You may have noticed that my logo, along with many others on the web today, appears to have been censored. That’s because today is American Censorship Day, a day of online action against House Resolution 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act.
As any TNL.net readers know, there has long been a battle between two groups on the Internet: those who believe that copyright holders should be given preferential treatment and those who believe the internet should be a level-playing ground. I am firmly in the latter camp, even though I produce large amounts of content online.
A few years ago, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (aka DMCA), a law that, while somewhat more aggressive than I’d like it, manages to strike a balance between the interests of both copyright holders and online sites by requiring that a takedown notice be sent to a site if you see infringing content. The site then needs to honor or fight the takedown notice in court. The DMCA turned out to be a decent compromise protecting the interests of most people and things should probably have stopped there.
But the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA for short) goes substantially farther. It looks to assume guilt on the part of the site hosting content and looks to provide a system that would put control of internet domain names in the hands of the government.
Today, when you type TNL.net in your browser, that gets translated into a set of numbers known as an IP address (this is similar to you looking up contacts in your address book instead of having to remember that contact’s phone number). What SOPA calls for is that if a copyright owner finds one piece of infringing content on a site, they could go to the government and ask them to block that address. People would still be able to access the site if they knew the IP address (and most pirates would) but the regular public would not be able to access the site by typing its name. Sites like Facebook, Google, Twitter, Flickr, and other could immediately disappear from the internet for a single presumed act of copyright sharing.
So I would urge you to contact your congressperson in opposition of SOPA today. Sendwrite has created a helpful online tool to send physical letters to your congressperson. The few minutes you put in will make it possible for the internet to continue existing.
Before you go, imagine two futures: in one, the internet becomes like TV, you don’t get to choose what’s on, when it’s on and where it’s on; in the other, the internet remains as it is today, a place where you can choose what you want to see, when you want to see and where you want to see it. Which future do you want? If it’s the latter, contact your congressperson today.