As you may have noticed, several sites have “gone dark” (Reddit, Wikipedia), or put up some kind of splash screen or informational graphic about the internet censorship bills SOPA and PIPA in the House and Senate, respectively. We briefly considered going dark ourselves, but as a political site, decided that wasn’t the best course of action.

However, we would like to give you some information about the bills, and some actions you can take to oppose them.

First, amazingly enough CNN Money has a pretty good summary of the two bills, in layman’s terms, up on their site. If you are completely unfamiliar with the issue, that would be an excellent place to start. If you want to watch a great discussion of the bill, it was covered this past weekend on Up with Chris Hayes, and included some very self-interested opinions from a supporter of the legislation (NBC Universal VP Richard Cotton) and an opponent (Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian).

My opinion is that this bill is entirely the wrong approach to solving copyright issues. It makes community sites liable for content posted by users, and the risk runs as high as having their domain eliminated from the internet. In essence, it is remarkably similar to the Chinese approach to controlling internet content: if it is disagreeable to those in power, block it. Yes, that is an appeal to your lizard brain. SOPA/PIPA’s approach is perhaps a little more focused, but at its core it is exactly the same approach. It should also be noted that many of the opponents to SOPA/PIPA are IP holders themselves; authors, software producers, etc. So this is not an “anti-IP” position, it’s objecting to the particular solution to the problem. Microsoft, for example, has had lots of problems with people illegally copying their software, and they’ve taken steps to address that problem with a technological solution, not a legal one. They are opposed to SOPA/PIPA.

So, what to do? The simplest step – the one you have zero excuse not to do – is to sign Google’s petition. Once that is done, you can contact your Senators and Representative to express your feelings on this. Only two members of Ohio’s delegation have taken a public position (that I know of) on this issue: Senator Brown, and Representative Chabot. Brown (sadly, IMO) is co-sponsoring PIPA, and Chabot is co-sponsoring SOPA. Both are on Twitter (@SenSherrodBrown / @RepSteveChabot) – feel free to send tweets their way – and, of course, you can contact them via their websites (Brown / Chabot). Even if your representative in the House hasn’t expressed an opinion yet, you should consider contacting them. We’ve already seen signs that the public outcry against SOPA is having an effect, so don’t think your voice doesn’t matter. And don’t forget about Rob Portman. The White House has already come out strongly against SOPA/PIPA.

  • Dear Senator Brown,In 2006 I turned 18 shortly before the general election. I was away at college on voting day, but with bitter memories of being unable to vote for John Kerry in 2004, I made requesting a mail in ballot a top priority. I am still extremely proud of the vote that I cast for you, and have never second guessed my decision. However, I am extremely concerned, and perplexed, by your support of PIPA. The proposed legislation is regressive in the extreme and a threat to fundamental rights of people to express themselves online. The internet has been a factor in major social change in countries around the world. Countries in which social expression is stifled and political speech is controlled with an iron fist have policies that greatly resemble PIPA/SOPA. This bill may be being sold as a measure to protect copyright, but what it will do in reality is dismantle the internet as we know it. We cannot afford to step back toward authoritarianism, which is precisely what this law is. I have great respect for you, and I deeply appreciate your impassioned voice for working people in the Senate. I will continue to appreciate the work you do, and be proud that Ohio has a scrappy Senator who is not afraid of a fight, but if you continue to support this bill, I will be deeply disappointed. Sincerely,Camilo Villa

  • Anonymous

    I think a lot of legislators are scrambling to oppose these pieces of legislation once they have seen all the opposition.  The Sandusky Register has quotes from Marcy Kaptur and Bob Latta opposing it and a new statement from Senator Brown’s office about wanting to find “middle ground”:

    I must say I am dismayed with Sherrod for his position on PIPA.

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