I didn’t officially announce it here, though I did tweet a couple times, that JFO was going to go dark for 8 hours on Wednesday. You may have noticed a lot of sites did, like Wikipedia and all of the Cheezeburger sites (failblog etc). I’m also delighted that so many CSI and other fansites went dark too.
So what was the point?
The blackout was a protest against proposed legislation in the United States —the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the PROTECTIP Act (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate— that, if passed, would seriously damage the free and open Internet, including this site right here.
Today, if I’m accused of copyright infringement on JFO, I have to be legally notified, and given time to remove the property. Those claiming I’m stealing have to prove the media is theirs, but also that my ‘reproduction’ is causing them harm. In most cases, what you see here on JFO falls under fair use. Ads aside, I’m not making money off this site (I’m always about $150 shy of breaking even per year – yeah, I’m not making a profit). If you guys leave a comment with a link to something questionable, or the whole of an article, all I have to do is delete it, and I’m safe. (Which is why I always say you should paste the URL of an article in your comments.)
If either of those bills pass, the government no longer has to give me the chance to fix it. The whole site goes down. They can seize the domain (have it go anywhere they want) and delete my data. On top of that, I would have a duty to monitor every single comment left here, before it hits the air, to make sure it doesn’t infringe on anything. That means I have to check and see if you stole your insightful comment about the last CSI episode from EW.com or any other article in the world.
Can you imagine fandom surviving? The Huffington Post doesn’t think we would. Most people I know would just stop running sites at all! And without us fans, celebrating the work of actors, actresses and TV shows, where will the shows and movies be? Yes, some people are illegally downloading videos and music to avoid paying for them or, worse, to sell them. But some people are doing to because they don’t have a way to watch something they love. Because in the interests of protecting copyright, the moguls have made it harder for people to find the product.
Adding to the irony, the whole reason Hollywood (and please don’t be mistaken, it’s the Hollywood moguls who are pushing this) became what they are, is because they pirated from Thomas Edison. Edison had a terribly restrictive patent on what was essentially the first movie camera, and made it cost prohibitive to make movies on the East Coast. What did people do? They went to California, where the law was more relaxed, and set up Hollywood. The torrent site Pirate Bay released a statement (reproduced here, don’t worry, it’s safe) explaining the history of Hollywood. Point is, we’re doing what they did. And they don’t like it.
Should we all step up and pay a fair price for media? Of course. Should we discourage thieves? Of course! But should we stifle innovation, art and self-expression in the name of protection? No, a thousand times no. The idea behind these bills is right: stop people from stealing. But the way they were written is not. They were written by people who don’t understand how the Internet works, and who don’t comprehend the impact it would have on an already stressed global economy.
If you don’t live in the US, you already know the pain of being weeks, months or years behind us in watching TV. Without sites like this, you won’t be able to know anything about the shows. They want to stop people from stealing media, fine, but present us with legal alternatives. Stop thinking that the world is just your nation, and start thinking globally. You’ll make more money that way.
I blacked out JFO because I want to keep making this site for you, and provide a place to share our fandom. I want to keep telling you about Jorja’s advocacy and movies, and I want you to keep becoming better people because of her! Some of you have gone to school and become scientists, some are foster parents, some are vegetarians and some are just being better people and thinking more because of one person’s influence on your life. Why would I ever want to give this up? Being a part of this community brings me joy that I want to share with you.
But the number of you who had no idea about what was going on meant I had to take drastic action. For the first time in 15 years, I used JFO to further my personal agenda. I hope you can forgive me for doing this, but serving up a world with JFO was the most powerful statement I could make to you. That would be the world if SOPA, PIPA, or any of those ill-thought-out bills pass. And if they do, I won’t be able to keep JFO open. That’s the reality.
Take action: If you’re a US citizen, contact your representative to let them know you oppose SOPA and PIPA.
Still confused? Watch this: