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PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet

We normally do not get political on Toolfarm but US Congress is voting on two bills next week Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), that censor the Web and hurt small businesses.

Stop SOPAWe normally do not get political on Toolfarm but US Congress is voting on two bills next week Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), that censor the Web and hurt small businesses.  I am completely against piracy. My book, Plug-in to After Effects, has shown up on piracy sites which does not make me happy at all. I know plug-ins are available all over torrent sites too. Hey, we're not making any money from Adobe Creative Suite CS5.5 bought on the streets of Bangkok for $5. The bill is being pushed by entertainment companies who want to make more money but there are already laws to handle this. It is not protecting you or me or your small business. Read an info graphic about how SOPA works.

Why are they bad?

Authorities can shut down a website without proving your guilt.  This will most definitely affect sites like YouTube, Vimeo, Soundcloud, Facebook, Wikipedia. It can include content from reviews and comments from customers, posts on our blog, forum etc. Toolfarm gets content directly from our vendors that is verbatim paragraphs from their websites. The vendor wants their product represented in a certain way and its what they give us to use. Does this count as copyright infringement on our site? We have several videos embedded on our site from YouTube and Vimeo. We are not claiming at all that its our work, and that's pretty darn obvious. We're showcasing inspirational work we find on the web (along with sites like Motionographer too).  Would we no longer put up inspirations because of fear of being taken down? Then occasionally we have some idiot spammer (or spambot!) posting links to torrent sites on our forums. We remove the content as quickly as we can, but this could red flag us. We could be taken offline because of a spammer in China or Russia.

Other punishments include removing companies and sites from search results and blacklisting. ISPs can block visitors from your website, and large fines can be given to sites who are considered to be infringing. Companies can lose access to services like Paypal too. If our site were taken down for even a day, that's a big loss of funds, and this bill would give the right for the “web police” to punish now, investigate later.

Quick story

The threats have already been happening. My old boyfriend is a SAG member and they had 3 movies that were up for Academy Awards last year that they were giving to SAG members to watch. They had always sent out DVDs in the past but this year they were doing iTunes downloads. My boyfriend had a slow connection at his house and asked me to download them for him. He had a postcard with a link. I tried to get on through the SAG website but they needed his SAG membership #, which I didn't know. I clicked a link trying to download Black Swan and it didn't work. I just left it for later and forgot about it. The next day, I get several emails from Fox Searchlight that my IP was tagged illegally downloading the film. I got another from Comcast saying the same. They had all sorts of personal information on me. I ended up getting several emails about this with punishments of million dollar fines and jail time. I was completely innocent! I tried to clear my name by contacting Comcast and Fox Searchlight with no luck. When I called it was 20 minute recording that basically assumed I was downloading pirated content without allowing me to have any say. I was afraid they would cut off my internet service, and since I work from home, that would be a big problem. Luckily nothing came out of it, but it took about two weeks to stop and  it was really unnerving. I believe these bills will cause much more of this type of thing to happen. 

Wikipedia has gone black for 24 hours to raise awareness. Google has blacked out their logo. Craigslist, WordPress, Reddit, Mozilla, Flickr, TheOatmeal, and many other sites are participating in action against the bills. It's kind of a big deal!

What can you do?

  1. Please watch the video below for more information
  2. Sign the petition.
  3. Call your congressman and let them know how you feel.
  4. Tell your friends and coworkers to take action. Post on Facebook, your blogs, etc.

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

Tell Congress not to censor the internet NOW! – http://www.fightforthefuture.org/pipa

PROTECT-IP is a bill that has been introduced in the Senate and the House and is moving quickly through Congress. It gives the government and corporations the ability to censor the net, in the name of protecting “creativity”. The law would let the government or corporations censor entire sites– they just have to convince a judge that the site is “dedicated to copyright infringement.”

The government has already wrongly shut down sites without any recourse to the site owner. Under this bill, sharing a video with anything copyrighted in it, or what sites like Youtube and Twitter do, would be considered illegal behavior according to this bill.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, this bill would cost us $47 million tax dollars a year — that's for a fix that won't work, disrupts the internet, stifles innovation, shuts out diverse voices, and censors the internet. This bill is bad for creativity and does not protect your rights.

Posted by Michele Yamazaki