As I’m sure you noticed, yesterday Wikipedia and thousands of other websites chose to blackout as part of a protest against SOPA (the “Stop Online Piracy Act”) and PIPA (the “Protect Intellectual Property Act”). These horrible pieces of legislation would allow censorship on a level that would put the U.S. on par with Iran, North Korea, and China.
Essentially, in the name of “stopping online piracy,” these acts make it legal to censor any and all websites that are reported to illegally host copyrighted material without due process. And keep in mind that we’re not just talking about just censoring the image, text, or video that is allegedly breaking copyright law, but rather the whole damn site. All of it. You can read more about SOPA and PIPA at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
On a personal level, this would be detrimental to Journey into Awesome as I rely heavily on copyrighted images. Of course this doesn’t make me a pirate, as the images on my site are being used for academic purposes and for criticism. It’s fair use and totally legal. However, under SOPA and PIPA, that won’t matter. The minute some company decides that they don’t like the manner in which I’ve used their image, text, or video, I would be shut down.
Unfortunately, Marvel Entertainment, LLC and Time Warner (DC Comics’ parent company) are supporting SOPA. Although I would like applaud Omi Press for taking a stand against the bill. Looks like it’s time to go out and buy a couple Omi books, everybody.
It’s not just my site that’s at risk here guys; it’s your freedom of speech. It’s nearly all your favorite sites. Under SOPA and PIPA, as soon as someone uploads a copyrighted video on to YouTube, the whole site could be blocked from every internet user in the United States. All it takes is one person posting one copyrighted photo or a passage from their favorite book to Facebook or Twitter for the whole site to be censored.
The blackout yesterday helped. The SOPA vote has been delayed, but only until February. The cries of “SOPA is dead!” are greatly exaggerated. This (and future legislation of this nature) is still a dire threat to sites that engage in academic or critical analysis, and to free speech on the Internet at large. The Orwellian specter still looms. Wikipedia has the contact info for your U.S. Senators and Representative based on your zip code here. Keep contacting your representatives. Keep the fight going and keep the internet free.
Image courtesy of Guerretto