Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Internet Openness in Jeopardy

Public protests continue against congressional legislation known as the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA.) Legislators are being pressured to re-write this bill to protect internet privacy and prevent censorship. Protecting intellectual property internationally has become a challenge with advent of the Internet.

This bill is claimed to attack the serious problem of foreign piracy and counterfeiting. Critics say the bill's intention is quite different from what the bill actually achieves because of the way it is written. Censorship is said to be imposed -- actually limiting internet freedom -- in the efforts to prevent online piracy.

This legislative bill's title plus initial pages likely fail to reveal the many details tucked away in words, phrasing and punctuation deep within what is a multi-page compilation.

(I personally know of an instance in another bill years ago when a simple omitted comma significantly altered acknowledged service intent. The bill was passed with the error before discovery, but was never corrected despite Congressional efforts to do so. The result has had limiting and more complicated consequences for select health services.)

This current open Internet issue is certainly about far more than just a comma, but SOPA language wording best be correct on passage. Needed corrections might never be enacted.

News reports have quoted major Internet company founders of Google, Twitter, Wikipedia, Yahoo and others as being so concerned about internet censorship they were prompted to write that the bill would:

"give the US government the power to censor the Web using techniques similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran."

These freedom issues are of significant import warranting serious consideration from every citizen.

Always of interest when considering conflicting viewpoints and interpretations of legislation is knowing who are the actual congresspersons involved in formulating any bill. So, here's a link to the official U. S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary website that shows each of the committee members and a detailed list of the bill's supporters -- also of value in assessing possible/likely influencing sources.

We can contact committee members and our congresspersons in these days ahead to make our views known -- that we desire an Internet free of government censorship techniques as purported to be integrated in Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261.) Do follow the evolution of this bill -- and not just what the committee chairman reports on the government website -- as the committee resumes work this February 2012.

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  1. I am very annoyed with this example of government overreach. In my class two semesters ago each student wrote two articles for Wikipedia. They were sourced, footnoted, and edited. No copyright infringement here, just good honest scholarship. Thenk you for bringing the subject up today. Very important. Dianne

  2. This is extremely dangerous legislation. I've signed a petition to my legislators urging them to oppose it. This sort of thing is not a proper role of government.

  3. What a mess this is----Oh Dear! I wish there was a simple answer000But there really doesn't seem to be, in "reality"....!

  4. The good news is the Legislature is going to re-work SOPA, but we'll need to continue monitoring their revision. Meanwhile, we need to review PIPA, the Senate version of similar legislation.

    This is encouraging that we, the electorate, can organize in ways to actually achieve some response from those we've elected to represent us. There are other significant issues to resolve.

  5. PIPA failed in the Senate if I heard correctly!!! Hallelujah and Amen!

  6. As they say, the trick is knowing in what is in the fine print. We are losing our freedoms one at a time and must remain vigilant. Thank you for posting this.

  7. Thanks for this! The devil is in the details. Not too many people pay attention to details, including commas, on things like this. "Eats, shoots and leaves"--not really.

  8. Xtreme English: Exactly! Good example.

  9. Congress has responded to public pressure by delaying further action on this legislation. Presumably the House of Representatives and Senate bills language will be revised with the intent to create a more specific focus. Whenever these rewritten bills are introduced -- possibly a year from now -- we'll need to reassess their effects on protecting internet privacy and preventing censorship in the effort to prevent piracy.