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.
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.