Top 16 Links About SOPA

I just did a post about the latest developments in the SOPA battle, but as it may become quickly outdated, I thought I’d do a post summarizing some of the most important links that are being shared around the Internet. Some of the links provide summaries of the while the bill is so dangerous and what has unfolded already, and some of the links are good places to keep up-to-date on what will unfold in the future. Feel free to add other important links in the comments.

The Dangers of SOPA

1. Washington Post: Everything you need to know about Congress’s online piracy bills, in one post. I don’t think it’s really everything (thus the 15 other links), but it’s a good place to start and it summarizes the bill(s) without sounding paranoid about anything.

2. Forbes: How SOPA Could Ruin My Life. A post from a small business owner concerned that SOPA could destroy a website that provides his income.

3. TechDirt: How SOPA 2.0 Sneaks In A Really Dangerous Private Ability To Kill Any Website. TechDirt explains how a new amendment to the bill makes it even worse.

4. TotalBiscuit: WTF is SOPA ? aka The American Government trying to ruin the internet. A UK Law graduate goes to YouTube to explain the dangers of this bill. It’s long (21 minutes) but pretty informative (especially if you don’t like reading or do like British accents). It’s getting shared around Twitter like crazy right now and has acquired over 1 million views in less than two days.

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SOPA: Delayed But Not Defeated

Good news – somewhat. The extremely dangerous SOPA bill has been delayed. The Judiciary Committee began hearings on the bill on Thursday, but the outnumbered opponents of the bill prolonged the process as much as possible, forcing the entire text to be read out loud and bringing up amendment after amendment. The hearing continued on Friday where it was abruptly ended. Initial reports suggested that the bill had been delayed until at least January, but apparently they are going to try to have another meeting this coming Wednesday – apparently the issue of piracy is so important that it cannot wait until after Christmas. (Word on the Internet is that the lobbyists just want to sneak the bill through while no one’s paying attention, just like they did with the Federal Reserve act back in 1913 or something.)

So the fight will continue but at least it’s dragging out longer than expected, giving the entire Internet more time to mobilize defense against it. Also, Lamar Smith – the bill’s uncompromising leader – apparently seems open to letting actual technology experts talk about the potential consequences of the bill.

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The Right To A Lightbulb Has Been Extended

(Update below)

It seems that in the wheeling and dealing to pass a government budget this week, the ban on incandescent lightbulbs has been delayed. The 100W bulbs were supposed to be the first to be illegalized starting next month, but Congress apparently prohibited the administration from “spending any money to carry out the light bulb standards… That means the regs will likely go into effect next fiscal year, which starts in October 2012.”

Well, in the simplest sense, any delay to statism is good news. Of course, there are liberals on the Internet complaining that those dumb conservatives just hate regulation even when it would save them money on electric bills, but I’ve written before about how I’ve struggled to find any available lightbulbs that match the quality of existing incandescents – besides the fact that it’s arguable that the “green” savings from CFLs are offset by their manufacturing processes or the fact that they contain mercury. So a delay is good news. If things get delayed almost to the next presidential election, maybe it will get delayed again.

But it’s a rather hollow victory.

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SOPA: Opposed By The Entire Internet

The entertainment industry is lobbying for a dangerous “anti-piracy” bill that essentially gives the government the power to make websites accused of file-sharing vanish from the Internet – even if the accusation is unfounded or was caused by a random user. It’s a terrible, corrupt, and poorly written bill that will do nothing to solve the piracy problem but has a lot of potential to ruin the Internet. But don’t take my word for it. The founders of Google, Twitter, eBay, Craigslist, Yahoo, PayPal and more have sent a joint letter to Congress in opposition. So did 83 Internet engineers who helped create the original protocols that made the Internet work. Tumblr mobilized its users into making over 87,000 calls to Congress, and thousands of other websites are working with American Censorship to do the same thing. Techcrunch hates it. Gizmodo hates it. The primary editors of Wikipedia, the fifth-most popular website in the world, are considering blacking out the entire site for a day in protest (I really hope they do; it looks like about 89% of them support the idea).

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The Right To A Domain

There’s a lot of hoopla going around on the Internet, opposing the proposed SOPA and PIPA acts meandering through Congress. As far as I can tell this is completely warranted, as the bills have something to do with giving the government power to blackout websites that are merely accused of facilitating illegal activities, including anything happening to come from its user-generated content. Really, however, the bills seem to just be lobbying from the entertainment industry in another flailing attempt to crack down on online file-sharing.

Now I don’t know how much of the hysteria would really happen if these bills went through, but the government already thinks it has the power to seize domains suspected of illegally sharing files, because they did just that to dozens of sites in November 2010. (It seems like most of the sites just moved out of jurisdiction.) So if the government is already using scary powers to seize websites, I really don’t want to explicitly give them permission to use more.

But wait – it gets worse! One of the biggest problems with expanding the government’s power to do things is that it increases the potential for abuse. And yesterday I read an infuriating article about one of the domains that was seized last year. Apparently ICE seized a popular hip-hop blog that supposedly only shares files purposefully sent by artists and labels for promotion purposes. But the government put up its “warning graphic on the site, suggesting its operators were criminals, and then refused to comment at all about the case.”

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The Right to a Happy Meal Toy

I can’t believe I never blogged about San Francisco voting to ban toys in Happy Meals that did not meet certain health requirements. I guess it’s because it happened last November which was before the latest incarnation of my blog. At the time I thought it was a hilarious and classic example of the progressive mindset that the state is more authorized to make decisions for children than the parents, and also a hilarious and classic example of fruitless, arbitrary regulation that restaurants would find an easy way around.

Well, the ban is back in the news, because it finally goes into effect today, and the New York Times is reporting that McDonald’s is just going to charge 10 extra cents to slip the toy into the bag. And the regulator response:

“We are going to learn from how the industry responds,” Dr. Bhatia said, “and do what’s necessary to improve regulation.

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Big Yellow Taxi Medallions: Regulation in New York City

I heard a fascinating story on my drive home from work this evening, and while I don’t have a complete grasp on it, it’s so interesting that I want to blog my scattered thoughts about it. The NPR story was about these taxi medallions that are required to operate a taxi in New York City, and how these medallions, after rising in value for decades, have now ballooned in value from a couple hundred thousand dollars to a million dollars in just a few years. Regular taxi drivers can’t afford them anymore so there’s a company called Medallion Financial that makes loans. I was waiting for the reason the cost of these medallions has gone up so much, but first I got a hilarious mouthful from Medallion Financial’s president:

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The Right To Keep Exotic Animals

It’s not the kind of news story you read every day. “Dozens of exotic animals, including bears, lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves, giraffes and camels… on the prowl in eastern Ohio…” I found the media’s ubiquitous use of the word “exotic” interesting, as I had always considered the word to have an “unusual” connotation, and I don’t think lions and tigers are all that unusual since pretty much any zoo worth visiting has a few. (Let’s talk about Komodo dragons or a giant squid!) But I suppose it’s pretty unusual for Bengal tigers to be running free around a town like Zanesville, Ohio.

By now we all know the basic facts: 62-year-old Terry Thompson owned a “wild animal farm,” and on Tuesday he apparently set his animals free and killed himself. Local sheriffs and deputies ended up having to kill most of the animals as tranquilizing was not really in the logistics for public safety as nightfall ensued – something that even animal rights activists seem to be conceding, though sadly.

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How Government Begets Government In Three Levels of Insanity

Back in August, I wrote about the Congressional legislation that reduced the fees banks could charge to merchants, and how Wells Fargo was fulfilling predictions that banks would make up for those fees in other ways. Now Bank of America has jumped on board, and they are blaming the government that they have to charge consumers for something they used to charge to businesses.

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