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Show Your Opposition To SOPA Today With #BlackoutSOPA

Image1326150461This post is written by Brenden Mulligan, technology entrepreneur and founder of Onesheet and ArtistData. Follow him on Twitter at @mulligan.

You've probably read about the heated debate around the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). It's a very important debate for musicians, as it could have a major effect on distribution channels and discovery platforms that many musicians rely on every day.

Eliot Van Buskirk did an amazing post right here on Hypebot called "Everything You Need To Know About SOPA & The New Copyfight". You should read it, but a couple excerpts that summarize the article are:

Our current system […] requires copyright holders to alert services to infringing content, ask them to remove it, and then only sue if they fail to do so. It also allows the world wide web to be world wide.

A world [Under SOPA] where anyone can sue to have a thing deleted from the formerly “unbreakable” internet every time their cat video is copied, distributed, or viewed without permission would be a very different one indeed, and probably not preferably so.

Earlier this week, Outside the Box Music posted a wonderful "Artist's Guide to SOPA". It's also worth a read, but the key message is:

The entrenched old guard want SOPA because they feel major labels and middlemen need to control distribution. In turn indies are denied an equitable market share. If anything this year has proven that indies need to be awarded more opportunities Not less. A larger segment of the listening public deserve the right to listen to indie based music. Even on commercial radio stations in primary markets.

The inherent danger SOPA presents is that in the process of "protecting" corporate interests, the distribution, access & discovery platforms the Internet provides for independent artists, musicians and songwriters will be crippled or obliterated.

To help bring more attention to the debate, Hunter Walk and Gregor Hochmuth have put together a campaign called BlackoutSOPA to show your opposition to SOPA in a subtle but effective way. They first met working at Google and believe there are better ways to balance an open web which protects creative rights. Their backgrounds inform their approach – Hunter having run consumer product at YouTube and Gregor coming from a family of filmmakers. 

In under a minute, BlackoutSOPA enables you to alter your Twitter profile image to protest SOPA (you can easily change your profile back at any time). So far the campaign is making a huge impact, and has attracted well over 6,000 people since Monday afternoon.

Their goal is to get 10,000 users by tomorrow. Join in and show your opposition to SOPA by clicking here!

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  1. Hey Brenden,
    Thanks for the shout out re the SOPA artist’s guide. As a performing songwriter, I think this bill is a bad, bad idea. I went to DC w PK & CFP in Nov to speak out against it.
    This week the SOPA circus came to town here in Nashville. It still amazes me how the RIAA blames everything on piracy and nothing on their own bad behavior.
    On a brighter note, looks like there are fun things happening at OneSheet. I’m a fan.

  2. More idiots in the tech world.
    People complained about DMCA, that it was the end of the internet.
    Total bullshit. We need anti-piracy.

  3. Brendan,
    When I read statements like this “there is no way to block all infringing content from any social media service, other than shutting it down” on Eliot’s blog, I have to wonder if the STOP SOPA movement is as half-baked as detractors say SOPA is? I don’t know?
    However I do believe that SOPA could cause a whole different wave of innovation; that is the race to provide compliance services to Internet companies. In a world where I can “Shazam” any song or movie (for free), I don’t think it’s far-fetched to ask technology companies to do the same upon every upload. Moreover maintaining and checking a whitelist or blacklist site (URL) compliance registry doesn’t seem like a lot of overhead (albeit, the plumbing is in the details).
    I am willing to be further educated on this subject. However right now, SOPA (or something like it) seems to be a choice between supporting the developer / technology ecosystem, or supporting the artist / label ecosystem. The two ecosystems certainly have a co-dependent / symbiotic relationship. However from my perspective, the tech ecosystem seems like the hungry parasite that has sucked the life out of the content community.
    Compliance (as I naively understand it) seems like a small price to pay for ‘inventory’ that is priced at near zero. Instead of STOP SOPA, I would rather see energy dumped into getting it right and making it win-win for everyone. IMHO, the rampant and free uploading and downloading of everything and anything could use some law, order and compliance – and that’s coming from a near-libertarian.

  4. Brenden, thanks for writing this up and thanks to Hypebot for publishing it. As I tweeted yesterday, this is not something that will be solved by simply changing your icon on Twitter or other social networks. By all means, we should participate in the blackouts that will be happening over the coming weeks. The activities that matter most and will have the greatest impact are calling your representatives and speaking with their offices about why it’s important for them to not support SOPA and PIPA. If you’re in an area where you can personally visit your representatives, you should request in-person meetings with them. Many organizations like the EFF, Creative Commons, Mozilla, Public Knowledge (disclosure: I’m an advisor) and others are part of The site gives citizens options for real action they can take to help impact whether SOPA and PIPA pass. While it’s nice to show our friends that we are against SOPA and PIPA, it’s even more important that we not stop there.

  5. Brendon… so sad to see you take such an anti creator position — especially when you claim your product supports creativity.
    SOPA is about stopping criminals outside of the United States from making illegal creative products available over the Net that will be detrimental to the financial well being of your clients … and, quite frankly, you.
    Google has made billions from advertising based on the searches for products made available by these criminal sites… Consumer products manufactures have made billions from selling their hardware to people they know will download creator’s products for free from these sites to power their hardware.
    SOPA has all sorts of protections that will not deny Internet users of any of their legal rights, will not shut down the Internet, will not deprive anyone of their free speech rights or any of the other trumped up clap trap the tech and consumer electronics industries have lied about to be sure their cash cow … illegal creative products … is not stopped or slowed down.
    You need to get the facts … in the meantime, I would suggest that any creator who hopes to make their living creating products people crave will avoid your product at all cost…
    You should be their to help the people you say you serve … creators … not rob them of their chance to partake of the fruits of their labor.
    Shame on you.

  6. Two frightening pieces of controversial legislation, SOPA and The NDAA only go to further stifle our Constitutional Rights without the approval of the Americans, just as the Patriot Act was adopted WITHOUT public approval or vote just weeks after the events of 9/11. A mere 3 criminal charges of terrorism a year are attributed to this act, which is mainly used for no-knock raids leading to drug-related arrests without proper cause for search and seizure. The laws are simply a means to spy on our own citizens and to detain and censor public opinion without trial or a right to council. You can read much more about living in this Orwellian society of fear and see my visual response to these measures on my artist’s blog at

  7. As SOPA & PIPA are narrowly and specifically crafted to provide U.S. creators with legal recourse to the unlicensed and illegal distribution (by ex-U.S. websites) of their copyrighted materials and there is not now nor has there ever been a right to distribute or obtain illegal products it cannot be true that SOPA goes “to further stifle our Constitutional Rights”. Of course, writing the truth about SOPA is not the point of this campaign to stop this important and necessary legislation that not only supports artists/labels/publishers but also legal digital platforms who currently have to compete against illegal foreign sites that are completely beyond the reach of current U.S. laws.

  8. thanks for the coverage Brenden & the thoughtful comments. We started #BlackoutSOPA in response to the lack of major network coverage – if there was going to be a media blackout, well here was one way to try and draw attention.
    I believe capitalism and creativity are essentially intertwined so I have no objection to regulations which attempt to balance the needs of multiple rightsholders and individuals.
    My concern w SOPA/PIPA (besides its rushed process) is that it creates the possibility for incredibly overreaching and harmful interpretations which essentially put creators and distributors into a “guilty until proven innocent” situation.
    I also believe it doesn’t protect the small independent creator who is most likely to be unable to fight nuisance suits and erroneous claims. It essentially forces independent artists back into the safe harbor of big corporations. I don’t believe this is good for creative expression or an economic system where the majority of money flows to creators, not middlemen.
    I don’t believe i know everything and there are complex issues at hand. My hope is that we can create a new IP framework which looks forward.

  9. @Hunter,
    “the small independent creator who is most likely to be unable to fight nuisance suits”
    Unless they are being paid, lawyers don’t bother suing people that don’t have money, as you can’t get blood out of a rock.
    “It essentially forces independent artists back into the safe harbor of big corporations”
    How so? Please explain.
    The challenge I have with STOP SOPA is that the arguments against are often based upon bits of the proposed bill that are often taken out of context. Moreover special interests (certain VC investors) don’t want to absorb the burden of compliance, so they are also distorting the facts.
    I am not necessarily for SOPA as constructed, but it seems rather silly for anyone attached to the music industry to be in favor of STOP versus working to GET IT RIGHT.
    As I said above, there’s an overlooked waive of innovation based upon compliance (happens in every industry) that will solve most of the problems that people are railing about.

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