SOPA and PIPA Explained

SOPA and PIPA are copyright bills that are coming up to a vote soon in US Congress. SOPA – the “Stop Online Piracy Act” – is the House version, and PIPA – the “Protect IP Act” – is the Senate version. You may have heard SOPA and PIPA mentioned in the news recently. You may also have noticed that over 7,000 sites around the Internet were inaccessible yesterday (January 18). Those 7,000 sites were protesting by self-censoring, and yesterday alone over 7 million Americans called their representatives in opposition to the SOPA and PIPA.

Someone asked me to provide a non-technical explanation of these bills, to understand what is at stake.

SOPA and PIPA are intended to protect copyrighted materials and stop piracy (as their names would suggest). However, what they do to combat piracy is to create a national censorship system. On the frontside of the Internet, search engines like Google and Bing would be required to remove listings for any sites accused of containing links to infringing material. On the backside of the Internet, servers known as nameservers would be required to block access to any accused site. A nameserver is the technology that tells your web browser where to go when you type “google.com”. This level of nameserver-level blocking is already prominent in countries like China and Iran.

An earlier copyright law from 1998, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (or DMCA), required copyright owners to request that material be removed from websites and services. In SOPA, that requirement would be directed to the websites themselves. All websites and services would be required to immediately remove links to copyrighted materials, or else their domain would be blacklisted and their site shutdown. Most user-generated content sites such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Vimeo and Flickr would be forced to shutdown, as it would be technically unfeasible to keep up with enforcement on such high traffic sites. Social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ would also likely not be able to continue operations, as any post or comment that contained a link to copyrighted material could potentially shut down the entire site.

Protecting copyright is important, but far-reaching censorship isn’t the way. We can take action and prevent these bills from becoming law. Wikipedia has provided a ZIP lookup tool to point you to the online contact forms for all your representatives.

Science Fiction: A doomed TV genre

In honor of the news about SGU getting the axe, let’s take a moment of silence to remember all the science fiction stories (from this decade) that have no proper* ending because of idiot executives.

  • Caprica
  • Defying Gravity
  • Dollhouse
  • Farscape
  • Firefly
  • FlashForward
  • Heroes
  • Jericho
  • Journeyman
  • Legend of the Seeker
  • Sarah Conner Chronicles
  • Stargate Universe

Good luck to V, Fringe and The Event…

* Proper ending, meaning not a fantastically lame ending that only a cancelled sci-fi show could manage to do. The last episodes of Dollhouse, Jericho, and Legend of the Seeker may have wrapped things up, but boy did they sure suck compared to how the stories could have ended if it had been up to the writers.

Phoenix landing on Mars – Live on NASA TV

Phoenix Landing (artist rendition)Don’t miss the Phoenix landing today (May 25) at 3pm Arizona time (6pm EDT). NASA is broadcasting it live on their NASA TV site, and I’m sure the cable news channels will be covering it. The Phoenix is attempting to land in the northern part of Mars (relative to Earth, think northern Canada). It is landing on the largest collection of ice outside of the Martian poles, an area that scientists have dubbed “Green Valley.”

The purpose of the mission is to search for evidence of microbial life, something that the rovers in the more arid regions of Mars haven’t found.

Link to NASA TV

Death by Blogging?

I’m an insomniac, but I never thought that my personal blog was the culprit. According to this article in the Times, professional bloggers are discovering the health concerns of a 24/7 “work from anywhere” lifestyle.

From the article:

“I haven’t died yet,” said Michael Arrington, the founder and co-editor of TechCrunch, a popular technology blog. The site has brought in millions in advertising revenue, but there has been a hefty cost. Mr. Arrington says he has gained 30 pounds in the last three years, developed a severe sleeping disorder and turned his home into an office for him and four employees. “At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen. This is not sustainable.”

I’m reminded of a documentary on PBS of Best Buy corporate employees, who had been given the freedom to work from wherever they want, whenever they want, because of increasing stress levels. Oddly enough, their newfound freedom led them to work more and sleep less.

Water Myths

NPR did some mythbusting this week and discovered the truthiness behind 5 things we tend to believe about water.

  • Myth 1: Drink Eight Glasses Each Day
  • Myth 2: Drinking Lots of Water Helps Clear Out Toxins
  • Myth 3: Lots of Water Equals Healthier Skin
  • Myth 4: Drinking Extra Water Leads to Weight Loss
  • Myth 5: It’s Easy to Get Dehydrated During a Workout

From the article:

“But first, how do you know if you’re drinking enough water? Experts say there’s an easy way to judge. If you’re not thirsty, you’re fluid intake is likely “just right.”

Link to NPR story, Link to peer-reviewed science editorial ($$ premium content, unfortunately).

Disgusted…

Where are the politicians who support peace?

Goodwill? Love? Patience? Kindness? Compassion?

I have no friends nor champions in this Democratic Congress and Republican White House. I’m so disgusted, I’m having trouble sharing the context of this post. Just follow any news source (but if you choose Fox News, try to at least get a second opinion from CNN or better yet, NPR). My personal free-speech-protected opinion, which I’m entitled to (for now), is that we are in a mindless war with Iraq. We have knowingly immersed ourselves in an unwinnable religious civil war.

And now we’d like to take on Iran. Well, gee… that’s great.

And for all you conservatives – remember that I’m NOT a Democrat or Republican. I’d hardly call myself “liberal.” I’m just slowly discovering that pacifism is a passion of mine, deep down inside.

Video Request: Trapped in 1984

Hey everybody, here’s a track I recently put together called “Trapped in 1984.” I think it would be really cool to have some dystopian animation to go along with it, so consider this my official request for animations/videos/mashups. It’s short and sweet which makes animating easier.

Download the track, see what you can do. Email me back or post it to YouTube (but don’t forget to give me credit for the tune).

Bad cops? Shame them with Hello Kitty

Cops caught misbehaving (parking illegally, littering, etc) in Thailand must now bear the shame of a Hello Kitty armband. I suggest we implement this disciplinary action in all sectors in the US – schools, businesses, retirement homes, prisons. But a Hello Kitty armband might not be enough, and they might be tempted to remove it, so I suggest we combine prisoners’ tracking bands with these Hello Kitty armbands.

Hello Kitty for everyone!

Link

Don’t Criticize the Iraq Occupation

The White House just released this Executive Order:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/07/20070717-3.html

Read it and then reread it. It’s for real. There are no 5th Amendment rights or Habeas Corpus available for anyone who falls under the specified criteria of posing “a significant risk of committing an act or acts of violence…” in regards to the Iraq occupation, or funding such acts. All property and interests of the “offender” will be possessed. You can also read clearly that this is specifically referring to United States persons (a group that includes United States citizens), not Iraqis and not just “Enemy Combatants” or criminals. Not that I in any way support violent acts, in protest of the Iraq occupation or otherwise. However, if the government deems you to pose a significant risk of committing (meaning prior to even committing) such an act, then this Executive Order immediately and prejudicially removes your rights.

To be fair, the Department of Treasury has responded to questions about the EO – “Tuesday’s broad executive order on freezing Iraq-related financial assets is solely intended to target supporters of the Iraqi insurgency.” But if that were truly the case, the wording in the order would need to reflect it.

Marshal Law is the next logical step. I for one welcome our new fascist NeoCon overlords.