The SOPA Blackout

A lot of people still don’t understand what the big deal is. The media is painting many of the websites that participated in the Blackout as “Pawns” and “Sites that promote Piracy and Illegal Downloads”. That’s not that case at all!

Internet users and websites aren’t against cracking down on digital theft, they are against giving up their freedom of speech and allowing the government to impose the kind of restrictions that are currently in places like China and the Middle East that severely censor what information is available to their citizens. In an article on the LA TIMES website (Read it here), Chinese bloggers express their opinions not only of the blackout but of the freedoms that we have that they lack. Take a look and then ask yourself, “Do I really want to live in a country that has THAT much control over what I am allowed to see, know or even say?” The problem with SOPA and PIPA is the loss of freedom. Under it’s current wording, I could face legal action including jail time for what I’ve just written, including the link back to the LA TIMES. I could have my website taken down and my accounts frozen or deleted. I could be shut down for trying to share information with my readers.

Here’s another scenario: Lets say I created a cute lil bunny character as an online comic strip with intentions to sell t-shirts and eventually toys. I start off with nothing but my wits, paintshop, Cafe Press and/or Zazzle and my own website to feature the comics. I put a couple of years into developing the idea and suddenly, shortly after launching the campaign, some big time toy manufacturer decides that it’s “infringing on their intellectual property” because they have their own bunny toy they are about to launch and decided to use comics as part of their PR campaign. I wake up one morning and my website is gone. My webhosting service has been forced to close my account and all my affiliate and other potential income-making sites have been seized, frozen or closed as well. I’m virtually banned and blocked from trying to promote my homegrown idea because someone with a bigger bank account than me decided to make use of the vague wording in SOPA/PIPA.

While I’m not trying to sell anything illegal, just my own inspiration, my own “intellectual property”, where would someone like me, the startup, the nobody who decided to make use of the wonders of the internet to try to make something of my ideas, get the financial and legal resources to fight something like that?

What happens when one network in your area decides to start blocking content that competes with it’s own content using the same vague language and loopholes in the current version of SOPA/PIPA?

We aren’t criminals. We are all pirates and hackers. We are just people trying to live the American Dream.

Before you start talking around the coffee machine at work about the “pawns” who participated in the Blackout, maybe you should learn a little bit more about the “unintended” consequences of letting these bills pass unchallenged.

While the voting has been delayed, the fight isn’t over yet. Learn more about SOPA, PIPA and other attempts at censoring the internet by doing your own search or check these links:

Also, check out this great explanation from TED:

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