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.