So…I find myself in a bit of a pickle. As you may or may not have heard, several websites are protesting SOPA and PIPA (more SOPA than PIPA, but both, really) by going dark for today. The most prominent among these is Wikipedia which, I am sure, has caused quite a tizzy in the school report writing age group.
I support the protest. I support the derailing of these two bills. They are, in my opinion, vague and overreaching in the worst possible way. Worse, they do not even truly address what they claim they are dedicated to. Instead, they enable the few, the powerful, to limit access to the internet. As others have pointed out, when you are a democracy adopting the approach of China to policing the internet, you have made a tremendous misstep somewhere along the way.
The problem, for me, is that the whole purpose of The January Project is a story a day all month. This is not a staid, stable site like Wikipedia for whom going dark means making a point, creating nuisance, and can do so without violating the very theme of the site. For me, however, that’s not an option.
So I am following the lead of several who are in my position—in particular web cartoonists have seemed to embrace this approach—and taking a moment to point out how this site has the potential not to exist in a post-SOPA world.
I use copyrighted material to “inspire” the works here. There is currently nothing illegal or immoral about that. But certain readings of SOPA could interpret the use of the songs that are referenced and linked here as over the line. If one group decides they do not like what I’m doing, it is problematic. You know how quick some corporations are to find copyright infringements, yes? The internet is littered with cease and desist letters about it. If, some day, an exec decides this site desires one? Poof, away the site goes. Or, at the least, disappears off search engines everywhere. Is it likely to happen here? No. That’s a pretty far reaching interpretation of the law. On the other hand, I’m sure most of us did not expect that Minnesota moms who downloaded a small amount of music for free would face fines that far and away outstripped the actual value of the digital content they had acquired.
So, no, the site, frankly, does not have the kind of traffic to warrant the attention that would bring about the scenario above. However, the potential exists. I don’t want an internet like that. I hope you do not either.
Please reach out to your congressmen and women and the President and let them know this is a bad law that should not pass. We “trusted” that NDAA would surely be stopped somewhere along the way and now it is law. Let’s not make the same mistake here.