On January 18, Boing Boing will join
Reddit and other sites around the Internet in "going dark" to
oppose SOPA and PIPA, the
pending US legislation that creates a punishing Internet censorship
regime and exports it to the rest of the world. Boing Boing could
never co-exist with a SOPA world: we could not ever link to another
website unless we were sure that no links to anything that infringes
copyright appeared on that site. So in order to link to a URL on
LiveJournal or WordPress or Twitter or Blogspot, we'd have to first
confirm that no one had ever made an infringing link, anywhere on that
site. Making one link would require checking millions (even tens of
millions) of pages, just to be sure that we weren't in some way
impinging on the ability of five Hollywood studios, four multinational
record labels, and six global publishers to maximize their profits.
If we failed to take this precaution, our finances could be frozen,
our ad broker forced to pull ads from our site, and depending on which version of the bill goes to the vote, our domains
confiscated, and, because our server is in Canada, our IP address
would be added to a US-wide blacklist that every ISP in the country
would be required to censor.
This is the part of the post where I'm supposed to say something
reasonable like, "Everyone agrees that piracy is wrong, but this is
the wrong way to fight it."
But you know what? Screw that.
Even though a substantial portion of my living comes from the
entertainment industry, I don't think that any amount of
"piracy" justifies this kind of depraved indifference to the
consequences of one's actions. Big Content haven't just declared war
on Boing Boing and Reddit and the rest of the "fun" Internet: they've
declared war on every person who uses the net to publicize police
brutality, every oppressed person in the Arab Spring who used
the net to organize protests and publicize the blood spilled by their
oppressors, every abused
kid who used the net to reveal her father as a brutalizer of
children, every gay kid who used the net to discover that life
is worth living despite the torment she's experiencing, every grassroots political
campaigner who uses the net to make her community a better place
— as well as the scientists who collaborate online, the rescue
workers who coordinate online, the makers who trade tips online, the
people with rare diseases who support each other online, and the
independent creators who use the Internet to earn their livings.
The contempt for human rights on display with SOPA and PIPA is more
than foolish. Foolishness can be excused. It's more than greed. Greed
is only to be expected. It is evil, and it must be fought.
SOPA Strike is compiling a list of sites that are also going dark for Jan 18. If you want an Internet where human rights, free speech and the rule of law are not subordinated to the entertainment industry's profits, I hope you'll join us on it.