The majority of Americans may hold strong opinions on a few political issues, but judging simply from voter turnout, politics aren’t all that important to the average American.
As the curator for this site and six others like it, I can see that far fewer people click on political stories than on mugshots or stories about pets wearing costumes.
You can’t really blame them. The same political arguments we hear today are the same from 10 years ago and will likely be the same 10 years from now.
However, there is a political issue that we should all be tuned into right now.
If a certain set of bills winding their way through Congress happen to pass, they would absolutely destroy one of the greatest inventions in human history.
You would think that something so important and potentially detrimental to our economy would be the only topic at the water cooler, but few of the traditional media outlets are talking about it, and with good reason (hint- most of them are in support of it).
Judging simply by the names, they don’t sound like bad ideas. They are.
Of course, piracy is bad. Whether it’s Somali Pirates hijacking ships, someone reusing a starving artist’s copyrighted material, or the pirate impressions on International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Pirates are bad. No argument here.
The issue is that our ever so trustworthy politicians, who have less than zero understanding of how the internet actually works, are pushing for control over it. Due to the vague language of the bills, they could potentially create government controlled internet similar to Iran and China.
Now, if you fully trust your government and believe they would never misuse a newfound control over the internet, then feel free to move along (heres a link to a cat wearing a sombrero).
But if you don’t want your internet to live under government control at the behest of Hollywood, please read on.
So What Does The Bill Intend To Do?
SOPA is largely the brainchild of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Naturally, they don’t care for kids sitting in their parent’s basement downloading and disseminating their content for free. This is certainly well meaning, as nobody wants their hard earned work to be ripped off.
How Would It Work?:
Let’s use Facebook as an example. If you loaded a video of your 3-year-old lip-synching to the new Lady GaGa song (you have bad taste), the record label could proclaim Facebook to be a copyright infringing website and request it to be blacklisted. If the video appeared in Google’s search results, Google could be implicated as well. This would effectively break the internet and destroy some of the products we love (here’s what the guy that invented it thinks and I’m not talking about Al Gore).
The internet has allowed us to communicate like never before, it offers unprecedented opportunity for learning, education, entrepreneurship, and springboards one of the few industries that has powered through the recession and continues to disrupt old business models in favor of those that better serve consumers. I could go on and on about the internet, but if you are still reading this, you surely understand it’s importance.
Now, it was announced today that after weeks of waffling, the Obama administration has come out against SOPA/PIPA (well, sort of).
Members of both the Senate and the House have also begun to back away from the DNS provision, but the bill in any form could spell big trouble for the internet that we know and love (if you don’t love the internet, I will assume you are the Unabomber).
The Recording Industry and Motion Picture Association have decided that rather than innovate and give consumers what they desire, they will use their tremendous lobbying efforts (also known as $$$) to suggest the government take it over.
Now, I don’t condone theft, but it happens. The idea that you can snuff it out entirely is irrational, and as with iTunes, if you give consumers easy access to reasonably priced products, they are less likely to resort to stealing.
What Can You Do About It?
Contact your representatives. Click here for Kansas. Let them know in no uncertain terms, that you want the internet left alone. With all of the problems our government is facing, the internet is hardly something they should be focusing on.
You can also let the businesses that support the bill know that you don’t approve.
GoDaddy, the domain registrar, supported SOPA originally but after their name appeared on the SOPA-supporters list, over 76,000 customers transferred their domains. GoDaddy is now an opponent to SOPA. Hit ’em in the pockets and their tune will quickly change.
On a positive note, I did receive a response from Kansas Senator Jerry Moran and he clearly stated opposition to the bill. Considering these guys usually only hear from their constituents when they’re angry, I recommend a little positive reinforcement. Let Senator Moran know that you appreciate his stance against SOPA/PIPA.
When It’s Likely To Move Forward:
Nobody knows for sure when action will be taken on SOPA/PIPA. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), a SOPA opponent, announced Saturday that the hearings on SOPA’s DNS provisions that were scheduled for Wednesday, January 18 would be postponed.
“While I remain concerned about Senate action on the Protect IP Act, I am confident that flawed legislation will not be taken up by this House,” Issa said. “Majority Leader Cantor has assured me that we will continue to work to address outstanding concerns and work to build consensus prior to any anti-piracy legislation coming before the House for a vote.”
So in the meantime, if you like the internet as it is (other than all the annoying commentary by your friends on Facebook) let your representatives know how you feel and continue to pay attention to this issue.
If you’re interested a more technical overview of SOPA/PIPA and the dangers click here. For a more humorous take on SOPA/PIPA, here’s Stephen Colbert