If you don’t follow tech news very closely, it’s likely you’ve heard the term “SOPA,” but you may not know exactly to what it refers.
You could be forgiven- in the barrage of politics-related news that crosses our news feeds each day- for missing this innocuous-sounding but potentially disastrous bit of legislation that is, without exaggeration, threatening the very fabric of the internet you know and love and stalk your exes with every day. But the anti-SOPA chorus got another loud and respected voice behind it this week, with an easy to understand (and share) piece by Mythbusters star Adam Savage.
Savage breaks down the real threat behind the Stop Online Piracy Act, also known as SOPA, and another bit of legislation, known as the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA.) In Savage’s wonderfully concise piece, he breaks down why we should fear and fight SOPA wholeheartedly by the second paragraph. If you’ve ever been served with a baseless DCMA takedown notice, you’ll appreciate even more why Savage’s warnings are so scary. He says:
Make no mistake: These bills aren’t simply unconstitutional, they are anticonstitutional. They would allow for the wholesale elimination of entire websites, domain names, and chunks of the DNS (the underlying structure of the whole Internet), based on nothing more than the “good faith” assertion by a single party that the website is infringing on a copyright of the complainant. The accused doesn’t even have to be aware that the complaint has been made… I’m not kidding.
Savage, who notes that the proposal would sound preposterous in fiction despite its sadly-real status, points out that similar, existing legislation (the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, or DMCA) has been used by non-copyright owners to remove content from sites like YouTube simply because the content ran contrary to their own personal agendas- despite the fact these individuals held no claim to the copyright of the material. (Kind of like that episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit when DA Cabot orders Elliot and Liv to illegally search an apartment, knowing the defendant couldn’t legally object to the search because someone else’s civil rights were violated.)
When the DMCA laws were passed thirteen years ago, the internet was a tiny acorn compared to the oak tree it is now. We had no idea how this particular innovation would shape our lives- how many of you have found your job, your spouse, your car, your home or just countless excellent friends on its various haunts, hangouts and networks? Unless you’re willing to suffer a watered down and possibly useless version more often associated with totalitarian regimes, Savage pointed out, you should do everything within your power to oppose SOPA and PIPA- and reject entertainment industry propaganda (a “truth annotated” version is viewable below) willing to trade a few potential bucks in potential revenue for the single most important innovation of our lifetimes.