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Tag: sopa

The Fight for Internet Freedom

It was only one year ago this past week when the “broadest, most powerful political protest ever orchestrated on the Internet” convinced the House to kill the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Over 115 million websites, led by Wikipedia and Reddit, went dark for one day to help educate their users about the risks to the integrity of the web posed by the legislation.

Lots has been written about both the bill and the protest (the Wikipedia article linked above runs about 17 printed pages by itself), but if you want a excellent summary of what happened and what Congress has learned (and is still clueless about), listen to the most recent edition of Decode DC.

Then subscribe to the podcast. Presented by former NPR reporter Andrea Seabrook, the project is her attempt “stop re-playing soundbites of those political attacks, and start talking about what’s wrong with Washington — and what are the solutions”.

This is the kind of intelligent reporting that’s missing from most of the so-called news organizations in the US and deserves to be supported.

While you’re at it, go join the Electronic Frontier Foundation (or at least subscribe to their RSS feed) and also support their efforts to fight the next edition of SOPA.

Because it’s clear that big copyright owners and their pet Congress critters are not finished trying to restrict our rights to free speech, fair use, privacy, and equal access on the web.

A Little More Ranting on SOPA and PIPA

Many of us have read and heard enough about these bills this past week to last the rest of the year. But, if you can tolerate just a little more, here are a couple more important viewpoints on the subject.

In his anti-SOPA/PIPA, web blackout post from last Wednesday, Seth Godin looks at the two bills from a broader perspective and discusses the lack of real leadership in Congress.

When did we lose Congress? Not just in terms of losing our respect for just about everyone there (one of the least respected careers in the USA) but in the sense that they no longer even pretend to represent our interests or act as we would act if given the chance?

Godin says that their approval ratings are so low because “Congress has a marketing problem”, but that problem is “largely because they have a problem with the decisions they make and the way that they make them.”.

As good as his post is, Godin makes one glaring error when he says the debate is “now winding down”.

As Clay Shirky explains in this excellent short talk he gave recently at the TED offices, SOPA and PIPA are just the latest attempts by the media industry to eliminate the concept of fair use and exercise complete control over popular culture, and they have no intention of stopping with this minor setback.

The worst part of these two bills is the fact that Congress would be altering centuries of American legal precedent to allow a few large companies and their lobbyists to proactively censor the web, to declare users guilty with minimal evidence, and then force them to prove their innocence. At great cost to the accused, of course.

Godin is right that SOPA and PIPA are likely dead in their current forms, carrying their current names. However, the dangerous and destructive concepts at their foundations are not going away until we get some leadership in Congress that is willing to do their job and actually represent the people.

Don’t hold your breath.

Teachable Moment

For those who’ve missed all the shouting in certain circles of the web, today is the day the web goes on strike. At least here in the US, where our congress critters are considering two bills that, quite frankly, should scare everyone who publishes content online.

The proposed laws, as do many these days, have somewhat Orwellian names: Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). I mean, who wouldn’t want to join either of those worthy causes?

Well, take a few minutes to watch this video about the many unintended consequences that are likely to come with the vaguely written, open-ended PIPA (SOPA is only slightly different in language but not in the mechanics), primarily written by representatives of the big content producers, the MPAA and RIAA.

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

All that, and neither will stop people who really want to illegally distribute copyrighted content.

In addition to violating any number of Constitutional rights, these laws would have an enormous chilling effect on legitimate fair use of copyrighted material as well as the diversity of speech so badly needed in the world today.

Both laws also start with some very false premises (such as piracy is costing the US billions of dollars and millions of jobs), as explained by Tim O’Reilly.

Take a look around the web today and you’ll find many sites have gone dark in opposition to SOPA and PIPA (including Wikipedia, Reddit, Mozilla, WordPress, and several thousand others). I’m sure many people who have never heard of SOPA or PIPA will notice as they try to go about their normal web surfing.

However, although I thought about doing the same – taking this site dark (despite being a very, very small corner of the web) – I’m an educator and it seems to me that helping anyone who arrives here, by design or accident, understand the issues is a more effective way of making the point. Same idea, different style. Thus this post you are now reading (thank you!).

However, no matter which process makes you aware of the situation, as a web user, and probably a web content creator, it’s important to understand just how dangerous this kind of legislation is and why it’s in your best interest to actively oppose it.

Take a few more minutes today to contact your congress critter. Tell them to throw out this crap (be nice :-) and instead work on rules that support genuine net neutrality and fair use.

Then spend a few dollars and join the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit organization that has been a leader in the fight against this and other attempts to censor voices and ideas around the world.

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