SOPA, also known as the Stop Internet Piracy Act and House Bill 3261, is a bill proposed by Texas representative Lamar Smith that would severely restrict Internet freedom in America, the supposed Land of the Free. It is supported by giant digital-media corporations, many of which are constantly under fire for mistreating the artists they sponsor in the name of profits. A vote on the bill was delayed last year after major websites, including Google and Wikipedia, participated in a web-wide blackout in protest. Unfortunately, SOPA hasn’t been gone for long and it appears to be back.
The Obama administration plans to resurrect part of this unconstitutional bill. Its current focus is on streaming copyrighted material over the Internet. Sites used to stream media include Youtube, Soundcloud, Spotify, Tumblr, DeviantArt, and our beloved SparkLife. No, none of these sites do anything that could or should be considered illegal in America. What could they possibly enable that would put them in the crosshairs of SOPA?
- Unauthorized use of copyrighted material such as audio streams
- Transmission or communication of illegal displays and performances of copyrighted work such as Youtube covers
- Unauthorized distribution of media such as fanart or fanfiction
Wait- SOPA could criminalize publishing fanfiction? Unfortunately, yes. And because the Department of Communications recommends applying the same penalties to illegal media streamers as to pirates, you could get the same harsh sentence for uploading a digital representation of your favorite character as you could for ripping off DVDs and uploading the contents to a pirate site. And this is problematic because these offenses are felonies, which mean potential jail time and a permanent black mark on your record.
If you want to learn more, here are some sites that could explain the danger of SOPA much better than I could.
Now, for the most important part. Why is this bill dangerous and what can we, here on SL, do about it?
If you’re not in the United States, you may be wondering exactly what the commotion is about. Though parts of America have championed censorship for moral or religious grounds before, widespread, national censorship for economic reasons is unheard of. And evidently, few support it. America is a country built on freedom of expression, and though copyright protections are written into our Constitution, SOPA would expand such “protective” laws beyond what could be considered legal or constitutional.
The worst part is that SOPA is purported to “promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes” (and this came straight out of H.R. 3261). Now, who agrees that passing a law that would affect writers, artists, and musicians most of all and benefit none but overbearing, profit-seeking media companies is really in the interest of creativity? Not this Sparkler. Under SOPA, Justin Bieber, Alex Goot, and I would be felons. And who knows where this would end? First we would ban all distribution of copyrighted media through the Internet, then we would do the same with websites containing “hate speech” (read: non-PC), and soon we’re back to book burning. A few more years and a few more laws, and we look less like America the Beautiful and more like the People’s Republic of China. And no one who values liberty will stand back and let this happen.
And now we come to OT BLACKOUT DAY.
On Friday, September 13th from 8 am until 7:59 am, we will be blacking out the OT. By this, I mean that we all change our pictures to a censored version in protest, comment exactly once to say [CENSORED] and nothing else, and log out.
But never fear, we have a backup OT set up to use instead, so these lines of communication will still be open. The point is not to cut everyone off from each other, it is to raise a visible protest on a website that would be a major target of copyright legislation. So it would be great if you would all make the effort to come online just once in the day, regardless of your time zone or even what country you live in, and help the American Sparklers fight for our freedom of speech.
Also, sign this if you have not yet.
Originally published on August 24, 2013.