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With SOPA/Protect IP now cast by reluctant legislators into the outer darkness, the author comes up for air … for a moment.

Troubled Skies

Start: As you can see, I’ve taken back the header to my blog, which has been obscured by a black banner with the words “Stop Censorship,” which in turn linked to the Stop American Censorship site.

Am I done with that issue?

In a word, ha!

I have no illusions that the forces behind the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and its Senate sister Protect IP (PIPA) are going to graciously acknowledge defeat and gallantly submit to the wisdom of the masses. But, barring something unusual, both SOPA and PIPA as written are dead, and it will probably be some months before we see something quite like it again.

Though it is like our government to blind-side us, isn’t it?

It saddens me to think that that we must consider our elected leaders to be enemies of the people, because, clearly, they aren’t very good at keeping our best interests in mind.

Waiting in the wings, in fact, is H.R. 1981, “Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011,” which appears to in fact be an electronic “snooping” bill, which imposes data retention requirements on commercial ISPs to create a data bank of all online activities of every American, available to law enforcement for investigation of crime, and potentially for civil disputes as well.

Building this bill on the back of “the safety of our children” again demonstrates the contempt the supporters of this kind of legislation have for fair dialogue. This aspect alone is nothing less than an underhanded preemptive strike against anyone questioning the wisdom of this legislation, by painting them as morally depraved for even raising the question.

Contemptible. Simply contemptible.

Then, of course, there’s the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which several nations have, behind closed doors, been crafting. Leaks of the material give us a picture of a deeply intrusive multinational agreement that has raised enormous concerns about surveillance and privacy.

Update, January 28, 2012: I see now that I misunderstood how far ACTA has progressed and that some of the uglier aspects of it have been kicked out, as explained by Mike Masnick of TechDirt. Happily, there is now a move afoot to require that international treaties require Senatorial approval, as evidenced by this petition.

This experience has also made me aware of one piece of legislation already in place, the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008 (“Pro IP”) which permits the Department of Justice to conduct civil suits on behalf of copyright holders. This appears to be the law that gave the authority to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI) to take down websites deemed to be guilty of intellectual property piracy, and to the the Attorney General for conducting operations such as the collaboration with law enforcement in New Zealand to seize the “cyberlocker” file-sharing site MegaUpload Thursday, January 19.

(Don’t care for this either? Tell President Obama here.)

No, we’re not done with SOPA — its children, its brethren, nor its ancestors.

How The SOPA Opposition Movement Has Changed Me

When I first became aware of SOPA and Protect IP around the middle of November, I was not particularly political. As the reality of this legislation began to sink in, I was at first stunned, then outraged. I have (and still do) dismiss the Alex Jones’ style of parapolitical (read: conspiracy theory) diatribe as exploitive fear-mongering, but I was set back to see a little peek of the truth that these reality-distorting emotion-baiting exaggerations were built on.

It became clear to me that most of our elected leaders don’t give a rat’s ass about us.

It became clear to me that most of our elected leaders think we are all damned fools.

It became clear to me that most of our elected leaders have the moral integrity of a schoolyard bully.

I had to ask myself: how did this happen?

No, really: why did we let this happen?

I realized the bone-honest answer to that question is why did I let this happen?

And that’s the bottom line. I have brushed off the need for being political for far too long. Our country has descended into chaos through a number of forces that have steamrollered over the rest of us, and it is in the process of becoming one of the biggest threats to freedom and real democracy in the entire world.

(You want to mock me for not really seeing it until now? Save it. You have better things to do.)

This isn’t the America I was taught to believe in, an America that wanted to see itself as a shining pillar of light in the darkness of the world. There have been moments when perhaps we were, but we aren’t this now.

However, I choose to not see this as a lie we told to ourselves. I see it now as a vision of what we hope to become.

You feel it, don’t you?

Being apolitical is no longer a luxury, and with the tools available to us now, we simply have no excuse.

The personal ox of all users of the internet (both America and outside) was being gored with SOPA/Protect IP. We could see it, we responded, we made a difference — for now.

There is so much more to change, so much more to fix.

Choose your battle. Get busy.

Many Thanks

Troubled SkiesThough I didn’t start the “movement” to stop SOPA and Protect IP by any stretch of the imagination, I’m found myself feeling a bit of ownership. I am pleased that, despite the meddling by Anonymous on January 19 in the aftermath of the MegaUpload takedown, SOPA and PIPA have been dropped into a legislative limbo.

As I’ve said elsewhere before, I’d like to thank everyone who participated in the SOPA Strike “from the bottom of my heart.”

However, I am under no illusion that this thing is over. Please keep an eye out, listen to groups like TechDirt and the Electronic Frontiers Foundation and the rest, and step up when it’s obvious that the need is there.

I recognize there are just a few that follow me here, but I am reminded of words attributed to Mohandas Gandhi:

“Whatever you do may seem insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”

We did something important Wednesday. Thank you.

Now don’t stop.

• • •

Copyright © 2012, by Daniel Brenton. All Rights Reserved.


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Daniel Brenton is the creator/author of the 5 Second Novel series, co-author of the space race thriller Red Moon (with David S. Michaels), and is the author of the satirical column The Round Files, published in Stuart Miller’s short-lived Alien Worlds Magazine.

Despite being a writer, Daniel has no cats at this time, is unwilling to become an alcoholic, and has a very difficult time keeping a straight face while writing about himself in third person.

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