Friday, January 20, 2012

a war we have to win

On the off chance that even just one person who may read this is not up to speed with the implications of SOPA and PIPA, and has not been exposed to the clip above; if you are that person then please spend 15mins at some point to watch this video shot during the week at the TED offices.

Clay Shirky explains the real effects and the threat of the proposed legislation.

Of course, the details of the shutting down - and arrest of key staff - of file sharing service Megaupload, by US agents earlier today gives a clear indication of why this is an international issue, not simply US legislation.

'None of the defendants are American citizens, and the site was mainly operated from Hong Kong. But the U.S. government was able to go after them — without SOPA or PIPA in place — because Megaupload used Internet hosting service providers located in Virginia, processed payments using U.S.-based Paypal, and worked with an online advertiser based in California.'

There's also an opinion piece written by Shirky in The Guardian to read from which the below is an excerpt.

'...the law would apply not just to actual copyright violations (the nominal goal of the law) but to any site that was "facilitating the activities" of copyright infringement, a term nowhere defined but vague enough to include mentioning the existence of such sites, which is enough to make them findable. Like a fast-spreading virus, the proposed censorship moves outwards from the domain name system, to include any source of public web content in the US.

If the phrase "any source of public web content" seems like a dry detail, substitute the name of your favourite web publisher: you. The US is, for the moment at least, the world's premier host of sites that support user-generated material – Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Wikipedia, Reddit, on and on. And under the proposed law, every one of those sites would have to take steps to prevent publishers, which is to say people, which is to say you, from helping anyone find out about the existence of sites the US media firms don't like. And since the law doesn't require a private company to provide any advance notice before the blacklisting, these sites will be forced to spy on their users, in advance and all the time, to make sure you are not talking about sites media firms in the US do not want you to talk about, even if you are not a US citizen.

Sopa and Pipa are, quite simply, an attempt to create a privatised form of international censorship, and because the censorship would have to be nearly total to be effective, they would have a profound and chilling effect on any form of public conversation among ordinary citizens. It would render the internet a place where the only content to be seen or heard or read is produced by professionals, with the rest of use relegated to the role of pure consumption.'

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