SOPA’s the end of the world as we know it

By now, you’ve heard about businesses like Boing Boing, Reddit or Wikipedia protesting the SOPA and PIPA laws by taking down their sites starting tonight at midnight, for 24 hours.

Many other sites are planning to go dark, in protest of these proposed bills. Or, if not dark altogether, many websites are planning to post a banner at the top of their page in protest, to alert people of this issue.

But, what exactly is the issue? Looking beyond all the government hyperbole and protester hype, it’s fairly simple. The Government wants to stop illegal piracy on the internet, especially things like copyright-protected movies and music. Sounds reasonable, right? The problem with that, however well-intentioned, is that the SOPA and PIPA bills are not well constructed. While I am all for protecting the rights of a movie studio to copyright its work, I am not in favor of giving a government agency (or any agency, for that matter) unrestricted control over making decisions as to how the internet is (and is not) to be used. This bill is a way for the government to censor the internet.

Consider this: most people think of the internet as a way to check Facebook, look up driving directions, check out some cool sites, whatever (OK, so the actual most-searched-terms have nothing to do with any of that, but this is a family show here, so we shall move on now).

The internet is WAY more than any of us normally imagine it to be. The internet is commerce. It’s business. It makes money. Not just for the Hollywood studios who put out movies but for the people who sell books, baseball cards, car parts, specialty foods – you name it, you can buy it on the internet. This is the way business is done and the US economy cannot be expected to grow and compete on a global scale if it is being held back by government censorship and restrictions.

That’s the problem: if SOPA and/or PIPA go through, there is suddenly no restriction on what the government can deem as ‘not suitable’. Further, it will only add to the litigious nature of our society. Imagine a scenario where “Blue Chairs R Us” doesn’t like their competitor “We Sell Blue Chairs”. Just file a complaint over copyright infringement with the SOPA board and – boom – “We Sell Blue Chairs” is out of business. The economy would be thrown for a loop and the unemployment rate would go right along with it.

This is a potentially dangerous set of laws that are being considered. But, don’t take my word for it. The issues are vast and deep. Do yourself a favor and get informed. But do it fast! Wikipedia will be gone in less than 12 hours.

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