Tuesday, January 17, 2012

News: January 18 Will Be National We R St00p1d Day

Don't ask me any questions outside of my normal expertise tomorrow, because Wikipedia is going to black out its English-language sites to protest the SOPA/PIPA bills working their way through Congress right now.

SOPA and PIPA (one is going through the House and the other through the Senate; if each passed their house they would have to be reconciled and then signed by President Obama, who has said he would not veto, to become law) would, according to pretty much all of the major Internet technology experts, break the Internet as we know it, requiring Internet service providers to blacklist websites accused (not legally convicted) of copyright infringement, and it could easily be abused beyond its prima facie purpose of restricting copyright infringement. The laws are technologically, constitutionally, commercially, and fundamentally dangerous and flawed, and could break the Internet not just philosophically, but technically.

Look, I respect copyright holders' rights. However, the main bill sponsors are the big media companies who still haven't figured out a way to deliver the content consumers want and, in the vast majority of cases, are willing to pay for if it could be delivered in a technically user-friendly, reliable, and affordable way. And the movie studios and music companies haven't figured out how to do that. These companies are literally acting like Luddites; trying to smash the technology they can't control, which they blame (in this case, wrongly) for lost revenues, by trying to stifle innovation since they can't find a business model that keeps up.

Plus, to me, the proposed government-maintained blacklist smacks of hypocrisy. We've seen revolutions in places like Egypt where the government responded by trying to block the Internet, and where our government said, and I'm quoting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton here, "For the United States, the choice is clear. On the spectrum of internet freedom, we place ourselves on the side of openness." It becomes much more difficult to condemn the Great Firewall of China when our own country starts altering basic Internet addressing and routing to block sites.

Now is a good time for Americans who are concerned about protecting the innovation and freedom of the Internet as we know it to let your elected officials know that you are concerned about SOPA and PIPA. An easy way to do so is by using the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Action Center.

I will now get off my non-partisan political soapbox and return this blog to its regularly-scheduled barrage of lolcats and bad knitting puns.

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