Take a look at the Google homepage today. Or don’t. Who knows if ‘today’ is even when I have posted this anyway. Here’s what I’m wanting you to see:
Here’s the ‘please don’t censor the web!’ link from above.
If you happened to visit Wikipedia on Tuesday, you found this:
Powerful stuff. Some of the most influential websites are protesting censorship. (And here’s another petition, by the by: Fight SOPA)
Here’s what got people all up in arms. There are two bills making the rounds of the House and Senate. SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) is the house version. PIPA (Protect IP Act – presumably IP is Internet Privacy, but it could be just IP, like an IP address) is the one making the rounds of the senate.
The actual bill texts are linked above, but the overall gist of both is very bad for anybody who actually puts content on the net. I’ll stop here to address something key to understanding the problem. These fuckers are marketing tools. Both bills have deceptive names. Stop Online Piracy? Woah! That sounds like a GOOD thing, right? Who the hell wants to encourage idea and content theft? Protect IP where “IP” has something to do with the Internet? That sounds seriously necessary. Doesn’t it? Yah. Bullshit.
Both bills are worded so vaguely that an unidentified government agency could step in and call just about anything piracy. So sites like Wikipedia, where people reproduce pictures from other sites, would be affected. Sites like Regretsy, where April Winchell makes a merry mockery of Etsy crap by posting the original pictures, would also be threatened. Because even though Winchell religiously attributes things, anybody who didn’t want her to use their images could prevent her from doing so, simply to silence her ‘negative’ reviews. (For the record? People featured on Regretsy usually make tons of money, because half the time, somebody sees the garbage and WANTS it.)
Oh. To make this point, Winchell has also blacked her site out for a day, complete with a message satirizing what a seizure might look like if either of these bills make it into law. (She’s scarily accurate, though.)
Let me be clear here. Original content creators deserve to be compensated for their work, where such is appropriate. (If you posted it without the expectation of payment in the first place, you still deserve attribution.) Identity theft is criminal. It is a bad thing.
And SOPA and PIPA do not represent adequate efforts to end the real problems. Rather, they are poorly worded attempts to censor the net. They are knee-jerk reaction bills designed by groups who don’t care if they quash free speech in the name of protecting privacy and copyright/trademark.
The implications are far reaching, and anybody could potentially be affected. It’s worth your time to take a minute and sign the petitions above. I took the time to actually contact my congress persons several weeks ago. (They sent back bland letters suggesting they barely knew what an internet was, let alone what to do about one. But then, it isn’t surprising given where I live that these guys aren’t really aligned with my viewpoints on most issues.)
If you have a blog, do a post. If not, circulate those petitions on Facebook and Twitter. Let’s take collective action against censorship before 1984 shows up in our inboxes.