Daily Archives: 20/01/2012

A brief word on SOPA/PIPA

I know that this topic seems to be everywhere on the ‘net at the moment, but please indulge me in adding my small voice to the chorus of dissent. The reason SOPA/PIPA (that’s Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act) are currently filling every blog, newsfeed, and website is that they pose the single largest threat to the internet as we know it ever. And no, that’s not hyperbole!

One of my favourite websites, Topless Robot (a geek news blog) summed up what SOPA/PIPA would mean for it here. And for those to lazy to follow that link, here’s the part I’m talking about;

“No one asked about what my feelings are regarding SOPA/PIPA, because that would be stupid. SOPA and PIPA are both awful, absurd laws, and if either of them come to pass Topless Robot will be shut down and I will be immediately out of my job. Based on the laws as they currently stand, every single article I wrote today — because of a quote, picture or video I ran — would be an illegal use of copyrighted material. Yet shutting Topless Robot and sites like it down does nothing to stop actual online piracy, which is what these bills are purportedly trying to stop.”

And that is true of this blog too. Admittedly, we’d probably be pretty far down the list of sites to shut down/sue, after they’d taken care of the big guns like Facebook, Wikipedia, and the like, but sooner or later someone would take offence at the fact one of us wrote about a particular piece of IP or mentioned a copyrighted name, and we’d be shut down. The US government would shut down a blog run by British citizens – Although we’re based in the UK, WordPress is a US company, and they host all this shiny stuff – and there’d be nothing we could do about it, short of never mentioning any copyrighted material ever again, because that apparently makes us IP Pirates. If I’m a pirate I at least want a cutlass.

“But” I imagine I hear some of you cry “We’re not in America! We can’t affect this!” Well, for those of us dreading this act passing not only for what it will mean with the US World Police shutting down websites, but also with other governments suddenly thinking this is a good idea, the good folks over at American Censorship have a petition lobbying the US State Department which can be signed by non-US residents to express the international community’s disagreement with these preposterous legislations (they’re also the ones that made the video at the bottom of this post. Check it out if you’re unsure on the details of all this SOPA/PIPA business).

This is something that everyone using the internet – geeks or not – needs to know about, and needs to do all they can to prevent being passed. The internet is a unique creation, a platform of open speech and information unparalleled in the course of human history. SOPA and PIPA would censor that information and quiet the voices with their massive scope and easy to abuse powers. If you care about the free sharing of information, if you care about free speech, or if you care about sharing the truth, then you care about the internet, and you should care about protecting it.


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