Since some of the big internet sites like Reddit and Wikipedia are going black today, Jan. 18, 2012 to protest the SOPA/PIPA bills, I thought I would take a few minutes to explain why these bills are important to those who are not interested in any way in downloading pirated music or videos.
The bill is really unnecessary. We do have copyright laws. We may need to extend those same copyright laws to cover international web sites. SOPA/PIPA adds another layer of law that is not necessary. This proposed legislation attempts to make it easier to shut down a website that engages in pirating. In fact offended corporations can do this without due process.
One of the worst provisions in the law, will exempt service providers from liability for promoting pirated material if they immediately take down a site when they receive a complaint. The complaint does not have to come from a court order. Just Cause is not a firm concept for taking down a site either.
As I understand the bill, anybody can complain about the content on any site to the service provider. The provider who really is in no position to judge whether or not a site is really offending copyright laws will need to remove the site in order to protect themselves.
How this bill would work for my husband who is a partner in a small tax accounting firm.
My husband’s firm has a web site. It has pictures of the staff. It talks about each person’s specialty. They have some basic tax information and Frequently Asked Questions.
A quick reality check tells me that the possibility of the site for my husband’s business being maliciously attacked is very low to non-existent, unless someone, anyone gets angry with them.
How this would work for my web site for Lies That Bind.
I cannot think of any scenario where my web site for my book Lies That Bind can be legitimately attacked unless I tried to move the site to a different server. Who owns the pictures and artwork on my site? Me or the web designer? I probably would not try to move the site without a complete make over out of respect to the web designer.
However, I wrote a book that has an adulterous relationship at the center of the story line. Can I see some fruitcake searching the internet for smut and complaining to service providers about pirated material on my site for Lies That Bind? Sigh, unfortunately, yes I can see fruitcakes doing anything.
The reality is that the probability of trouble with this web site being attacked is relatively low to non-existent.
How this would affect my advocacy?
I am an advocate for people with mental health disorders and disabilities, particularly the disability related to prenatal exposure to alcohol. I put up the very first web site on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. The site combined research with family stories and experience.
The great, great grandchild of my original site is still on the internet. It doesn’t look much like the original. I don’t have anything to do with it. It still contains research material and the collective family experience.
The message is the same as when I first started. “This is what Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder looks like from the perspective of researchers and families.” An important piece of the research is based on work by Ann Streisguth Ph. D. Her study on social drinking found no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Over and over the reputable researchers have found no safe level of alcohol consumption. The rule remains, “If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant do not drink alcohol.” This is the rule presented by reputable, research-based sites.
Of course my former site is not the only place on the internet that discussions of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders occur. Everybody in the disabilities field has a site on FASD. Family members and advocates have started sites with resources for families and caregivers. They list conferences and organize awareness campaigns.
I have been an advocate, teacher, and caregiver in my field for over forty years. I have testified at state senate hearings. I have published articles. I served on the state disability advisory committee and other committees. I have done workshops. I have met the liquor lobbyists in the halls of our capital. I know the opposition.
Actually a liquor lobbyist stepped on me in the hall in our state capital. I watched as another lobbyist pushed my boss into a wall. These guys do not play nice. They are really, really not nice when someone mentions in public the idea that their product, when used in a legal manner, causes brain damage in unborn babies.
Do I think the SOPA/PIPA bill will have an effect on advocacy for people with disabilities? Yes! If this bill passes and two weeks later, I can find any reputable research-based web sites on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders still on the internet, I will be shocked and surprised. FASD is just one example in a whole array of disabilities that are vulnerable to attack. I am certain that the biggest losers if this bill passes will not be those who pirate music or videos, but those who support and advocate for individuals with disabilities and mental health disorders.