My regular readers will be shocked to see my blog in black but there’s an important reason for that. Today Jane Wells made the Anti-SOPA announcement millions of WordPress.com bloggers have been waiting to hear. WordPress.com is joining, Reddit.com, Wikipedia.org, Boing Boing, Mozilla, and Google.com in the protest against Stop Online Piracy Act(SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) which are being discussed in Congress.
These bills (S. 968, PIPA; and H.R. 3261, SOPA) seek to compel American Internet Service Providers to fundamentally alter the way their connected customers access the Domain Name System. However, the language is too broad/vague and can be applied to censor-critical, whistle-blowing websites as well as provide restrictions on site-linking and reduce freedom of expression.
According to statements and letters of support on the U.S. House of Representatives’ website the list of organizations supporting the two bills includes music, film and professional sports associations, cable networks, television stations and pharmaceutical organizations.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, this bill would cost $47 million tax dollars a year — that’s for a fix that won’t work, disrupts the internet, stifles innovation, shuts out diverse voices, and censors the internet. This bill is bad for creativity and does not protect your rights.
It’s my opinion that those who create works of value need protection but I believe the likely SOPA/PIPA side-effects are worse than the problems the legislation aims to correct. If signed into law, SOPA would allow companies claiming their content is being pirated to file complaints in court. Then the court would have the power to require Internet service providers to cut off service to offending sites. Depending on who makes the request, the court order could include barring online advertising networks and payment facilitators, such as PayPal, from doing business with the allegedly infringing website, barring search engines from linking to such sites, and requiring Internet service providers to block access to such sites. If passed the law would result in small companies having hire legal teams to fight complaints that may or may not be legitimate.
Many sites plan to go completely dark on January 18th. Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Twitter, are not participating in the blackout but have expressed their opposition to SOPA. Google will not go dark, but plans to note its opposition by sticking a protest link on its home page.
WordPress bloggers are not a small group. More than 60 million people use WordPress — it’s said to power about 15% of the web. We can make an impact, and you can be an agent of change. Jane Wells WordPress.com has published a post stating that the site is blacking out Freshly Pressed for the day as well as enabling all its bloggers to protest SOPA and PIPA. Go to Stop American Censorship for more information.
While joining the protest in any manner is bound to make one feel good, who will see your blackout ribbon aside from your visitors and what impact will it have on them, given they aren’t Senators and don’t have a vote? It seems that bloggers who are also Americans ought to be focusing more on phoning their to U.S. Senators who have the vote and less on code for ribbons, etc.