I went to bed fearing that I’ll wake up with Stop Online Piracy Act firmly in place. It is a frightening new bill that basically allows copyright holders to censor websites. Not just a page, but the whole site.
Here’s some boiled-down bits of SOPA, all pulled from a wonderful primer on the subject by Grant Gross, which does a more adequate job at summarizing political jargon it than I ever could. Here is the original article. Here are some of the points I find most disturbing:
“SOPA…would allow the U.S. Department of Justice [DOJ] to seek court orders to stop online ad networks and payment processors from doing business with foreign websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement.
The DOJ-requested court orders could also bar search engines from linking to the allegedly infringing sites and order domain name registrars to take down the websites and Internet service providers to block subscriber access to the sites accused of infringing.”
What does that mean? It means any site accused—not even found guilty of, just accused—can be censored. Blocked off. Can’t even Google search it.
“Section 102 of the bill would set up the process for the DOJ to ask for court orders targeting online ad networks, payment processors, search engines, ISPs and domain name registrars. The DOJ would have to notify the owner of the allegedly infringing website that it is seeking a court order. The DOJ would decide if a site infringes copyright and it could determine a site is infringing if a “portion” of it has copyright violations.”
Alright, so there will be a process. However, that “portion” bit they added? It could be as harmless as the forum avatar of user is a picture of a copyrighted character, like Mickey Mouse. Or at least that is what a commenter on Huffington Post pointed out.
Yesterday, a bunch of websites took part in the American Censorship Day to raise awareness of the bill, which was going through the House Judiciary Committee that day. Tumblr, YouTube, Google, Reddit, Reporters without Borders, LinkedIn, Wikimedia Foundation, Creative Commons, and more are against it. I could link to them all, but it’s tedious and there are so very many.
The Library Copyright Alliance is even against parts of SOPA.
Look at what Wikipedia has to say about it:
In short, our users and all of our projects, would be forced to operate in an untenable legislative environment, putting Wikipedia at the beck and call of the rights owners as opposed to the distribution of free knowledge. Simply put, this bill is a reckless and burdensome model in Internet censorship.
The ones who are for SOPA are basically the music and film industry. Large trademark corporations. And our firefighters apparently.
Needless to say, I spent a good majority of that morning signing petitions and calling up our local representatives to oppose this bill.
Long story short: Internet censorship in the hands of the government and copyright holders. It will impede freedom of speech and expression.