Ok, so I know this isn’t about travel and I probably wouldn’t even mention it, but it is rather important. For any that are unaware (and where have you been, certainly not on the Internet) there are two bills being considered for legislation. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is the version in the House while the Protect IP Act (PIPA) is the Senate version.
On the surface, protecting intellectual property from those who might want to capitalize upon that property illegally seems like a no-brainer. Of course, no one wants to have other people make money off of their hard work, or even to simply use it without their permission. If all these bills did was better define intellectual property, as it is commonly encountered online, and codify how law enforcement should handle internet related intellectual property theft, I, along with most of the internet, would likely support it. Unfortunately, these bills go way too far.
The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) – an organization dedicated to defending your rights in the digital world – has a decent summary of why these bills are so bad. If these bills were to pass, web sites could be responsible for content that their users create. Sites like YouTube and Facebook could be shut down entirely if someone posted copyrighted material. Even this little site, since comments are open to the public, could be shut down for someone posting something inappropriate. Ultimately, it’s just dumb legislation. Bills you can easily tell are the result of large companies lining the pockets of our legislators. And, not unsurprisingly, despite the loud public outcry against this legislation, our Congress is still pursuing it.
Sadly, one of my own representatives, Lamar Alexander, is one of the co-sponsors of PIPA. So, even though I’ve used the forms provided by the EFF to write to my Senator to express my discontent with this bill, I doubt it will have much effect on him. Regardless, please urge your representatives to kill these bills and do away with the threat they represent to the very foundation of the Internet.