SOPA and PIPA Legislation
Warning. This is a personal rant
There are two bills making their way through our Congress that are hotly debated: SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act). The bills are written to fight online trafficking of copyrighted wares. The issue with these bills is the seemingly broad reach it proposes and a “censor-first, ask questions later” attitude. For example, a family video with background music (that is not public domain) can put the site-owner at risk for hosting copyrighted work – meaning that YouTube, Facebook, Google or any other site (including yours) can be shut down and their bank accounts frozen.
It’s no wonder that Internet-based companies such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter are crying foul about this legislation. It forces site owners to aggressively censor all user-submitted data, or else go dark. This also means that each site-owner must filter and approve nearly all content before it can be live on their servers. Imagine using Facebook where there is a 2-week wait for your Facebook-approved photos and statuses to go live and must be reviewed for copyright infringements. Many enthusiast forums could cease operations simply because of the overhead, and sites like Reddit and Digg will have to use a heavy hand for user-submitted content. Alternatively, many of these sites could just potentially escape the law by going overseas, and taking their jobs and revenue with them.
The process by which a site goes dark even seems one-sided. A copyright holder files a complaint with the U.S. Attorney office. Upon a successful investigation, the U.S. Attorney gets a court-order, and the site-owners must comply. There is no court case, there is no rebuttal or chance to remove the content. This alone should be the most frightening aspect of this legislation – the self-censorship to take down the offending content and removal of the trial and due process.
In my opinion, everyone has the right to protect their copyrighted information, but this legislation is very extreme and jeopardizes the future of the Internet.
Besides, who wants to live in a world without cute kitten videos?