SOPA In Brief: Why We Aren’t Going Black Today
By now, you’ve likely heard of the Stop Online Piracy Act and its sister act from the senate, the Protect IP act. We have not spoken much about it, save some small tidbits regarding, but be aware, like all other internet businesses, it does concern us. We are not shutting down like some of the other, much larger sites such as Reddit, Google, Wikipedia or even Minecraft.net, but we still wished to discuss it in brief, so those of you turned off or curious about the act can at least feed your head and gain some insight onto what these pieces of legislation are, and how they will directly affect how you use the internet.
DualShockers is a small site. We have a few reasons for not going dark, but the primary reason is that we feel that our readers rely on our content, and our first priority is to you guys. While we still do not condone SOPA or PIPA and wish to add our voices against the bills, we feel that we should hold true to our ultimate responsibility – you guys – and continue to provide the content you rely on and want to read from us. With that said, read on and see what exactly what our major issues with SOPA and PIPA are.
In brief, SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, is a pretty scary piece of legislation. While it purports to stop online piracy, what it really is is a proposal to allow a rapid censorship of content from websites. It would allow a company to get immediate injunctions against websites who are accused, not convicted, but merely accused, of either enabling or facilitating “copyright infringement.” Normally, there is a direct safety valve to prevent this sort of injunction built into the Digital Millennium Copyright Act known as the Safe Harbor provision. This provision requires notification to allow a website to change or remove potentially infringing content. The problem with SOPA is that it overtakes the Safe Harbor provision’s of the bill, allowing for immediate shutdown of a site along with removal from a search engine and other major problems.
The Protect IP Act, or PIPA is a very similar monster. The senators behind PIPA have yet to remove the DNS blocking language from the bill. In essence, what this does, and what SOPA threatened to do, was to swiftly have a website blocked immediately from the Domain Name System, so that it would literally appear as if it didn’t exist upon a judicial injunction. PIPA is very, very similar to SOPA, and is equally as scary.
SOPA has been put on hold. Realize that it is not dead. It has been postponed due to the opposition. The supporters of this bill are waiting for our attention spans to run out so they can reintroduce it or quietly sneak it in for a vote. We need to remind them that every time something this blatantly offensive comes out, we will continue to support it. As of this writing, PIPA is still scheduled for a vote on January 24th. If you disagree with the act, then remember, vote the congressman or senator who supported (if applicable) out of office. Legislation so dangerously close to direct censorship of the internet can not stand.
So essentially, SOPA is a bill that is vaguely worded to the point where whole websites can be blocked by judicial order for vague reasons with very little actual relevancy to actually stopping pirates. Rather, this law seems more about internet censorship than actually stopping pirates, as the provisions and definitions are almost deliberately unclear. SOPA is a terrifying, if not dangerous, bill. It is dangerous mostly in part because of its vagueness, but also because of its core concepts. The ESA should be ashamed of itself for supporting such a blatantly disingenuous bill and kudos to Notch, Reddit, Red 5 and the others who are taking a direct stand and a potential loss for what they believe in.
But what can you do? My best suggestion would be to contact your representative. How would you go about doing that? Luckily, though Wikipedia is shut down, their homepage features a message about SOPA/PIPA and they have a very handy, easy way for you to get a list of your current representatives to contact. Just go here and enter your zip code and you will be all set. If you’re feeling extra proactive, you can head to Google and sign the petition that they have up. SOPA and PIPA are both extremely regressive laws, and it doesn’t take that much to do something about them, even if it is just speaking your mind and telling a politician what you think.