Later today, the US House Judiciary Committee has a hearing on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a draconian bill that can potentially kill the internet as we know it. The bill, which has a bipartisan group of sponsors, will enable the censoring of entire websites like YouTube and Facebook even if only a handful number of infringing content is found. It essentially eliminates the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyrights Act) safe harbor provisions, and puts any website that accepts user generated content at significant risk. This includes blogs that accept comments, social networking websites like Facebook, social media websites like YouTube, and social news websites like Reddit. For a lowdown on the danger that SOPA possess to the internet as a whole check out the video embedded below or head over to EFF.org.
Unsurprisingly, SOPA is beginning to create a furore on the internet. The web-giants that stand to lose the most if SOPA becomes a reality, have publicly denounced the bill. Google, Facebook, Mozilla, Yahoo, AOL, eBay, Twitter, and Zynga voiced their concerns in an open letter addressed to the US House Judiciary Committee.
We are concerned that these measures pose a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job-creation, as well as to our Nation’s cybersecurity. We cannot support these bills as written and ask that you consider more targeted ways to combat foreign roguewebsites dedicated to copyright infringement and trademark counterfeiting, while preserving the innovation and dynamism that has made the Internet such an important driver of economic growth and job creation.
Several international civil and human rights organizations including the Centre for Internet and Society in India and the Church of Sweden have also expressed their concern in another open letter.
Other significant efforts to organize a grass roots movement are:
Mozilla: The browser maker is attempting to educate its US users about the pitfalls of SOPA by rotating a link to its anti-SOPA campaign page on Firefox’s home page (about:home).
Reddit: Reddit, which relies entirely on user generated content, is one of the companies that will be in jeopardy if the proposed bill is passed. Besides changing its logo, Reddit has put up an announcement to encourage netizens to get involved.
Sendwrite: Sendwrite collected messages from over 3000 netizens and will be mailing them to the concerned representatives for free.
DuckDuckGo: Earlier today, DDG changed its logo and lent support to the Sendwrite campaign.
BoingBoing: The popular blog has changed its logo, in addition to asking readers to write to the Congress.
The SOPA is a disingenuous bill that capitulates to the demands of the entertainment industry. It’s a misguided effort that will do little to stop piracy. Those that wish to steal will always find a way. However, the bill will stifle innovation, and hurt the little guys – startups and work from home ventures. SOPA will allow websites to be blocked even before a case is heard. Even more importantly, how many people will have the time or ability to wrestle it out in front of a judge? SOPA is a draconian law that can devastate the internet, disrupt industries, and ruin the lives of millions across the world. The odds are heavily stacked against the activists. Four out of five witnesses that are set to testify in front of the Judiciary Committee are supporters of the bill. The entertainment industry is determined to muscle this bill through. The only way out is to let the representatives know where you stand.