It’s been called, bluntly, “Internet censorship” by opponents. And now, US legislation that claims to curb piracy faces mounting challenges as that opposition grows, particularly as the White House warns it will block the bills.

Today, even as a flood of delightful new music toys become available, it’s worth pausing to consider why this matters – and, if you vote in the United States, to call your Senators and Representatives (again, if needed).

Many of us who create music believe the dynamic, user-driven nature of the Web is our best chance at a bright future. Free and open Internet communication is part of the fabric of societies around the world, and for music, offers a chance to share what we do, to discover new work, and to build our musical lives. They can be the basis of some of the most vibrant businesses that support musical practice, as well as contributing intangible but invaluable creative, technical, and spiritual input into what we make.

I wanted to collect today some of the best writing on the topic, from people who know this issue far more intimately than I do. Thanks to readers for their tips on this, as well.

Essential Reading

Ars Technica has some extraordinary coverage today. In particular, see:
Even without DNS provisions, SOPA and PIPA remain fatally flawed [Ars Technica] (goes into very detailed specifics of the legal issues)

What does SOPA mean for us foreigners? [Ars Technica] (The answer might surprise you: one of the flaws with SOPA is that the definition of “foreign” doesn’t even make sense. But in short, you don’t have to be in the US to be impacted by this legislation; foreign sites are specifically singled out for action. Do read the whole article; another huge, detailed report.)

How PIPA and SOPA Violate White House Principles Supporting Free Speech and Innovation [Electronic Frontier Foundation]

Google and Facebook and the like have come under attack as big corporations that benefit from Internet use and, some critics argue, from piracy. Why should they be using their deep pockets to talk about this issue? Google’s take today I think responds to that neatly. They have a beautiful infographic of a megaphone that counts all the critics – including law and Constitutional experts and human rights and pro-democracy groups – opposed to this legislation. And while I don’t know that Google always lives up to the “don’t be evil” mantra, I think digging into your deep pockets in this case is perfectly appropriate and defensible.

The best report-in-a-nutshell comes from The Verge, and lawyer-journalist Nilay Patel:
Why The Verge and Vox Media are opposed to SOPA

In brief:

  • Sites that host user-contributed content are threatened by weaker safe harbor rules and high compliance costs.
  • Overzealous compliance by search and payment providers could make life miserable for the rest of us.
  • Significant flaws in due process and seizure.

Those kinds of problems threaten the whole Internet ecosystem of user-contributed work and threaten democracy and the course of law. (Uh, other than that, no problem here.)

Musicians Take a Stand

The evidence at hand makes it all the more disturbing to see groups of labels, content companies, and so-called artist advocacy groups using our name – the musical community – to claim this legislation is somehow good for us. Unfortunately, the analysis of people working in law and policy outside the content industry tell us otherwise.

At least one artist and regular CDM reader and friend, TRICIL, is blacking out his own artist site. Here’s what he had to say:

You may have heard of America’s ludicrous Stop Online Piracy Act bill that’s being brought forth for legislation.

In concert with Wikipedia, Boing Boing, and a host of other sites, I’ve “blacked out” in protest for the next 24 hours.

For my fellow Americans, you can take action by visiting and clicking the “CENSORED” bar on the top right to email your local congressman and spread the word. This will also “uncensor” my site, but you can put the bars back and take a screenshot if you’d like. 😉

If the bill passes, sites like Vimeo, YouTube, SoundCloud, and my own are all at risk. I’ve taken my material off of those sites for the next 24 hours to show what effect this legislation could have on independent artists.


Thank you for taking a stand with me,


Watch the Reasons Why It’s Bad

Clay Shirky has a great video out for TED:

CDM Under These Rules

I won’t be blocking out CDM today, as instead, I’d like to continue the conversation. But what could happen to a site like this one?

  • We could be targeted by a unfair compliance issue because of a complaint about content on this site – without fair protections and due process to allow us to respond.
  • We could see sites we rely on – from SoundCloud to Vimeo to YouTube – face restrictive rules and compliance that would threaten their livelihood, and strangle channels through which musicians and artists make their work known.
  • In a severe case, a compliance issue could literally shut down the site forever, especially given our limited resources.

But that said, I’m less concerned about a threat to CDM as the rest of the Internet on which we rely, the dynamism that made this site worth producing in the first place. And as a citizen of the United States and a citizen of the Internet, I’m morally and ethically concerned about laws that deviate from Constitutional rule of law and common sense.

If you’ve found other reading on this issue or other ways to take action, I’d love to hear them.

Opinion: US Internet Censorship Could Cripple Online Music Web; Where to Find Out More, Where to Act

And yes, you acted – and your action made a difference, as the opposition grows in strength and the legislation withers. Winning battles can sometimes be a good thing.