No, it's not the name of some demented kids' TV show, and if you're clueless about SOPA and PIPA I really want to ask where the fuck you've been. Why? Because I'm cranky and an arsehole, but that's another matter for another day. (Plus Twitter's been all over SOPA and PIPA.)

Those two bills - the Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act - have been introduced in America, ostensibly to, you know, stop that dangerous activity that is online forcing search engines to remove links to sites that infringe copyright and stopping the domain name from resolving to the IP address, among other things. And all this is on the word of whoever says "This site infringes copyright".

Right. Three things to deal with here, in ascending order of importance: piracy, burden of proof and censorship.

My personal views on piracy are that I genuinely don't care, in fact, I'm all for people pirating things and disseminating information and media for free. I have a problem with people making money off what is, in effect, actively withholding things unless they're given an abstract entity. I have a problem with how legal persons (corporations) are the ones who make the most profit while natural persons (actual people) are neglected and screwed over. (I'm also an anti-capitalist, which doesn't really help.)

I know quite a lot of people will disagree with me, even if they download copyrighted material themselves. Not all opponents of SOPA and PIPA are like me, and in any case there are further objections - like the burden of proof. Being a Latin nerd, I find this concept best illustrated with...well...Latin, or more specifically the phrase semper necessitas probandi ei qui agit, which roughly means "the necessity of proof always lies with the person who lays charges" or, in other words, if you're making a claim, it's up to you to convince me of why you are right. It is not my job to persuade you of my own counter-claim. There is something seriously wrong with anything that does not follow this principle - in other words, if legislation requires me to disprove your claims before you have to prove your own, it's probably shitty legislation. SOPA and PIPA put the burden of proof on the accused, not the accuser. That alone means something's up. I'm not even going to talk about the power of the media and entertainment industries (honestly, I think they can be called a complex).

Lastly and most importantly, the language of SOPA and PIPA is so broad, and its powers (blacklisting, for example) so puissant it amounts to censorship under another name. There is no excuse for censorship - none whatsoever - and the fact that this is happening in a "free" country should be worrying everyone. I personally am worried that if the bills pass they will be used to silence entire sections of the internet for alleged copyright infringement.

I urge you to educate yourself about SOPA and PIPA if you haven't done so already, and to take action in whatever way you can, even if that action is just ranting publicly (as I do). Quite apart from breaking the internet and silencing dissenting voices (this is a worrying trend that isn't much publicised, but the data are there - and may not be if the internet is censored any more for any reason, so remember that), it would also affect the apolitical: it could shut down sites like Youtube, for example. Even if a copyrighted song is playing in the background of a video that could still count as infringing copyright. I also urge you to find workarounds (which will be made illegal in the bills) while you still can, if you don't have them already - PIPA will be debated on the 24th and SOPA some time in February.