On Monday, Occupy Harvard’s General Assembly consented to sign on to Occupy Boston’s proposal to condemn SOPA and PIPA. Occupy Harvard will join in solidarity with other internet communities in a ‘website blackout’ January 18th in protest of SOPA and PIPA.
A Proposal for Solidarity in Condemnation of Legislation to Destroy the Internet in Favor of Corporate Interests Brought forth by independent members of Occupy Boston and the Occupy Boston IT working group.
Congress is currently contemplating laws that will dramatically change the way the internet functions. First introduced in the United States House of Representatives on October 26, 2011, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA),also known as H.R. 3261, and its counterpart, the Protect IP Act, also known as Senate Bill S.968, expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement and copyright holders to allegedly combat online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods.
SOPA/PIPA’s success in Congress has been in a large part due to lobbying by the infamous Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). They are opposed by nearly every internet content provider, electronic civil society organization, and the ACLU. The lobbyists are winning: As of last count 81 Congresspeople are in favor of the Act, and 29 are against.
SOPA/PIPA extends current copyright laws, making websites liable when a user links to a page with copyrighted content. Websites such as Google, Youtube, and Reddit will be forced to proactively review any user generated content; the cost of this review will prevent the creation of the next Googles, Youtubes, and Reddits. Sites may be permanently taken down without judicial review because a user on a site linked to suspected copyrighted content. Any website which hosts user-generated content is a potential target of these acts. SOPA also makes content providers, such as Comcast, AT&T, or Verizon, liable when a user utilizes their bandwidth to access suspected copyrighted content. In order to protect their corporations, telecom companies and websites will be forced to filter and pre-approve all content. This would effectively transform the internet from a place for sharing and creativity, into a barren corporatocracy. The internet, a crucial tool of contemporary horizontal democracy, is vital to social movements such as Occupy, the global exchange of ideas, and businesses across the world.
This proposed legislation is troubling to members of the Occupy Boston community, for reasons including, but not limited to, the following:
•1. Freedom of Speech: The passage of SOPA/PIPA would infringe upon Internet users’ fundamental rights to freedom of speech and privacy. All speech would be pre-screened by both telecommunications companies like Cox and AT&T, and websites, like Google, Facebook, and Youtube. Websites which allow the collaborative exchanges of ideas, like Reddit, and message boards would be liable for any individual user’s link to copyrighted content. This will fundamentally transform the roiling marketplace of ideas that we currently know of as the Internet into a barren corporate landscape resembling the Internet known by web denizens in authoritarian regimes. This type of prior restraint on speech will destroy the internet as we know it and has always been unconstitutional in America.
•2. Quelling Social Movements: Under SOPA/PIPA internet social networking could be destroyed on a whim. This would profoundly transform the way the internet is used for social movements around the world, harming any popular movement which relies on social networking. This includes the 2009 Iranian protests, the popular revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria, Occupy, and other movements across America.
•3. Jobs: SOPA/PIPA is job-killing legislation. Experts and industry professionals agree that if SOPA/PIPA passes thousands of jobs in the tech industry will be destroyed or shipped away from America to more speech friendly nations. If SOPA passes every small business that uses the internet will be negatively impacted; many startups will have little chance of surviving. Every aspect of internet business will be devastated from online advertising to telecommunications. By crushing the internet, SOPA/PIPA crushes the American spirit of innovation which has created jobs, and been a cornerstone of the American economy.
•4. Corruption: This bill benefits a small number of Hollwood executives and music industry companies (a $10b industry), and is being pushed by their lobbyists, to the detriment of the $800b technology industry. You are not hearing about it because they control the mainstream media. This is but one example of the control well heeled corporations have over our political process, and our action is necessary to inform people who are being failed by the corporate media.
Therefore, we, Occupy Boston do resolve the following:
•1. To join in solidarity with other internet communities in a ‘website blackout’, Janurary 18th, where all visitors to occupyboston.org will be directed to a page containing information about both SOPA and PIPA. Functionality of the website will not be disrupted.
•2. To encourage and implore supporters of Occupy Boston to write to their Senators and Congresspeople concerning the detrimental effects of both SOPA and PIPA.
•3. To condemn the proposed legislation known as SOPA and PIPA for fundamentally crippling free speech on the internet, stifling social movements and creativity, recklessly destroying jobs and annihilating small businesses, and as an example of the endemic corruption which permeates our legislature in the interest of the 1%.
•4. OBIT will work with the Media working group to use social media to proliferate the above message about SOPA. Media working group posts for the day of January the 18th will focus on SOPA. These messages will include information about the Android app SOPA Boycott.