Blue Mass Group and Red Mass Group are going dark this Wednesday from 8 am to 8 pm. Here’s why.
Despite our many differences, BMG and RMG strongly agree on the need for the internet to remain a place where robust and unfettered discussion can take place, free from overly burdensome regulation and the threat of costly litigation.
Unfortunately, legislation is pending in Congress that would undermine those important values. The bill, known as the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House, is written by and for the big Hollywood studios, and it’s awful. It also has a big and bipartisan list of cosponsors. From one site that opposes the legislation, here’s an excerpt from its 2-pager summarizing the bill’s problems:
SOPA would chill the growth of social media and force sites to adopt a new role as content police. Under SOPA, general-purpose social media sites with no bad intent could be argued to “facilitate” infringement – and thus get tagged as theft sites – simply by virtue of providing the platforms for usersʼ content. To protect themselves, platforms of all kinds would be pressured to actively monitor and police user behavior. The new de facto duty to track and control user behavior would significantly chill innovation in social media and undermine social websitesʼ central role in fostering free expression. It would also set the dangerous international precedent that governments seeking to block online content that violates domestic law should look to online communications platforms as points of control.
Any online content or communications platform could lose its financial support at the whim of the most litigious rightsholder. Under SOPA, every user-generated content platform, social media website, or cloud-based storage service would be at constant risk of being cut off from payment or ad networks. All it would take to start the process – and put the website in serious jeopardy – is a single rightsholder alleging to the payment and ad networks that the challenged website is designed in a way that prevents it from sufficiently “confirming” infringement. In effect, every online communications platform would be at the mercy of not just mainstream rightsholders, but whatever rightsholder is the most aggressive and litigious.
The bill would eviscerate the predictable legal environment created by the DMCA, subjecting innovators to a new era of uncertainty and risk. User-driven sites have flourished under the DMCA safe harbor, which clearly defines their legal responsibilities and expressly rejects any obligation to actively track and police user behavior. Under SOPA, that legal predictability would be tossed aside. Every such site would be exposed to a constant risk of rightsholders and courts second-guessing the siteʼs technical architecture, in challenges asserting that the site “facilitates” or “fails to confirm” infringement. Smaller, emerging services would be especially hard-hit by the resulting uncertainty.
If PIPA/SOPA survives in anything like its current form and becomes law, it poses a real existential threat to sites like BMG and RMG, as well as thousands of others. Consequently, there has been a huge amount of pushback, and a bill that once looked like it was on the fast track to pass is now hitting roadblocks, and cosponsors are backing off. It’s working.
To keep up the pressure, major sites like Reddit and Wikipedia have announced that this Wednesday, January 18, they will be going on strike – and thousands of sites are joining them. There’s a partial list at this link.
BMG and RMG will be joining them. From 8 am to 8 pm on Wednesday, January 18, BMG and RMG will go dark. Instead of our usual content, you will see a page with information about PIPA/SOPA, and contact information for our two Senators (neither of whom has yet taken a position on the legislation, as far as we know) and our ten Representatives. We urge you to contact them and ask them to oppose PIPA/SOPA.
Thank you for standing up for a free and open internet!