Today, Kosher on a Budget will be a lot quieter than normal. I will be joining with many of your favorite websites to protest a bill that would effectively censor the Internet.
In the House, that bill is known as SOPA or the Stop Online Piracy Act. In the Senate it is called PIPA – the Protect IP Act.
Stopping piracy and protecting the Internet sound like good things. In fact, the bill came about as a way to stop people from illegally downloading products of the entertainment industry – like music, movies and TV shows.
And the bill was actually aimed at “foreign entities” – i.e. websites based outside of the United States.
But the problem is that SOPA goes far beyond that mandate. It actually gives copyright holders the right to block any domain name – even ones in the United States – that they deem capable of infringing their copyright. (Well, first they would give the advertisers on those sites 5 days to cut off all advertising. Then they’d shut the site down.)
Here’s an example most of us can probably relate to: Imagine someone posts a copyrighted image on their Facebook wall. That image – and even the possibility that someone could post it – could get the Facebook domain name blocked. Forever. Not the individual account. All of Facebook.
There is no doubt that the far-reaching arm of SOPA could change the face of the Internet as we know it. That’s why major social networking sites, forums, websites and blogs are going silent today. It’s but a taste of what life could be like under SOPA.
If you want to read more about SOPA, I found this article from the Washington Post especially accessible. As far as opinion pieces go, this one from CNET and this one from Life Hacker were strong but balanced.
Although momentum has slowed on both of these bills, their fate is far from sealed. If you, too, are opposed to SOPA / PIPA, I encourage you to take a moment to call or email your Member of Congress. Here is a sample letter you can use.
I’ll be back later this afternoon with that Budgeting Basics post I promised last week. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts on SOPA in the comments section.