The 21st Century is turning out to be pretty cool. We don’t have flying cars (yet), but we do have smart phones, and privately funded space travel looks promising. We also have the Internet, a vast forum powered by technology where everyone can make their voices heard, even little known science fiction writers like me. It’s perhaps the greatest advancement in free speech since the First Amendment was written.
By now I’m sure you’ve heard about SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and its companion, PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act), two bills proposed in Congress meant to protect copyright holders from online piracy. Unfortunately, it turns out Congress is run by old people individuals aged 60+ who don’t know how computers work, and the bills they’ve written will most likely destroy free speech on the Internet. Many websites, regardless of their innocence or guilt, would not survive the lawsuits SOPA and PIPA would generate.
China already censors the Internet. Many Middle Eastern dictators wish they had, but social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have already helped overthrow them. If the United States wants to spread freedom and democracy throughout the world, the Internet is one of its best tools. Far more effective than guns or bombs. So why would the US government attack the Internet?
I’ve put a great deal of work into this blog and my short story series, The Tomorrow News Network, which is published online. I don’t want to lose it all when some corporation decides—on a whim—that I’ve violated their copyright. If a company as big as Google feels threatened by SOPA and PIPA, what chance do I have? What chance does any private citizen have?
I live in Pennsylvania. I’m represented in Congress by Senators Pat Toomey (Republican) and Bob Casey (Democrat). We just went though some gerrymandering redistricting, so I don’t know who represents me in the House anymore. But Senator Toomey, Senator Casey, Congressman Whoever, I want you to know something: if you vote to censor the Internet, I will vote against you. I doubt you read this blog, and I doubt you even care about my vote, but I promise I will vote for whoever runs against you in your next election.
* * *
Update (January 29, 2012): Last I heard, Congress canceled votes on both SOPA and PIPA; however, the issue has not gone away. Politicians in Washington are still looking for ways to stop online piracy. Whether they choose to do so responsibly or not is still an open question.