What with all the hullaballo the last couple days, it is hardly a surprise that SOPA is on my mind. SOPA, or the “Stop Online Piracy Act” threatens – along with it’s sister-bill, PIPA (Protect IP Act) – to infringe upon the First Amendment rights of the United States Constitution, shut down highly trafficked parts of the internet, and lure a meteor towards the earth with such a magnetic force that even cockroaches may not survive. Okay, so I’m being a little dramatic. But seriously? This is bad stuff.
Obviously, SOPA and PIPA would affect us all in different ways, and while perhaps there are (maybe?) good intentions behind the bill (like, oh, I don’t know… stopping online piracy?), it seems to be the general consensus that Americana (and others, too!) disapprove. Does Senate understand that? Who knows! Probably not. We’ll find out on January 24th, I guess! Certainly the blackouts throughout the web yesterday were a hopefully powerful symbol and warning both to The People Affected and The People In Charge…. … At any rate, my intent is not to bring politics into my blog, since I so fervently avoid them in conversation, but to raise awareness about how these bills will affect writers.
Once upon a time, there was a thing called the British Encylopedia. It was all well and good, but a bit chunky to carry around. Also expensive. And constantly outdated! Who wants to carry around twenty+ volumes of an expensive encyclopedia that is already wrong? Believe it or not, young peers of mine, this is how something called “research” used to be done. And oh, it can be done that way still. It truly can. But why should it be, when there is something much more convenient and passionately updated available at our fingertips? Yes, I am talking about Wikipedia.
Of all the websites standing to be harmed by SOPA/PIPA, Wikipedia is lingering near the top of the list. I don’t know about other writers, but Wikipedia is my Bible. As a user-created, user-edited, user-maintained online encyclopedia, it is constantly updated and is not only a wealth of information on its own, but a hub for sources. Throughout college, knowing that citing Wikipedia was unacceptable, I still used to use it to find books and acceptable web sources to use in my papers, since every Wikipedia page requires citations. Those that lack the adequate amount of citations have a blaring “BEWARE! SOME OF THIS INFO MAY BE VICIOUS LIES! PROCEED AT OWN RISK!” banner at the top of the page, which is nice. And as a writer, Wikipedia is still essential to me – I use it just as much for inspiration as I do for research – there is a million things that it offers for any inquisitive mind. And it’s so much nicer than a hefty encyclopedia with teensy writing and tissue thin pages.
If SOPA/PIPA is passed, Wikipedia is probably going away. Or it will be immensely stifled. The bill literally gives the United States government the ability censor anything on the internet based on the tiniest allegation. Essentially, this gives the government control over the flow of information. They can choose what we can and cannot read on a basis of legality, and the not-allowed things will be taken away. There is no punishment for having the knowledge – it is not a dystopian novel yet, my friends – but the availability will simply not be there.
To be honest, it terrifies me. I know that the present goal is only to stop piracy and protect copyright, but that it only a small step away from the government having control over the flow of information. See, I’m a “live free or die” kinda girl. Being as I grew up in New Hampshire. I have read enough dystopia to know that it is entirely possible and I do not like it.
If you are using the internet, ever have used the internet, or plan to use the internet in the future – SOPA affects you. Shout out to someone who can do something about it, and tell them to stop the bill!