Help Stop the Stop Online Piracy Act - tuesday 2011-11-15 2324 last modified 2011-11-15 2324
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Short version: write Representative Karen Bass if you live near me expressing your hope that she stops co-sponsoring this censorship bill and votes against it if it reaches the floor.

Every couple of years, content industries - music, movies - attempt to lobby their peculiar view of the world into law by introducing bills that would trade the freedoms of the Internet for their exclusive right to declare who is undercutting their bottom line, using the full backing of the US government to prop up their failing business models by criminalizing wide swaths of generally moral behavior.

This time, it's the Stop Online Piracy Act. Supposedly this bill is concerned with preventing sites operated outside of the US and directed at US customers from deriving any profit from their illegal distribution of copyrighted material. However, the powers it would grant the government are not in proportion to said nominal goal. Any site - any site, not just "foreign" ones - could have all of its payment processing cut off, all of its ad revenue shut down, be wholly removed from all search indices, and blocked at the domain name level by all service providers on the mere accusation of copyright infringement by a supposedly concerned party.

In other words, heavy-handed enforcement without any due process would become standard operating procedure by passage of this bill into law. This would clearly stifle all manner of social engagement and innovation through intimidation.

If you're not a legislative nerd, then just note that the bill is currently in a committee, not yet up for a vote. So if you care to, you still have an opportunity to weigh in with your representative. And if you live by me, you have some extra say in the matter: Democratic Representative Karen Bass is one of the co-sponsors of this bill. This means she is essentially signing on to vote in favor of it. That isn't really surprising; we live in the heart of the movie industry. But she should know that her job comes from the collective decision of her constituency, not the industry corporations that are lobbying for SOPA's passage. Please write to her and let her know she should withdraw her co-sponsorship and vote against this atrocious bill should it somehow come to the floor.

By the way, the Senate versions of this bill, the Protect-IP Act, is currently stopped thanks to a hold placed by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the congressmen who most consistently and capably demonstrates how well he understands a topic as complex as the intersection of law and the Internet. His decisions are consistent with preserving the net's fundamental philosophies so that it can keep operating for everybody's benefit. Nice job, Senator. Rep. Bass, I hope you're paying attention.

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