I've been somewhat intrigued by the "protests" being waged around the country. Being born too young to remember the great protests of the 60's, this is a fairly new phenomenon for me. Up until now, most protests were waged by radical factions that I supposed were filled with over zealous supporters of lost causes. My first real experience of meaningful protest came a few years ago, when in Tennessee, our legislature proposed a state-wide income tax. Here in Nashville, cars drove by the capital all day and night honking their horns in protest while crowds filled the public areas around the capital with loud vocal groups protesting such a tax in our state. Eventually, the legislation was dropped and we continue our income tax free statehood. An amendment to our state constitution was added requiring a state wide vote before such legislation could ever be enacted again. A successful protest in my opinion.
Today, there is another protest going on. One against federal legislation against internet companies. There are two bills - SOPA and PIPA. Sounds like a mexican dessert, doesn't it... Anyway, as you troll the web today, you will notice google's name blacked out and the complete shut-down of Wikipedia. Al Gore's Internet (sorry, I couldn't check that fact on Wikipedia) was meant to be an open free transference of information. The great information highway as it was once dubbed. But as with any highway, since the beginning of roads as we know them, there will always be highwaymen. Highwaymen...men like the infamous Dick Turpin of England (no relation) who stole so much from so many only to slip away through the forest and get lost among the trees. Today's highwaymen are much more sophisticated. They have left the asphalt jungle and headed for the information hightway. Piracy of music, movies, artwork and other creative works has become a major underworld business. And while our asphalt roads have jurisdictions, those lines are blurred on the information highway. Global communication is now possible in mere nanoseconds. Information that once took air transportation to cross the ocean can now be sent in a practically timeless manner. So the question becomes, "How do we regulate this new world?" As the great democratic nation we are, we propose legislation that will "nip it in the bud" as Barney Fife would say. We have devised two complicated bills full of legislation that will penalize everyone at the cost of free speech, commerce and undocumented encyclopedias.
"Why do I care?" you ask. Well, because I kind of enjoy my little Etsy store. I enjoy creating things and since my house is bursting at the seams, I enjoy sharing them and selling them to other people. Am I going to make a fortune at this? No. But this new legislation opens the door to have entire websites shut down because one portion of that site is in violation of this law. There is no recourse, appeal process - only 5 days to comply.
So, how does that effect you? Well, think long and hard before you upload that picture of your cute little tikes to Shutterfly. While you only want 4 mugs to give to the grandparents, that cute t-shirt of Tinkerbell your tike is wearing is infringing on Disney's copyright. You could shut down Shutterfly with one single order. Or what about our beloved Facebook? Could it be shut down by someone uploading their Paris vacation pics and specifically a photo of the Eiffel tower lit at night? Yes, it could. The entirety of Facebook is at stake here.
Yep, it's stupid. Most laws are when they are first proposed by short sighted people with no vision beyond to the end of their nose. While I totally understand that there are piracy issues that need to be dealt with, I think it is time to protest rash thinking in our legislative bodies. It's time to put some thought into our broad sweeping actions before we act. Where's Andy Taylor when we need him?
But don't take my word for it. Use the internet in the way it was intended. Go out their and search for the information that will enlighten you. Find out what your congressman is doing and share your opinions with him or her. Maybe even join a protest if you are so inclined. I promise not to call you radical.