This is not a post about the need for bicycle lighting.
It's not a metaphor about the perils of moving through life without spirituality.
This is about the Internet and the surprises you are apt to find tomorrow, January 18, 2012, when certain sites "go dark" in opposition to SOPA and PIPA legislation.
If you haven't already heard, you will not be able to access the English version of Wikipedia tomorrow. Instead, you will find a message about the threat these bills pose to a free and open Internet.
Don't be fooled by the supporters of this bill - television networks, movie studios, record labels, publishers, and major consumer brands. The remedy these holders of copyrights, trademarks, and patents seek will elevate their property rights above your civil rights.
Don't get me wrong, these intellectual property rights holders deserve protection under the law. They just aren't entitled to protection above the law.
The proposed legislation seeks to set a precedent that will allow these holders to completely by-pass Due Process as afforded by the Constitution. No complaint. No investigation. No indictment. No trial. No verdict. Just an allegation and a punishment is the remedy they seek.
The law puts the onus of enforcement on everyone but the rights holders. It forces Internet service providers, domain registrars, website hosts, advertisers, and banks to shut down sites that the rights holders accuse of being in violation.
This warrants repeating; no complaint, no investigation, no indictment, no trial, and no verdict - just severe consequences for the third parties that fail to enforce the accusing party's property rights.
To put it simply, if Comcast doesn't shut down every accused website, then Comcast is liable for violating the holder's property rights. In effect, companies like Comcast, AT&T, GoDaddy, Word Press, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Yahoo will be forced by legislation to become the de facto Internet Police.
How free do you think the Internet will be with these corporations controlling your access to it?
The ramifications of enacting this law are anyone's guess and I won't delve into all of the hypotheticals. The fact that there is no clear path to protect access, bandwidth, and uncensored content is the problem that should concern each and every one of us.
Wikipedia's planned blackout for tomorrow should stop and force each of us to contemplate the most basic what-if. What if you went to use a site and it was suddenly gone?
If you say "that's ok, I don't use Wikipedia anyway", then you are missing the point altogether. What if it was your Facebook page or your blog? Or your employer's website? Or your bank's?
What if the speed to download Netflix was one-eight of that to download a movie from On Demand? What if Huffington Post loaded slower than Fox News (or vice-versa) depending on which party controlled Congress?
A free and open Internet is essential for a free and open democracy. We all will suffer the consequences if we don't put a stop to one-sided, special-interest legislation like SOPA and PIPA.
Remember this tomorrow when you see the sneak preview of what an Internet under SOPA and PIPA might look like. Take a stand and contact your representatives.
Let them know that you vote and you do not want to remain in the dark.
(In the utmost of ironies, Comcast went out the moment I attempted to post this. Awesome - censorship by keyword is starting already...)
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