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  So, after that nice little discussion with persons regarding ONE United 
States House of Representatives (HR) bill impacting the ability of scientists 
to share data paid for by taxpayers (HR 3699, the Research Works Act), with so 
much extensive campaigning especially by Mike Taylor of the UK, I figured I'd 
share something that has less impact in recent days, and that's SOPA, HR 3261 

  This bill, unlike the other, does not seek to overturn a law that tells 
corporations to make publications they produce freely available if paid for 
through grant money from the National Institute of Health. Instead, SOPA (the 
Stop Online Piracy Act -- http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-h3261/show), 
serves MUCH GREATER support for the purpose of preventing websites to actually 
function if they share any copyrighted digital objects, including documents. If 
found, a court order could shut down any website, block other sites from 
accessing it, and level fines against offenders as well as prison time. This 
doesn't prevent a law from working, it makes sharing of information criminal.

  Now, I can say that there is, like the bill Mike Taylor opposes, an 
ostensibly good thing about it, but it is facile: Sharing illegally copied or 
downloaded information is piracy, and the internet makes piracy almost 
impossible to prevent. To solve this, the laws have become heavy handed in 
order to close down portions of it to counteract such laws. They only work 
within the United States, but they can prevent sites from connecting to 
US-hosted sites from outside. Given the prominence of the US to world-wide 
digital networking, this has foreseeable impacts. It can, for instance, allow 
prosecutors to make plausible arguments in a court that any object infringes on 
a copyright, and this occurs without an appeal in court you can make made from 
the so-called "victim" of the infringement. It allows the court itself to make 
the case, and the result is almost always censorship.

  So if you thought being forced to pay $50 for a pdf is bad, you would NOT be 
allowed to legally share this pdf if you could not prove you have a legitimate 
reason to do so. It also impact whistle-blowers, a group whose outspokenness 
may be required to overturn what is essentially illegal or otherwise unethical 
actions, because doing so requires them to "share protected information."

  It will affect video and text sharing sites, because they may involve 
copywritten material in text, images, documents, or trade secrets. It impairs 
scientists sharing data on protected or otherwise low-key servers or websites, 
prevents them from trading in information and data digitally when information 
is "owned" by a producer or company, etc. So this affects you as a scientfic 
community, and even these listservs because we can discuss "copywritten" 
material including the text of documents. Now, there are aspects of some papers 
including the fair-use laws, but this is restricted in effect to those who have 
a reasonable right to acquire this information. As an amateur who is currently 
not in a geo or bio-oriented curriculum, this would not include me, and I could 
be reasonably excluded from being granted access to this data on that ground 
alone, regardless of whatever reason the requested party may have. But this 
includes any and all other amateurs or interested non-professionals. It could 
even include the media you correspond with to share your information with for 

  If you load a Youtube video with someone holding an iPhone, or some clear 
logo or object whose brand is notable, you would be in violation of this law. 
The same is true, in fact, of posting such a video or a still of it on your 
blog, in your CV, etc..

  But that's not all!

  The legislation would attempt to set up methods by which Congress can allow 
enforcement agencies to trawl internet-connected systems, whether servers or 
personal computers, looking for objects that match copywritten material, as 
well as tracking the connections of "flagged" IP addresses, in case such 
objects were found to be traded. This becomes an invasion of personal as well 
as potentially company privacy, in case the offending IP is registered with a 
school, as part of a company network system, etc.. It doesn't take too much 
fear-mongering to know that this may venture close to spying in broader 
networks, such as your lab's or school's servers and all computers connected.

  If this doesn't sound like something you can support, then there are 
solutions. If you are a US citizen, you may contact your representative or 
senator and request of them to oppose or remove their support from this 

  Mike Taylor made much ado about the money sponsors of the HR 3699 (the 
Research Works Act) have received from companies like Elsevier, John Wiley & 
Sons, etc., but dominantly the former. Consider that Rep. Carolyn Maloney 
(D-NY-14) has received just over $30,000 in connection with the supporters and 
lobbyists of the bill. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA-7) has received over $600,000, 
more than 200 times that of Maloney, from interests supporting this bill, while 
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) has received over $3million. If the amount of money 
spent to support interest in this bills is anything to speak of, the value of 
stopping SOPA would far outstrip the value of stopping the Research Works Act.

  I ask you, the paleontological community -- especially if you live in the US 
-- to appeal to your representatives and senators to make sure this law is 
overturned. It is a vital expression of your interest in this community and 
your ability to share and distribute data than the Research Works Act that 
stopping SOPA is substantially important. 


Jaime A. Headden
The Bite Stuff (site v2)

"Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)

"Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a
different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race
has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or
his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion