“You Don’t Get To Break The Internet Because It Doesn’t Fit Your Business Model!”

Jan 12

(for action steps, see the comments below)

Yes, I know. You hate politics. Especially on a non-political site. And the last thing you want to read from me is a lecture about the importance of your voice, or yet another overblown whine about proposed legislation and how it’s going to kill the Internet.

So instead, I’m going to violate that proposed legislation in a dozen different ways, and embed a video that explains it brilliantly and with much irony:

Hitler Reacts To SOPA

Watched it yet? Awesome.

Now, in case you live under an internet rock, “Hitler Reacts” is a video meme that takes that clip of Hitler, and adds English subtitles to suggest he’s outraged by all kinds of (often absurd) things — he’s ranted about being kicked off gaming networks, not being accepted into Hogwarts, and even poor Rebecca Black’s viral video, ‘Friday’.  Like most memes, it’s often lame, but just as often damned funny.

But this one? It’s frighteningly ironic, because  if  SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) passes, the original film makers could conceivably get YouTube shut down for hosting the subtitled clip.  The government could seize the YouTube.com domain ( so web traffic wouldn’t reach it) and they could block Youtube’s ability to receive payments through banks or Paypal, all without a court case even being filed.

That’s right. All it would take is someone CLAIMING a clip is infringing, and all of YouTube could be shut down both financially, and by rerouting the web traffic trying to reach it.

And it’s not just YouTube at risk.

Because of the poor wording in the bill, anyone viewed as promoting the pirated content is at risk.  I’ve embedded the video here, and linked to it on Twitter, so my site would be at risk.  My webhost and Twitter would also be at risk.  The various search engines link to it, so they’d be at risk.  And we wouldn’t just be liable for any potential damages to the original film makers in court – we would lose our ability to do business, again, without a court case.

Current law protects companies like YouTube, and people like me, from being held liable for the infringing content that users may post.  This law? It strips away that protection and goes further,  giving the government the power to shut down internet sites and change the way that domains are routed.

The idea is that if the pirates can’t be stopped directly, the traffic to the illegal content can be stopped by scaring the hell out of any company that might  link to (or allows links to) the content, directly or indirectly, knowingly or unknowingly.

The really weird bit? If taken to court, it’s very likely that these meme videos would be ruled as Fair Use. They’re parodies of the original film (they mock the over-emotional acting) and therefore not a violation of copyright law.  But long before that court case could be ruled on, the damage would be done to me, to YouTube, to Twitter, and to the creative freedom of the people who created the offending clip.

But oh, it that wouldn’t happen, because the law wouldn’t be abused, right?

The current copyright laws are already abused, and not just by malicious individuals.  The film company who owns that Hitler clip? Yeah. A while back, they sent take-down notices to YouTube about the meme videos, and Youtube (understandably) complied, even though the videos should be covered by fair use.

So the only reason those videos are on YouTube today is that the meme participants makers wouldn’t stop making and posting them.  Eventually the company opted to allow the videos on YouTube, but with advertising attached.  They figured out that not only was the fight pointless, but that the meme benefits them. (Well, duh. People have been trying to explain this to entertainment companies for years)

Now, I’m a big believer in the concept of Intellectual Property.

And yes, the ‘net has made the wholesale theft of Intellectual Property remarkably easy and profitable for pirates.  It is a problem.

But SOPA is an abusive, over-reaching  and frightening bit of legislation that doesn’t just address the piracy issue — it threatens to chill creative expression and technological advancement. It threatens to destroy the way content is shared on the internet, to stifle social media & networking, to set technological communications back 10-15 years, and to literally break the Internet.

Which, I suppose, would be just fine with the Entertainment and Publishing industries, whose business models have been disrupted by how we share content on the internet.

Oops. I said I wasn’t going to whine… Sorry about that.

But seriously? When even Hitler knows it’s a bad idea? Something is seriously wrong.

Please let your voice be heard on this.

(Updates and Action Steps In The Comment Section Below)


  1. Thank you for explaining this. I’ve heard bits and pieces, but this is the best explanation I’ve read. I haven’t paid much attention because things like this tend to blow over, but it’s good to know what it’s all about. And everyone says “let your voice be heard” but where? how? to whom? Things like this always seem hopelessly out of our control (which is why I usually try to ignore them).

  2. Tori Deaux /

    You’re welcome, but there are much better explanations and calls to action elsewhere: Copyblogger for instance has info and lots of links for taking action.

    I intentionally left the call to action open, because it’s up to you how you want your voice to be heard.

    Maybe you organize a protest. Maybe you just retweet a link to the video.

    Contacting your congressional representatives and the White House is the usual core advice. There are several online efforts going on to make it easy: go to Stop American Censorship or just search for SOPA petitions. There’s also an Internet blackout effort planned for this week.

    And in a case like this? Using social media is surprisingly effective. Trending topics get attention. The more blog posts, the more tweets, Facebook & Google activity about it, the more people who are educated on the issue, the more people who talk about it? The more pressure there is on the politicians. It was pressure from the Entertainment industry that got SOPA started… pressure from the Tech industry and the public is needed to fix it.

    These things may feel hopelessly out of our control, but “We the People” have a lot of pull when we decide to step up and use it… our influence is especially powerful in an election year, and doubly so when the issue involved doesn’t break along party lines.

    And it’s working.

    Since this post was made? The White House released a statement opposing the bills as they stand, and calling for bi-partisan cooperation to address the issues. The DNS & ISP blocking sections of the bills are being taken out. And the leader of the House Oversight Committee has said they will not bring it for a vote until a consensus is reached to resolve the issues.

    It’s SO not out of our control, and it’s SO not hopeless.

  3. Tori I loved this explanation. I’d read articles by others, however yours resonated the best with me. It’s a ridiculous but dangerous bill. I’ve already signed an online petition and emailed my representatives.

    Otherwise we’re all going to be blogging from the Caymans or some other neutral & discreet (read between the lines there) location!

  4. Tori Deaux /

    Thanks Nicole – I’m not entirely sure my interpretation is correct, but it’s close enough for ping-pong. Or a DMCA takedown notice 😉

    It looks like both SOPA and PIPA (its sister bill) are mostly-not-breathing-but-not-completely-dead-either, but the pressure needs to stay on. A viable solution to the foreign piracy issue has to be found, or the supporters of the legislation will just let the fuss die down, then try again with the same one-sided, blunt force tactics.

    There’s an interesting infographic here: Implications Of SOPA Explained

    And of course, the protest blackout is scheduled for the 18th, with Wikipedia, Reddit, BoingBoing, Mozilla and the Cheezburger network committed to it. Individual sites can join here: SOPAstrike.com and there’s even a handy dandy wordpress plugin to take our WP sites down between 8am & 8pm local time, on the 18th : Simple SOPA Blackout WordPress Plugin It will display some text, informational link and a video (all from trusted sources).

    Any of the “maintenance plugins” will let you do the same thing, but you’d have to format and type the text in and set the time, etc.

  5. Tori Deaux /

    Here’s another plugin, that’s more configurable: SOPA Blackout Plugin

    “This plugin allows you to set SOPA blackout dates for your WordPress website, as well as a variety of options on who the anti-SOPA is shown too. You can have it shown instead of your site for any visitor, you can only show it the first time then let your visitors continue to the site, plus a lot more. This plugin is SEO friendly with temporary redirects being used.”

  6. I took your advice, Tori, and made my voice heard. But I might have a different take on this than most people. Read for yourself:


    And I setup the plugin to display this post on blackout day.

  7. @Christy I just read your post and loved it! Fiery and totally on target. Left a comment too 🙂