Blacked Out

Jan 18, 2012 08:00 · 326 words · 2 minute read

I’ve taken this site down today, as part of the world-wide protest about two pieces of legislation currently going through the US Congress and Senate.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senate equivalent (PIPA) are intended to give additional powers to US law enforcement agencies and the content industries. According to their supporters, the acts will target online copyright infringement.

The way the legislation is framed undermines the structural integrity of the internet as we know it. It is also wide open to abuse, to target commercial competitors and silence contrary opinions. It mandates exactly the same technical and legal processes that are used in China, Syria, North Korea and the like to censor the internet.

The “content industries” in the shape of the RIAA, MPAA, Rupert Murdoch and his ilk have a track record of opposing every new technological innovation of the last 100 years as a threat to their established business model.

They were opposed to piano rolls, and radio, and broadcast television, and cable television, and the video recorder, and the DVD, and the MP3 player, and online bookstores. All of these subsequently turned out to be massive money spinners for the content industries.

None of these technologies and services would have seen the light of day if the content industries, and their lawyers, had enforced their way. This legislation is primarily about protecting business models that have had their day. It’s the horse and cart industry protesting the rise of the internal combustion engine - and abusing the political process to do so.

I live in the UK, and this site is hosted in the UK. But I’m taking part in these protests because what happens in the US eventually finds its way over here. If SOPA and PIPA pass in Washington, then it’s a racing certainty that we’ll see the same laws introduced in Europe and the UK - with the same chilling effect on innovation and free speech.