Are you against SOPA and PROTECT IP Act, the so-called internet blacklist bills, but you don’t know how to go about helping? Electronic Frontier Foundation has created a “toolkit” for action.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Daryl Issa (R-CA) might have submitted an alternative to SOPA and PROTECT IP Act called OPEN Act, but that hasn’t stopped technology, open-source and civil liberties groups from making noise about the two controversial bills.
SOPA and PROTECT IP Act would essentially blacklist sites which are thought to be publishing copyrighted material. The major force behind the campaign was the Motion Picture Association of America, which heavily lobbied the government to create legislation to control “rogue websites” that “traffic in stolen movies, TV shows, and music or even counterfeit prescription medications and other goods.”
Preventing online piracy is a logical reaction and one cannot blame politicians and the MPAA for taking corrective measures; but, if SOPA and PROTECT IP Act are passed, victories against online piracy might inflict damage on sites such as Tor, which offers an anonymous means of communication for activists and dissidents. Tor might well be used for delivery of pirated content, which would allow the Department of Justice to blacklist the site (without trial) at the ISP level or through financial means.
Tech companies and websites such as Google, AOL, Yahoo!, Facebook, Mozilla, 4chan, Reddit, LinkedIn and Twitter have all openly opposed the legislation.
EFF, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, Free Software Foundation, Creative Commons, CDT, the Participatory Politics Foundation, and Public Knowledge are asking for help in raising awareness about the two bills and providing information on how to go about taking action.
To that end, EFF has published “Fight the Blacklist: A Toolkit for Anti-SOPA Activism.” From EFF:
- Call your Senators and Representative and tell them to oppose Protect-IP and SOPA, respectively. Click here for some suggested talking points. Then tell your friends about the call on social media sites.
- Contact Congress through EFF’s action center. Customize your letter to explain who you are and why you are worried about this bill. If you’re outside the United States, try this petition from Fight for the Future instead.
- If you work for a tech company, approach the leadership at your company and explain to them your concerns. Urge them to join you in speaking out. These companies (PDF) already took a stand.
- Write a blog post about the blacklist bills. Whether it’s a candid explanation of why you oppose the legislation, a discussion of the effect on human rights, or a call to filmmakers to protest the blacklist, there are plenty of things to say about this scary legislation. Help us get the word out by writing articles on your own blog, your school blog, or on blogs that take guest contributors.
- Are you an artist? Showcase the dangers of censorship through art and music, and use your art as a way of reaching people who might otherwise not know about this issue. You can make stickers, posters or patches, create a YouTube video, or hold an open-mic night around censorship.
- Do you administer a website? Then put a banner on your site protesting censorship or link to EFF’s action center.
- Coordinate a teach-in or debate at your local college or community center. Invite local experts in copyright and free speech to come discuss the issue.
- If you’re in high school, talk to you civics and media studies teachers about a class discussion on the implications of this bill. Point them to our free Teaching Copyright materials.
- If you’re in college, speak out through like-minded organizations working for digital freedom, such as Students for Free Culture or Electronic Frontier on Campus. If there isn’t a chapter at your school, start one. Then use that platform to coordinate with other students to speak out against this bill.
- If you’re in college, set up a meeting with your college newspaper editorial board and explain the bill to them and why they should speak out about it. Work with them to write articles on the topics. Check out these examples from the University of Buffalo,University of Massachusetts, and University of Minnesota. See more examples at the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Chorus of Opposition page.
- Write a letter to the editor of your local paper. Remember, these are often really short. Find out the requirements for your local paper and follow them carefully.
- Become a member of EFF. We’re leading the fight to defend civil liberties online, so that future generations will enjoy an Internet free of censorship. By standing together, we can make it happen.
PROTECT IP was fast-tracked through the Senate for floor debate, though its sister bill SOPA is still in committee. Nevertheless, there is a particular sense of urgency on this issue as the holidays approach, a time when the masses will not be paying attention to Congressional action on these bills.
Take EFF’s toolkit and do what you can.