Quick. What do Wikipedia, Google, Facebook, eBay, Yahoo, Michele Bachmann and Ellen Mrja have in common? (Yes, I said Michele Bachmann.)
They’re all against HR 3261: Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and her evil twin in the Senate, the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). What a disappointment that Minnesota senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken support these well-intentioned but thoroughly misguided stepping stones into internet censorship. Boo!
The best description of SOPA can be found on the propublica.org site, which calls this battle a “SOPA Opera.” There you’ll find the mark-up of the bill and its history. But in a nutshell…
What drives these two pieces of proposed legislation is the loss of billions of dollars annually by the motion picture, recording and other copyright-driven industries by illegally downloaded music, pirated movies and rogue websites. In particular, foreign rogue websites are called out for mass producing pirated American films before the movie is scarcely in domestic release, resulting in a staggering loss of money executives have not yet found a way to recover.
And so, on the one side you have Warner Bros., Paramount Studios, Sony Music. They’re joined by the rest of “old Hollywood,” the Motion Picture Association of America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (“There’s NO business like SHOW business..!” and, odd-fellow in, the AFL-CIO.
But in the other corner you have the Silicon Valley slicks, the new geniuses who envision and then execute the sites that have transformed how we interact, find news, purchase goods and services, trade information. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Mozilla, all were founded on the proposition that the internet is an anarchy and that’s what makes it open to experimentation, trial-error, “let’s blow this up and see what happens” thinking.
I also vote for anarchy. Michele Bachmann probably has a much saner reason, as I’ll explain in a moment.
Key to making SOPA and PIPA work is the ability for companies that believe they’ve had material ripped off to go to the U.S. Justice Department which could use sweeping new powers to “go after” these sites. How would this be done? In any combination of the following:
- *By punishing sites that infringe on copyright OR EVEN THOSE THAT LINK to these sites.
- *By shutting down financial transfers to these sites (the same technique used against WikiLeaks when Assange’s supporters mirrored his work forward) and
- *By giving Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as Verizon or Comcast the power to voluntarily block sites through so-called “vigilante provisions.” Entire sites could be shut down through something called DNS Blocking. Domain Name System (DNS) is the text-based address we use to identify different computers on the internet. The DNS names are cross-listed with Internet Protocol (IP) addresses in online databases; each computer, including yours right now, has its own IP address (a series of numbers and periods). So, by blocking entire DNS sites, the government also now has a listing of the IPs that were visiting that address.
I’m going to guess it’s this unprecedented intrusion by Big Government into law-abiding American internet users’ homes that Bachmann finds so objectionable; I know I do. Right now the U.S. Supreme Court has given the internet full First Amendment protections — from government. Even any attempt at
any power by the government to censor this most glorious of new media must be fought at every turn. The government never goes backward on its powers.
And POTUS? Well, he’s taken his typical political approach to this legislation. While he “believe we must protect the livelihoods of creative industries…blah, blah, blah,..we must also make sure cyberspace does not become the home of censorship blah, blah, blah.” At least our friend Rupert Murdoch takes a stand: he’s in a
fine dungeon high dudgeon over SOPA. He supports the legislation and tweeted Saturday night:
“So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery.”
Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, has announced he is going to make the site black for 24 hours starting tomorrow as a visual protest of what government censorship could like like in an extreme form. Social media site Redditt plans to do the same; Google will probably use its page to send searchers to U.S. Senators’ and Representatives’ offices.
And so, “The fight is curiously nonpartisan,” as the latimes.com put it. And I’m in bed with Michele Bachmann.
As of 2 hours ago, The SOPA vote has been delayed (too many phone calls and emails, Congress?) but the Senate vote is still stubbornly set for January 24. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s phone number is 202-224-3244. Sen. Al Franken prefers email messages. Just Google him. If Google’s still open.
UPDATE: After a successful day of protests (and reading a discouraging number of tweets from young people nationwide that asked: WTFISOPA? and The internet is ending???????!!!!!!) I wanted to thank you all for a great discussion with this little treat — Hitler Reacting to SOPA. Enjoy.