January 18th, 2012

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#502 – Dick Bernard: A 24-hour blackout of Wikipedia, SOPA, PIPA, etc.

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

UPDATE 4 A.M. JANUARY 19: If you despair about individuals being unable to make a difference read today’s Just Above Sunset. All you need to do is be willing to join forces on a cause and work together. “Work together” is the key. And keep working…. Thank you.

UPDATE Jan. 18: Here is a significant website which helps clarify some of the legal tension relating to copyright.

UPDATE Jan. 20: Here’s an excellent summary video of the issues. It’s about ten minutes.

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Original comment, posted January 18.

Go here for information about why Wikipedia is voluntarily blacking out its on-line English people’s encyclopedia today. Wikipedia joins names like Google, Mozilla (Firefox) and many others in urging action.

Read the materials provided, then act.

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Possibly, you say to yourself, laws like these are necessary to protect “we, the people” from stolen (copyrighted) information.

While the issue is complex, and there are plenty of abuses, you are deluding yourself if you think these laws, if passed as is, won’t impact on you.

Information is power, coveted, missed if lost….

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From 2004-2006 – two years – I tried to get accurate information from the United States Government and others about “facts” as they related to Haiti. This began innocently: I just wanted an answer to a simple question. What resulted is a short column I wrote entitled “Anatomy of an Official Lie” which is still on-line here. I did an immense amount of work on this column, and came to the conclusion that I was being lied to, sometimes intentionally and sometimes inadvertently, at all levels. I submitted it for publication and it wasn’t printed – not an unusual outcome then or now. My audience for my concern became the public-private political entities that impact on U.S. policy overseas. My letter to them is here. I did not get a single response.

There is a serious problem with access to and sharing of information, and it will not be solved by the passage of a more restrictive law in the Congress.

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Less than a dozen hours ago I received the most recent of those ubiquitous “forwards” sent by an unwitting friend. It turned out to be false (as most such forwards also turn out to be).

The friend apologized, but then suggested that the respected on-line source I used was itself incomplete in its rationale declaring the forward to be “false”. This was the same person who had sent the information along without any fact check at all. The forward, one gathers, more agreed with his own personal bias. Facts didn’t matter as much as the accusation.

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Another friend, a retiree who blogs, learned of a law firm that began to sue bloggers for using portions of material even with attribution – from newspapers they represented. It costs a lot of money to defend oneself even against a false claim.

The “SOPA” bill that’s before congress right now..and I write about on my blog…and have written to my Congressional people about..needs to be killed…otherwise, there will be thousands of blog-chasing lawyers out there.

Yes, I quote my friend in that last sentence, above, without attribution. It’s from a letter he wrote to me, yesterday. He takes this issue very, very seriously. He worries, with good reason.

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It is perhaps human nature to dismiss or discount things that we don’t think affect, or possibly will affect us. So a common response to such entreaties as this is “why bother?”

Martin Niemoeller, Lutheran Minister, WWI German War hero and German dissident and German prisoner from 1937-45, often spoke of the danger of this complacent attitude. His is a memorable and timeless quotation, which appears in somewhat different but most likely accurate renditions, since he used this phrase in each speech he gave, and may have slightly varied the words from one occasion to the next.

Niemoeller: “When they came for the socialists, I did not speak out, because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a trade unionist. Then the came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”