Thursday, January 12, 2012

SOPA Explained (sort of)

If you read many blogs or follow any blogger types on twitter or are just a fan of the internet, then you may have heard some rumblings about something called "SOPA". That stands for "Stop Online Piracy Act". The name sounds fantastic. I work for a photographer who has to deal with piracy. Ending it would make life easier. After all, are we all against internet theft? Of course we are. But wait!
When was the last time our government came up with a simple direct answer to a problem with no unintended bad consequences? Yeah. That is kind of what I figured. So, I went digging for information. It wasn't easy finding an even handed article explaining what SOPA is. This one at CNET was the best I could find. It is at least the clearest one I have read.
I read the whole thing and gleaned a few things out of it, and then I asked Rocky what the rest of it meant. He started on a list of "simple" ways that he could get around it all. I understood none of what he said.
This is what it boils down to. If you read the article and understand it all then you probably know ways around each and every road block they want to throw at you. If you read the article, your eyes kind of glaze over, and you are pretty sure that some of those words have been made up to confuse you, then the internet as you know it will end, or at least get a lot more complicated. In addition to that, there is wording in this that not only encourages your internet provider to track your usage, it requires them to monitor it. Because it is so broad in the wording, one person could post a YouTube clip on Facebook that is not licensed and not only would that person get shut down, but YouTube and Facebook as a whole could get shut down. People who support the bill reply with, "They wouldn't do that. It is an extreme example to scare people. To that I say, yes it is an extreme example meant to scare, but that doesn't mean it isn't true. The federal government will be given the legal authority to do that. Whether or not they exercise that power is not the point. The point is that instead of stopping piracy, this bill will become the first big step in United States internet censorship.
I think it is important to mention that this is not a Republican or Democrat thing. This is one of the most bipartisan bills on the floor right now. It is also contested by both sides. I encourage you to read the article I linked to. Hunt for what you understand and judge for yourself.
Next Wednesday several websites will be going dark in protest of the bill. Don't panic! They will be back Thursday.

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