A Letter To Congress

Dear Congress,

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there are a lot of people mad at you. No, I’m not talking about the “Occupy This-or-that” people. I’m not talking about the constant infighting that has prevented our government from getting nearly anything done. I’m not even talking about the general unhappiness that you are used to from the constituents you represent.

Today, I am specifically talking about the online community.

As you probably have heard, multiple websites are speaking out against a bill you are attempting to pass. The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, and the Protect IP Act, or PIPA, have people rallying against you in a way that is rarely seen. It’s like you have attracted all the hate that people feel for the New York Yankees, Brussel sprouts, paying bills, and wet socks all rolled into one.

These bills, on the surface, seem benign. Many corporations view piracy as a major issue, and understandably so. After all, people are downloading movies and music more than they ever have before. According to the MPAA, $58 billion was lost in 2010. Ignoring the fact that this implies piracy kept Americans from EACH buying 50 extra DVD’s that year, this is still a very large amount to have missing from your piggy bank.

While many people would agree that something should be done, the plans outlined in this bill seem to be, dare I say it, not well thought through. For instance, a majority of these sites distributing copy written material come from overseas. While these bills would block Americans from going to the website, it would not prevent them from getting to the IP address. That means that anyone who knows their way around a computer, as most people who participate in the downloading of copy written material do, can still get to the site so they can download the 18th X-Men movie or the latest episode of “Jersey Shore Takes South Dakota.”

The bills also include a provision that would force search engines and ad networks to cut off websites that are deemed offensive. That means that if any startup website is suspected of having something that might be copy written material, be it a person singing the latest Rihanna song or a 30 second clip from SpongeBob Squarepants, they could be cut off without this item ever being proven, essentially stunting the growth of websites all across the globe. In a world that is going increasingly online, slowing growth of the internet in our own country could put us behind other nations developmentally.

Now, because of these issues, you have the biggest people in the internet concerned about the possibility of the United States drifting into censorship much like is found in China. While I tend to avoid slippery slope arguments (I’ve found that most slopes are not all that slippery), these men may have a point. No, it probably will not ever get to the point that China or Malaysia have reached, but it does severely limit the freedom of the internet and, with a few misguided decisions, could switch to a more censorship mentality.

If these arguments aren’t enough, consider this: currently, you have people so mad that they have taken away Wikipedia. Taken it away! That means that I had to get all of this information from various sources. It took way more time to do that. Plus, I have no way of finding out how many television credits Bea Arthur had to her name. I don’t need to know that at this second, but I might need to later.

So please Congress, for the sake of the internet, for the sake of information, for the sake of me getting Wikipedia back, please think long and hard about this bill.

 

Sincerely,

Nathan Badley

12 thoughts on “A Letter To Congress

  1. Nicely done. I am participating as well with the blackout of The Wordslinger for the day. I’m not typically one for protesting, in fact the only place I like to “Occupy” is the golf course on a nice day, but I feel like this is important so I’m doing my part.

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  3. Nicely done. Nothing is as clear-cut as it seems on either side of any argument.

    I don’t approved of people (like my own son) who pirate “free” movies, software, or music, that generally cost people money to buy. Sites that help him do that shouldn’t exist and I wish I could convince him to stop, but my head hurts from slamming it into that particular brick wall.

    On the other hand, any legislation is full of sneaky language and provisions that can come back and take a huge bite out of our freedom to exchange information freely on the only medium of freely exchanged information.

    I couldn’t post if I wanted to today, with Google and other major sites being blacked out. I rely on them when my brain blacks out.

    I don’t know enough about the genesis and history of this bill to speak about it intelligently, I only know two things for sure:

    1. Most people in Congress are working for the 1% with the money
    2. Most of the 99% are suspicious as hell and tend to react negatively to anything coming out of Congress just because.

    Democracy relies on an informed citizenry. That has never changed. How we get informed has changed dramatically. The Framers couldn’t have foreseen the Internet, so they stood by the concept of freedom from censorship. But is this bill really about censorship (then we don’t need it)? Or is it about keeping honest people honest (then we don’t need it)? Or is it about corporate greed (then maybe another solution is in order)?

    Any way you slice it, this bill should die in Congress…

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