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Join the Public Mark-up of SOPA

November 19, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

As you have probably heard, Congress is working with Big Content companies and unions to quickly pass legislation that would give corporations and the government new powers to take down websites and censor the web. Public-interest groups have been trying to get a seat at the table to explain why the bill is maybe not such a great idea, but so far they've been shut out.

The bill is the Stop Online Piracy Act, and in response to the closed nature of how it's being pushed through Congress, we've been encouraging folks to join in an ongoing public mark-up of the legislation here on OpenCongress. Using our in-line bill text commenting functionality, OpenCongress users have submitted over 100 public comments to specific lines and paragraphs of the bill. People are flagging important sections of the text, helping each other digest the legalese, and collaboratively analyzing the implications of what is being proposed.

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Congress Wants to Censor the Internet. Tell Them No.

November 16, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The internet is the most important innovation for democracy of our time. With the internet citizens are empowered to be creators of information, not just passive consumers, and they're networked so exchange happens peer-to-peer, not through some central authority. These properties threaten the model of control that has long been pushed by authorities, be they corporate or governmental.

The fight over openness on the internet is a fundamental struggle about who has power in society. Today in the United States, the House of Representatives is taking a major step towards creating the first ever U.S. internet censorship system, using the same DNS technology that China uses for censorship. The bill is called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and it would allow the government to demand ISPs and search engines to block websites and give private companies power to cut off access to sites without taking legal action. It's receiving a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee today and is expected to get a vote in the full House soon.

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About the only things getting real bipartisan love in Congress these days are Hollywood-backed bills to make the government a more powerful force in online copyright enforcement. I wrote about one already that would make streaming of copyrighted content a felony with jail time as a possible penalty. The other is S.968, the PROTECT IP Act,that would empower the Department of Justice to demand search engines and domain registries to block websites they determine are "dedicated to infringing."

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