Stop SOPA/PIPA – 4 Ways You Can Help

by Kara Murphy on January 17, 2012

Today some of the largest entities on the Internet including Wikipedia, Reddit, and MoveOn.org will go completely dark, for 24 hours, to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA – fun fact: “Sopa” means “trash” in Swedish) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). These two bills, introduced to the House and Senate back in October, respectively, would allow the U.S. Department of Justice and copyright holders to seek court orders against websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. I should mention that action can be taken without due process. So, for example, if I posted a YouTube video on Spinning Platters, the copyright holder could have this site (and even YouTube, itself) shut down without any notice.

While that sounds like it makes sense for businesses, its fundamental structure would severely cripple the information superhighway with censorship – which would cause an adverse effect on the economic growth stimulated by the Web. Millions of entrepreneurs, small business people, as well as citizens concerned with stifling free speech/violating the First Amendment, are already aware of the drastic consequences that would materialize if these bills pass.

Alarmingly, as of this writing, amongst the Stereogums and Pitchforks of the world, the only major music blog I’ve seen mention SOPA is the always appropriately ardent BrooklynVegan. A quick Twitter search of #BlackOutSOPA (which I’ll discuss soon), along with lists of top indie and mainstream musicians, revealed that MC Hammer was the only artist supporting the “Stop SOPA” campaign.

The reason I point this out is because musical artists and blogs, in general, would suffer the most with the new sets of restrictions placed on their online distribution channels. Anyone slightly familiar with the musical tech space could tell you that the Internet has had a much-needed liberating impact for most artists and has enabled many more to have a fruitful career without having to rely on major corporations. A bill like SOPA would put the power right back into the hands of greedy executives and stifle the promotional efforts of way too many independent artists.

Either way, these bills impact EVERYONE who uses the Internet. If you’re as bothered about the possible implications as I am, perhaps you’d like to do something…make your voice heard. Here are several ways you can help make a difference:

Tell Congress not to censor the Web! Google may be having a difficult time leveraging its clout to drive involvement with Google+ (as a potential anti-trust lawsuit looms) but this petition, on the other hand, linked from their homepage, takes 5 SECONDS to fill out and is spreading exponentially. Take those seconds to fill this out too.

Visit BlackOutSOPA.org where, with just a simple click, you can change your profile pictures on Twitter and Facebook (and change them back with just as easily). Over the past week, this hub has rapidly evolved and now also lets you instantaneously:

  • Tweet to the U.S. Majority Leader and other politicians who will ultimately affect the outcome
  • Encourage big personalities on Twitter like Google’s Marissa Mayer and author Neil Gaiman to get involved
  • View which people have had the biggest measurable impact on spreading the word (as of now, it’s Felicia Day).
  • Find out where local protests are happening, which leads me to…

Join a peaceful protest organized through MeetUp.com. I’m assuming most of Spinning Platters’ readership is located in the greater Bay Area. Therefore, the best one to attend for most of you might be the Hackers + Founders event, taking place at Civic Center Plaza, starting at noon.

Black out your own site. If you’re not as heavily trafficked or recognizable as say, Wikipedia (who, I should mention, is the pioneer of the full black out movement), this could have possible negative consequences when it comes to visibility in search results. This article tells you how to mitigate any possible SEO-related side effects from taking a stance.

If you’re running your site on the WordPress platform, not only have they made it incredibly easy to completely black your site out, they’ve also given you the safer option of showing your support with a “Stop Censorship” ribbon. The instructions on this post are simple and very straightforward. For all other sites, sopatrike.com offers up simple HTML and JavaScript code that will black out your site for 12 hours.

Have I missed anything? While it may seem like a lot of effort, even participating in one of these activities and showing your support for a free and open Internet is the right thing to do. I’m hoping to see more of my favorite musicians and publications take action, starting in the next day, as well. Congress will vote on these two controversial bills on Tuesday, January 24th. Hopefully, they’ll be shut down once and for all.

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