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Monday, 19 December 2011

Don't let SOPA ruin Christmas

So much has been written about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that I'm not writing any more.  Use your favourite search engine or listen to the interview I did with Cathy Gellis on the Pod Delusion last month.

The important message here is don't let SOPA, music or film industry lobbyists ruin Christmas.

Yes, the threat to an open and democratic internet is very real.  But the reality also is, unless you intend to stand on the steps of Congress with a banner on Wednesday or register your opposition to the bill with your representative there's very little else can be done at this relatively early stage.

The SOPA bill still has a long way to go.  After the House Judiciary Committee it needs to then go for a full vote.  After that, it needs to pass to the Senate and scrutiny of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and then a full Senate vote.  Then it needs to be signed by the President.

Yes, it could all happen very fast, but there will be some time for opposition to grow and mature.  Allies are emerging, like Senator Ron Wyden, who re-stated his intention to filibuster (delay) the passage of SOPA and its Senate counterpart PIPA.  Large tech companies like Wikipedia, Google and Facebook have raised concerns.

In some respects the rights holders have shot themselves in the foot by starting two separate bills in different houses of congress.  The Protect IP Act (PIPA) needs to pass from the Senate to the House of Representatives, and SOPA the other way.  Double the process, double the noise and, hopefully, double the opposition.

In the UK, similar provisions might make their way into the Communications Bill, and there's also apparently a second bill of interest that might be called the Communications Capability Bill, which will attempt to install monitoring and pinch points, maybe even an internet Kill Switch, into the UK infrastructure.

There's also ongoing attempts to block Newzbin on more ISPs, and get more sites blocked under Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (under-the-radar censorship provisions pushed in by Statutory Instrument without the scrutiny of a full Parliamentary Bill back in 2003).

But seriously, all this will happen in the new year.  There's only so much can be done when campaigning for sanity in digital policy making on either side of the Atlantic, and there is nothing to be gained from getting too upset about events outside your direct control when you could be enjoying a beer and some turkey.

So, bar a major development this will be my last post till 2012.  Let's hope, as the days start to get longer, the light will dawn on the lawmakers ignorant of how the internet works and they'll shift towards policies fit for a digital age.

@JamesFirth

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