HOUSTON, December 29, 2011 — If you go into Google and search the term “SOPA”, (ignore Google’s attempt to correct this term with “soap”), you will find people from all over the political spectrum giving their opinions on why this bill, currently before Congress, is unconstitutional. It’s also in violation of many parts of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a monumental piece of legislation that has shaped the course of the Internet and the institution of online “safe spaces” since 1998. The bill’s supporters will argue that SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) is vital to protect the rights of the thousands of media providers around the world.
At its core, SOPA would create an assortment of ways for our government to voluntarily shut down sites that actually are or have users that are even suspected of infringing on professional property. SOPA is essentially the sequel to the Protect IP Act of 2011, as it obtains the same motives; but SOPA will go much further than this act as the government would have the power to exterminate entire domains for just one violation, even if that violation was unintentional or essentially indirect.
Rep. Lamar Smith, who is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is the primary sponsor of this bill; his office created SOPA with media providers in mind, such as television networks, record labels, and movie studios, to protect them from people who illegally download their copyrighted property.
As a former music promoter and current writer with a book just out, I can understand concerns for piracy. But this is not the way to handle it. Empowering the government with ultimate censorship of our freedoms is yet just another step in the direction of Orwell’s prophetic novel, 1984.
Stop Online Piracy Act is censorship at its finest. If SOPA were to become law, there is a long list of reasons why it would threaten the functioning, freedom, and economic potential of the Internet. Here are a few ways SOPA would affect all of us if passed:
- By limiting the legal system, this bill will put the government on a fast-track to effectively killing websites
- By creating conflicts between Domain Name System (DNS) servers, it would make Internet users more vulnerable to hackers, identity theft, and cyber-attacks
- By sanctioning government interference with the Internet, it would make the Internet downright censored, identical to that of China and Syria
Many corporations are opposed to this bill: Google, American Express, Discover, eBay, and Twitter, to name just a few. Oddly enough, many IP companies are in support of this bill, but none larger than GoDaddy. Officially, GoDaddy has reversed its support of SOPA, but this is only because it felt an immediate backlash. Many people and companies have dropped their domains from GoDaddy, registering them with competitors. Some heavy hitters have also dropped GoDaddy because of its support of SOPA, including Wikipedia.
GoDaddy, along with other IP companies supporting this bill, will undoubtedly feel the impact today. Namecheap.com has declared December 29, 2011 to be Move Your Domain Day. People who move their domain to Namecheap today will be able to do so below cost, using the coupon code “Sopasucks.” In addition, for every domain change, Namecheap is going to donate a dollar to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an international non-profit digital rights advocacy and legal organization based in the United States.
Richard Kirkendall, CEO of Namecheap, released this statement: “While we at Namecheap firmly believe in intellectual property rights, SOPA is like detonating a nuclear bomb on the Internet when only a surgical strike is necessary. This legislation has the potential to harm the way everyone uses the Internet and to undermine the system itself. At Namecheap, we believe having a free and open Internet is the only option that will continue the legacy of innovation and openness that stands for everything we all value in our modern society.”
It’s no surprise really that GoDaddy supported this bill, as it has attempted to drop websites before because of complaints. The founder of weebly.com, David Rusenko, recently released an article discussing the near travesty he suffered because of GoDaddy when it called him one day informing him that it had dropped his site because of one company’s complaint; the grievance was that this company had been complained about on Rusenko’s site.
Once Mr. Rusenko informed GoDaddy that “Weebly served millions of websites — most of them US small businesses — and asked if he had already changed the DNS entries. He [Go Daddy rep] said that he had, but that it wouldn’t hit the system for another 10 minutes or so, and he could quickly revert it. Unbelievable — crisis narrowly averted.”
The underlining issue, however, is not GoDaddy, or the other companies that support SOPA, but the government itself. Overall, SOPA is going to be more harmful than helpful. So the question is: is any bill worth the risk of damaging free speech and the functioning of the Internet? The answer is absolutely not!
We must use the space around us to speak out, loudly, against SOPA. To contact Congress and express your opinion click here.
Read more about SOPA and PIPA here:
Carter Lee is the author of, When Jonathan Cried for Me, President of Innovative Social Dynamics LLC., and is a professional speaker. To learn more about his book visit http://www.whenjonathancriedforme.com . For a personal appearance or speaking engagement visit http://www.innovativesocialdynamics.com
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