A Brief Moment of Protest And Politics

January 18, 2012

We interrupt this SHOT Show coverage for a brief message about censorship and the bills pending here in the US that will weaken the freedoms that we, as bloggers, forum members, and social networkers have really taken for granted.

There are, as I understand it (and I’m, sadly, not as up on this as I probably should be), two key bills up for consideration in Congress.  These are SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act).  On the surface, both seem not only benign, but valuable tools to fight online piracy of music and video.  But on a deeper look (which I have taken), the bills present significant risks to the many small voices on the Web.

In essence, both of these bills would be aimed at stopping the major search engines and social networking sites from providing links to sites that have been accused of piracy.  There’s a key word there…. “accused”.  The wording of the bills, particularly PIPA, is vague, and leaves a lot of room for abuse.  This potential for abuse is significant, because the drivers behind the bill are big media companies, such as the music and movie industry, as well as big movers in the world of gaming.  If allowed to carry that level of sway, all they have to do is accuse a website or network of violations and that website will be shutdown.  No proof of guilt is required.  The burden of proof is on the accused, rather than the accuser… a direct conflict with our traditional model of justice.

As you might imagine, this legislation opens the doors to the shut down and harassment of small sites and networks.  It’s a stifling force on the freedom of speech and expression that drive the Internet.

Anyway, I invite any of you to read up on the issue.  This morning, President Obama effectively shelved the SOPA legislation, but the PIPA bill is still under consideration.  Educate yourselves, and then speak out!  Send emails and phone calls to congress to tell them you oppose this censorship.  And then, hope for the best.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled SHOT Show posts.



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