UPDATE: I wrote a follow-up piece to this protest that might be worth your time if you care about this issue.
As many people know (especially in the circles that read this blog), today is the official “blackout day” for many sites in protest of two proposed bills before Congress: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). They are each supposed to be attempts to address the problems of piracy and copyright infringement on the web.
First, let’s be clear. Most of the people opposing these bills are not trying to protect piracy and illegal activities. These are problems, to be sure. Those opposing these bills are merely saying that there are much better and much more specific ways to do this. The bills, as currently written are so broad in their scope and definitions, that most any website, and most every individual who currently casually uses the internet will at some point be guilty of the felonies spoken to in this bill. I am not exaggerating. I am not talking in extremes to scare people. (It almost makes one think the bills were intentionally written that way. They are also weighed down with a lot of political corruption.)
This is serious. Why?
Supporters of the bill are painting those that oppose it as merely reacting to the general idea of the bills rather than the “substance” of them. This is false. You may have heard that that the sponsors of the bill recently struck the “DNS blocking” provisions from the bills. This is not even close to the scariest part of the legislation. It is the very substance of it that is the scariest. I would really beg each of you to read the following few articles to get educated on the specifics of these bills, what’s wrong with them, and what to do something about it.
- Why SOPA is dangerous | Mashable (a walk-through the specific legalize and implications of SOPA)
- Why We’ve Censored Wired.com | Wired.com (a very general reasoning behind being against the bills)
- A SOPA/PIPA Blackout Explainer | Wired.com (a very specific and easy-to-understand explanation of the bills and why they’re harmful)
- House takes Senate’s bad Internet censorship bill tries making it worse | ars technica
- Other Resources: Watch a Video, See an Infographic, Read quotes from experts
What to do?
Write your Representatives in Congress
If you go to the Wikipedia (English) homepage, for just today, you’ll see it’s blacked out in protest of the bills. If you input your zip code, you can find your representatives in Congress and convenient links to email or call them. Below, you will find the email I wrote to my Representatives and Senators (my senators’ emails are currently down due to heavy traffic. I’m hoping that’s a good sign). Feel free to use it as a template if you like. If you get this when Wikipedia’s tool is not available, you can also find your representatives at the House website and the Senate website. Please act!
I am writing this email concerning the [PIPA (in the Senate) OR SOPA (in the House)] bill currently being considered in Congress. I am writing in full opposition to it, hoping that you might work to keep this bill from becoming law. I understand that it will be brought up for amendments later this month, but from what I have read of the bill itself, and commentary on it, it seems to be so poorly written that it is beyond repair. I would ask that a new law be constructed from the ground up with the feedback of both Media and Technology companies to better address the issues of piracy and copyright infringement. There are better ways to do this. This is not it.
Perhaps you already have no intention of voting for this bill should it ever come to a vote on the floor. As your constituent, I would humbly ask that you not merely hold this opinion (if you do) but that you might actively work against this bill coming to the floor at all.
I’ve never in my life written an email or made a call to a politician for the sake of legislation. This is largely because I have always been skeptical that it would make a difference–that the lobbyists and corporations would always drown out my voice. But with the well-being of of our liberty (yes, even liberty to do things that may offend or bother us) at stake, I pray that you and your fellow representatives show me that there is still integrity in our system, that people’s voices can still be heard, and that our right to freely gather and express (whether on the streets or on the internet) still matter to those sitting in the halls of D.C.
Thank you for your time and consideration in these efforts.