The Stop Online Piracy Act

If you’ve not heard of #SOPA yet, you likely will today. As of right now, it’s only something that techies and internet crusaders seem to be aware of. Like many of the scariest laws of the last decade, you should name your legislation something that sounds really good, but in the end does the exact opposite of what the name implies. The US PATRIOT ACT  and the Canadian Safe Streets and Communities Act are perfect examples of this. Like the US Patriot Act, it’s easiest to pass draconian legislation through when citizens are distracted and afraid, using their fear against them. My speculation is today’s public outcry will have the bills tabled… until there’s some ’emergency’ where they can be rammed through without proper public debate.

The latest attack is on the internet as we know it, and it’s entitled the Stop Online Piracy Act. While this sounds good simply by the name, if you read it, it’s scary. It allows American private sector organizations to effectively control the global internet. They could turn your organization’s website off, if they wanted to. There’s a lot more to it, which you should read about and understand for yourself. It’s so scary, that many of the internet’s most popular websites have declared today a “blackout day”, to give you an idea of what the internet can and will be like should this legislation pass. As of writing this, Wikipedia, Google, XKCD, boingboing, reddit, oatmeal, craigslist USA, the Whitehouse and dozens of others have at least taken an official anti SOPA stance, if their site isn’t blacked out altogether for Jan 18th, 2012.

The organizations that support SOPA are American, and rely on legacy and outdated policies and legislation around copyright and intellectual property. Instead of effectively working with technology and technologists, and their users, to make the world better, they insist on controlling it with SOPA, a virtual weapon. This is like trying to ban CDs if you’re a company that makes 8 tracks. This entire industry will be completely different in 10 years, and SOPA will be an embarrassment to all involved at that time, even more so than it is now.