Why SOPA will be a tragedy for Africa

By Frank Nyakairu

A colleague of mine from Kenya highlighted in highly contextualized fashion about SOPA’s impact on Africa.Enjoy reading it and join the struggle against Stop Online Piracy Act

It’s been said that example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other. Perhaps the truth of this saying is attested in the infamous Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and “The PROTECT IP Act” (PIPA) are proposed laws in the United States. But Uncle Sam’s bill meant to stop online copyright infringements is bitterly opposed in what is probably the most detested legislation process beyond the United States. Debate is rife. Its contenders argue that, SOPA/PIPA will protect trademarks, especially entertainment giants by stopping online piracy of content such as music books and movies. To stop that, it grants the US Attorney General the right to inflict penalty on websites accused of hosting copyright content. It is also intended to crack down on offending websites operating outside the US. But prescribing SOPA/PIPA as a remedy for online piracy is way too strong that it will kill the ‘patient’. Africa, the world’s poorest continent, stands to be affected most.

Killing Online Me

As an African journalism, whose lives life is up in to the cyberspace, I’m virulently opposed to SOPA/PIPA because of their far-reaching consequences directly threatening my online life. Here is how: if I posted a new blog on Rebelweb.me on any topic say censorship, and the post attracts a string of comments, one of which carries a single offending link, I will be directly liable for copyright infringement. Rebelweb.me, risks an immediate takedown without proof required, or due process, will seek a takedown penalty to compel my US-based domain register, Go Daddy, to deregister my domains. Go Daddy has shamelessly supported SOPA at some point. This is insanity. What does my blog, authored in East Africa, have anything to do with a US law? How can such a law be passed by United States? How can such an idea come from such a ‘democracy’ in the 21st century? Does the US have the slightest idea about the SOPA/PIPA ripple effects? Do they care anyway? Internet: Africa’s new ‘Enemy of the State’

Most Africa’s governments have been fast and creative at copying Uncle Sam’s bad manners. This is strategic. Reason? Because Uncle Sam will not raise a finger just like it occurred his ‘War on Terror’. Policies the made-up the global war on extremist terrorist groups instead led to spiral of atrocious and oppressive legislations especially in East Africa. Opposition groups and journalists, I inclusive suffer and risk arbitrary arrest and detention without trial, and even relocation to third countries in extraordinary renditions. An anti-terror policy instead armed autocratic states with perfect tools of oppression. All thanks to Uncle Sam and SOPA is another opportunity in the nip of time. Timely because it comes when the Internet is being relegated to a list of enemies the state after offering invincible social platforms for activities to overthrow three dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya in 2011. If passed into law, SOPA will trigger off a series of opportunistic, harsh and even more draconian legislations around in Africa. The will be mainly modeled to that target online dissent and journalists. It will then be lawful to switch off social forums if deemed a threat to “national security” by aiding circulation of any information. Some laws may even go beyond patents to include government secrets, which if published, websites will easily taken down. With SOPA, governments will no longer obscurely filter, block and arrest those behind the online activities. They will do this with deep impunity in broad daylight. All this, thanks to ‘Uncle Sam’ and he will not raise a finger. That is partly why the last decade has been characterized by alloyed skepticism over the American brand of democracy. There is growing disillusionment and realization that democracy made in America is not a panacea for the world’s ills and rights abuses but part of them.

Global call for rebellion

Yes we can! We can kill SOPA. That is if we up our game rally together and sound our drums of global dissent at the US from Tokyo to LA, from Nuuk to Cape Town. Lets sign all major anti-SOPA petitions. Let’s press it upon the Internet giants like Yahoo, eBay, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Netscape, to move fast in staging a planned global Internet blackout, which will pinch everybody including the bills proponents. And yes, in this crucial election year, we can also make SOPA a serious foreign policy issue for Barak Obama who plans to retain White House. SOPA should have no place in this world today, as we all know it.

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