Blacking Out to Protest SOPA and PIPA


Censorship Causes Blindness

Tomorrow from 8am EST until 8pm EST, Smart Bitches will be joining Reddit, Wikipedia English, Cheezburger, Failblog, Regretsy, WordPress, Cakewrecks, BoingBoing, Tucows, MoveOn, DeviantArt, Mozilla, Twitpic, and many, many others by going dark to protest SOPA in the US House of Representatives, and PIPA in the US Senate, two bills that I feel threaten freedom of speech, privacy and internet development.

The purpose of the bills is to address and attempt to curb online piracy.  As written, the bills allow corporations and the US Government to block entire websites based on poorly-defined terms. In my opinion, the bills give too much power to those who have much to gain by overusing it, granted by politicians with too little understanding of what these bills mean. The FAQ by CNET explains in greater detail, as does the BBC.

On 16 January, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor promised that SOPA would not be brought to the floor, but PIPA, the Senate version, still progresses. You can read the entirety of PIPA online

PIPA is set for a test vote on 24 January. So on 18 January, I'm joining the blackout to protest, because the terms of PIPA threaten this site, and other sites that I use.

For me specifically, under PIPA, it would be my responsibility to check the provenance of every site I link to, making sure that that URL, or any other page at that domain, did not contain any content that was copyright protected or possibly pirated. If I did link to a site that, for example, contained a scanned copy of a Fabio-festooned book cover from 1993, I could be seen as encouraging piracy and could therefore be blocked, my finances could be frozen, and my domains could be confiscated. If I linked to a site that someone felt was infringing on copyright by including an excerpt of a book, I could be blocked, frozen and in a heap of trouble. The interpretations of PIPA are too broad for my comfort, and the penalties too severe.

Imagine this restriction in terms of Tumblr and Pinterest, where people share images over and over again, or YouTube.

What makes these pieces of legislation so bothersome and threatening to me is that, in my opinion, they hand over way too much power without defining what can and cannot be done with it.

I realize that the romance community online and off is very divided about piracy, publisher response and author reaction. I realize that people are threatened by piracy, personally and financially.

I do not think PIPA and SOPA are the correct response, and find them to be much too large a hammer, one that serves those who funded the development of the bill than any actual progress against the relative threat of piracy. They serve to hinder development more than they could ever stop piracy. 

So Smart Bitches will be going dark and joining the protest, and I'm hoping that PIPA does not pass. If you'd like to contact your senator, Mozilla has provided a directory here, and some helpful explanations as well

Categorized:

Ranty McRant

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Elise Logan says:

    Fantastic post.

    On the plus side, the President has said he’ll veto the legislation if it hits his desk. On the down side – the fact that it has even gained this much ground is troubling. Hopefully the visible and clear protest from actual people involved in the internet will rein in the over-reach in censorship going on here.

  2. 2

    Good job SB. Think I shall join you as well.

  3. 3
    Kindleaholic says:

    Piracy is a problem, but I agree with you that this is not the right answer. I don’t even think half of the congressmen/Senators even have the barest clue about what they are voting on, what the real implications could be.

    Also, I admit I am jaded and don’t think that the Congress is capable of fixing anything, only passing convoluted messes and yelling at each other.

  4. 4

    Great post! I think I’m going to join the black out – I can’t on my blog exactly since I committed to a book tour post. But I’ll find a way, even though I don’t live in the US.

    I agree 100% that laws like this aren’t the answer. It has been my long-held belief that people who discuss piracy have actually very little clue about what it is and how it actually works.

  5. 5

    Again today I’ve seen authors arguing in favor of SOPA. I know you’ve been working your butt off trying to convince people that this is bad, and I am one of the many who appreciate it. But could you try to get the word out, one last time, possibly with flashcards, exactly what will happen to ebook-only authors if this passes? Some are so fired up about the money they believe they’re losing to piracy that they’re willing to support this at the cost of their jobs. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

  6. 6
    Liz says:

    Bravo! You’re awesome.

  7. 7
    Tori says:

    I’d heard that Facebook and Google were also considering a blackout day in protest.  Has anyone else hear this?

  8. 8
    Killian says:

    Bravo Sarah!!

    Although, now I have no idea what I will do tomorrow, what with Reddit AND SBTB going down!

  9. 9
    Killian says:

    @Tori – I don’t know about Facebook (I highly doubt it), and the only thing I have heard about Google is they they will be putting an anti-SOPA/PIPA link on their page for a few hours (https://twitter.com/#!/CNETNew…

  10. 10
    delphia2000 says:

    I won’t be online tomorrow at all to do my part. And I’ll email my congresspeople today.

  11. 11
    Hannah says:

    The problem with SOPA and PIPA is the same problem with the Fair Use claus in the Copyright Act, the wording is too vague. Fair use should cover reviews/critiques, parody, and sampling, but I’ve read too many circumstances where that was not the case. The same will happen with SOPA and/or PIPA; they should be laws that will prevent theft, instead the wording is such that they can be used to attack sites that follow Copyright law under the Fair use claus, such as this beloved site. It’s infuriating to have this legislation gain ground when just a month ago the media and government were speaking out against censorship in China.

  12. 12
    Lil says:

    I am vehemently opposed to piracy. I am also vehemently opposed to loosely worded laws that permit all sorts of misuse.

    I can remember when the RICO statute was proposed. Senator Hubert Humphrey, among others, was concerned that it could be used against picketers and protesters, not just against organized crime. Senator Edward Kennedy assured Humphrey that would never happen. As we all know, RICO has been frequently used against anti-abortion protesters.

    In the same way, the proposed SOPA/PIPA legislation is far too vague.

    The law that seems most likely to operate here is the Law of Unintended Consequences.

  13. 13
    HollyY says:

    I contacted as many Senators as I could about this issue (starting with my own). Thanks for reminding me to let them know I’m NOT a happy camper.

  14. 14
    SB Sarah says:

    Google is going to put links on the main page, from what I have heard. Facebook will still be up.

  15. 15
    SB Sarah says:

    One of my senators (Menendez, NJ) is a co-sponsor of PIPA. It makes me tear my hair out. If I can stop coughing long enough to call them, I’ll be on the phone tomorrow with his office, and Lautenberg, too. I’m not a happy camper either.

  16. 16
    Jeffrey says:

    Dear SBs,

    Thank you, thank you, for doing your part. This is an issue for everyone who uses the Internet for business, information, and fun.

    Piracy is a problem. But anti-piracy laws should not come at the price of free speech and censorship.

    Here’s another website for information on tomorrow’s blackout:

    http://sopastrike.com/

  17. 17
    Rebecca says:

    Bravo, Sarah!  SOPA/PIPA is an outrage.  And I don’t trust the President’s veto.  He’s said he’d veto a few things he subsequently didn’t.

  18. 18
    Mistletoe_79 says:

    I am so glad the hubby and I put on our country’s uniform and renew our pledge to defend the country, its people, and the Constitution every day…just so that Congress goes and does the exact opposite. You can bet this vet is going to be emailing like crazy three special people representing (to various degrees of success) PA. I will have to look up hubby’s Congressmen/women here in CA, then go after them in email too.

  19. 19
    PickleChick says:

    I’m only one person, but in protest of the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate’s Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), I’ll be showing solidarity with sites like Wikipedia, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, Cheezburger, Reddit, WordPress, and many others and going black. I can understand the need to combat piracy, but what our government proposes is North Korea/China like control of the internet, and that’s just wrong. So I’ll be gone from Facebook from 12AM tonight until 12AM on Thursday….and I’m a Facebook Whore…..LOL

  20. 20
    Karenmc says:

    My Senator is Wyden, who put a hold on PIPA before the holidays. Good luck to everyone who has internet-illiterate senators and congress-critters. Let’s hope they understand exactly how wrong and anti-American these bills are.

  21. 21
    Copa says:

    I admittedly know very little of RICO, and only one case of it being used on Anti-Abortion protesters, so pardon my ignorance if it has been used in other ways towards the anti-abortion community but I believe it SHOULD be a crime to physically block the entrance to abortion clinics, and using the threat of violence to compel someone to do your bidding IS under the guidelines of RICO as it was decided that you could be engaged in racketeering without direct profit to yourself.

    I am all for protesting something you believe is morally wrong, but threatening and physically stopping others from participating in a legal action isn’t something I will get behind.

  22. 22
    Deb Stover says:

    Thank you. I thought I was the only one—so glad I’m not alone.  I have found myself the only author (member of RWA) who disagrees with the Op/Ed piece posted at The Hill <http: 198981-digital-thieves-are-stealing-from-me=”” blogs=”” congress-blog=”” technology=”” thehill.com=”“> (read the comments) on this issue. The proposed legislation is not intended to protect content creators, and will—as you indicated—provide a vehicle for government censorship. I’m glad you’ve taken a stand.  Brava!</http:>

  23. 23
    Patrice says:

    I actually used that phrase, “like throwing the baby out with the bathwater” yesterday to explain why these bills are not the answer. I’m not sure I convinced the lady but hopefully made her stop and think past the kneejerk reaction to stopping piracy with “draconian measures”. I was temped to foam at the mouth myself at that. I wanted to ask her to look up draconian. LOL

  24. 24
    Donna says:

    Firstly, let’s NEVER do that again. The SBTB withdrawl was awful!!
    What burns me is that they’ve had years, YEARS, to work with the tech industry to figure out how to protect their property, but run to the government to fix their problem. I know they’re working on it but it’s been more like shutting the barn door after the horse escapes. And they want the horse back, but they want someone else to do the work.
    Not to mention they’d be using the same technology that our government actively decries when used by the Chinese. IRONY! Does no one grasp irony anymore?

  25. 25
    Scrin says:

    I was watching the news last night, y’all. The bill lost a ton of support—evidently a lot of co-sponsors dropped.

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