Even if you are not actively involved, if you have been listening to the news or surfing the web in the last few weeks you have likely heard about the debates and activism swirling around SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (PROTECT IP Act or Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act). If nothing else perhaps you noticed that Wikipedia is black today (January 18).
We here at Hack Library School made the decision to add the black banner in the upper right corner to show support for Internet freedom and those working to stop passage of this legislation in its current form.
(As an aside, if you or your patrons are hurting for the loss particularly of Wikipedia as a research tool, according to NPR you can tweet with hashtag #altwiki and have your question answered by someone from The Washington Post, NPR or The Guardian.)
The writers of Hack Library School had our own debate about weighing in on US Legislation versus trying to stay away from the “political.” I am honored to have joined this group of students and leaders in time for this discussion. We talked over if we ought to: proceed as usual and continue to do as we do; post something for discussion as befits a learning environment; or join with the likes of Wikipedia, Reddit, BoingBoing, WordPress and even the “Cheezburger” sites, to completely “Black out” HackLibSchool for the day. I’m sure that many of you have had similar conversations within your organizations (those links by the way go to the blog or opinion pieces about the decision to blackout – interesting reading).
In the end, we decided to leave our site up and open for discussion and sharing. As current and future Information Professionals, (everyone reading this,) it behooves us to be as informed and aware of all points of view as possible. We at HLS want to show librarians and archivists as remaining active and available as a trusted resource, and creators of a safe space for discourse.
So here we are.
In a wonderful moment of kismet, we received a well-researched and thoughtful guest post from Alex Berman (posting at 9am EST), which sheds good light on some of the potentially problematic portions of the legislation. If you are new to this topic I highly suggest starting with Alex’s post as it offers a good basic introduction while citing specific language and verbiage in the actual bills.
If you are interested in more articles, I would offer: “Why we need to stop SOPA” by Director of MIT’s Media Labe Joi Ito; “The Problem with SOPA” by Sonia Simone of Copyblogger; “An Alternative to SOPA: the OPEN Act” by the Electronic Frontier Foundation; and from the “pro” side: a list of stated supporters by Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Lamar Smith (TX), and the Motion Picture Association of America’s RogueWebsites site.
Despite the black banner at top showing our allegiance to stopping SOPA, we welcome all opinions here (as was done with the “Occupy” posts 1 and 2). Copyright protection is as important an issue as intellectual freedom, and there is ample room for debate on the merits of or problems with all or portions of these bills from both sides.
Please share your own best resources, suggestions and opinions in the comment section below. It should be an intellectually stimulating and engaging day and the important thing is that the conversation continues uncensored.
“New Hacker” Joanna