First and foremost, I need to apologise to you, my fine young readers, for not blogging in some time. There have been several life issues that needed addressing before my time could once again, be devoted to the process of article creation. Those issues having been tackled, we can now dive headlong into the news of the day. Today’s news; SOPA.
Beginning some hours ago, several sites on the worldwide web began a concerted “blackout,” albeit one of varying degrees, depending on the website. For instance, the English-language Wikipedia is entirely down for twenty-four hours, its main page having been replaced with a single black and white page addressing SOPA. Google has covered their masthead with a black rectangle. Reddit is down for twelve hours, and this very same blogging site, WordPress, has placed “censored” over all of the “Freshly Pressed” article summaries on its main page. (I am absolutely brimming with pride and satisfaction that WordPress has taken a stand!)
Immediately before the new year began, I wrote a letter to my district’s congressman, Dennis Cardoza, (D-CA) outlining my opposition to SOPA and my desire that he vote against it;
I am remitting this correspondence to you, honorable sir, to add my objections to the many amassed against SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, as presented and sponsored by U.S. Representative Lamar Smith, the honorable gentleman from Texas.
I believe H.R. 3261 to be an ill-conceived effort by Rep. Smith to remedy an otherwise valid issue. H.R. 3261 as written, would in my honest opinion be a detriment to the internet; not only to internet commerce, but also to Free Speech as exercised in cyberspace by those of us who consider ourselves “netizens.”
Several tech industry companies have voiced their opposition to this bill, including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and eBay. (I believe that Microsoft’s opposition to the bill is of particular significance, being a major player in the software industry!) In other words, those that are “in the know,” know that H.R. 3261 is bad medicine. Even internet registrar GoDaddy has withdrawn their support of this flawed piece of legislation, because they know it was the right thing to do by the people.
I urge you to vote against SOPA in the event that this bill comes to the floor for vote. In short, please do not “pour this bowl of SOPA down the throats of the citizenry.”
J. Patrick Morgan
Author, The Cybersattva weblog.
A few days ago, I received his official reply. (Normally, I don’t quote personal e-mail correspondence in the blog, however this is an official reply from a public official, so its fair use and a matter of public record:)
Dear Mr. Morgan:
Thank you for contacting my office regarding the Stop Online Piracy Act. I greatly appreciate your insight on this important issue.
As you may already know, the Stop Online Piracy Act, H.R. 3261, was introduced by Representative Lamar Smith (D-TX) on October 26, 2011. The bill aims to create stronger methods to address online violations of intellectual property rights. In particular, the proposed bill allows the Attorney General of the United States and intellectual property rights holders to seek legal action against foreign internet sites committing or assisting with intellectual property rights violations. In addition, the bill would require domestic online service providers, upon receiving a court order, to carry out certain preventive measures against infringing sites.
Please rest assured that I understand your concerns about the potential impact this bill could have on free speech and technological innovation. While I believe it is very important to protect intellectual property rights, we must not do so at the expense of our Constitutional rights. Should I have the opportunity to vote on this legislation in the House, I will be certain to keep your views in mind.
To keep informed of the work I do on behalf of the people of the Central Valley, please visit my website at www.cardoza.house.gov and sign up for my newsletter. If I may be of any further assistance on this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Despite this being in the standard “politically ambiguous” language of a congressman, I gather that Cardoza still realizes to some degree, the impact that SOPA (and for that matter, its sister bill in the Senate, PIPA) would have on free speech. A few months back, GOP candidate Rick Santorum attempted to get Google to censor search results for his name. (I wrote this article detailing the escapade.) If SOPA passes and becomes law, Google and several other sites on the internet would fall victim to its use. These sites know this, hence what we’re bearing witness to today.