropbox, MediaFire, and Rapidshare; sites that discuss piracy such as pirate-party.us, p2pnet, Torrent Freak, torproject.org, and ZeroPaid; as well as a broad range of sites for user-generated content, such as SoundCloud, Etsy, and Deviant Art. Had these bills been passed five or ten years ago, even YouTube might not exist today — in other words, the collateral damage from this legislation would be enormous.
The Department of Justice would be the enforcer of this law. That’s the really bad part: when the government becomes the enforcement agency for private companies over copyright law.
Sounds bad, doesn’t it? Yes, it really is-and it’s about time we stood up and told the people and companies behind these proposed laws to keep their hands off the Internet.
Here are some ways you can do this, from the EFF:
There isn’t that much time-because as the article has noted, Congress is moving fast to subvert any kind of meaningful debate and to pass it as quickly as possible.
This week, we need to pull out all the stops because the House Judiciary Committee is slated to hold a critical hearing on Thursday.
So call, email or write your Congressperson today and tell him/her that you want him/her to vote against SOPA and give them the most valid reason of all:
Censorship is not an American value.
In case you’re wondering what legal experts think of this bill and its’ constitutionality, here’s a legal brief from Laurence H. Tribe-Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard University: