Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Forget the whales. SAVE THE INTERNET!

Think about where you spend most of your time online.

Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? YouTube? Wikipedia? Tumblr? Reading blogs? Writing blogs?

Guess what? If this proposed bill passes, any of those sites could disappear at any time. POOF. Gone.

What does this law (called the Stop Internet Piracy act, or SOPA - a companion to the Protect IP bill, which has already passed the Senate) do? Basically, the government can order ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to block any site upon which the user has allegedly posted infringing content. (YouTube and Pinterest would be dead in a day; Twitter and Tumblr not far behind. Facebook is such a powerful entity, I think it might take a while to take that one down. Honestly, Mark Zuckerberg might be our best bet for a savior in this situation - he's not going to let his multi-billion dollar empire go down without a fight, which could, if nothing else, lead to a delay as the Supreme Court works something out. Let's hope it doesn't get that far.)

They don't even need to have any sort of evidence. They just need to accuse you. If you're suspicious, you're gone. This bill circumvents any sort of due process that would normally be granted to you under, ah, I don't know, what's it called... oh yeah, the Constitution. That thing. You know, the document that Congress has been using as toilet paper for the past however many years. 

Any site that has user-uploaded content would be vulnerable. This includes pretty much all of the Internet, at least any part of the Internet worth using.

I'm so furious I can't even... gah.The fact that it even got this far just enrages me, as an Internet user, yes, but also as a citizen of the free world. This is taking such a huge step backward that I can't even comprehend it. It's like something out of a bleak dystopian novel.

Maybe this is where it starts, guys. 

First, the open communication and freedom of the Internet. They'll start chipping away at our other rights next. (Maybe "next" isn't the right word. Maybe the right word is "again.") We'll have nothing left, and those of us who aren't privileged members of the upper echelons will be slaves to the machine. Aren't we headed that way anyway? It's becoming a slippery slope. To say nothing of the wealth inequality that is behind the Occupy Wall Street movement. (Here's a couple links for that, I still need to address it, but now is not that time.) The rich and the powerful get what they want. Status quo.

From an email from MoveOn.org (who is hosting a petition that you should take five seconds to sign):

If enacted, a new law would make it so a simple allegation of copyright infringement—with no review process—could lead to the shutdown of sites from YouTube to Wikipedia to MoveOn.org.1 Any website, foreign or U.S.-based, could be wiped out on suspicion and made unavailable to everyone in the world.
For example, if you (or Justin Bieber) wanted to post a video to YouTube of yourself singing a Beatles song, a record company could force the Department of Justice to shut down YouTube. Really.2
But as you may have guessed, Congress didn't come up with this tragically terrible idea on their own. Lobbyists representing Comcast, Pfizer, record and movie companies, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce3 have been pushing Democrats and Republicans to pass bills to allow this new kind of Internet censorship. And they're close to getting their way.

Fun fact: they will use the same DNS-blocking methods as China or Iran.


People, this is supposed to be the United States of America. What the hell happened to protecting our freedoms? These days, seems like they're more interested in protecting corporate interests. It's about money and greed. THAT, though, is probably an entirely different post for a different day.

Let's focus on the task at hand: the Internet - our Internet - would be controlled by the government, by corporations, by lobbyists and special interest groups. Our collective community would be dead. We may as well live in a totalitarian state, given the amount of pure censorship that we would be opening the doors for. I feel like not only would this totally ruin my life (in the "first world problems" kind of way), but it would be completely trampling over free speech, to say nothing of stifling innovation and shutting down the open dialogue that goes on every day, every minute, across the invisible wires that connect us all.

Say something someone doesn't like? BAM. Shut down.

It's not just the blocking off of certain parts of the Internet, either, that would be so crippling to us all.

As American Censorship.org says:
It becomes a felony with a potential 5 year sentence to stream a copyrighted work that would cost more than $2,500 to license, even if you are an ordinary noncommercial user. Singing a pop song on Facebook could be a felony.

Also, any potential infringing sites that generate revenue (Craigslist and eBay have both been listed as potential victims of this bill, and I would imagine Etsy would also fall along those lines)? Once they get shut down, it's going to be a lengthy and expensive legal battle to have their case heard... meanwhile, NOBODY makes any money off the site during that time. Say good-bye to your supplemental income or ever finding a new couch.

Some of the language in the bill - the part that's most relevant to the fuckery that is before us - pretty much intentionally confusing, this article explains it a bit:
The act, in section 104, defines sites that are "dedicated to the theft of US property" as including any "US-directed site" that:
is taking, or has taken deliberate actions to avoid confirming a high probability of the use of the U.S.-directed site to carry out acts that constitute a violation of section 501 or 1201 of title 17, United States Code;
If that sounds massively confusing, you're right. But what it's saying, in the most twisted language possible, is that if it's probable that a site used in the US (note no restriction to just foreign sites here) can be used to infringe, and that site fails to take some sort of action against the "high probability" that the site can be used to infringe, then it can be declared dedicated to the theft of US property.


You'll notice that blurb about foreign sites. That's what the bill is allegedly trying to kill. Theft of US Property. (Oh, we're so patriotic - we MUST defend what is ours!). Think this bill can't touch you, international friends? This is not just a US issue.You realize how much governing laws of the US will affect your user experience, right? You'll be just as screwed as the rest of us. Besides, SOPA is like the honey badger. It straight up doesn't care. It will shut you down, too. Why? Because it can.

Cloud services (such as Dropbox) would be affected too. They'd have to monitor what files you were storing. Because if you store something that's copyrighted, guess what? YOU JUST INFRINGED, MOTHERFUCKER. Music sites like Turntable would have to disable the ability for users to upload songs, without being at risk of being held accountable. (I don't know if Spotify allows you to add songs yourself or if you're limited to the pool that they already have in their system - I can't figure out how to use it so I don't know how it works... but if they do, then that would have to change too.)

And those sites and services don't want to be liable for infringement, because there goes their revenue. It's vicious.

So who's even FOR this, you might ask? Obviously, anyone whose interests are served by being able to shut down sites that impede on their turf. The biggest supporter is the entertainment industry (as per usual), and they ain't small. But they're not the only ones.

According to this article, the main contenders in support of this bill:
The Motion Picture Association of America is, unsurprisingly, one of the lead voices supporting the bill, but it is joined by allies from the pharmaceutical industry, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and, yes, even the International Association of Firefighters, who say that piracy saps the tax dollars that support emergency services.

I quite frankly don't see why Big Pharmacy would care, but whatever. I'm more concerned about the MPAA and the US Chamber of Commerce. And the politicians that are clueless or ruthless enough to jump on the bandwagon.

It sounds like - maybe - support is starting to dwindle a little bit. But it's still so, so important to know about this bill and speak up against it. It's the only thing that's going to make Congress wake up.

As of right now, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon is planning to start a filibuster of this Internet Censorship Act - where he plans to read the names of every person who signs a petition against said censorship. If millions of people sign it, that will take a long-ass time. Will it be enough? I don't know.

Please sign the petition. I don't care if you think petitions are worthless or cheesy or ineffective. Anything we can do to help block this law is so important. If you are reading this right now, it means YOU USE THE INTERNET and if you want to continue to do so, you need to speak up.

I have a little hope. I mean, I've seen what large bands of determined nerds on the Internet can do. I hope they come through. Let's pull together, people. This is our future.

Further reading/linkage:

Tech giants Google, Facebook and others stand up against SOPA

The Great Firewall of America

E-PARASITE Bill: 'The End of The Internet As We Know It'

Five Things To Know About SOPA


The MoveOn.org petition

1 comment:

terra said...

Kelly, SOPA can't be honey badger, because I'M THE HONEY BADGER.

Also, this is dumb and lame and I'm gonna kick it in its stupid face. Leave mine internets alone!