Chances are high you have heard of the Stop Online Piracy Act aka SOPA, particularly if you are reading this Blog regularly. SOPA is a bill that some consider as the single biggest threat to the freedom of the web right now. Others just call it: This horrible thing in Congress.

Allegedly designed to help copyright owners protect their intellectual property (who wants to fight that, hmm?) SOPA gives the US government the power to ‘turn off’ future Wikileaks Occupy Wallstreet Pirate Bay pretty much anything it does not like.

SOPA is legalized censorship. It’s a direct reaction to the US inability to deal with Wikileaks, dressed up as a tool to protect intellectual properties. What makes it even more embarrassing for the US: It is a tool that is so fundamentally anti-democratic that you should start getting really concernced…if you weren’t already.

Let’s remember Foreign Secretary Clinton comments on China’s Great Firewall in 2010 where she stated the US would start “supporting the development of new tools that enable citizens to exercise their right of free expression by circumventing politically motivated censorship”. It would be almost funny if it wasn’t so sad.

How to stop SOPA
SOPA may become official part of the US jurisdiction in 2012. But it would also have worldwide impact because it gives the US government the power to shut down parts of the web – no matter where.
In order to save our web as the free place that it is, we have to act now. I understand that SOPA sounds like the cryptic web stuff that usually only affects the Nerd elite. Only this time is different. SOPA would change the web fundamentally. And this means everyone is affected.

As the bill currently makes its path through the legislative process in Washington D.C. it needs support/ers. Call it Lobbyism. But the American Political system expects certain signs of support for a new bill. Helpful are the 1% companies spending money on presidential candidatesbig corporate tax payers publicly supporting a bill.

One of these companies was GoDaddy – the world’s largest domain register that has had direct involvement in shaping legislation. And you probably know that GoDaddy had a bit of a challenging last fortnight in 2011:

Go Daddy was ‘targeted by online activists in response to its enthusiasm for a pair of Hollywood-backed copyright bills, has finally denounced the legislation in response to a boycott scheduled for today. (…)

The idea of boycotting GoDaddy began with a protest thread on Reddit and was aided by Jimmy Wales’ announcement last week that "Wikipedia domain names will move away from GoDaddy." It inspired GoDaddyBoycott.org, which urged Internet users and companies to "boycott GoDaddy until they send a letter to Congress taking back any and all support of the House and Senate versions of the Internet censorship bill, both SOPA and PIPA." (CNET)

GoDaddy may have lost between 37,000 up to 1 million domains in December when hacktivists announced LeaveGoDaddyDay for Dec 29th 2011. This is great. Deafeating the GoDaddy scumbags is a big win for the web’s civil society. But seriously: It was rather easy. Godaddy is a company that is embedded in the web community and which depends on it. It wasn’t really smart of them to underestimate the wrath of their own customers. But GoDaddy is not one of the major consumer packaged good companies or entertainment brands that stand behind SOPA. And we should take the anger of the web’s civil societies to these brands. The cool hipster lifestyle brands that support an immoral and cynical tool of censorship.

Let’s talk about L’Oreal. Let’s talk about Apple.
Right at the moment SOPA is supported by an awful lot of major companies (as mentioned: who would want to fight Piracy, hmmm?). As usual Wikipedia knows (which potentially would have to go out of business because of SOPA) more.

The legislation has broad support from organizations that rely on copyright, including the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, Macmillan Publishers, Viacom, and various other companies and unions in the cable, movie, and music industries. Supporters also include trademark-dependent companies such as Nike, L’Oréal, and Acushnet Company.

Nike? L’Oréal? Yes. SOPA is supported by some of your favorite brands. While some of the Swooshs or ‘Crazy ones’ may not be explicitly listed as individual supporters on this list, they may well be organized in one of the many lobbying foundations supporting the bill. And that makes it quite complicated.

Example? Two days ago Nintendo, Sony Electronics, and EA Games pretended to drop SOPA support (at least if you ask their PR agencies). Geekosystem clarifies:

Sony, for instance, their music and video companies still remain firmly on the SOPA support list. Only the game-making division, Sony Electronics, pulled its name. For Nintendo and EA, while their names are gone from the list, they are still members of the Entertainment Software Association, which is also still on the list. Sony is also a member of the ESA.

So what can we do?
While some people believe a company cannot be blamed for indirect bill support (i.e. by being organized in an association) I believe exactly this should be the case. Kasperky for example had the balls to leave BSA (Business Software Association) in early December over their SOPA support

"Kaspersky Lab would like to clarify that the company did not participate in the elaboration or discussion of the SOPA initiative and does not support it. Moreover, the company believes that the SOPA initiative might actually be counter-productive for the public interest, and decided to discontinue its membership in the BSA as of January 1, 2012.’"

BSA, by the way, is the same association that Microsoft and Apple are part of – no sign of leaving BSA or trying to force them to drop support by now. Wait…wasn’t Apple the company that built its whole brand on quotes like this? Yes…that’s long ago.

No matter whether we are Americans or non-Americans: If we want to stop SOPA the only chance we have is to make it for the bill’s supporters as ethically expensive as possible to stay on this list. Let’s not just not buy Apple products for as long as they don’t drop support for BSA – let us talk about how far Apple has gone off track from their original philosophy.

Why is the Graphic Artist Guild supporting SOPA according to this list? Do you as an American Graphic Artist support SOPA? Oh…you are no American Graphic Artist? Then forward this (or any related article) to your friend who is organized in this group. True Religion Jeans support SOPA. Guess what? They have a twitter account here: Tell them what you think. So many options. The only thing you do is to THINK (that’s the concept that Steve Jobs talked about in order to sell you an iPhone).

It is damn easy to be a pain in the ass. Let’s make it painful for brands that think they can make us buy their stuff before supporting a bill that effectively means global censorship. Let’s go beyond GoDaddy. Please add the clear names of key industrial SOPA supporters underneath this article. And then THINK and ACT. Do it via twitter, via Facebook, via telephone or by not buying their products.

Be a pain in the ass. It is very important.


Update, 04 Jan: According to Markham Erickson, head of the NetCoalition trade association, there’s been talk of a so-called “nuclear option,” in which the likes of Google, Amazon, eBay, and Yahoo! would go simultaneously dark to protest the legislation to highlight the fundamental danger the legislation poses to the function of the internet. Read all about it on Extremetech.


Update, 05 Jan: An awful lot of people seem to work on a clear name list of SOPA supporters. Here is one. And I solemnly swear to anti-synchronize this list with every purchase I do. In other words, I will boycott SOPA supporters from now on http://piratenpad.de/c3ADz3hTxY