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|Why GA Voice will remain online on 'SOPA Blackout' day|
|by Ryan Watkins|
|January 17, 2012 17:16|
Personally, I object to the proposed anti-piracy legislation known as the Stop Online Piracy Act. Professionally, I manage a content-driven newspaper website that cannot shut down in protest of the legislation.
I'll tell you why after two quick stories.
The first time my work was published under another person's name was when I wrote for a motorsport magazine and provided articles to the official website of the sanctioning body of a particular form of auto racing.
A competitor of ours decided to take the copy, unchanged, and post it directly to their website. With the help of a friend in the legal field, I sent the competitor a cease & desist letter asking them to pull the article from their site. My letter was never answered. Eventually, the article was moved to a “pay only” section of their website and without the financial means to pursue it any further, I had no choice but to let the theft go unchecked.
Another story involves our work here at GA Voice. Several months ago, someone decided it would be an excellent idea to take our website's RSS feeds and import them into a Blogger website. Complete with their own Google ads, this website operated for a few days until I noticed that our own content was displaying in two places at once. We're generally pretty forgiving about referencing our articles. Give us a link, and credit, and cite us all you want — but don’t post our articles without permission. Take our content without asking or attribution and we'll use whatever means available to us to have the content pulled.
I politely asked Google, via a handy intellectual property rights complaint form, to remove the content from Blogger and to ban the user who set up the site. Google complied, and within hours, the site was no longer active and I could only presume that all of the money the person made through Google's ad platform was not distributed.
Legal process 0, Google 1.
Google knows how to handle copyright violations. I have much less faith in the 535 members of Congress who are deciding the future of the internet. Some of these people actually think that digital information is sent via a series of tubes.
Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and a host of tech industry giants oppose SOPA and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (the Senate version of the same legislation) for many reasons.
Both SOPA and PIPA are designed to protect companies like GA Voice, creators of original content. Unfortunately, what the bill actually does is give the government and internet service providers the power to silence websites they accuse of copyright infringement without due process.
I shudder at the thought of working through some bureaucratic process to prove our website doesn't steal its content.
Both sides of the issue have valid points. The creators of content deserve the right to have their work protected and monetized if they choose. Advocates of an open, free internet fight for our right to continue to create works of content that can be, at times, controversial. More to the point, we're not guaranteed our freedom of speech online. It can be silenced at any time by our elected representatives.
Tomorrow, Wikipedia and Reddit are joining a “Blackout SOPA Day,” designed to draw attention to the anti-piracy legislation and the negative affects it will have on the future of the internet. Hundreds of websites have signed up to participate, but this website will not be among them.
We can't black the site out in protest of SOPA or PIPA. We're in the business of reporting news, not making it. But we hope that you spend some of your “SOPA Blackout Day” with us and remember those of us who create original content.
Top photo: Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced the Stop Online Piracy Act in the U.S. House of Representatives (photo via Facebook)
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