Unless you do most of your Internet browsing from deep within the confines of a cozy, cavernous cave, you've likely heard of SOPA and PIPA. These two acronyms are bringing out the militant protesting side of the Internet Wednesday, because those letters stand for the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act. They're a pair of proposed government bills that, essentially, and without much exaggeration, could unravel the Internet.
In theory, the acts have noble intentions: They're designed to prevent anyone on the Internet from linking to copyrighted material. But as tends to be the case with these sorts of things, the execution of them would be nightmarishly, well, the opposite of noble. Remember when the recording industry went after its own customers to prevent file-sharing, and slapped an absurd lawsuit against a rogue's gallery of old ladies and sinister elementary-school students for having a few stray Coldplay MP3s? It'd be like that, but way, way worse -- especially since it also spells trouble for small businesses.
Businessamongmoms.com has a fantastic writeup explaining how this could be disastrous for entrepreneurs, and regardless of your gender or whether you even have kids, much of this post holds sway. For example:
Where to sell your items? If you rely on sites like Etsy, Ebay or even Facebook to sell your items, you’ll be up a creek as they’ll be forced to shut down to avoid prosecution. Each of these sites contain photos submitted by users, the problem is, there would be no way for them to inspect every single photo uploaded to their sites to make sure it has the appropriate copyrights. Can you imagine not being able to use Etsy? Or Pinterest? Oh boy!
Many sites today have gone dark to protest these acts, which gives a pretty clear picture of what the Internet would be like should they pass. No Wikipedia. No Facebook. No blogs. No Twitter. It'd basically be like living in the Dark Ages, but with way more touch devices capable of cloud syncing.
Further proving the Internet isn't just a conveyance for porn, Wikipedia's page has been replaced with a simple form to fill out to find and contact your local representative and senator. Obviously Dick Durbin is our guy (though he also isn't, since he supports these acts), but it's still a handy resource to have. Probably best to dogpile on today, when the outrage is still seething and doesn't risk fading into the background. Google also has an online petition -- though who knows if those actually accomplish anything. They've still yet to make that live-action Dilbert movie I started an e-petition for last year…
David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.