Today, some Internet sites carried out a silent protest. Wikipedia, Google, and Craigslist, along with many blog sites, went black to prepare Internet users for what they might be seeing more of in the future. SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) are being introduced to stop copyright infringement, especially in the instances of music, television, and movies. Now, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t claim to understand the finer details of this legislation, but from what I do understand it would essentially make web site owners responsible for all content on their site. Any copyright infringement on the site could cause the entire site to be blacked out for non-compliance with the new law. Can you imagine hopping onto Google only to find it blocked entirely or heavily censored? It appears that SOPA and PIPA are the equivalent of the government taking a big black pen and marking out entire chapters of information available online. With them enacted, our Internet becomes a censored text book.
Now, I do agree that copyright infringement runs rampantly on the Internet and needs to be stopped. I understand how it greatly decreases profits for those whose materials are being pirated. If I were a songwriter who made my living by selling my music and suddenly everyone could download it for free without my consent, I would be fairly unhappy. So, I wholeheartedly agree that something must be done to curtail if not entirely cease copyright infringement. I just think this current legislation, while it would be a quick fix, is a bit extreme.
Ten years ago when Joe was just an infant I got most of my news from the television. I used the Internet primarily for email and my desktop (yes…desktop) computer for writing my master’s thesis and our holiday letters replete with random cheesy clip art. Ten years ago, email was my lifeline. My hubby and I also watched movies on VHS tapes. Fast forward to today and I am lost without my iPhone, my digital video, and music playlists (not mix tapes). When I’m at the zoo with my kids and they have a question about the diet of the orangutan, I pull up Google on my smartphone and get them an answer in an instant. When 9/11 rolled around this year and my kids asked me what it was like on that day, I was able to find on You Tube the exact news footage I watched on that dreadful morning in 2001. These experiences, so commonplace today, might become a memory if this legislation passes. What good is all the technology we possess if we can’t use it to its fullest capacity? Why would we ever think it’s okay to limit people’s access to information?
If you want to see how life altering these Internet changes could be, try going one full day with any social media, Internet search engines, or blog sites. Don’t watch any video clips on You Tube, either. I simply thought about that today and got the shakes. The Internet has opened up the world for me. I’m not prepared to let that go. Are you?
Please let your congressional representative know how you feel.