I’ve posted about SOPA and PIPA before. It’s a pretty big deal, mostly due to the rather wide berth it gives rights-holders in censoring and redefining the flow of information on the web. This needs to be stopped, and the only way we can do that is by letting our elected representatives understand where we stand on the subject. Below, you will find a sample letter (and, in fact, the letter I sent to my congressmen).
But, keep in mind there is another evil. The rights-holders who are pushing this legislation and some new ICANN rules (about which you can read more on Adam Curry’s Blog) are really the target of our ire. While our elected officials should certainly not be pushed around by corporate lobbyists, we must also understand that they pay those lobbyists with the dollars we spend on their entertainment. We, as a people, have fought Big Tobacco, Big Oil, Big Medical, and now we need to add Big Entertainment to the fight.
We need tell them that it is NOT okay to push for a decrease in our freedoms. It is NOT okay for them to dictate national and international policy for the internet. What they’re trying to do is NOT okay. And we shouldn’t stand for it. Just keep that in mind as you consider SOPA, PIPA, and any other legislation proposing to do the same.
To whom it may concern:
Currently, under your watch, two bills are being considered which will be detrimental to the free Internet as we know it. One in your purview, one in the other half of congress. The bills are SOPA and the Protect IP Act. These bills mean to allow corporate and governmental censorship across the globe, based on the flimsiest of accusations and without judicial review. They must not be passed.
Understand, my objection lies not in the purported reason for the bills. Online theft and piracy have grown to ridiculous proportions, and the rights holders have a right to justice. I do not have a problem with that. However, many acts of atrocity have been leveled against mankind under the name of truth, of justice. And while SOPA and PIPA are no genocide or ethnic cleansing, they do pose a significant threat to the future of innovation, of the Internet, which the UN has declared a basic human right. How can you reasonably assert that the destruction of a global commodity, which enables global communication and cooperation to an extent unheard of before, is a fair and just way of dealing with an effective minority of misfits and misanthropes?
First, for such a law to be reasonable, it must learn from the mistakes of the DMCA. These bills do not. Under their provisions, there still exists no judicial review, the accused still stands guilty and punished before being sentenced, and that goes against our most sacred law: The US Constitution. Secondly, these bills give wide and far-reaching punitive powers to rights-holders, which can affect websites far outside of the (expansive) jurisdiction of the United States. The method outlined in these bills would change the backbone infrastructure of the entire internet: DNS records. These records are what tell your computer where a website is located. They translate that “google.com” into an IP address which is how computers tell other computers where they are. A bit oversimplified, but good enough. By altering these records, you threaten stability and efficiency of a global communications medium, which has enabled people world-wide to protest cruel and oppressive governments. Is endangering that means of communication worth the few dollars in sales you would protect for Warner Brothers?
Further, the method outlined is largely ineffective. While you may block access to a website by its name when you change the DNS records, that website is still entirely functional and reachable by its IP address anyway. So what good have you done, other than to make ever so slightly more difficult, but still entirely possible to navigate to an infringing website? All the while, opening up the internet to gross exploitation of these bills for corporations to shut down (even if temporarily) rivals and competitors. This isn’t justice for anyone; it’s a business strategy for media companies.
This country was founded by a group of people with a radical sense of individualism. Granted, many of the people wanting freedom from British rule had business interests in mind, and we cannot forget that, but they also believed in those rights for everyone else, including their competitors. These two bills, and their sponsors, are a shameful mark on the face of our country’s history, showing blatantly and obviously that we are now willing to kowtow to corporate money and interests, rather than being vigilant to protect the interests of the people. And in this case, the interests of the world itself.
You walk a dangerous precipice. This is a watershed moment for our future: do we uphold freedom and protect the greatest means of global community ever invented, or do we protect private interests and trust funds, the world and the internet be damned? We voted for you. We dislike SOPA and PIPA. We trust you do make the right choice and vote against SOPA and PIPA as they stand.
Thank you for your time.