No doubt you witnessed the blackout on the internet today.

Dead sites everywhere. Dead Wikipedia. Dead Craiglist. Dead Reddit. Dead Flickr. Dead Mozzila.

Google blacked out its logo and posted a message on its home page that said “Tell Congress: Please don’t censor the Web!”

They’re all protesting the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the US House of Representatives, and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the US Senate. Two pieces of legislation the politicians are trying to railroad into law.

On the face of it the bills sound great. Who the hell wouldn’t want to stop online piracy? Dig a little deeper and they get a lot scarier.

Unless you happen to me an old media conglomerate hanging onto territorial rights and release windows for dear life, SOPA and PIPA will be the death of you. They are beyond draconian.

In the history book of bad ideas, the concept of giving corporations the right to censor the internet has to rank among the worst ever.

But censorship is just the half of it. You will be stripped of your rights and your right to link. (And not just in America. These laws will apply globally.)

Here’s just a few scenarios Sonia Simone would like you to consider.

Your site can be shut down whether or not you’ve done anything wrong. (Have a commenter who links to a site that uses a supposed copyrighted image inappropriately? SOPA says that makes you liable to the full extent of its broad enforcement powers. Those include shutting off your domain name to censor your site, or cutting off your PayPal account.)

You are not a bad person, but you’re the one who will get punished. (There’s actually a provision that says an ordinary user can go to jail for five years for posting any copyrighted work. Yes, that’s a penalty of five years in prison for putting an iPhone video on your blog of you singing your inimitable version of “Thriller.”)

It’s bad for internet security and stability. (Because SOPA fiddles around with how domain names and registrations are handled, it will open up security loopholes in the global DNS. That’s right — SOPA could make life easier for the dirtballs who hack websites and, you know, pirates.)

SOPA is toothless for real pirates. They’ll route around another IP address and get back to business within seconds. Like most laws, SOPA and it’s shitkicker cousin PIPA mean well but are completely useless in addressing the problem.

Piracy is a service issue. Give people a better service to get what they want and they won’t turn to pirates.

But gee, why would politicians want to pass laws that obviously won’t work? Surely it wouldn’t have anything to do with power? Is it cynical to think they just want to slam the brakes on everything? Hold onto power for as long as they can? Anyway they can?

The US Senate reconsiders these bills on January 23, 2012. Please take a minute to visit Stop American Censorship. You can send an email or take another action to let Congress know you want this bad law stopped before it can harm our businesses and our economy.

If this had become law fifteen years ago we would never have Google, Amazon, WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, YouTube. We would never have your site.

We would never have the internet.

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