On January 18th, 2012 the internet is going on strike to stop two web censorship bills in Congress: Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA).
Leading websites including Wikipedia, Reddit, Mozilla, WordPress, and BoingBoing will go dark tomorrow in protest, and we join them. Whether you have a website or simply like to read them, you’ll want to take part, too.
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?
Two laws, hastily proposed in the name of protecting copyright holders, will more likely enable censorship by US corporations and the U.S. government, undermining the First and Fourth Amendments of the United States Constitution.
HOW THIS COULD EFFECT YOU
Consider that YouTube video you just shared of an adoptable dog. If that video infringes on copyright by using a song without permission, under these laws, not only can YouTube be sued for hosting it, you could be sued for reposting it. (Thanks to Pamela Webster for the example.) And there’s more…
WordPress.org makes this among other important points:
In the U.S. our legal system maintains that the burden of proof is on the accuser, and that people are innocent until proven guilty. This tenet seems to be on the chopping block when it comes to the web if these bills pass, as companies could shut down sites based on accusation alone.
If you think this attack on free speech stops at the border, it doesn’t. According to “Black Wednesday: In Protest of SOPA, Darken the Web” by Michael Geist, law professor and writer for Huffington Post Canada:
IP addresses are allocated by regional organizations, not national ones. The allocation entity located in the U.S. is called the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN). Its territory includes the U.S., Canada, and 20 Caribbean nations.
That’s right. U.S. law will deeply affect international governments and individuals. Non-U.S. citizens and entities must speak up too.
For ways to make your voice heard from all corners of the world, visit Stop American Censorship and join the fight.
The potential for abuse of power through digital networks – upon which we as citizens now depend for nearly everything, including our politics – is one of the most insidious threats to democracy in the Internet age … This is no time for politicians and industry lobbyists in Washington to be devising new Internet censorship mechanisms, adding new opportunities for abuse of corporate and government power over online speech. - Rebecca MacKinnon (New York Times)
Self-hosted WordPress Users: There’s a handy little plugin that will black your site out for the day while embedding the video above and adding a form to write your representative thanks to Chris on Github.