Getting serious about SOPA – what librarians need to do

SOPA 2011
Original image thanks to Christopher Dombres and Creative Commons licensing.

I oppose SOPA unequivocally; it’s vague, it’s anti-free-speech, and it won’t solve the problem it’s designed to combat. One of the things that is tricky about SOPA–the legislation moving through Congress that threatens to enact stiff penalties for online piracy–is the number of things you need to understand to even understand what it does. I’m very good with computers and I had to spend sometime getting my head around it. I suspect my legislators may not even understand what it means to start messing around with DNS files to essentially take a website “off the internet” if it’s found [through a not-very-confidence-inspiring process] to be hosting infringing content. The website I work for hosts almost no content but links to a lot of things and we could be mistakenly shut down for linking to people who host “illegal” content.

So, I think we need to do a few things: understand how this bill is supposed to work, be clear in our opposition to it as a profession, work with other people to inform and educate others so that people can make their own informed choices. Here is a short list of links to get you started.

I feel that we as a profession need to be understanding this legislation and the mechanisms that it is threatening to dismantle or undermine. When big media companies who already enjoy tremendous market dominance and access to legislators and platforms for distributing their message decide they have their minds set on something, it’s important to balance the playing field.

12 Responses to “Getting serious about SOPA – what librarians need to do”

  1. Justin Grimes Says:

    In addition to educating ourselves and others we should also remember to write/call our congressperson and show others how they can inform Congress of their opinion. Everyone that cares about this issue or similar issues should always write or call their local congressperson. Informing Congress of our opinion is a civic responsibility. Educating folks as to how to find out who their local congress person is and how to best contact them is a useful skill to promote.

    That being said I would also like to mention PopVox and OpenCongress as two wonderful tools that help citizens get better informed and get their voices heard.

    SOPA on PopVox
    SOPA on OpenCongress

  2. Jimmy the Geek Says:

    Thanks for the mention, Jessamyn! This is too important a topic to ignore, not just for libraries & librarians, but for the entire nation.

  3. Librarian Linda Says:

    This is a scary piece of legislation because of its very vagueness. Should it pass, people will be caught in its web without even knowing about it. Just how the heck are we supposed to know what else might be stored on sites we link to? On the other hand, every time some asinine piece of legislation passes or some new form of DRM is created the technological geniuses find a way around it and share it with all of us. Corporate greed gets beat in the end. Somehow I don’t see this stopping the big-time pirates in China and other places like that.

  4. SOPA: A Call to Action for Librarians — The Digital Shift Says:

    [...] her Monday blog post, West wrote: I oppose SOPA unequivocally; it’s vague, it’s anti-free-speech, and it won’t [...]

  5. The Concerned Librarian’s Guide to the 2012 ALA Midwinter Exhibit Hall « Agnostic, Maybe Says:

    [...] suggest doing some research and coming up with some talking points and questions you want to ask. Jessamyn West has a great post about SOPA and libraries which includes links to other resources. Plagiarism Today [...]

  6. Swiss Army Librarian » SOPA and Protect-IP Links :: Brian Herzog Says:

    [...] Jessamyn's post on [...]

  7. Ran Says:

    You should have included a look into the belly of the beast, Floyd Abram’s letter to the Committee on the Judicary explaining the constitutionality of SOPA,

  8. Great Graphics « The Deviant Librarian Says:

    [...] by Christopher Dombres‘ found on Jessamyn West’s in her recent post Getting serious about SOPA – what librarians need to do. It depicts the anger we should all be feeling about bills like this. West’s post give much [...]

  9. Totoro, SOPA, and My Weekend Project « Librarian in a Banana Suit Says:

    [...] in 2012, we’re at new crossroads for intellectual property.  The new proposed SOPA legislation freaks me out because it would set a new precedent to make it impossible for amateurs — [...]

  10. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) | Aileen M. J. Marshall, MA, MLIS Says:

    [...] serious about SOPA – what librarians need to do (text via Laura Crossett [...]

  11. Infobib » SOPA/PIPA: Das Web wird dunkel / Code of Ethics Says:

    [...] bei Netzpolitik. Weitere streikende Seiten sind auf gesammelt. Zum Beispiel,, Librarian in [...]

  12. SOPA/PIPA « librarynovice Says:

    [...] debate as to why librarians should be against copyright ‘protection’ in this instance : Jessamyn West gives a good breakdown of what the bill is about and what librarians should do, and Hack Library [...]