I've built my life on a free and open internet. As the co-founder of WordPress.org, a free software project that aims to democratise publishing, and the founder of Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com that hosts blogs from around the world in pursuit of the same goal, the proposed US legislation to regulate and censor the free and open foundation of the internet makes my mouth go dry with fear.
The rise of the web over the past two decades and the freedom to publish and express yourself online will be looked back upon as a cultural revolution.
We have gone from a world split between gatekeepers and media "consumers" to a world in which anyone regardless of geography, finances, social class, race, gender, or any other demographic identifier is free to engage with the rest of the world on their own terms.
That freedom is of paramount importance and must be protected.
That's why we're blacking out our websites on the 18th to raise awareness of this issue, and giving our users tools to do the same.
The tech world is fiercely competitive and companies seldom agree on anything, when you see so many united in solidarity on a single issue, you know there's something to it.
What concerns me the most about Sopa and the Protect IP Act is not that media companies and legislators want to have measures in place to protect copyright – for example we reply to and comply with DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notices on WordPress.com when we receive them, it works well for everybody – it's that the authors of the legislation don't seem to really understand how the internet works.
The definition of domestic versus foreign sites shows a woeful lack of comprehension about how domains are used and how traffic flows on the internet.
Where do I stand? On the side of publishing freedom.
What do I hope for? That these pieces of legislation be set aside, and that any future legislation in this arena be drafted by people who understand how the internet works – and how it won't if they do the wrong thing.
My part of the set of op-eds on the BBC concerning today’s blackout. Check it out to also see Jimmy Wales, the MPAA, and the Chamber of Commerce. Hat tip to Jane for helping out with the above.