Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) – Censorship for the Internet

UPDATE 1:24 PM: It looks like SOPA is on hiatus until 2012, at least. Please read through and still contact your representatives about this law, just in case the committee vote still happens early next year. There’s also a campaign now to contact US senators to ensure they halt their version of the bill.

If I believed in conspiracy theories, I would be building a bomb shelter in my yard this weekend and moving into it. On the heels of the breakup of Occupy camps all over the country, we saw the National Defense Authorization Act get passed in the House and Senate, which includes provisions for jailing anyone without charge if they are suspected of being a terrorist. Now we have SOPA, which would enshrine into law some of the same types of censorship tools used by paragons of liberty such as the Chinese government.

Of course, this is America, and the reasoning behind this law isn’t about political speech, it’s about trying to enhance the profit of large American corporations. I can’t even tell which is worse: the idea of shredding the American Constitution over security fears (NDAA), or shredding it to improve the bottom line of some large corporations (SOPA).

Either way, it’s SHAMEFUL that our elected representatives are so out of touch with reality that they are spending their time on issues such as this. While the vast majority of Americans are struggling just to get by in these horrible times, Washington is cheerfully debating and voting for laws that are dismantling the very foundations of what this country was founded upon. They are spitting on the bodies of everyone who spilled their own blood to protect our way of life.

What’s wrong with SOPA? Here’s a good rundown, but basically one of things it does is force ISPs to add DNS filters to prevent people from accessing websites deemed to be distributing illegal content. Basically, everytime you go to an Internet address (such as haighworld.com), your request goes to a Domain Name Server, which translates that address into actual numeric address of the website. What this law would do is insert a filter into that step so that you would be prevented from every being able to get to any site that is deemed “illegal” under this law.

According to that story linked above, here are some countries currently using this technology to filter out unwanted sites: China, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Armenia, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Burma (Myanmar), Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. That’s some fantastic company we’re keeping.

While it sounds like stopping this is an uphill battle, we cannot give up just yet. Contact your representatives and let them know you think this is a bad idea.

Now I think this is a load of legislative nonsense, a huge waste of dollars creating laws and the infrastructure to support them in order to mollify a small elite of mega corporations complaining about going bankrupt due to piracy while they continue to post record profits. There are way better things we should be spending our energy on apart from appeasing a small group of political donors.

However, if we have to have a new law, then we should be debating OPEN: Online Protection & ENforcement of Digital Trade Act. It’s sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), and is designed to satisfy the anti-piracy requirements of SOPA without resorting to hamfisted censorship techniques. By the way, hat tip to Rep. Issa – most of the time when I see him speak on TV I want to throw something at it, but I applaud his strong, intelligent opposition to SOPA.

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