The Guardian did a great explainer of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). But basically, the goal is to limit online piracy, especially when it comes to movie and music files. Seems reasonable enough.
But it goes way, way too far – entire domains, like Wikipedia, WordPress, YouTube and Facebook, can be shut down if any of their sites’ content is pirated. Given the vast amount of content these sites provide – essentially a free information exchange, the bill is not unreasonable, it’s archaic.
One analyst provided this metaphor: “Imagine lawmakers saw that bank robbers are using getaway cars, so they banned all cars to cut down on robberies.”
(I’ve only tripped by a black Wikipedia page five times today. Gah.)
Here’s how wordpress.com looked today, I think it makes the point well about available content if Sopa, and it’s Senate version of the bill, the Protect Intellectual Property Act pass:
It’s ridiculous. Content will just disappear.
Editorials have been written. Mashable.com said the American bill will take “us” back to the Dark Ages:
Behind the almost unreadable (yet truly scary) text of SOPA (and its Senate doppelganger, PIPA, or the Protect Intellectual Property Act) is a desire, likely fueled by powerful media conglomerate backers, to take us all back to the thin-pipe, content-distribution days of 1994 — right before the World Wide Web launched. From the moment the Internet and websites arrived, a veritable Pandora’s box of opportunities have opened to every average Joe and Josephine in the world. Everyone became a content creator. Everyone had an audience.
Gigaom’s Brad Feld urged readers to write to their Senators and Congress Reps.
And this, my friends, is what really makes me angry. I can’t write to my Senator or Congresswoman/man. I don’t have a voice in U.S. politics. My government representative can’t do a thing about this.
Because I live in Canada.
So a policy, whipped up in a (admittedly beloved neighbour) country other than my own, affects my access to information.
What happens with SOPA and PIPA will mess things up for all of us. Because of a U.S. law, content disappears globally. It’s a completely, decidedly, un-democratic way to yoke an entity that is – however imperfect – exactly that: a democracy of ideas.
How unbelievably arrogant of these American lawmakers to think that they have jurisdiction over the Internet.