Unless food allergy legislation is involved, I make a point of staying away from politics on this blog. I want my little home on the internet to be a place where everyone dealing with food allergies feels welcome, regardless of political philosophy or personal beliefs.
The news about the pending SOPA/PIPA legislation worried me enough that I considered taking my blog down today as part of a planned massive online protest. The idea of taking my blog offline was so painful, that I knew I had to do it, since I believe these bills present a very real risk of actually censoring sites like mine at the behest of corporate interests. So I did.
To be clear, I do not support theft of copyrighted content, especially since I have had my own recipes and photos stolen and posted on other sites. I began photographing and blogging my recipes because I want to share them, and do so under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License. You are free to copy and adapt my work here as long as you give me credit and don't attempt to profit from it. I was furious the first time I saw my cookies submitted as someone else's original creation to a recipe site, along with my photo with my watermark carefully cropped off. I really do understand the need to protect intellectual property.
SOPA and PIPA go far beyond that, though. They give copyright holders the right to block the I.P. address of a website that they deem to have infringed upon them. (By the way, the method is the same one China uses to block political dissent online.) Even more scarily, this includes content uploaded by a site's users and comments left by visitors, not just content offered by the owner of the website.
How could this potentially effect a little blogger like me? If a publisher decided, with or without justification, that one of my recipes was was stolen from their authors' copyrighted works, I could be shut down. This is not an unrealistic concern. For example, the Associated Press is already notorious for threatening legal action against bloggers who merely quote AP articles, even when the blogger scrupulously follows fair use guidelines.
These bills threaten free speech and the exchange of all information online. If you value the information you've found and the communities you've joined, the support you've discovered and the friends you've made, contact your congressional representatives and tell them to vote NO on SOPA and PIPA.
Stop SOPA/Stop PIPA image courtesy of Bloggers Alchemy.