While I don’t normally get political in my public writings, I feel obliged to join the hundreds of thousands of on line information providers in protesting our federal government’s attempt to censor the Internet. Pending before your US House of Representative is a bill known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Your US Senate is considering its own version of the bill, the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). These bills are our clumsy government’s clumsy response to a very real problem, the rampant theft of music & films via the Internet.
To me this is very personal. Over these past four years I have built my blog, Dog Show Poop (DSP), from a personal journal about my love for the sport of AKC dog shows into a daily report on the hobby read by more than a million people worldwide. I take satisfaction in covering every all breed dog show in the US, as well as many of the limited breed shows and national breed specialties. I have thousands of photos on DSP, a service I provide to the dog loving public at no cost to anyone but myself.
While many of the photos I use have been provided directly to me by the photographer, some are provided by the breeders, owners, or handlers of the dogs. This proposed legislation could force me to require that every photo provided to me be accompanied by documentation that the provider has the legal authority to use the photo. The fundamental distinguishing characteristic of on line content is timeliness. No one wants to wait for a week for their show reports while I get documentation to satisfy this draconian law.
Apart from my personal concern, let me make a couple of other points:
1. I spent two years of my career working as a congressional liaison. I have participated in the researching, drafting, & passing of several pieces of legislation. I have yet to see an enforcement bill that didn’t cost US taxpayers millions, if not billions, of dollars. This one will cost taxpayers and internet information providers billions of dollars.
2. This legislation is redundant. There are already adequate laws on the books to protect intellectual property. My blog host, the Internet giant, Google, already polices blog owners to assure conformance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and other applicable copyright laws.
3. According to Pew Internet Research, 85 percent of blogs are non-commercial, usually one person operations. This legislation could effectively kill the concept of personal bogging by making it too cumbersome for individuals to maintain and too expensive for blog hosts to police. Considering that Ad Age Digital estimates there are 12.75 million personal blogs, that’s a chilling assault on free speech.
4. Finally, the legislation will not solve the problem. The vast majority of internet piracy is perpetrated by residents of the People’s Republic of China. While the Chinese government has undertaken its own crackdown on internet piracy, I suspect that it will pay little attention to laws passed by the US.
You can help by going to Congress.Org to contact your congressman & senator and Speaker of the House, John Boehner, and Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConell, to tell them to vote against this costly attack on free speech and focus instead on legislation that will improve the economy.