We will remember the 18 January as the day the Internet partially blackout-ed. Indeed, it would see that many have woken up to the worrying fate that awaits us if bills such as the proposed SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Today) and PIPA (Protect IP Pact) are ever passed.
I have been annoying fellow co-workers, fiends, family and Twitter followers for the last couple of weeks about these bills, and explaining them and their worrying impact with great difficulty. I am glad to say that it seems to have become a trendy topic, but please don't mistake these bills as the latest Bieber Fever. They represent so much more than a hip and trendy topic to discuss over casual drinks or fancy dinners. These bills, if passed, could potentially change forever our FREE and OPEN Internet as we love and know it today.
Firstly, these two bills - SOPA in the United States House of Representatives and PIPA in the US Senate - are very poorly drafted and written by peoople with an average age of 61 and "who fundamentally misunderstand how the web works". Secondly, they will not achieve the goal they have been created for - i.e. to tackle copyright infringements - and will do more harm than good, with innocent online users primarily effect. Thirdly, it will set a dangerous precedent that will potentially put an end to the creative side of our open and free Internet. A creative side that has us uploading and sharing billions of videos worldwide, sharing information and breaking news of events worldwide, creating new political voices, discovering new talent daily ... Fourthly, it will hold accountable all website owners for any contributed material which will result in the COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY shutting down and the blocking of ENTIRE SITES.
If on the one hand, this is not a 'David vs. Goliath' battle but more of a 'Goliath vs. Goliath' battle ( i.e. the music studios and record labels vs. Massive user generated sites such as Youtube, Google, Facebook...) Indeed, let's not kid ourselves in thinking this is all about 'the greater good' as there is certainly an amount of commercial self-interest motivating both parties. On the other, it is much more complicated than this, and many other actors are involved and will be the harmed if these bills pass. Take Wikipedia and Reddit for example, neither have any financial self-interest at play (they don't sell adds or monetize traffic). Take the billions of blogs that have been created so far, all will be affected and could potential face darkness. Except this time it will not be to raise awareness like today, it won't even be your own doing and will be completely out of your hands!
As a blogger, someone who attracts readers by creating and sharing mostly original content on a daily basis and who has personally seen both my image rights and personal content violated, I am the first to say that our generation of media tools need more effective legislation. Especially when it comes to IPR (intellectual Property Rights) and tackling online piracy. Further more, "from the moment the Internet and websites arrived, a veritable Pandora’s box of opportunities have opened to every average Joe and Josephine in the world", why would we ever want to go back in time. Finally, Both bills attempt to tackle online piracy and copyright infringement respectively by actually infringing on our individual freedom of expression and our knowledge sharing. There is no doubt that these bills are a far cry from being an effective, let alone fair solution.
Neither are dead, contrary to what is being said, they are still a dangerous threat that we should never be faced with again. SOPA is still to be discussed early February and PIPA will possibly still be debated. Are you really ready to say goodbye to Tumblr, Reddit, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Wordpress, Blogger... These bills have expanded the meaning of infringement and copyright to the extent where sharing information would be a felony in itself!
If you feel concerned, and hopefully by now you do. Go learn a bit about these two ludicrous bills and then go and do what our generation does best and spread the word and the awareness. For a laugh, go check out Oatmeal's blackout page and Wikipedia's handy Q&A page.
p.s: In the spirit of copyright, I will thank by dad for the "Goliath vs. Goliath" metaphor :)