Legal Assistance

Why SOPA Matters To You

SOPA (and its sister bill in the senate, PIPA) is a bill set to be debated tomorrow in the US House Of Representatives, and at the risk of sounding bombastic, it's the most important piece of bad legislation the Internet has ever seen.

Its stated goal is to protect the rights (particularly copyright rights) of the people and companies who own content.

I'm all for that, it's important that people know that the things they create have protection against those who would steal it. Without those protections, people will feel less free to create content and spread it throughout the Internet, damaging the free flow and exchange of information that makes the Internet the amazing learning and creative tool that it is.

The way that the authors of SOPA intend to go about this is amazingly bad. In a nutshell, they plan to make it so that the American government has the power to pull off the Internet (through DNS-crippling, for you techies out there) any site that anyone makes a good-faith claim is hosting infringing content. This has far-reaching implications. 

Even if you assume that nobody in the world lodges a false complaint, which is probably a stretch judging by my Facebook wall, this has huge implications for sites like Facebook, Google, Bing, Reddit, Digg, Wikipedia, Tumblr, YouTube and your personal blog.

Ever use Google image search to find the picture that fits your blog post? You're now hosting "infringing content" unless it's something that a stock image site told you that you're allowed to use. By the way, you probably have to pay for that image.

And it's not just that blog post that gets pulled.

When the complaint comes in, your whole site gets pulled off the Internet, search engines are not allowed to link to you, your Internet provider won't let you get there, and they can even block your advertisers from doing business with you. Also jail time - up to five years of it - if you rack up ten such infringements in six months. Sounds hard to do, unless you're on Tumblr. It also makes you liable for "damages" caused by your infringement, with no real definition as to what limits will be imposed upon those damages.

Over seven thousand sites have pledged that they are "going dark" - that is, taking their content down and replacing it with a message deriding SOPA and telling you what you can do about it - in protest of the debate on the bill happening tomorrow. Some of these sites are small-time, like my blog, some of them are major players. Wikipedia, Reddit, Tumblr, Mozilla and others.

In short, the Internet is going to be a very boring place today. 

I suggest you look around and see all the sites that are protesting it, because every one of those sites is one that will be affected by SOPA if it is passed and implemented. If you don't like the way the internet works tomorrow, then take action. Call your legislators, vote for the candidates that don't support SOPA in the fall, do whatever you can.

Because if you don't like the way the internet looks tomorrow, just remember that it's going to be even worse in a land where SOPA is the law.

For more information on SOPA please visit the links below. 

American Censorship Org 

SOPA Strike

Huffington Post on SOPA

The Verge on SOPA 

Wiki on SOPA

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If I Tell The Truth, They Will Think I Am A Crazy Lady

My husband doesn't believe me. My daughter doesn't remember being there. The other witnesses will never admit to it. Everyone will think I am crazy. Still, I know my truth. What to do?

Several months ago, a woman told me she was going to burn down her rented house. Said she'd learned how to do it on YouTube. She knew exactly how many fires occurred in the state during the holidays in 2008 or 2009. She told me this. They had gotten some cats so they would burn in the fire, and people would feel sorry for them.

Her children were in on the plan, but they weren't supposed to tell. She said this was a sweet little town. People would give them everything. They would open their wallets because it was Christmastime. If there was an investigation, they would be long gone, out of town with all the money and all the gifts, before anyone could catch up with them.

The second-grader told me there was not much point in making friends here because they wouldn't be staying long. This wouldn't be their first fire - they'd done it before. The kindergartener said she didn't remember it. The second grader told her she was too young to remember it, but it had happened.

Finally, the woman caught herself. Realized she was talking out loud. She told me no one would believe me if I went to the cops. She said if people wanted to learn about her, they could find her story on the Internet.

I was shocked. I couldn't believe that someone would put the lives of her own children at risk like this. It was too crazy, too far-fetched.

The school year started. I forgot about it. I even forgot that their lease was ending on December 31st.

When the kindergartener told me at a birthday party that the Christmas tree was next to the fireplace I thought "well, maybe they don't have wood for a fire". But I was wrong.

The next night, the fire happened.

I stayed silent for a week. Who will believe me?

The story haunted me when I was alone in my car, which wasn't often. Surely someone wiser than me would see that this was arson. Surely the firefighters know to look for that kind of stuff.

As the days went on, I saw the gifts pouring into the school. I saw families writing checks in the school office.

I saw my own 5-year old telling the story that was the "saddest story she'd ever heard in her life." The poor cat "Spooky" had woken them from the fire and then died.

You know, I'm sure I don't believe that story, and yet everyone else seems to. How do I tell my truth to my own 5-year old? I don't know how.

I finally emailed my story to the police chief anonymously. He emailed back saying he would forward it to the fire chief.

We have a small town. I still have my doubts that anyone will believe it.

Even if they do, it might be too late. It's school vacation now. The woman has the money and all the gifts, and plenty of time to leave town.

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Every Few Months

I’ve never met her.

I know what she looks like.

I know what her husband looks like.

I even know what her kids look like.

I know where she lives, too, and I am grateful she’s out of state.

How do I know all of these things about a woman I never met?

Once Valerie began stalking me, I felt it best to gather as much information as I could about her. She found me even though I had done everything I could to remain hidden. I was scared - correction: I still am scared. She manages to plague my nightmares. Not as much as she used to, but the fears are still there.

Valerie is a woman that my husband had an affair with three years ago. The affair itself was meaningless - a brief online affair that led to one physical encounter in a store dressing room. I found out about it December 6, 2010. My husband is a recovering sex addict; although I’ve never met Valerie, I’ve emailed her, and I’ve spoken with her husband, Eric, at length on the phone. We suspect Valerie is a sex addict, too.

Valerie has harassed me on Facebook using several different accounts, causing me to change my user name and block her and the accounts she uses. She tricked me into thinking she was her husband and had me call his business line, but it was forwarded to her cell number. Thankfully, I was smart enough to block my number. But I was traumatized just hearing her voice. It made me physically ill.

My husband and I have both written No Contact letters. When Valerie used an alias on Facebook a few months ago, I sent an extremely rude and hateful email to all of her email accounts – even the "secret" ones she used for her affair with my husband. I've spoken with Eric and begged him to keep her away from me because this affair has messed with my head so badly. It's one of two that were physical, and I can't even walk into a mall or see a movie because that's what Valerie did with my husband that fateful day. I've emailed Eric after hearing from Valerie to let him know that she contacted me again and requested that he talk to her about leaving me alone.

I thought it was done and over with after my nasty email to her until three months later when she contacted me again and referenced that email. This time she mentioned the thrill of danger, then mentioned one of my kids by his full name (different last name than my husband). She said that she thinks Eric and I are blood relatives. What the hell? She told me to look into it.

I spoke with my counselor and my husband spoke with his; they both agreed – Valerie appears unstable and it’s best to let her be versus contacting the police. They think she is seeking attention and trying to get a rise out of me, and by responding to her, I'm feeding her needs. However, if she contacts me again, unprovoked, it’s time to file a report.

I know things could be so much worse, but the one affair that caused me so much mental anguish, and this chick ends up stalking me… really?

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Where I Ask For Help

Here I sit, staring at the computer screen, not even knowing where to begin.

My mother is slipping into senility. Maybe it’s not senility. Maybe she has smoked her brain away. I don’t know anymore. I don’t know how to begin to get her the help she needs.

I knew this was coming. Mental illness, specifically mental decay, runs in my family. I expected this, but at a later point, maybe  in 10 years. Mom is not even 50. She should still be mentally sound - she is sometimes. Then there are times when it has become obvious that she is slipping away – her need to show me the toilet paper she used to clean herself, rearranging the fridge at 4 in the morning, spending money she doesn’t have.

The weed has become her life.

She lives in a constant haze, floating from one high to the next. Her only income now, after several jobs that dwindled away, comes from selling her ‘medical’ marijuana. Suddenly, my house, the house that my grandfather owned, the house he died in, is her ‘business.' Business is not booming, but I fear that one day it will. By living there, knowing this is happening, I am in danger if any legal action happens. Sadly, my brother has more to lose than I do. He is a recovering felon and (unwillingly) running her drugs for her. He has a heart of gold and doesn’t want to see Mom starve.

I don’t know what to do.

I don’t know how to get her help. She has reached the point where neither my brother nor I are willing to keep going like this, but cannot turn our backs on her. She thinks she's fine, sees no issue. Where do I turn? She appears to the naked eye, stable enough that no one would grant me medical custody of her. She’s not ill enough for any sort of nursing care, yet she in all seriousness, refers to the dog as my brother’s girlfriend.

I wish I could untangle her mental decline. I wish I knew how much was genetics, how much was pot. I don’t and never will. She believes the weed is helping her, but I have been watching her become reclusive, paranoid, stupid.

I feel so outnumbered by her demons; outnumbered and exhausted.

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