The early headlines focused on who WASN’T totally in the protest, like anyone expected Amazon or Facebook (or Google, for that matter) to actually shut down business for the day.
But I think those stories actually had the opposite effect, because they reminded people of the possibility that these giants – who opposed SOPA and PIPA as fervently as the sites that did shut down – could have closed up for a day. Reminding people just how important this free Internet has become to our lives.
To be brief: The Internet does not yet have a body of law protecting the wide-open freedom of expression it has represented to now. There are no laws and only a few precedents that may or may not stand in court in future. The US created the Internet and has been its biggest backer up to now. So if we start restricting it (and people in power always want to control any potential rival for power), a lot of other countries will be all too happy to follow our lead and we all lose this incredible outlet, before it’s even had a chance to show its full potential.
Look at Arab Spring and the way Facebook has complicated all our lives (for good and ill) – could any of us have imagined such a world twenty years ago? It’s too soon to start cutting this thing down to size, because we don’t know what size that is yet.
I’m a content provider who hopes to (someday) make a real living off my copyrights. So I believe in copyright protection (though there’s a real discussion to be had about the details and the boundaries of fair use). Nonetheless, these bills are just bad legislation.
They make social media sites libel for the content their users put up, going way beyond existing court precedent. They allow corporations and government to restrict access to websites that have been accused of copyright infringement before the accusations have even been proved. That in itself is enough for me – due process is the minimal standard for law and these bills fail that test.
So yesterday was a big day, with big effect. Lots of votes changed yesterday in Congress. Today, it’s time to nail down the coffin lid. There’s a petition here -please sign it. It urges President Obama (who already noted his concerns with the bills earlier in the week) to veto either bill if it passes. With yesterday’s changes of heart on the part of cowardly politicians of both parties (thank heavens cowardice cuts both ways), there aren’t enough votes to over-ride a veto. So the President could drive a stake through the heart of this beast once and for all. Please invest a moment of your time to help make this happen.
Let’s keep the one resource regular people have that scares Rupert Murdoch, Barack Obama, Newt Gingrich and Hosni Mubarak (though maybe not Chuck Shumer – nothing scares Chuck Shumer!).