Anti-SOPA and anti-PIPA protests have begun in force today, with sites like Wikipedia giving the internet a taste of a web without freedom of speech, as censorship and piracy take center stage for lawmakers, content-owners and users alike. The proposed acts are, we believe, a heavy-handed and naive approach toward the legitimate issue of content theft. Being against the proposed acts isn’t the same as being “pro-piracy”; that’s why we here at SlashGear (and R3 Media, the company behind SlashGear), as avid content-creators and content-consumers, believe SOPA and PIPA are the wrong way to tackle piracy online.
Content theft is not something we advocate at SlashGear. Like many news sites online, there are numerous “scraper sites” grabbing the content we produce and republishing it without permission; we understand how frustrating that can be. Yet, there are already tools to tackle content theft – like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) – and which do so with the same mindfulness of due process that other laws in the US and abroad have been built upon.
Perhaps most frustrating is that neither the Stop Online Piracy Act nor the Protect IP Act would actually effectively address piracy in any way more effective than current tools. As Google and others have pointed out, those sharing or searching for illegal content could easily circumnavigate the limitations SOPA and PIPA would allow. Everybody else would be left to face the unnecessarily strict threat of censorship, with companies forced into monitoring users to ensure they didn’t upload anything remotely controversial.
Today’s tools may not be perfect, but blanket laws that threaten the free speech currently permitted on the internet are even more dangerous. The powers SOPA and PIPA would grant would not only mean sources of pirated content could be taken down without due process, but that any site daring to voice opinions not shared by big content companies, ISPs or the US government could also find itself taken offline before it had even had a chance to argue its case.
You can find out more about SOPA/PIPA in our plain English guide to the proposed acts, and details on how to contact your US Representative – or, if you are outside the US, how to make your voice heard too – at sopastrike.com/strike. There’s also more information at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.