Let me first start off and say that I believe something should be done to protect against piracy and to protect intellectual property (IP). However, like many of you, I feel the current legislation of SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) are the wrong way to go about it. Actually, these are both very dangerous pieces of proposed legislation. I encourage everyone to take action.
Websites like Google decided to place a black box over their Google Logo to show support against the SOPA and PIPA legislation. Other sites like Wikipedia have decided to black out their entire site again as protest. In both of these examples, Google and Wiki have posted links where visitors can read more and do more to stop this legislation.
I announced yesterday on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ (the three social media platforms I use) that while I agree something should be done to protect IP, I felt SOPA and PIPA in their current form was not the answer. I then stated my three amateur radio websites, http://myamateurradio.com, http://kd0bik.com/blog and http://kd0bik.com/sota would remain open to share the free flow of information to the amateur radio community.
I began hearing last night of several popular amateur radio websites would follow the trend Wikipedia has done and black out their websites for 24 hours. This is what has shocked and disappointed me. Please allow me to explain why.
Amateur radio is both a hobby and it is a service. Actually in times of need, the service amateur radio can provide is very important. But amateur radio is also more. It’s a community of like-minded individuals who come together to share the magic of radio in all its forms. While not all amateur operators practice this, for the most part we don’t let social, political, religious type issues prevent the free flow of information and enjoyment for the hobby. We prove this each and every day.
What disappoints me is when I’ve learned of certain amateur radio related websites have shut down in protest of the SOPA and PIPA legislation. I’m not talking about just displaying a banner…I’m talking about a full blackout with no access to the information. Again, I understand this is what “could” happen. However, the important thing to remember is…IT HASN’T HAPPENED!!!
Now…let me state I fully understand these websites have the freedom of speech to stay open or to shut down. In addition, I’m really not addressing the individual amateur radio operator who has a personal blog site and blogs about his activities in the hobby. If he or she chooses to shut their site down for 24 hours, this is of course his or her right. What I’m talking about are those sites which are built around supporting the community of amateur radio.
But don’t they too have the right to do as they please? Yes…of course. However, while these sites may be owned by a single individual…their existence is to support the amateur radio community. In many cases, these sites accept donations to help offset their operational costs (yes it does cost real money to host websites). These donations come from the community which uses the sites. Finally, much of the content created on some of these websites has been done so by….YEP, THE COMMUNITY. Therefore the way I look at it is the site just doesn’t belong to a single individual. It belongs to the community. More specifically it belongs to the amateur radio community.
Now I have thought long and hard about if I would actually mention by name some of the amateur radio sites I’ve discovered who chose to shut down in protest to SOPA and PIPA. I’ve decided I would. After all, in both of these examples the site owners/admins made public announcements so they certainly aren’t trying to hide.
The first site might actually surprise you. It did me. APRS.fi, this is the popular Automatic Packet Reporting System map site which many APRS enthusiasts use to track their mobile position. This site is also used by those participating in SOTA or Summits on the Air. In the example of APRS.fi, I find their decision to shut down the most troubling. Simple because many EMCOMM (Emergency Communications) groups utilize this website system and back to SOTA (as this is near and dear to me), many who participate in SOTA do so alone. They are on the trail alone and use APRS to beacon their trail position. While alternative sites exist, APRS.fi has somewhat become the most popular.
The second site fits the “belonging to community” example. HFPack has also blacked out their website in protest of SOPA and PIPA. The somewhat ironic thing I find disturbing about HFPack and their decision to black out the site is unlike every other example I’ve seen, they failed to provide links for visitors to contact their local representatives and links to help a visitor understand why they are protesting.
A friend of mine said it best, “The Interwebz community pokes itself in the eye to protest SOPA…”
In closing, I’ve worked very hard to eliminate certain topics of discussion from my podcast and blogs…especially political commentary. Yes I have opinions. I have ideas. Yes I VOTE. But I keep these things to myself as they don’t directly relate to what amateur radio is about. I will continue to use both APRS.fi and HFPack when the sites return. I’m not boycotting them and I’m not asking you to boycott them. I’m simply stating my opinion and my opinion is these sites should be open to share their services and content with all of us, the amateur radio community.
That is all…Thank you for your time.
73 de KDØBIK