Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Lemming Tracks: SOPA, PIPA, and 'Rules are for the Little People?'

SOPA is still working its way through Congress, sort of like a badly-cooked triple-cheese pizza.

If SOPA had been written by someone who understood information technology, and gave a rip about freedom of speech, the Lemming wouldn't be all that upset about one more piece of legislation. As it is, it looks like SOPA is - at best - a well-intentioned disaster waiting to happen.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that we do have pesky things like the First Amendment and blogs, and folks who aren't sufficiently submissive to what our betters in Washington think is good for us.

We've also got tech giants like Google, whose leadership is savvy enough to realize that giving some government official the power to shut down bothersome domains is a bad idea.

There's "Smart, Targeted;" And there's Congress

"Google will protest SOPA using popular home page"
Declan McCullagh and Greg Sandoval, CNET News (January 17, 2012)

"The tech sector is pulling out the big guns.

"Google, the Web's top search company and one of technology's most influential powers in Washington, will post a link on its home page tomorrow to notify users of Google's opposition to controversial antipiracy bills being debated in Congress.

"The company confirmed in a statement that it will join Wikipedia, Reddit, and other influential tech firms in staging protests of varying kinds against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), which are backed by big entertainment and media interests. (Read a roundup of our SOPA and PIPA coverage here.)

" 'Like many businesses, entrepreneurs, and Web users, we oppose these bills because there are smart, targeted ways to shut down foreign rogue Web sites without asking American companies to censor the Internet,' a Google representative said. 'So tomorrow we will be joining many other tech companies to highlight this issue on our U.S. home page.'..."

Let's cut the folks in Congress some slack here: many of them have devoted decades of their lives to spending our money and getting entertained by Hollywood. Unlike many of the rest of us, they may not have had time to learn about stuff like "computers" and "Internet." Besides, mere drudgery like typing and reading are what secretaries and interns are for, right?

Wikipedia Goes Away: For a Day

"Wikipedia joins web blackout in Sopa protest"
BBC News (January 17, 2012)

"Wikipedia plans to take its English-language site offline on Wednesday as part of protests against proposed anti-piracy laws in the US.

"The user-generated news site Reddit and the blog Boing Boing have also said they will take part in the 'blackout'.

"The sites' webmasters are opposed to the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (Pipa) being debated by Congress.

"However, Twitter has declined to take part in the shutdown.

"Wikipedia's founder, Jimmy Wales, told the BBC: 'Proponents of Sopa have characterised the opposition as being people who want to enable piracy or defend piracy.

" 'But that's not really the point. The point is the bill is so over broad and so badly written that it's going to impact all kinds of things that, you know, don't have anything to do with stopping piracy.'..."

In the Lemming's opinion
  • Freedom of speech is not piracy
  • Protest is not terrorism
  • Disagreement is not treason
The Lemming's been over this sort of thing in another blog:

'Rules are for the Little People?'

"More on SOPA/PIPA"
Caitlin Williams, WTOL.com News (January 15, 2012; updated January 17, 2012)

"SOPA creator caught in own web

"The author of the controversial SOPA bill which seeks to introduce stricter penalties for companies and individuals caught violating copyright laws online, has been caught in his own web.

"An archived screen shot of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith's, R-TX, website depicts a beautiful lush forest used as a background.

"According to an article by Vice.com, this stock image traced back to photographer DJ Schulte.

"The photographer protects his image under the Creative Commons license, which allows anyone to use an image so long as they attribute the image to the photographer and do not use it for commercial purposes.

"The only problem is that attribution for the image does not appear on the site. If Smith's proposed bill were to pass, action could be taken against his own website.

"Lamar's website no longer utilizes stock images, save for one banner strip across the top, but this incident exposes the faults and vagueness that critics point out in the bill...."

In fairness, anybody can make a mistake. Maybe whatever underling Lamar Smith told to do the website simply forgot to include the Creative Commons license attribution.

On the other hand, that's embarrassing. And an example of what could get someone's website kicked off the Internet, under SOPA provisions.

Not that Smith would be affected. He's important. As long as he was part of the Washington set, it's unlikely that some trifling little peccadillo like using DJ Schulte's picture without attribution would result in SOPA enforcement.

The story might be different, if whoever committed such an act of 'piracy' was one of those 'troublemakers' who don't agree with our great leaders in Washington. And that's almost another topic.

Related posts:


Brigid said...

I think it's funny that the guy's name is Lamar.

As is, I feel like having a bonfire, with SOPA as fuel.

Brian H. Gill said...



Aside from the upper echelons of the traditional entertainment industry, SOPA and PIPA managed to alarm quite a few folks. Justifiably, I think.

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