But if we fail to act . . .

I don’t do politics.

Or rather, I don’t do politics here, except for my election year “Go Vote Now or Stop Complaining” pep talks.  This isn’t to say I don’t have some serious views on some serious issues,* just that I prefer this space to hold other things.

But for this, and in light of yesterday’s quote from Dr. King,  I’m making an exception.  We may not make any difference, me and my little blog, but I have to try.

Because if these two acts pass, I might not have a little blog at all.

And neither will you.

So please, hear me out:

The acts in question are the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (PIPA). 

SOPA is intended to expand the ability of United States law enforcement and copyright holders to fight online trafficking in “copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods.”

PIPA** would give the United States government and copyright holders “additional tools to curb access” to “rogue websites dedicated to infringing or counterfeit goods”, especially those registered outside the States.

Why would someone who would like to make a little money out of this writing gig someday be opposed to something that opposes online piracy?   Why would a librarian prefer theft to copyright law?

I’m not.  And I don’t.

BUT. . . if these laws pass, the Internet, flawed as it is, is over.

No more clips.

No more quotes.

No more book reviews.

No more embedded sharing.

No more YouTube.

No more links. 

See that last one? That’s the kicker, right there.

What is the Internet?  It’s content, right?  Good, bad, indifferent, skeevy, putrid, lovely, fascinating, valid, bullpoop, whatever, it’s all content.

And how is all that individual content connected?  How is the WWWeb woven?

Links.  Right.

Here’s my understanding of the kind of thing that could happen if these acts pass, and, yes, I’m making it personal:

One day, I’ll post a link to a poetry site that contains thousands of poems because I want you to read a verse that I don’t have permission to copy and I don’t want my blog shut down or rendered invisible to search engines—and I sure don’t want to be fined or jailed.  So I’m really, really careful.***

But say that site contains one poem out of thousands  that they don’t have permission to use. I didn’t catch that one, or even see it, because I may like reading poems, but assessing thousands of them for permissions is a major job.

And the poet or someone in the government finds out and decides to file an injunction against that site, which is shut down or rendered invisible to search engines, and the owner, who is fined and/or jailed.

Depending on the wording of that injunction and whatever lawsuit(s) might be brought—and even though I never even heard of that one pirated poem or landed on its page—I could be charged with copyright infringement or promoting infringement.

Shut down, rendered invisible, fined or jailed.

Eventually, no one will be able to link to any source outside their own content for fear of the possible consequences.

Internet over.

And International connections could be lost the same way—no more visiting the London Museum online, no more international research, no more non-government-approved international distress calls answered. 

And just to make this part personal:  no more reading the blogs of—or having our blogs read by—our non-US-IP using friends, who will be the only ones using links anyway.  Goodbye Downith, Nina, Bobbi, Sarah P., Siobhan, Marie, Gary, Zoë . . .

This is the equivalent of killing a hornets’ nest with a nuke.

Better explanations are here.

And here.

And especially here.

Wikipedia, Boing Boing, and several other sites and blogs are shutting down from Midnight to Midnight tomorrow, January 18th, a protest coordinated by americancensorship.org.

So you’d better read the above links now, or you might have to wait until Thursday.

In solidarity and support, there will be no new post on my little blog between Midnight and Midnight tomorrow.

If you’re a US reader,  I encourage you to use the small amount of time you might have used reading Poetry Wednesday and write to your congressperson to tell them that stronger measures may or may not be needed to curtail copyright theft—but these aren’t it.

Thank you for letting me rant—I hope to be allowed to do so for many years to come.


*Most of which seem more like flippin’ no-brainers than ‘issues’ to me, but everybody feels that way, no matter what side they’re on, right?

**Which is a rewrite of the proposed Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), which was killed in Congress.

***Not that I’m not careful now, but I’m not paranoid about it and if there were complaints, I’d comply with a reasonable request from appropriate channels to fix the situation.


27 thoughts on “But if we fail to act . . .

  1. This issue is so frustrating. I’ve written my Congressman about it and his office replied with a form letter telling me why I’m wrong to oppose this. Which is what they do every time I communicate with them. I have to keep at it so that he knows that he has at least one constituent who doesn’t agree with his extreme positions.

    I’m glad you wrote about this. Thank you for breaking your rule.

  2. “This is the equivalent of killing a hornets’ nest with a nuke.”
    That’s the best description of SOPA and PIPA I’ve read.

    Thank you, Sarah.

  3. How are these laws enforceable? I don’t see how. Maybe it’s explained in one of those links, but I’m fading right now. I’ll check them out tomorrow.

    I couldn’t wait. I looked at one site and immediately started thinking about the Occupy Movement. Now that winter is in full swing, the protestors really can’t meet outdoors. What better way to keep up the Occupy momentum than to bring it indoors? To wit: Occupy Regal Cinema! The way I see it taking shape is that a bunch of agitators, abetted by the ushers, buy one ticket each and then attended all showings in all theaters. They should also bring their own movie snacks. This indoor occupation could extend to bookstores (large groups of protestors simply reading books ins-store) and other media purveyors.

    I’m being a bit silly, but I’m not really trying to make light of the situation. I just really don’t see how something like this could be enforced without provoking a major backlash. And there are too many other industries that could find ways to capitalize from opposing and subverting such a crackdown. I see no way to “occupy” the internet, but a massive boycott is doable, and one or two days without ads being clicked by millions might be all it takes to bring corporate interests to their senses.

    • I assume they’re as enforceable as the ones that lead to the downfall of Napster and had all those people indicted for theft.

      I’m also assuming there will be a backlash . . . but I’d rather avoid it by avoiding the stupidity first. I hope you’re right!

      • Yes, you’re right about avoiding stupidity in the first place. The whole scheme comes across as the desperate gasp of industries in their death throes, a last-ditch attempt to survive.

        • See, I think that’s what they want you to think, but the last six songs and one full album I bought I discovered from fanvids or music posted on other people’s blogs.

          I’ve bought novels and watched movies because of fanfiction and clips.

          They’re shooting themselves right in the marketing strategies, here.

  4. Sarah,
    Thank you for explaining this. I’m surrounded all day by a certain type of news that leans in a direction where perhaps (?!) I don’t get all (any) of the information I need. But I find, that over time, it seeps in and hearing a bunch of blowhards go on about something seemingly insignificant becomes something I tune out.
    Thank you for making me pay attention.

  5. I’ve been following this and it worries me greatly of course. Not just for the reasons that you’ve so eloquently explained here, but because where America leads, Britain tends to follow.

  6. I’m so amazed by the energy put into such a thing — and for what good-enough purpose, I can’t put my slippery finger on — but I’ve been following this as well and all I can think is: Aren’t there better, more tangible, issues to spend our time and money worrying over. Can we really police everything? And why would we want to?

      • I see this morning that Congress members are withdrawing support and this will, fingers crossed!, kill this thing. Thank goodness.

        And I agree with Sherry and others here, Sarah. You laid this out so much more clearly than everything else I’d read.

  7. I think you’ve explained it more clearly than any other post I’ve read about this.

    And it means even more coming from a writer and a librarian.

    I’m cautiously optimistic. Hopefully, Congress and the House will realize there may be one or two issues more important for them to be concentrating on…

    • Thanks, Sherry.

      The ALA doesn’t support this, either.

      I may be prematurely optimistic, but it looks like some Congresspeople are figuring out that their constituents aren’t happy . . . Fingers crossed.

  8. If this stuff went down, my blog would probably turn into nothing but photos of my cats. And let’s face it, at times my blog is already cat-centric enough to be pathetic. The world doesn’t need Cat Lady Laura unleashed to her full extent.

    • I love your kitties, Laura! Saucy is simply gorgeous (nice tonsils, too) and I like Cirrus’ beauty spot (handsome spot?).

      Regardless of how this turns out (and my fingers remain crossed), I think the world is waiting for a Cat Lady Laura blog. 🙂

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