17 January 2012

Not Going Dark But SOPA and PIPA Still Deserve To Die

Wikipedia and Colorado Pols are going dark all day on Wednesday in support of causes on which I wholeheartedly agree with them. Colorado Pols explains their decision:

Colorado Pols will go offline as a protest against proposed federal legislation: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate.

It is the majority opinion of the Colorado Pols community that this legislation, if passed, would directly threaten the free and open internet that allowed our blog to grow into the largest forum for discussion of local politics in the state of Colorado. We do not as general policy engage in direct advocacy for or against legislation, but the potential consequences of SOPA/PIPA for the very existence of public forums like our own obligates an extraordinary response. We hope to be joined in this action tomorrow by blogs and websites from across the political spectrum.

To sum up the single biggest problem with these laws, that they make merely linking to another web page illegal under certain circumstances, is a draconian imposition on the free exchange of ideas over the Internet.

The threats posed by so called "online piracy", which arguably dilutes the profits of movie studies and record companies and publishing houses a little, but also generates a lot of income for those same industries and a lot of public good, bears little resemblance whatsoever to the brutal violent crimes committed by real pirates who shoot people dead and hold them hostage in fear of their lives for months. It calls for a different sort of response. Mostly, the problem is that companies relying on old business models for turning content into money are trying to hold back inevitable revolutions in how content is turned into money for the foreseeable future without regard to a balanced way to secure the part of their interests that are legitimate. Intellectual property holders have won too many battles and we are paying the price for that with reduced vitality in our economy and culture. While some legal restraint on profiting for others new cultural contributions without paying the creators is appropriate, the current system is out of balance and SOPA/PIPA has gone several steps too far beyond a system that already needs adjustment in the other direction.

Collective action has its place, and in consideration of this movement to try to stop these bills in Congress, I will not be posting at either Wash Park Prophet or Dispatches From Turtle Island tomorrow. But, I'm not technologically savvy enough to attempt to actually go dark without putting myself at serious risk of screwing up one or both blogs, and the Internet is forever and has multiple caches of already posted material, so it would serve no great purposes to do so.

Internet users cast informed votes. So, members of Congress, if you support SOPA or PIPA, you may be committing political suicide and should promptly kill these bills instead.

1 comment:

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Follow up: Collective action by Google, Wikipedia, Craigslist and other prominent and not so prominent Internet sites have effectively convinced enough U.S. Senators to change their positions on it to kill the bills politically, at least until there is a major rewrite (more than likely under a less tainted moniker).