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?
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.
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 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.