A good chunk of the internet is blacked out today to protest SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP). If you have somehow managed to miss this, you must not visit any news or geek-culture blogs, read very many web comics, use Google or the Firefox homepage, or access Wikipedia. (Also, if you have somehow managed to miss this because you don't use the internet for any of the things I've cited above, I am a little bit afraid of you. What do you use the internet for? How did you even find this page? Are you a robot?)
How has the blackout impacted me? This is my morning routine:
1. Get up, get ready for work.
2. Internet! FOREVER! Okay, for about fifteen minutes. First up, web comics.
3. Second, toy collecting sites.
4. Thirdly, io9 and Television Without Pity.
5. Wikipedia, to both check facts about things I'm writing (do parrots eat meat?) and to confirm which shows I follow will have new episodes tonight (for some reason I trust Wikipedia more than I trust the TV Guide site).
This is my morning routine after SOPA:
1. Get up, get ready for work. Because everything else is blocked, removed, or under attack.
This is a broad-strokes "protection of copyright" that actually goes so far above and beyond the call of duty that it's like getting a pack of trained attack basilisks to keep those damn kids off your lawn. Basilisk crap is going to wind up getting everywhere, but who cares? No more kids on the lawn!
Now, I am a creator of things, and I appreciate and enjoy making money off of them. It enables me to do silly little things like keeping the power on and feeding the cats. I appreciate and enjoy it even more when people don't steal from me. But you know what doesn't steal from me? Book reviews. But SOPA could make it a crime to post book covers or quote inside text, something my favorite book reviewers often do. Hell, SOPA could make it a crime for me to maintain my own website, since I use art that is technically under copyright to either my publishers or the original cover artists, and if someone wanted to be a real dick, they could report me for posting pieces of my own books.
You know what else doesn't steal from me? Fanfic. The legal arguments about fanfic and fan art are huge and complicated and a matter for another day, but I can honestly say that I have received email from people saying "I encountered this piece of fic about your work and so I read the originals." I haven't received email saying "I encountered this piece of fic about your work and it was so bad that now I am stealing all your shit forever." Whatever impact fan works may have on my sales, and whatever the legality behind transformative fan work, it isn't stealing from me. It isn't internet piracy. But under SOPA, you could totally rat out fanfic archives and most of DeviantArt for violating copyrights, and watch the pretty, pretty fires as they burned.
Piracy pisses me off. I don't feel that I have wasted my time when I got upset about piracy and copyright. But there is such a huge difference between "I will now protect you from piracy" and what these bills will do that isn't even funny. Don't believe me? I mean, why should you? I am, after all, not a lawyer or anything like that. But I do have access to the internet, and to the smart people it currently contains, the ones I am allowed to communicate with freely and without fear of being slapped for violating a law that seems a bit too broadly written.
John Murphy would like to talk to you about SOPA. Better yet, he does it very intelligently and coherently, with good, clean information.
Still not convinced? The folks at reddit have actually dissected the text of SOPA, and point out some terrifying potential abuses. If you want to get your legal language on, this is the place to go.
And the ever-fabulous and profane Chuck Wendig has also pointed out some of the major issues with these anti-piracy measures. Like me, he's approaching it from a writer's perspective. He just says "fuck" more.
You know what? Fuck SOPA. Fuck PIPA. Fuck the idiots who think that they can control the internet. And fuck them twice for forcing today's internet blackout, because I still don't know whether parrots eat meat.