Today is American Censorship Day

PROTECT IP Act Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

This sort of advocacy is unusual for this blog, but we believe a free Internet is essential for both cultural innovation and democracy. Sure, the Internet is mostly made of porn and kittens, but we like it as it is. What we don’t want to see is it being unduly controlled by either the government or corporate interests, so we’re participating in American Censorship Day by offering up this information to our readers.

Today, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is headed to the House Judiciary Committee. The purported purpose of this bill, and its counterpart in the Senate, is to stop infringement on copyrighted material, but the scope of the proposed law is way too broad and vague, and if you spin out the implications, downright scary. It has has the power to censor the Internet. It can blacklist or bankrupt sites on whisper-thin grounds, it will impede small businesses and new start-ups, and even punish individuals with jail time for infringing copyright in smalls ways, like, for instance, posting a family video in which copyrighted music is playing in the background.

This bill is likely to pass, and it will happen soon.

It’s hard to summarize all the nasty pointy prongs of this legislation in a few words. The video above does an brief overview–be sure to watch to the end for last second updates. Our smart friends at the EFF, who are helping us with the whole Urban Homestead trademark thing, have written several cogent, lawyerly pieces about this legislation:

Disastrous IP Legislation Back and It’s Worse than Ever 

SOPA: Hollywood Finally Gets a Chance to Break the Internet

American Censorship Wednesday

Today there is a call for mass action. You may have noticed some of your favorite sites have blacked themselves out in protest.

If you’d like to take action, the EFF has provided a page that helps you shoot a pithy email to your own congresspeople. It only takes a couple of seconds and feels really good:

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  1. Bills like these are actively bad for the American economy (or at least the economy that politicians like to talk about), and are assaults on democracy to boot. It puzzles me that there isn’t more flap about this issue. Thanks for pointing it out — my various elected representatives have been notified of my dislike for the legislation.

  2. Thanks guys! This legislation is truly terrible and, what’s worse, will do little to actually stop the large scale commercial infringement big media complaints about . If you care about innovation and free expression online, if you care about a secure and stable internet, heck, if you just care about a legislative process that actually consults the people the legislation will affect (this one didn’t), you should oppose SOPA and PIPA. We’re slamming Congress with thousands of emails every hour, but we need to keep em coming!

  3. @Corynne McSherry: Well said, Ms. McSherry! Thanks for all you do at the EFF to keep our asses free.

    Please, everyone, send off a note. It doesn’t take a minute.

  4. Clearly this is a Big Thing. This morning I received an email from a good friend in Germany who had forwarded to me an urgent message making the rounds there.

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