You may have seen this image on the internet today:
And you've probably read about SOPA and PIPA on Twitter and Facebook and tumblr and websites like reddit and boingboing and google and Wikipedia.
But there's a few issues that are of particular concern to those with a fannish bent. theoatmeal.com touches on some of them from a parody perspective, but basically, the "Stop Internet Piracy Act" (and PIPA as well) are written in such a way that they give any owner of any copyright, trademark right, right of publicity or other intellectual property rights the ability to shut down a site's ability to accept donations made via credit card companies, PayPal or Amazon, or bar a site from hosting Google or Groupon ads or being part of the WBShop or Amazon Affiliate programs just because they think that one icon, one User Profile, one piece of fanart, one fanvid or one fanfic infringes on their content - regardless of whether that story, icon, vid or art is transformative, or created pursuant to fair use.
"Fair use is a lawful use of copyright." That's what the Northern District of California said in Lenz v. Universal Music back in 2008. So much of what we do on fansites - from the discussions and reviews to art and fic and vids we host and link to - is fair use, but there's no Fair Use provision in SOPA.
"Think about this for a second: think how many bogus DMCA takedown notices are sent by copyright holders to take down content they don't like," writes TechDirt's Mike Masnick. "With this new bill, should it become law, those same copyright holders will be able to cut off advertising and payment processing to such sites. Without court review."
Donations are vital to fansites; if they can't accept financial support from users and visitors, many will not be able to keep the site online; it costs between $20 and $1000 per month for servers at fansites of various sizes. Ads are vital to other sites - Googleads, the BlogHer network, store associateships, etc.
If SOPA passes, and one copyright-holder who doesn't agree with the law of Fair Use complains to PayPal or Google or Amazon, it is likely that at least some sites will lose the ability to accept donations from users like you, and many will be unable to use ad revenue to keep the sites online.
And fandom-run sites are just a small portion of the internet, in the grand scheme of things. YouTube hosts fanvids, parodies and reviews, Tumblr and LiveJournal host every type of content that can be created, and Google links to everything. One person can choose to abuse the provisions of SOPA and damage each of those sites for everyone - or the sites themselves may curtail certain services, or limit what they allow people to share, discuss and distribute.
That's not an Internet that any of us would recognize.
The worst part of SOPA and PIPA is that the worst case scenarios are extremely likely, plausible and conceivable.
The good news is, the White House has threatened a veto of the bills as they were last week, and the House has put off votes for the immediate future, because we on the internet - we content creators and we content distributors and we content users - have said no, this proposed law is bad and will destroy something we need, use and love.
We can’t sit down now.
If you live in the US, please sign Google's petition, or click here to visit the EFF's website and have an email automatically sent to your representative.
*Not the right word when only one of the six entities testifying before Congress is an Internet-purposed company!
ETA: More discussion here; this post is also on Tumblr.