Wednesday, January 18, 2012

An Open Letter Against SOPA and PIPA

Dear Friends and Family,
Most of you know that I am not one to engage in mass emails. They're unproductive, annoying, and rarely get paid attention to. There is, however, something going on right now that has frightening implications for all of us. If you are reading this on the 18th, please immediately open up a new tab (or tabs) and navigate to and/or google. For those of you who have received this email later, please use this link:
Notice anything?
This is not a virus, this is a part of a planned, national demonstration, orchestrated over the past several weeks.
There is legislation being pushed through Congress RIGHT NOW that gives large corporations the power to censor the internet.
I'll let that sink in a bit.
SOPA and PIPA are two pieces of law that are purported to "protect our intellectual property rights" by allowing the blocking of a DNS listing in the US, essentially rendering people blind to your site even if they try to access it directly. All that is required is that someone, somewhere, claim that there is "infringing material" on your site and the ENTIRE site may be taken down. No trial. No judge. No jury. Just the executioner. This means that a photo you used from a newspaper, a logo, a video from you tube, even a COMMENT from an OUTSIDER on your page - gone.
What's truly scary is that ALL of this is done without even going to trial - you have to go to court to get what you already own BACK from them. Since they don't have to prove anything, they can (and have already shown that they will) use this power to attack anyone who says anything they dislike.
Free speech itself is being attacked,
Now many of you may not have heard of this law before today. This may be true DESPITE the fact that it has been a contentious, major piece of legislation. The reason for this is that EVERY major media outlet is, in fact, owned by the corporations who are rushing to push this bill through congress. The RIAA and MPAA are large media conglomerates who operate on "behalf" of the record and motion picture industry. Musicians, writers, artists, etc. are famously cheated by these businesses, even though they lobby "for their benefit." These are corporations that create NOTHING, but profit off of selling the works of others.
While they claim Billions of dollars in annual losses due to "piracy," every independent study (including the GAO) has shown that these figures are blatant lies and are deliberately misleading. If these industries are hurting so much, why have they been experiencing growth year after year in a down economy, even though every other sector in America is suffering? They are simply fighting tooth and nail to preserve their own profit margins, even at the consequence of free speech. EVERY senator and congressman who has expressed suport for SOPA and PIPA has received subtantial donations by these two corporations.
Initial, the only people who were even reporting on this story were independent online news sites, many of whom could be shut down at the whim of larger corporations for weeks at a time if this law passes. In the UK, a BRITISH citizen and student - Richard O'Dwyer - is being extradited to the US because of LINKING to infringing content. That isn't even a crime, neither in the US nor the UK, and they are abolishing his rights due to political pressure being exerted by the copyright industry. Again, you may not have heard of this because it is the MASS MEDIA who is out for his blood. The technology sector scares the old guard, because they don't know how to deal with it, and they can't really control it. So they are fighting tooth and nail to limit, restrict, or criminalize your ability to speak freely online. All of this, despite the fact that the technology sector has been the LARGEST driver of economic growth, job creation, and innovation in America (and the world) for the past decade!
While I am a major proponent of open market economics, there is a distinct difference between allowing companies to compete in a market and having them compete in Congress. Large corporations are free to attack their own consumers unimpeded, because there is no "demonstrable" harm when they make culture scarce. Free culture and knowledge is the foundation of ALL our freedoms - without them, Life has no purpose, Liberty no meaning, and Happiness unattainable no matter the method of Pursuit. Lawsuits and licensing over non-existent "intellectual property" cost the US economy BILLIONS of dollars a year, as people prefer to sue rather than actually WORK for a living. I don't know about you, but I certainly don't expect my great grandkids to be paid royalties 75 years AFTER MY DEATH for the work I do today. It's unjust, it's irresponsible, it's inequitable, and it's unsustainable. The internet has shown us that mankind is bursting with creativity, all we require is an audience. Don't let them turn us all into mimes.
I urge each and every one of you to contact your representatives in congress and express your unequivocal opposition to SOPA and PIPA. The restriction of Free Speech on behalf of corporations and special interest groups is repugnant and dangerous. It is up to us to stop it.

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