You may have noticed some of your favorite sites going dark today as part of the SOPA Strike. Justin and I would have taken the blog down except we're not smart enough to figure out how to do it, and we're not sure if it would take itself down for Japan time or US time, or what. So we figured we'd stay lit but use a moment to talk about SOPA/PIPA.
SOPA and PIPA are two bills in front of the US Congress. The bills are ostensibly about copyright protection but are worded so broadly that a huge swath of sites, from Youtube to Wikipedia, to book review sites to web comics, could be taken down without due process.
There is also no guarantee that the bill's provisions would be used for copyright at all. Since takedowns are issued on accusation of infringement rather than proof, the bill could be abused by anybody, including the government, to censor grassroots political action, to squash e-business rivals, or simply to silence a critic. (What would the Manila Airport Hotel, for instance, or the makers of Apple Milk think of our blog?) This is a colossal threat to internet free speech. The bill also tampers with internet domain names, which opens up serious vulnerabilities in the infrastructure of the Internet.
Opposing SOPA/PIPA does not mean supporting piracy. Rather, it means opposing swatting a fly - or, if you prefer something larger to represent piracy, killing a rat - with a SCUD missile.
As educators and as expats, we rely heavily on the web. I don't know how anybody taught overseas without it, frankly, both from the standpoint of delivering lessons to students and from the standpoint of keeping up with home. Therefore we are deeply concerned about the fundamental threat to the Internet which SOPA and PIPA represent. If you are a US voter, please contact your member of Congress to tell them you don't believe SOPA and PIPA are right for American and overseas users, or for the Internet.