If you grew up as a 1970's child in America, you probably remember School House Rocks. The innovative SHR folks brought us those cute little animated educational interjections with super catchy songs meant to fill our impressionable harvest gold and bell-bottomed minds with something constructive, in between Josie and the Pussycats, Land of the Lost, and Shazam. It must have worked, because almost forty years later, I can still recall the words to one, "I'm just a bill. Yes, I'm only a bill. And I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill..." Now you remember, don't you? You can thank me later for getting that stuck in your brain for the rest of the day.
It is the end of that catchy little diddy that has me concerned currently, "...But I know I'll be a law some day. At least I hope and pray that I will, but today I am still just a bill." There is legislation currently being considered in Washington that is not cute and that I hope and pray will NOT become a bill and thus law in our great country. The official name of the two bills in question are H.R. 3261 The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its counterpart in the Senate, S. 968 Protect IP Act (PIPA). Both are meant to target online piracy and theft of intellectual property by foreign websites and protect copyrighted material. Sounds like a good idea, right? I believe the intent of the legislation is meant well. It is the enforcement methods, that if made law, have me concerned.
If enacted, the legislation would give broad, unfettered rights to the American federal government to shut down any site that it simply feels either directly or indirectly fits it's description of copyright infringement. To add insult to injury, the two bills also propose, according to Wikipedia today, to "put the burden on website owners to police user-contributed material and call for the unnecessary blocking of entire sites." In other words, it would force the big dog websites and browsers to do the dirty work and be the bad guy. So for example, if I unknowingly add a link to my blog to a site that happens to have a link to an illegal streaming video, Blogger could possibly be forced to shut down my blog and there's nothing Blogger or I can do about it. I realize this example sounds far fetched, but under the current wording of these two bills, it is feasible. No matter how you try to perfume it up to cover the stink, this whole thing reeks of censorship and censorship in any form is simply not acceptable. Not Today. Not Ever. And to allow this legislation to pass would be a slap in the face to all those who have fought and died for our freedoms, especially our freedom of speech. There is a reason we crossed the pond way back when. Remember?
Don't get me wrong. I will always and forever be in favor of legislation that specifically targets evil-doers online, especially those who use the Internet to take advantage of children, the elderly, those who use it as a tool to bully, and yes those who choose to steal someone elses work illegally. I just don't believe the way to go about it is to punish the entire class for what a few troublemakers sitting in the back are guilty of (even as a child, I never understood that philosophy). I do not want to write sentences because Johnny threw a spit ball. Make Johnny write. I want to go out and play.
Our freedoms in America are not something we can just sit back and take for granted as those freedoms will always be under attack one way or another. Sometimes those attacks will be by foreign enemies and sometimes, unfortunately, they will be initiated by those right here on American soil who are influenced more by Hollywood, power, elections, and big bucks than by our Constitution and the freedoms it guarantees. America is still the greatest country on earth and I am thankful for all the rights I enjoy because of my citizenship however, along with great freedom comes great responsibility. It is our responsibility to let Congress know how we feel.
You can follow the path of these two bills here SOPA and PIPA