Since Wikipedia went black last night, I've been trying to find a way to articulate my particular concerns about SOPA/PIPA. As an educator who teaches fair citation practices and information literacy competence as a basic part of introductory research methods in the University, my concern naturally did not gravitate toward Wiki -- the great bane of so many Professors -- but rather to the potential for SOPA/PIPA to staunch the flow of educational materials, period.
This could, in turn, hurt students, students who are already angry and protesting nationwide about the decline in public education and access, particularly in higher education.
And it could hurt them through library censorship and by prohibiting the free flow of ideas which libraries operate through.
So I suppose it was the de facto "librarian" in me which recoiled immediately at the implications of such a nebulous proposal, one which nonetheless smacked of far-reaching harm to students, already saddled with outrageous tuition hikes, student loans, and occasionally, a vicious round of pepper spray or three. When exactly is enough enough?
In the modern parlance today, libraries mean far, far more than simply stacks of books. Not to lament books in any way; as a stone-cold bibliophile, I would be the first person to advocate for the rapturous smell and sultry heft of a text in hand.
But libraries are not "books." They are epicenters where all knowledge amasses to create a whole that is greater than its parts will ever be. Databases collide with pages in elaborate networks of multimedia which students and scholars and anyone with an interest in anything at all can tap into, can connect with, can become one with.
I read this:
The American Library Association and Library Copyright Alliance have also expressed worries about the legislation, predicting it could leave libraries vulnerable to copyright liability, threaten privacy and erode free speech.
Sarah Houghton, acting director of the San Rafael Public Library and author of the "Librarian in Black" blog, said many librarians are also concerned about access to online databases and electronic books. Patrons generally submit their library identification number and PIN to access those materials and the library verifies that data before passing it on to a third party, she said.
"The way that most libraries do that could be considered in violation of both SOPA and PIPA," Houghton said. "It's a very vague way that they define a lot of this 'naughty' behavior. As a result it would be very easy for us as libraries to violate it without even intending to.
"Anything that blocks the legal sharing of information is bad to libraries, and the way that the bills are written, because they are so vague, could very easily block the legal sharing of information," she added.
EBooks. Imperiled. Databases. Scrutinized. Education. Paralyzed and stymied even more than it already is. In case it wasn't sufficient to simply unleash mass chemical warfare on students under fire, we now risk denying them knowledge. That is absolute violence upon our citizenry. We risk tossing ourselves into the dark ages once more, and more so, ramping up the old class war yet harder by ensuring that libraries return to sanctuaries for the elite who can afford to vet which censored, denuded, and impotent knowledge might darken its ancient doorway.
There are a million reasons to oppose SOPA and PIPA; perhaps the Democrats haven't caught on to this yet, but if they support public education and a knowledgeable, informed citizenry engaged in a global exchange of ideas, they need to realize that it is not only physical trade or copyright which is problematic under these provisions. They need to recognize that ideas themselves are a form of intellectual trade.
And this kind of trade cannot be copyrighted. In fact, knowledge-piracy is one of the greatest things which our civilization could engage in, for all knowledge is a form of collaboration, of texts built on the backs of other texts, thought built on the foundation of previous thought.
To limit this flow is to limit the possibility for knowledge itself.
Universities themselves are founded on these premises.
Ben Franklin would be rolling in his grave.
Is that what we are now willing to accept?
I am not willing.
Please write to your Senator and Representatives, no matter how much they seem to not be listening. Tell them they are assaulting libraries. Tell them they are participating in the destruction of education, en masse. Tell them that this may be a war between Silicon-Valley and Hollywood donors, but ultimately, students will be caught in the crossfire. And they will have to answer to that.
Because the Internet generation is not partisan. This is an election season and should the Democratic Party wish to see turnout in the youth vote, they don't do that by pissing off 4chan, Wiki, and Icanhazcheesburger (no joke). It is the Republicans' role to wage war on education. That's hardly a role that Democrats ought assume, election year or otherwise.
If your Senators and Representatives emails are down, as mine was, try phoning. If the phone is down, try faxing. If that's backed up, send them a postcard. If they want to send us back in time, we might as well use stamps.
The more literacy, the merrier, right?
I'd listen to the librarians on this one.