No SOPA. No PIPA.
Today, Wednesday, on the Internet, the English Wikipedia is dark because while its articles are neutral, its existence is not. Wikimedia Foundation board member Kat Walsh states the case:
We depend on a legal infrastructure that makes it possible for us to operate. And we depend on a legal infrastructure that also allows other sites to host user-contributed material, both information and expression. For the most part, Wikimedia projects are organizing and summarizing and collecting the world’s knowledge. We’re putting it in context, and showing people how to make to sense of it.
But that knowledge has to be published somewhere for anyone to find and use it. Where it can be censored without due process, it hurts the speaker, the public, and Wikimedia. Where you can only speak if you have sufficient resources to fight legal challenges, or, if your views are pre-approved by someone who does, the same narrow set of ideas already popular will continue to be all anyone has meaningful access to.
The Obama administration supports the House bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and its Senate parallel, the Protect IP act (PIPA). In a power grab like cap and trade, the ban on incandescent light bulbs, and Obamacare, the bills would set up a framework that would allow the government to occupy sites on the Internet.
According to Popular Mechanics, Mythbuster Adam Savage said, "These bills aren’t simply unconstitutional, they are anticonstitutional. They would allow for the wholesale elimination of entire websites, domain names, and chunks of the DNS (the underlying structure of the whole Internet), based on nothing more than the ‘good faith’ assertion by a single party that the website is infringing on a copyright of the complainant. The accused doesn’t even have to be aware that the complaint has been made."
Rep. Richard Hanna said he is not happy with SOPA and is monitoring the measure. Rep. William Owens co-sponsored SOPA and should reconsider his support. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand should disavow the PIPA bill.
If there is a problem with piracy, it should be addressed with a well-tailored, well-crafted piece of legislation, not one that succeeding legislators will have to attempt to tear down and rebuild, if they can, after the damage has been done.
The potential for damage is real. In 2008, the John McCain campaign woke up one morning to find that its web videos and advertisements had been removed from YouTube. Despite the "Fair Use Doctrine" allowed by copyright law, a television network "disappeared" the content for its own reasons and without timely recourse for McCain’s campaign.
In history, when governments became oppressive, it was often churches, not under their governments’ control, that retained the liberty to speak out. Like freedom of religion, the independence of the Internet is precious and should not be surrendered lightly. There are other bills in the hopper that help stop Internet piracy more sensibly. It would be foolish to undermine the Internet with such poor bills and dangerous to support candidates who do not reject them.