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’m usually not a huge fan of infographics. This one is a very bare-bones outline of what the key points are. Here’s a video that gives a similar explanation. This is a wordy but clear explanation of what DNS is and how it works. This video by Public Knowledge explains how the bill is moving through Congress. Here’s Stephen Colbert explaining some problems with SOPA in his humorous fashion, speaking with Johnathan Zittrain and Danny Goldberg.
- The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a very good document entitled How SOPA Affects Students, Educators, and Libraries. Here is a link to a letter from the Library Copyright Alliance expressing serious reservations about the current state of the bill. EFF’s Anti-SOPA Toolkit is a good bullet-pointed list of things you can do.
- If you use the Chrome browser you can use a plug-in like NO SOPA to see when you’re visiting a website run by a SOPA supporter. If you use Firefox, an add-on called DeSOPA has already been created that will allow the computer you are using to access the Internet to use other DNS servers that are outside of US control. I used something similar to this when I was traveling in Dubai so that I could access sites like Flickr.
- Read what other library blog writers are saying about SOPA: Eric Hellman, Peter Murray, Eric Goldman’s link wrap-up, Jimmy the Geek
- Some activist sites: AmericanCensorship.org, KeeptheWebOpen, WhiteHouse.gov anti-SOPA petition, GetYourCensorOn.
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.