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Friday, December 30, 2011

Hitler, John Boehner And Pirates

"Name Prince Harry's last three Halloween costumes."

Some Johnny Carson humor (for those of you over the age of 35).

If you use the internet, you need to be aware of SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act.  It's currently being debated in the House of Representatives.  It passed the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month, and is expected to pass the House with strong support within the next couple of months.

SOPA will essentially bring online censorship to a level seen currently in China or Iran.  That isn't an exaggeration.  The day to day online experience as you know it will cease to exist.

Let me give you an example.  Here is a video of my daughter dancing our living room last night:

In the background of the video, 'Across the Universe' was playing.  It was originally recorded by The Beatles, but in this case, was being sung by Rufus Wainwright.

If SOPA passes, Sony Music, the label that owns the rights to The Beatles catalogue, could approach YouTube calling for the removal of the video.  All it would take would be an email.  YouTube would be forced to remove it.  Also, by embedding the video on this post, they could, if they desired, send an email to Go Daddy, the company hosting my website, claiming copyright infringement.  Under the articles of SOPA, Go Daddy would be forced to shut down my website.  Completely wipe it from existence.

Not because of a court order from a judge.  Not due to a notice from the F.B.I. or any local law enforcement.  But from a single email message from someone claiming they hold a copyright on material I am displaying on my website.  They do not need to show any proof of ownership.  I do not have the opportunity to remove the material in question.  'The Twitch Online' simply ceases to exist.  Years of work for nothing.  No record that it was even there to begin with.

How does this effect you?

Think about it.  The sites you visit every day - YouTube, Facebook, Google and Wikipedia, just to name a few.  All of them will either disappear or change in such a way that they will become practically unrecognizable.

And, in the end, is this new legislation really going to stop anyone from downloading a shitty CD in order to avoid paying $13.99 for it at Target.  If people have the motivation to pirate (lack of selection/price), they're going to find a way to do so.

Another casualty of SOPA will be the internet meme.  One of my personal favorites is the "Hitler finds out about _____".  If SOPA is enacted, that too will be gone.  The clip is taken from the 2004 German film 'Downfall'.  The video, while extremely funny, is surprisingly accurate and educational.

So, what can you do about this.  Get involved.  Contact your Congressman.  You can go to right now to be directed to the offices of your local representative.  At the site, you can also sign a petition being sent to the state department, and send an email to Congress asking that SOPA not pass.  So far, more than 780,000 people have done so.

If this bill would have passed a decade ago, think about how different your life would have been.  If this bill passes in 2012, think about how different the internet will be for your children.  The internet was never intended to be policed to such a degree.  If the U.S. government can tell us what we can and can't say, watch or listen to online, what's next?

Was George Orwell just off by 30 years?