By Sarah A. Hoyt
When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, “This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know,” the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything — you can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him. Robert A. Heinlein
If you’ve never heard of SOPA or PIPA, I’m jealous of you. And if you’ve never heard of SOPA or PIPA – two very bad ideas making their way through the US Senate, you’re asleep even as the people in power try to strip your rights from you. And I can’t let you sleep anymore. So, pardon me, this is going to edge into politics. Live with it.
So, what are SOPA and PIPA? Over the last two/three election cycles, not to mention over the last fifteen to eighteen years it has become clear that the mainstream media has competition and they can no longer have everything the way they wish. I have greeted the fact that people have other sources of news with relief, but I knew the pushback would come. Politicians – and the main stream media – have a lot invested in shaping narrative. I expected something like SOPA and PIPA.
Unfortunately these two bad ideas walking are far worse than that. Not only do they strike at my right – at your right – to post presidential goofs or speeches that show the larcenous nature of representatives, but they also strike at my right to make a living with no reference to gatekeepers and people who will certify that I’m allowed to speak. … or write. If these two bills pass, your right to post your own work on Amazon (or anywhere else) is done for.
Don’t believe me? Read here: http://pjmedia.com/blog/sopa-and-protect-ip-a-line-by-line-analysis-of-the-bills-we-must-kill/ This was written by a friend of mine, who read the bill so others didn’t have to. It is not as bad as I thought. It is, in fact, FAR WORSE.
Note that being ACCUSED of having copyright material in your book is enough to shut down the SITE offering it. Can Amazon certify that no one who posts there has stolen anything? Of course not. And we’ve already heard of people who put up – without permission – compilations of other people’s work. Under SOPA or PIPA that would be enough to shut Amazon down, instead of – as should be – going after the culprits. Worse, I (and every other writer alive) have been accused at times of plagiarizing, or even “copying” other work. The accusations are usually just stupid and made by people who don’t realize you can use the same title, a similar plot line, or even terms used by another author without plagiarizing (yes, if you use them all at the same time, there MIGHT be a problem, but I mean one or the other per work.) One of these people setting up a complaint would be enough to shut up a site carrying indie work, while it’s “investigated” (and when are these investigations, done? Particularly as there would be thousands if not millions) by our benevolent regulators.
You know what that means – it means that before you put anything up, you’d have to have it “certified” as not infringing copyright by some sort of gatekeeper – say, publishers. Who could also, of course, “ensure” that you had the “right” quality and opinions and … everything they’ve been doing for decades. This would give them the chance to “educate” the reading public again – and aren’t you readers looking forward to this?
Yes, there’s been – remarkably bipartisan – complaints about this, but, as Bill Reader posts in the linked article above, it’s perfectly possible that the intention was ALWAYS for SOPA to fail and PIPA to go through, doing essentially the same. Also, Lamar Smith, whom Glenn Reynolds pithily identifies as R-Hollywood, has vowed to get PIPA through.
Guys, make no mistake. First, our representatives are too disconnected from the online world to fully know what they’re doing. Frankly, almost anyone over forty who is not actively involved in a field that calls for net-savvy is. So, they have this vague idea that “people need protection” and are blundering where angels fear to tread. Second, they are receiving donations from Hollywood and I WOULD BET the publishing industry too, and being told they have to do something. Third, these bills give them maximum power over what you see, what you read and ultimately what you think.
Making them understand they can’t get away with this is like making sure an alcoholic won’t drink from a bottle in front of him. It can be done, but it will take a lot of effort and possibly force. Oh, yeah, and eternal vigilance.
You shouldn’t even be surprised. Dave Freer and I told you for months that the pushback would come. And it has come. Why should you be surprised?
I’ll add only – to those of you who’ve read my space opera – that something like this – in case you didn’t notice that the internet as such doesn’t exist in that future – was predicated into the future history that creates the regime of the Good Men, with their manipulation of the truth. I won’t claim any particular foresight, because it didn’t take any. For tyranny to survive, the ability of people to speak MUST be abridged if not outright stopped.
This is not a partisan issue, it is an issue of the future and its enemies. Contact your representative and stop the enemies of the future. And then vote out anyone who sponsors or in other ways supports this monstrosity.
Let’s not forget, this also allows that small collective of publishers, movie conglomerates, and music conglomerates to deny everyone on the planet access to life-saving information. It will, if passed, kill people.
Consider how many online forums exist that are dedicated to increasing the knowledge and understanding of various disabilities and illnesses. Now, consider what could happen if those went away. The woman whose child was denied a life-saving transplant because the child was “mentally retarded” would not be able to reach out to her internet community and raise so much pressure and anger that the hospital in question is backpedalling fast enough to raise a dust cloud. Her child would die in less than a year.
In our field, Kris Rusch’s blog would be shut down faster than you can say ‘violation’, leaving writers where they have been for years: at the mercy of any publisher or agent who wishes to commit fraud (not being in the traditional scene, I can’t say if they actually do commit fraud, but the total absence of transparency for authors makes it pretty bloody easy for anyone who wants to rip someone off to do it without consequences. Just saying).
It doesn’t matter what it is. It doesn’t matter where it is. Look for who gains power, and hammer the bastards into the ground.
Heck, Kate, people with odd conditions, like my eczema won’t be able to cite studies, for instance. Yes, this bill will cost lives. And that’s without counting the lives it will cost us by impoverishing us with cutting jobs and innovation. (A little known fact — wealth saves lives. No, really.)
Hell yes. How many people died of treatable injury and illness before the combination of telephone and internal combustion engines made calling an ambulance a possibility? You need wealth to create and maintain those, and the hospital, and the medical knowledge that makes the hospital more than a charnel house.
But… I really don’t need to be ranting on that topic for hours, either.
Thanks for raising the issue, Sarah. Wikipedia is going dark for 24hrs to raise awareness & many providers are also doing their bit.
The seriousness and one-side crookedness of this cannot be overstated. For example at the moment there is great deal of ‘piracy’ going on. It’s happening on a huge scale, with open theft of copyrighted material for profit, and victims are powerless to do anything about it… And SOPA (the stalking horse) or the real plan PIPA will….
HELP the _pirates_ a great deal.
Because IF any victim dares complain the law will… not prosecute the barefaced easily found criminals, but close down the only alternative that the victims have.
At the moment PUBLISHING COMPANIES are selling material for which they do NOT have the rights. Having moaned about piracy are engaging in the same thing, and it cannot be merely by accident, and it is for gain. Where the rights have reverted to the creator or were never sold, they’re selling e-books. This is widespread. I know several of the victims myself. My own book, out of copyright, is still being offered by a publisher that does not have the rights (admittedly I haven’t told them to take it down, and it’s off their own site. They risk being shut down.). But the big six are simply selling stuff they do not own the rights to on Amazon. The infringing party is right there on the publishing page, the record of receipt of payment of fraudulently obtained money is right there. BUT if the victim (the author) complains under SOPA or its PIPA disguise… AMAZON (or Smashwords or B&N) gets punished. So the only other outlet the author and owner had for his own product… is shut down, leaving him or her with no choice… but to go and beg the thief to help, and accept their terms (which will be worse the the exploitation we’ve been gouged with) or lose it all.
Writers will go back to near slavery. Readers will get just whatever the gatekeepers want to give them. Prices will skyrocket, numbers of readers will fall. In the end, everyone loses, except a few CEO’s and a bloke called Lamar who will retire rich.
Yes, rather than do business honestly, compete, provide valuable service… the rent seekers are resorting corruption and law to keep their monopoly.
Stop these laws or go back to being serfs.
Exactly. This is a “Live Free Or Die.” I for one, if these pass, will … well, not stop writing, but take up a “real job” and start burying my books somewhere future generations might find them.