IF YOU DON’T KNOW what Reddit.com is, maybe you haven’t been using the Internet right. Reddit saw 2.07 billion page views last month from 34,879,881 unique visitors. With that big of a chunk of the Internet pie, and many users claiming addiction to the site, there will be many a sad Redditor on January 18th when the site goes dark to raise awareness about SOPA.
From 8AM to 8PM EST, Reddit will post a page of information to educate its readers about two acts pending in the US Senate and the US Congress. January 18th is the day that the House Committee on Oversight and Reform will be hearing the testimony of “top cyber-security experts and technology job creators.” Reddit will showcase these hearings on the day.
SOPA is a bill that could break the Internet as we know it. If enacted, websites may be blocked from view, advertising revenue lost, and payments to webpages held indefinitely while complaints are looked into, all on the say-so of anyone who claims their copyrighted material is being used without permission.
SOPA stands for the Stop Online Piracy Act. Maybe you think there is a solid reason for this — that there should be more protections in place for copyright holders. The problem is that the bill allows for any website at any time to be banned or blocked in the US and even other countries based on the say-so of any “copyright holder.” This means that ISPs, sites, and the individuals tied to them will be punished preemptively. That is not the way the law is supposed to work.
There are many incidents of censorship that have already occurred. Consider the case of the Yes Men’s parody of the DC Chamber of Commerce’s website that claimed the Chamber had made an about-face and now supported the Kerry-Boxer climate bill and was ready to be sensible about climate change.
Though the Yes Men’s use of the images was most likely protected and legal as a parody, the Chamber of Commerce issued a Digital Millennium Copyright Act take-down demand notice to the site’s service provider, Hurricane Electric. The ISP caved, but there was no way for them to take down just the site, so they instead blacked out May First/People Link which hosted the Yes Men’s site in addition to 400 other unrelated sites.
SOPA would allow actions such as the Yes Men’s to be criminalized, opening up hosts, users, and uploaders of any content that could arguably be said to infringe on copyright to criminal prosecution, with penalties including years of jail time, thereby preventing free speech.
So before January 18th rolls around and your precious Reddit is taken away, do yourself a favor and inform yourself about what you can do to stop SOPA and its sister bill PIPA. It could be as simple as a few keystrokes to let your elected representative know what you think about the bill, or you could dig in and do some serious reading (check out the Learn More and Get Involved sections on the bottom of the page to get started).
One day without a single site is nothing compared to the havoc this bill would wreak on nearly every facet of the Internet if it’s passed.
Matador is WordPress based. See what WordPress has to say about SOPA here.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a terrific place to get started understanding how interconnected the Internet truly is and what free speech is threatened by this bill. Keep the Internet free.
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Editor-at-large, Kate Sedgwick, works from Buenos Aires where she organizes her live storytelling project, Second Story Buenos Aires. Read more about her than you might want to know at her blog YesThereIsSuchAThingAsAStupidQuestion.com, and follow her infrequent tweets @KateSedgwick.