January 21, 2012
Big business brought SOPA and PIPA to Washington, and our big, passionate online community brought ’em down.
In Friday’s New York Times article, “After an online Firestorm, Congress shelves antipiracy bills”, John Weisman writes, “The bills were lobbied for and pushed hard by Hollywood Studios, the recording industry, book publishing, and even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as a way to fight rampant piracy online”
But the online communities put up a massive protest. Sites like Wikipedia, Tumblr, Google and many others took a stand against SOPA and PIPA, putting up petitions on the websites, and providing explanations of the bills and implications to the online community. If the bills had passed, we’d no longer be able to talk about and show our favorite movie scenes on our blogs, my daughters would no longer be able to share and enjoy movie spoofs and fan fiction online, I wouldn’t be able to talk about the NYT and HBR on my blog, or show screenshots of favorite websites. In short, our freedom of speech online would be in jeopardy.
Big companies pushed hard to get these bills introduced. James Allworth and Maxwell Wessel on the HBR blog, say it like this: “SOPA and PIPA are prime examples of big companies trying to do everything they can to stop new competitors from innovating. They’re also examples of how lobbying in the United States has become one of the most effective ways of limiting this sort of competition.”
Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, would have us believe that PIPA and SOPA are here to protect us. Indeed, Reid says that it would protect thousands of Americans from losing their jobs.
In Weisman’s NYT article, Leahy is quoted as saying:
“More time will pass with jobs lost and economies hurt by foreign criminals who are stealing American intellectual property and selling it back to American consumers. The day will come when the senators who forced this move will look back and realize they made a knee-jerk reaction to a monumental problem,” he added. “Somewhere in China today, in Russia today, and in many other countries that do not respect American intellectual property, criminals who do nothing but peddle in counterfeit products and stolen American content are smugly watching how the United States Senate decided it was not even worth debating how to stop the overseas criminals from draining our economy.”
Righhht. That’s why we have so many unemployed people in the U.S. Not because the economy is hosed, and companies are downsizing or not hiring or closing. It sort of reminds me of the post- 9.11 concept that we should deprive Americans of their civil liberties in order to protect us from those who would deprive us of our civil liberties. Got a problem with that? I do. So did 14 million other americans, who contacted their congressmen, signed online petitions, and made their opinions known about the ill-fated bills.
Others have questioned whether the web blackouts of big profile companies like Google and Wikipedia can really be defined as activism. Who cares? Let’s just say it got our attention. It got 14 million Americans taking action to make their voices heard.
Our teenagers and college students see online freedom now as an integral part of their freedom of speech. For them, online censorship would quell creativity, communications, and opinions. The censorship that SOPA and PIPA would cause would hurt them, NOT protect them, nor necessarily protect the big businesses that support it. It is not about saving jobs. It is about censorship. And we cannot allow it.