Stop SOPA

At midnight tonight, a WordPress plugin will kick in which “blacks out” this blog (and my travel blog). I know I only get a few hits a day (around 50-100, usually), but it’s my small way to take part in the STOP SOPA Wednesday.

For those who don’t know, SOPA (and also PIPA) are motions to be put through the US legal system in a bid to allow large copyright holders power to close down websites simply because they don’t like them. OK, it’s a little more complex than that but that’s what it boils down to. SOPA has, in fact, already been shelved as a result of public outcry but PIPA is still alive and threatening horrific levels of censorship.

Essentially what these laws will do is allow a copyright holder (read “rich media company”) to force any website to be taken offline if it claims said site infringes on its copyright. Forget about any discussion over “fair use”, similar content which isn’t actually copied, mistakes and the like – it’s “guilty until proven innocent, which you won’t be because the people putting in the complaint have more money than you”.

Notice, that I said “site”. Remember the case a couple of years back with a baby dancing to a Michael Jackson track on YouTube? Jackson’s record company attempted to sue the baby’s parents for breach of copyright as they dared to put a dodgy recording of part of a song by dead weirdo onto a publicly accessible website. Obviously, this would cost them a fortune in lost revenue. Tossers.

Under SOPA, the media company could force YouTube offline. An extreme and unlikely example, but under the wording of the legislation completely possible. The host is liable for the content uploaded by its members. Even if those members number potentially in their billions.

The methods used to remove sites from the internet is also flawed and involves messing about with the internet’s central servers – something which has had industry experts who actually know what they the hell they’re on about (therefore obviously not politicians, lawyers or record company execs) up in arms.

I’m glad SOPA has been shelved, but I fear it will return. Right now we have to ensure that PIPA is also put down. Although obviously focussed on the US, this will affect anyone using the internet if it goes through. It could also lead to similar legislation being put in place in other countries.

Many sites, far bigger than this little bunch of rants and reviews, are also blacking out for 24 hours. Reddit, WordPress.org, TwitPic and Wikipedia are amongst them. Imagine an internet without them – and many other sites who are not participating. Twitter. Facebook. YouTube. Blogger.

Frankly it beggars belief. Yet the ignorance and stupidity of the media companies trying to push this madness through does not.

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