GIF by The Oatmeal, stolen with permission
Actually, let me start with the last thing first. I’m not blacked out because I have something to say, and the entire point of opposing SOPA and PIPA is to preserve the ability to speak freely without worrying about government or Big Media stomping us. Follow the links above to get a précis of what these terrible pieces of purchased legislation are about.
[For an overview of which congresspeople have come out explicitly for or against SOPA or PIPA, ProPublica has a lovely site called SOPA Opera.]
On the surface, they don’t seem SO bad: they create an authority capable of telling Google and other websites based in the US to pull down links to sites that are “dedicated to copyright infringement”.
Thing is, that’s not constitutional. Congress cannot pass a law that tells me I can’t tell you where to find the warez. That’s what the First Amendment is about.
Furthermore, the people pushing this are the same people who don’t believe in Fair Use, and don’t believe in Parody. If either of these bills became law, their provisions could be used to take down anything that Big Media Lawyers could finesse into fitting into the bills’ provisions.
In addition to posting my opposition here (which, let’s be honest, not many people read this thing yet), I made a special point of calling both my senators this morning. Why? Because they both, rather to my horror and shock, support PIPA (the Senate bill). Now, I have to admit I’m skeptical about whether calling one’s senator or congressman or state representative actually makes much difference still in this day and age, but you know, if I’ve learned one thing in life, if my dad (whose birthday is today!) gave me one piece of advice that was absolutely unquestionably good, it was this: If you don’t ask, the answer’s, “No!” If you speak up, you might not be heard, but if you don’t speak up, you certainly will not.
Ultimately, I oppose both of these bills because they protect the wrong thing. Intellectual property does not actually need to be protected any more strongly than it currently is. It certainly doesn’t need to be protected by giving Big Media or the government authority to tell Google to yank down links that someone doesn’t like. Piracy is not what’s killing Big Media. Lack of creativity, and refusal to adapt to new technology, is.
What needs protecting — what always needs protecting — is freedom of expression. The Founders knew it, before the telegraph (let alone the Internet), which is why it tops the Bill of Rights. In fact, while Congress is explicitly given powers to regulate commerce (albeit, in theory, only interstate commerce), it is explicitly forbidden to regulate speech, or the mechanisms by which speech is expressed.
Ultimately, these are bad bills, being driven by Big Media deep pockets who see their relevance dwindling and are striking out like any cornered animal in a blind panic. If these either of these bills become law, and is upheld against the inevitable court challenges, the Internet will essentially have been sold to the likes of Rupert Murdoch.
Call your senators, call your representatives. Lift up your voices!