We at Chapter Three make our living online, helping our clients do good, worthy, important things. There are many challenges in this game. Sometimes we wrestle with CSS or SQL; sometimes it's the Wifi or a server configuration; sometimes, it's the law.
For those of you who haven't heard, there's an absolutely wrong-headed piece of legislation hitting the US Congress as I type. It's called SOPA, and is basically creates a new Federal authority to block internet sites, intented to be exercised by rights-owners (e.g. record labels, movie studios) when they feel their copyrights are infringed upon. It's the worst of all possible worlds: technologically inept and excessively broad. It won't stop serious piracy, but as written it can be used against kids singing cover songs on Youtube (what would become of latter-day Biebers?), or anyone who has a site which posts such content.
What will this mean? Boatloads of FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) for anyone who wants to work with content online, a slowdown of innovation and development as startups and new publications are forced into the role of content-cop within their sites. Also, as we saw with the RIAA there will likely some real live prosecutions of ordinary people doing what's natural with the web: sharing the things they love. Worst case? Outright censorship; abuse of this power to silence legitimate speech. Bad bad idea all around.
Here's what you can do: call your Congressperson. Media lobbying groups have spent millions arguing for this thing, so their favorite representatives were bound to introduce something, but that doesn't mean that Congress needs to broadly support it. Old-fashioned as it may seem, representatives still have people who answer their phones, and they tally up the calls on important legislation yay or nay. So take five minutes and make a call, rattle someone's cadge, educate a congressional staffer, let them know this is truly a bad idea.
My colleague Zack has actually been out in DC to lobby against this bill in person, so you know that we at Chapter Three are foursquare against this thing. Sometimes the internet needs to defend itself. To learn more, visit fightforthefuture.org, and do just that.
My friend and sometime colleague Dave Cohn (of Spot.us fame) has posted the story that was his final Masters project at the Columbia School of Journalism. Entitled Drupal Nation, it traces the early roots of Drupal in left-wing US politics via DeanSpace and CivicSpace, which is really where my engagement (and the essence of Chapter Three) comes from.
It's no secret that I started my Drupal career in politics, coming up as part of a self-organizing band of web-savvy volunteers creating a little thing we called "DeanSpace" back in the summer of 2003. However, while about 1/2 of Chapter Three's business does come from the government and non-profit sectors, we've done virtually no work on elections directly.