You may have noticed that on Wednesday, January 18, a number of sites like Craigslist were down, and that a number of other sites, like Google and Beyoutiful, were kinda down, with information urging folks to contact their representatives about SOPA and PIPA. These are proposed laws before the senate and house, whose stated purpose is to fight internet piracy. As with most laws and potential laws, they have been given very noble sounding names – Stop Online Piracy Act, and Protect Intellectual Property Act. The problem is that there are already laws in place to deal with this. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a very strong one. Here’s a quote from one article I read:

At present, if Facebook, You Tube or other leading websites are found to be holding copyright material without permission, then they are told to take it down. Sopa would make it possible for the US to block the website. Such far-reaching powers could kill smaller firms and put off investors from financing new companies, said Holmes Wilson, co-founder of Fight For The Future, a lobbying group.

Unfortunately, the big corporations are tired of having to go through the hassle of the standard legal process (and the bad publicity that goes along with dragging an elderly grandparent into court because a grandkid downloaded some music). This is a horrible piece of legislation.

This is a video explaining why:

To give an example. We have received letters from Marvel Comics, and from the Lance Armstrong Foundation saying that we were encroaching, or close to encroaching upon their copyrights. The LAF claim was LAFable, er laughable. Because we use the word “Strong” in one of our product names, written in black, and we have the color yellow in our logo, we might possibly take away from their ability to raise money. Absolutely crazy. But I’m sure that the law offices that sent us multiple letters charged LAF thousands of dollars to “protect their copyright”, wasting money supposed to go to fight cancer (although how much LAF contributes to the search for the cure for cancer is doubtful, but I digress). And I told one of the lawyers at that office that they were wasting foundation money, which offended him greatly – either because it was untrue (he didn’t deny it) or more probably because it was true. They leave us alone now. The Marvel Comics claim was legitimate. Our Super products line resembled their Super hero logos. The reason that they didn’t take us to court, is that they have to be able to prove a loss of revenue. We’re small potatoes, with very little exposure, and our use of our logos was almost definitely not affecting their sale of Superman comics, movies, or action figures, but they asked us not to encroach any further and warned us of future action. Ok. We’re getting the logos changed as we have opportunity.

With this new law, they don’t have to go to a judge, although they could, and could get us shut down, completely, with no trial, no hearing, just on one day and dark the next. Not just our super vitamins. The whole site. These laws are not about removing infringing or counterfeited products. They are about shutting Internet sites down. Guilty, until proven innocent. But even without going to a judge, they can go to our payment processors, and ask them to stop processing payments for us. And then the payment processor has to decide right then and there, with no hearing, no time to do an investigation, do shut off payment processing for this site, or let it go, and possibly get shutdown ourselves for enabling or facilitating a site “dedicated to the theft of US Property”. Most likely, people like us again being very small potatoes, they’d just shut us off without a second thought.

Now supporters are saying that this is only to take down the worst of the worst of the sites out there. The stated goals of the bill are good. But the problem is, the wording is such that it extends far beyond the stated goals. And the way things work, within the context of this law, just about any small business could go dark overnight. And if you think a small company, could use the law to take down a big company’s site, even with a legitimate claim, I think that’s pretty wishful thinking.

Please. Do your part to kill these laws. Dead. Do not resuscitate. Our congressmen need to know we don’t want this, “Do not repackage, reload, and try again in secret.” Send a letter to all of your congressmen here:

Here are a couple of other links with more information:

Info on a sites that would probably go dark:

Here is a list of companies supporting SOPA/PIPA – at least in principle. Who knows if they have actually read the thing.


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