Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dancing Into Darkness, Part 7

You're probably noticing that there is a distinct lack of Part 7 here.
I'm taking some time to write a post about SOPA and PIPA to raise awareness.

I'm sure that this message won't reach nearly as many people as Google, reddit, Wikipedia, or other similar blackouts, but I felt that I should do my part.

SOPA and PIPA are two bills which are intended to enforce copyright mechanisms, centered around shutting down good counterfeiters and pirates, though they extend to all forms of copyright and IP infringement. The intentions of the bills are pure and good, but as with many movements, both have become warped, to the point where they cause far more damage than good.

The bills operate with a DNS blocking mechanism. Websites which infringe upon anyone's copyright would be shut down. They would not literally go offline, but the effect would be the same. Under the provisions of SOPA/PIPA, no traffic would be able to reach these websites, and search engines would be required by law not to list the infringing sites in their search results. This would create an internet "blacklist".

Why should you care?

First, censorship. Not only does it infringe upon the constitutional right for freedom of speech (I am only referring the US citizens here, as the bills only have legal jurisdiction within the USA) but censorship is a form of oppression as well. When you allow the government to start censoring any form of your speech, be it the Internet or something else entirely, that only creates precedent for your rights to be infringed upon further.

Second, the bills are too broad. Both have provisions not only for mass-offender sites, but also sites which have the slightest offense. While this may appear to be a good form of regulation to dissuade people from posting copyrighted content upon their sites, it is absolutely terrible for sites which are driven largely by user-generated content. These sites have absolutely too much content each day for all content to be monitored for copyright infringement. Doubtless, some will slip by, and suddenly, your favorite site is blacklisted. Examples of sites which would be hurt by this provision are Youtube and reddit. For those out there who cry that the government would never shut down so large a site - under the bills, they would be required to if the sites are found offending. Corporates would doubtless report such sites in order to drive more users to their own sites to raise more revenue and create an essential monopoly.

But I digress from the main point.

SOPA and PIPA are bills that are far too broad to be reasonable. Their intentions are good, but they attempt to remove an infection by pumping the host full of acid, instead of giving them a well-placed antibiotic.

Of course, one blog post is certainly not enough to cover the controversy surrounding SOPA and PIPA. If you'd like to learn more, see the following links:

Information on H.R.3261 Stop Online Piracy Act
Information on S.968 Protect IP
Even the White House has come out against major provisions present in SOPA and PIPA.
List of sites protesting SOPA/PIPA

In addition, an agreement known as ACTA exists in the global community. It has provisions similar to those of SOPA and PIPA, and was passed largely in secret. To learn more about ACTA, click here. To find out how you can take action against ACTA, click here.

How can you take action against SOPA/PIPA?
Contact a representative. Call them. Email them. Perm, do both.
Tell everyone you know to raise awareness. The reason many bills such as SOPA/PIPA and agreements like ACTA ever pass is due to a lack of awareness. But please, for the love of all that is sacred, do not send out chain mail. I don't want to see an Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re: THEIR SHUTTIG DOWN THE INTERNET in my inbox. You can post on Facebook, Google Plus, Live Messenger, and any number of social networking sites.

Thank you.
This blog will return to its normal content shortly.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Dancing Into Darkness, Part 6

Saturday, March 3rd

It was four days until the assignment was due, and everything seemed to be on track. I had already sent my part of the research to Rinna and Ellie, and written my part of the speech. Today, we were meeting to get a large part of the costumes done, and perhaps get a practice presentation in.

Ellie greeted me at the door. "Hey Bryan! Come on in; Rinna's already here, and we got started on the costumes." I stepped inside and slipped my sneakers off. They squeaked as they hit the polished wooden floor.

The workroom was a mess, especially compared to the rest of the house, which had an almost minimalist layout. Fabric and tools lay strewn about, and there were even strands of string hanging from the lights. It was a rather small room to begin with, and it seemed every available surface was covered by costume and clothing material or schema. There was a single sewing machine on the far side of the room, surrounded by multiple pieces of paper, presumably the costume details.

Rinna was already in the room, standing over a large piece of brown fabric, marker in one hand, fabric cutter in the other. "Hello Bryan." I barely caught a glint of her green eyes as she glanced over her shoulder before she went back to work.

Ellie strode past me, taking her spot at the sewing machine at the other end of the room. "We're going to work on the costumes for a while longer before revising the script. Go ahead and help Rinna with cutting fabric, unless you know how to work this machine?" She raised an eyebrow, as if issuing a challenge.

"I'll take over for you if you'll pay my medical bills." I moved to the table, and surveyed the landscape of projects in progress. "So Rinna, what exactly should I do here?"

Rinna held out the square of brown fabric she had been working on, balancing the fabric cutter atop it. "Take this, and cut the cloth along the lines I draw." My fingers briefly brushed her hand as I took the offered items; Rinna quickly jerked her arm back, going back to work wordlessly. I brushed this off, and set the fabric down onto the table.

I had barely begun to cut when I felt someone watching me. A glance to the side proved my suspicions correct. "I was making sure you were cutting the cloth right." She said hurriedly before turning back to her work.

Ellie laughed a little. "It's pretty hard to make sure he's cutting the cloth right, staring at his face." My heart sped up a little.

Ellie had been extremely elaborate with the costumes. By the time Rinna and I finished, Ellie still had a veritable stack of materials to sew. Ellie eyed the pile with displeasure as I threw the last piece of fabric on. "I'll get the rest of this done later this week. Why don't we go over the scripts now?" She got up and began to walk out of the room without waiting for a response. "I've already got what we have printed in my room. Come on. One run through the script, and then we can watch something to wind down." I shivered - it was that feeling I got when Ellie was plotting something.

What was she planning?

I followed her out of the room, and into hers. Ellie's room was just as messy as the workshop; it was clear who the primary occupant of the workshop was now.


Ellie jumped onto the long couch as we entered the living room. The living room was as neatly decorated as the rest of the house - except Ellie's room and the workshop. A flatscreen TV hung on the wall above the fireplace, faced by a couch and a recliner. A small coffee table bridged the gap between them.

As I made a move to sit down on the couch, Ellie swatted at me, pointing at a bookshelf on the other side of the room. "Get a movie. Go." Rinna walked by me to take a seat on the recliner.

"Hey, you're the one who suggested we watch something. Why don't you pick something out and give me a seat?"

"Movie. Go."

I plucked a movie off the shelf at random. "Where's the DVD player?"

"Look next to you."

"Can I have a seat now?" I put the disc in and threw the remote to Ellie.


"Come on. You're taking an entire couch."

"I hardly ever get to. Live with it."

"Bryan, you can sit here. There's room." Rinna shifted herself over.

"Thanks." I squeezed into the small space. I was vaguely aware of Rinna's leg pressing up against mine as the movie started. The lights dimmed as the TV turned on.

The movie was a blur. It was movie set during World War II...something about retrieving soldiers from behind enemy lines. I stopped paying attention after the first battle scene. It was hard to concentrate with Rinna pressing into me.

The crack of gunfire snapped me out of my reverie. Not because the sudden noise startled me, but rather because Rinna suddenly grabbed my knee. At least someone was actually watching the movie. My mind was elsewhere, as was Ellie's. I could hear the tap-tap-tapping of her phone's keyboard if I strained to listen. Rinna left her hand on my leg, and her side was warm against me.

I was brought out of my daydreaming again as the warm pressure left my side. Rinna met my eyes as she lifted my arm, draping it around her shoulders wordlessly. She leaned back against me again, this time resting her head on my shoulder, her hair tickling at my arm. I half-closed my eyes, smiling. At the edge of my vision, I saw Ellie sitting up, sporting a satisfied expression.


When the credits rolled, Rinna made no move to get up. I stayed there, holding her to my side. We remained there a while longer.