Why I’m going dark for #StopSOPA

To be perfectly honest, my going dark tomorrow, January 18, 2012, won’t contribute much in the general scheme of things. I have two blogs – one is self-hosted, the other is not. I don’t have advertisements nor do I sell anything. No business has ever been done on either blog. I’m really small potatoes.

It has a lot to do with content

Even though my blogs are personal, theoretically, I could be shut down, fined, or even imprisoned if #SOPA were to pass, without notice. In my case, it boils down to content. While 99% of the content on my blogs come from me, there is 1% that I get from outside sources. That could be links, pictures, videos from YouTube, etc. It’s that 1% of content that puts me in danger.

Among the many explanations I’ve seen over the past week or so, Chris Heald at Mashable, wrote an excellent breakdown (in plain English), that explains what SOPA would mean, for all of us. In his breakdown, he talked about how SOPA expands the definition of “criminal copyright infringement” to include the following:

“…At least 10 copies or phonorecords, or of at least 10 public performances by means of digital transmission, of 1 or more copyrighted works, during any 180-day period, which have a total retail value of more than $2,500.”

“…Total retail value may be shown by evidence of the total retail price that persons receiving the reproductions, distributions, or public performances constituting the offense would have paid to receive such reproductions, distributions, or public performances lawfully.”

For example: remember that video of you at your cousin’s wedding, singing some song belonging to, oh I don’t know, Bon Jovi? You know, the one you uploaded to YouTube and shared with your family and then your friends got a hold of it? Yeah, that one.

Let’s say that Bon Jovi receives $1 every time the song is purchased and you received 2,500 hits on your video. That’s $2,500 you didn’t pay the Band. With one video you could potentially be fined and arrested, because you posted content that belonged to someone else, without paying for it. It’s called “felony copyright infringement,” with “willful infringement for commercial gain or valued at more than $1,000″ tacked on for good measure. Kind of scary if you ask me. (I borrowed the monetary example and quotes above from Chris’ explanation.)

I’ve used video’s of songs (by the real performer and by others) in past blog posts. I can’t imagine the financial devastation this would create for large and small businesses, professional bloggers, and bloggers like myself, if this law passes.

Obviously, there is much more to SOPA than the above. I’m just taking one small bit and making an example out of it.

Why bother?

In my opinion, this bill puts us on par with China, Iran, and other countries that censor and watch what their citizens say, see, and do online. In the past year, our own government called on China and Iran telling them they shouldn’t censor the internet.

Passing SOPA could mean websites outside of the United States would be unavailable to us, based on their content. Yet, who determines the content? The government. 

If it starts here, what’s next? The ramifications of this bill passing are too scary to consider.

For me, going dark (and staying offline for one day) means I’m “standing up” with other websites – known and unknown, who are risking revenue and readership to say we won’t stand for censorship, in any form.

SOPA is about censorship and lost revenue.  Don’t let anyone tell you anything different.

Last word

Video credit: Blogworld

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