As the Stop Online Piracy Act heads to a vote in the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow morning, its opponents are lining up to stop it. The bill’s newest foe? Journalists.
First came the critiques of civil liberties and human rights groups. Then came the slams from Internet engineers and Web giants, including Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Wednesday, the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) piled on by sending Congress a letter to ask that it stop the bill. ASNE represents newspaper editors, editors of wire services and online-only news organizations, and other journalists.
If passed, SOPA would expand the ability of law enforcement and copyright holders to shut down any site that hosts pirated content. But as the American Censorship group voiced on the blog Boing Boing on Wednesday, many believe “SOPA would not only hurt free speech, it will choke off the Internet workforce and its readers by taking down entire Web sites.”
Yesterday, the Post’s Maura Judkis reported that a group of people who work on the Internet launched a visual petition so Congress could see the faces of those who would be hurt by SOPA. Journalists are among their ranks.
Last month, Jennifer Martinez of Politico wrote that SOPA will be a “shootout at the digital corral,” between lobbyists in the entertainment industry and Internet giants. She can now add journalists to that list. From ASNE’s letter to Congress:
Our members use the Internet in ways that could be construed to violate SOPA, and that’s not acceptable. Whether utilizing content contributed by third parties, stepping outside the direct reporter-source interaction to acquire and use information from Web sites around the world, or augmenting our stories through the use of multimedia previously unavailable to print-only publications, ASNE members continue to change the way news is presented. We fear that SOPA will restrict our ability to engage in these activities and stifle our capacity to innovate when we most sorely need the freedom to do so.
ASNE is not specific about what it is worried SOPA would consider copyright infringement on a news site.
But BlogPost can take a guess. Bloggers at the Post every day use content from Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, among other third-party social Web sites. We often aggregate information from other news sites and augment it with our own. And how we report is changing every day. Would all of that work be threatened by SOPA? ASNE seems to think so.
Dan Gillmor, a professor of digital media entrepreneurship at Arizona State University, shared the ASNE letter on his Google+ page Wednesday, writing: “Finally, journalists see the threat from SOPA and . . . this runaway train.”