Contrary to the teachings of Barney, Mr. Rogers, Captain Kangaroo and the other TV figures who raised you before the Internet stepped in: sharing, as it turns out, actually ISN’T caring. In fact, you should probably be thrown in jail for it. At least, that’s what powerful Hollywood lobbyists (e.g., Disney, the primary agent of your moral upbringing) and the government are now saying as they, together, try to break the Internet. And we’re not talking Toontown jail, we’re talking don’t-drop-the-soap jail (I know; I asked).
That’s right, the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, a bill that was poised to make its way through U.S. House of Representatives to potentially become U.S. law, would have charged you with committing a FELONY for posting a copyrighted video or song online – this also includes uploading your terrible cover version on YouTube (which I wish you’d stop doing anyway, but that’s a whole ‘nother topic). And of course, if you’ve been paying any attention to the online conversation about SOPA and its butthole Senate cousin, the Protect IP Act, or PIPA, you know that this legislation isn’t just about sharing your FABulous rendition of “Single Ladies” or downloading Toy Story 3. It’s about censoring the entire fucking Internet, the same way they do in China.
SOPA and PIPA would have used DNS blocking – the same method of website censorship used by Iran, China and Syria – to take down any website with “infringing content,” or, in effect, to censor any content the government and powerful corporations don’t like. Copyright holders would be able to sue, and essentially, break, sites like Facebook and Gmail because their users posted or emailed some copyrighted song lyrics. Oh, my humps!
Fortunately, lawmakers agreed to shelve the anti-piracy bills after high-profile websites like Reddit and Wikipedia blacked out their content last week in protest (though you could easily bypass this by disabling Java script or using your smartphone, derr) and Google collected over 7 million signatures against it. (Oh, and in response to the FBI’s totally coincidental arrests of the founder and four members of filesharing website Megaupload for violating piracy laws last Thursday – begging the question of why we even need further anti-piracy legislation at all – hactivists Anonymous attacked the sites of various entities related to SOPA and PIPA, including the sites of the FBI, Department of Justice, RIAA, MPAA and others… bad ass.) On January 18th, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that a vote on PIPA would be indefinitely postponed, and on the 20th, Lamar S. Smith, the Republican Congressman who introduced SOPA, postponed the bill’s drafting “until there is a wider agreement on a solution.”
But it’s not over yet. The powers that be are determined to break the Internet in order to help Sony, Viacom and other corporations get richer, and with the overall goal, it would seem, to erode our First Amendment rights so that we may become more like that awesome country, North Korea. Without a free Internet, people can’t spread “dangerous ideas,” that have spurred pro-democracy movements like the Arab Spring uprisings that have helped citizens topple military dictatorships in Egypt and Libya (and which John McCain has charmingly referred to as “a virus”) and even our comparatively mild Occupy Wall Street movement. Heard of OPEN or ACTA? They’re the next SOPA and PIPA, and they’re here to fuck your Internet.
OPEN, the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act, was conveniently proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, the same day Wikipedia and others went black. OPEN would give the ITC, instead of the Justice Department, oversight to police the Internet, with a focus on foreign-based websites. OPEN is kind of like SOPA-lite in that it would apply only to sites that “willfully” promote copyright violation, such as a filesharing site, rather than social networking sites that weren’t neccessarily designed for filesharing. Congress is now expected to try to push this turd through in lieu of SOPA/PIPA.
ACTA is another animal altogether in that it is an international trade agreement that the US and other countries have already signed. The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is an agreement negotiated by a group of countries (39 in total, including the U.S., Canada, Japan and various EU countries). It BYPASSES parliaments, Congress, and international organizations to – you guessed it – censor the Internet and criminalize online activities in the name of copyright protection. ACTA can be best summed up by this scene from Robocop.