Wednesday, November 16, 2011

American Censorship Day

If you've been on the Internet at all today, you might have seen something about American Censorship Day.  I first noticed it on Reddit,  and I didn't know what it was about, but as I spent more time wandering through the web, there were about fourteen petitions floating around, begging for signatures.  Honestly, it seemed pretty straightforward to me - the government and entertainment industry are looking for greater controls over the internet, the ability to shut down certain sites, should there be posts of copyrighted materials.  On the surface, I can see both sides to this - Copyrights are protected for a reason: the artists and business people who create films, music, art, etc, work hard and should reap the rewards of their crafts, to the largest extent possible.  On the other hand, letting the government, or a movie studio (for example) have the right to shut down, fine or punish an entire website for the postings of one user?  Seems like an extreme overreaction. 

I saw this video, and it made a lot of valid points I hadn't considered, regarding the economic ramifications of the bill(s):

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

For myself, even though I respect that copyrights are important, my position (if I've understood what I've read and seen today correctly), is that this is a bill that should not pass.  This bill is way too strict (in terms of penalties), open-ended (in terms of who has the power, and what powers they would have), and doesn't really address all of the (or, honestly, any of the) concerns  I, as an internet user, have about systemic censorship.  So I signed a couple of petitions, and I'm going to see what I can do about calling my Congressmen tomorrow.  Because, even though I haven't heard of it before, this is something that's frightening to me: Giving corporations (even entertainment industry corporations) more power than they already have?  Not a fan.  Punishing all users as if they are monolithic entity?  Not a fan.  Limitless ability to ban websites with very little (or any, as far as I could see) oversight?  Not a fan. 

Censorship in America is so 18th century (if only); Let's keep it that way.

The text of the bill is here;  the Reddit thread I first heard about this from, and which shows that the websites of the bill's own co-sponsor would be in violation of the bill, should it pass, as well as a ton more information, including how to best contact your Congressperson, is here.  

Also, PS? The idea that the Washington Post says that Tea Party advocates are against these bills gave me more than a moment's pause.  I will freely admit that I do not want to be on the same side of just about anything as the Tea Party, since they are generally... the polar opposite of my every instinct.  So I took a little longer to research, after I read that, just in case I was missing something.  But no: They're worried about "business strangling power" that the government might have, if the bill is passed, so I guess, even though we have different reasonings behind it, there's a first time for everything.

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