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Why American Writers Must Care About SOPA

EFF Stop CensorshipThe US Congress has been trying to regulate the internet since the late 1990s. But since then there have been a seemingly unending attempts to impose one type of censorship or another. So far they’ve gone down to defeat.

The most recent is SOPA, whose title, the Stop Online Piracy Act, is, in my opinion, blatantly false advertising. (The senate version is PIPA – Protect IP Act.)

Under the guise of copyright protection the bill, if passed, would open the door to almost anyone being able to shut down your ability to block sites just because someone expresses a suspicion of copyright violation.



Okay, it doesn’t say exactly that, but according to the Electronic Freedom Foundation says, “That’s because there are vigilante provisions that grant them (payment processors) immunity for choking off a site if they have a “reasonable belief” that some portion of the site enables infringement.” It’s a complex bill.

EFF blames Hollywood, which makes a great headline. But it isn’t just Hollywood. Newer entertainment companies, who should know better, have also gotten into the act. According to ExtremeTech.com, Viacom’s general counsel Michael Fricklas said  “I don’t think there is a first amendment right to speak on a site that is engaged in pervasive copyright infringement (assuming that there are plenty of places to speak).”

The assumption of “plenty of places to speak” is a poor one and SOPA carefully avoids any judicial oversight and allows action on mere accusation. That’s contrary to much of what I understand are protections for all under our Constitution.



As annoying as it is to have content scrapers use my words without any compensation or even acknowledgement, allowing anyone who is even mildly annoyed with me to essentially shut down my site without some pretty good due process isn’t the solution. Giving me the ability to make unfounded accusations against, oh, say Fox News (how tempting) and have them treated as fact and acted upon is wrong.

Fortunately the Judiciary Committee has delayed a vote, probably due to pressure from people like us. But it will come up again.

I urge you to contact your congress people. Just enter your zip code at Congress.org and you’ll find out how easy this is to do. Tell them you vote and tell them you’re opposed to SOPA and PICA.

And if you’re curious about the technical aspects of SOPA passing check out How SOPA Could Actually Break The Internet.

How do you participate in politics?

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{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Carrie

    It’s a shame that politicians think that the public is foolish enough to believe they would accept that this bill was about piracy. It’s not. The piracy won’t stop. It’s like thinking that if the world gun ban went though that all the guns will go away. Those who are going to do illegal activity will still continue to do it.

    • Locks, etc. are mostly to discourage the impulse thief.

  • I don’t typically pay attention to politics anymore (the more things change, the more they stay the same) but I think I’ll put in an objection to this one. There is a growing discontent with the way lawmakers are handling technology. It’s going backward, not forward, and the Occupy movement is only the beginning of the civil unrest I think we’re going to see in this country.
    Elizabeth West recently posted..Favorite Movies to Watch at ChristmasMy Profile

  • Cindi

    Couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve let all my friends, family & fellow writers know about this and directed them to congress.org so they can let their representatives know that they are against these bills.

    • Good for you Cindi – I’ve done the same and will do it again when it comes out of committee.

  • Well, I’m really sorry to agree, you did pass lots of unsettling nonsense lately. 🙁
    So did we, of course – but then, we don’t influence global things so much…
    Helenee recently posted..Greek Christmas Traditions updated Tue Dec 20 2011 2:11 am ESTMy Profile

  • I’m in Canada, so I’m potentially exempt from this debate – though I’m ashamed to admit what discussion (if any) is being entertained in our political system. Scary stuff! (BTW – commentluv seems to not be working…)

    • Actually Ruth, if the US passes this nonsense, and we’ve been passing lots of nonsense recently, it will have a negative impact ’round the world because so much of the net is here… It’s all connected.

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