If you exist, odds are you know about SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), the proposed house bill that threatens to endanger everything that’s made the internet so transformative. I know that I normally write about video games (and I suspect you’ll soon read an in-depth analysis of the political and ideological element to Skyrim), but SOPA and its sister bill PIPA warrant acknowledgment, outrage, and action. In that spirit, January 18th has been designated “Blackout Day,” a day of protest which Donnybrook will observe by closing our gold-plated doors for the day. Reddit, Wikipedia, The Cheezburger Network, and an ever growing contingent of opponents to SOPA and PIPA will also go on strike to protest and bring attention to this absurd encroachment on our civil liberties.
The express purpose of SOPA is “To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes,” but the only one of those stated goals it will achieve is to promote prosperity for members of the RIAA, MPAA, Pfizer, and others. After reading the text of the bill, it’s clear that some of the “other purposes” include: giving the U.S. Department of Justice the authority to bar payment services like Paypal from coordinating with sites that have been accused of copyright infringement; forcing American Internet Service Providers to suspend connection to any site found to be a threat to American-based intellectual property; and forcing search engines like Google to blacklist such sites, effectively wiping them out of existence in the U.S. SOPA also makes it a crime punishable by up to five years in prison for “unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content and other intellectual property offenses.” Meaning that if you watch this video, or this video, or even this video, and yes even this video, you’re well on your way to being a convicted felon, as it will require ten such infringements in six months.
I planned on using this paragraph to bitch about how expensive going to the movies is, or how it was just easier for me to download a torrent of the new Tim Kasher album than wait until he came to town to buy it, but the real travesty is that Pfizer had the gall to go to capitol hill and opine our fearless legislators the egregious influence of Canadian pharmacies on their profits; but that also means there are providers in Canada that can charge 90% less for the same drugs that Pfizer sells and still turn a profit. Which essentially means Pfizer prefers the status quo, and the United States of America in Congress assembled does too; our leaders, our movers and shakers prefer to live in a country where a 73 year old Walmart greeter has to choose between buying the medications that their doctor was “convinced” by a well-dressed drug rep to prescribe to them, or eating three square meals a day.
SOPA, PIPA, and NDAA (the law recently signed by President Obama that authorizes the indefinite detention of Americans without charge) just bring to light the deepening hypocracy of our leadership. The internet has been the most powerful tool created in the last 100 years: it’s brought people closer together, it’s made information free and available, and recently it’s toppled regimes and given birth to a generation of young people demanding freedom. We haven’t had a proper federal budget in over a year, our do-nothing congress refuses to compromise on anything that might help its constituents, and while our President and Congress decry the abuses of Hosni Mubarak, who cut internet access outside of Egypt, or Bashar al-Assad, whose thugs have been in the streets and killing torturing and arresting everyone with an opinion other than the government-approved one, it’s clear that the one thing they can agree on is that the American people have too much freedom.