Thursday, January 19, 2012

My quarrel with SOPA and sister PIPA

From Gino's Blog
I am protesting against SOPA/PIPA -- the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate – and blacked out Mich Café all day Wednesday (January 18) because I oppose censorship. I believe in freedom of speech and in keeping the Internet open and free.

I also believe the two bills would stifle creativity and innovation. If passed in the U.S., they would surely trickle down to other countries. Typically, when America sneezes, the world catches a cold. In this case, the world would be exposed to life-threatening pneumonia!

It is also a fight between the big players in the movie and music industries and the “little people.”

If SOPA/PIPA became law, the Internet would no longer be free and open. In the words of Wikipedia, which blacked out its English service yesterday (January 18) for 24 hours, “SOPA and PIPA are real threats to the free and open Internet… Among other serious problems in the current draft of the bills, the requirement exists for US-based sites to actively police links to purported infringing sites. These kinds of self-policing activities are non-sustainable for large, global sites -- including ones like Wikipedia. The legislative language is ambiguous and overly broad, even though it touches on protected speech. Congress says it's trying to protect the rights of copyright owners, but the ‘cure’ that SOPA and PIPA represent is worse than the disease.”

U.S. President Barack Obama said January 17 he would not support SOPA. The bill is maybe killed for now, or for the duration of his administration. But PIPA is slated to go before the U.S. Senate next Tuesday (January 24). 
“Any provision covering Internet intermediaries such as online advertising networks, payment processors, or search engines must be transparent and designed to prevent overly broad private rights of action that could encourage unjustified litigation that could discourage startup businesses and innovative firms from growing,” the White House said in a statement. “We expect and encourage all private parties, including both content creators and Internet platform providers working together, to adopt voluntary measures and best practices to reduce online piracy.”
Both SOPA and PIPA try to combat online piracy by preventing U.S. search engines like Google and Yahoo from directing users to sites distributing stolen content. Both bills would also enable people and companies to sue if their copyrights were infringed.

Under PIPA, sharing a video with anything copyrighted in it, or what YouTube and Twitter do, would be considered illegal behavior.

PIPA would disrupt the Internet, stifle innovation, shut out diverse voices and censor the web. It is bad for freedom of expression, creativity, and does not protect our rights. Gone will be the open libraries for music, videos and books, for example.

Fight for the Future is leading the protest. It says, “We're living during a global shift as big as the industrial revolution… We, as a society, are literally building a new world. Fight for the Future is here to bring the most essential human values back into the debate about how society uses technology. We believe there's hardly anything as important as ensuring that our shared future has freedom of expression and creativity at its core.”

Fight for the Future wonders, among other things:
  • After spending thousands of years building libraries of donated books, why do governments try to tear them down when they happen spontaneously online?
  • Why can't I give money directly to every musician I like, instead of paying Apple or Spotify and leaving virtually nothing in the pockets of the artists?
  • Why does the US pay so much for cellphone service? And for slow Internet?
  • How is it possible that singing "Happy Birthday" in public is still illegal, and why does anyone stand by these laws?
  • Will every kid growing up in every developing country have access to every book ever made, as soon as they get a Smartphone? Or will the books cost $12, an impossible expense for a poor kid?
  • Why have we all been sitting idly while the movie and music lobbyists have been systematically advancing legislation that strips freedoms, blocks innovation, and exclusively advances Hollywood's financial agenda?
Keep the Internet free, please!

Related sites:
SOPA and why a Lebanese should care – by Lebanese freelance programmer Mireille Raad