As you have no doubt already noticed, most likely while attempting to find out what Uncle Jesse’s band name was on Full House sometime around 3 a.m., Wikipedia is down today—just one of the thousands of sites that have yanked themselves from the web in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act and its comrade, the Protect IP Act. Other popular web destinations such as Craigslist, Reddit, and Boing Boing have also gone dark, while sites such as Google, WordPress, and Wired have all demonstrated solidarity by blacking out their logos or even content. Even those innocent LOLCats are caught in the fray: You can has Cheezburger, but only after you has serious consideration about what you can do to join the chorus of dissent.
Just because The A.V. Club chose not to go dark ourselves (though we had several serious discussions about it) doesn’t mean that we don’t recognize that the passage of either piece of legislation could have serious ramifications for our site and the Internet at large. We’ve heard the counter-protests of the MPAA, which yesterday slammed protesting sites for participating in “stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns.” We find this deeply ironic—not least considering it issued from the mouth of Senator-turned-MPAA chief executive Chris Dodd, one of the biggest, most hypocritical corporate stooges around. But also because SOPA/PIPA both punishes users and turns government officials into corporate pawns, allowing media conglomerates’ efforts to protect the stuff they own to become pretext for legislation that could dramatically change the Internet. The fact that Dodd actually holds up China as some sort of paradigm tells you all that you need to know.
Under the current wording of the bills, sites like The A.V. Club could be in danger of being censored—or even shut down—without warning by the government on grounds that we misappropriated—or even linked to a site that misappropriated—copyrighted material. Considering most if not all of our content deals in discussing copyrighted material, that makes us nervous. Proponents of SOPA and PIPA argue that such fears are pure paranoia, and that the enforcement of these provisions would certainly be responsible, not subject to abuse, and only directed at offenders who directly enable piracy. To us, this is a similar argument to the “if you’re not a terrorist, you have nothing to worry about” riposte to laws allowing indefinite detention without trial, and it raises similar concerns.
Even if SOPA and PIPA are explicitly about stopping piracy, adopting them would set a dangerous precedent for censorship that threatens the entire Internet—us included. We encourage you to check out the below video explaining why that is, and consider signing this petition or, better yet, contacting your representatives to let them know your thoughts.
And by the way: Uncle Jesse’s band name was Jesse And The Rippers. You’re welcome.