Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA/PIPA and update

Hi there!

Daveabirding here to get a personal message up about myself and this whole SOPA/PIPA whirlwind that is going around.

Update on Daveabirding:
After a long silence, aside from the one UK trip update last weekend, I owe anyone who has dropped by an explanation. No, Daveabirding did not swear off technology and go to live in a hut somewhere to contemplate the phases of Jupiter on plant growth. No, I didn't decide to rebrand as Daveacastling, although after the next few UK recaps to be posted you may think so. I also didn't have technical issues, and there was no intentional abandonment of blogging.

Instead Daveabirding has gone bionic! That's right, they rebuilt me - better than I was before. While I can't jump notably higher that before, and I can't lift staggering weights - I do have a shiny new screw in my toe! The down and dirty is that after years of dealing with a bad toenail I went into have them do the thing where they make the ingrown part stop growing. While I was there I mentioned that periodically I was getting a very brief, intense pain in the joint of my big toe. It was happening more and more often, and had become a nuisance when hiking or running, and I wondered if the nail was an issue for that. Was it.....of course not. I had the proud diagnosis of Hallux Limitus a toe joint issue that has one joint out of place, causing the next one down the line to degrade over time. The fix was surgery - which I underwent on the 22nd December. That meant that a Christmas visit to Minnesota got moved up a week - preventing me from participating in the Boulder Christmas Bird Count, or any others for that matter. It also meant that December was a whirlwind of all the pre-holiday craziness, with a week less time to get it all done. Christmas was a blur of pain medication and icing, followed by decreasing pain and bowl games through the new year. I'm now a few weeks back into regular work days in the office, and getting around decently, however I am stuck in an open, Velcro, surgical shoe that forces me to heel walk. So, for at least the next week I am still effectively hobbled. While I did take a cleansing break from most things bird, I have been keeping my eyes open, occasionally seeing the Snow Geese return to the local field, and spotting one potential Ferruginous Hawk on an evening drive home from work.
Unfortunately, when I returned to my email I found 800 messages, describing all the CBCs, great local rarities that had come and gone, and the largest irruption of Snowy Owls in 40-50 years. What a bummer. Oh well, hiking, photography and longer days will all be back soon enough, and in the meantime I do hope to get a few more UK recaps up.

Now the SOPA/PIPA take, from me a random blogger;

Odds are, if you've found your way to this site you have already seen much larger, more prominent sites that are/were on shutdown on 1/18 - protesting the devastating impact that SOPA/PIPA could have on their ability to offer the services they have provided to this point. Well, since I have no ability to shut down, and am frankly surprised that Google has it operating today. I would like to share what I perceive to be the impact of these bills on my simple, not for profit (much less income), birding site.

For starters, it would be very unlikely that, a free blogging offering driven by Google would be available moving forward. Unless they could ensure that all content posted by all users was original and unique, they, in addition to the users could be held liable for facilitating that content. This has already been widely publicized in the media when describing photo hosting and sharing sites. So to keep daveabirding alive I would have to start by hosting and serving my content myself, at the cost of a server, domain registration, and uptime, etc.

Now that wouldn't be all bad, but it is not the entire picture either. If I took over hosting of daveabirding I would take over the civil and criminal liability for all content, and all linked to content on my site. Again, that shouldn't be a problem for a blogger that only posts his own images and short recaps of hikes etc, right? Unfortunately, no.

First off, all links to any other sites would have to go, why.....because I can't afford to be responsible for the originality of their content.

Next, reduced look and feel. Locally hosted sites are generally more simple, because building, testing and maintaining features take time. Not to mention that freeware html templates would likely become a thing of the past. So things like comments and keywords would be lost.

Content. While I would be able to, and in some way would continue to post my own content - many of the tools that I use would be gone. Google searching images is a fast and easy way to cross check my identifications - unless they were able to confirm the authenticity of all, Google Image search is gone. Listserves such as CObirds would have to look at what they allow posters to contribute. As above, linkbacks to photos, site maps, and other resources could not be included. I would imagine Birds of North America would continue unchanged, but I am unsure how Ebird would fare under SOPA. Blog list and ranking sites would be history, places like Nature Blog Network and Fatbirder would be in jeopardy, and forum sites like and would lose much of their ability to promote the sharing of interest in and knowledge of birds and nature. Other sites that seem to be at risk are, a database of recorded bird sounds from around the world and, a forum for critique of some outstanding images.

Sadly, on a personal side I think I would have never developed my interest in birds or photography had it not been for the interconnected network of bloggers, experts, photographers and enthusiasts who share their work freely for the enjoyment of others. I, like many others, strongly support the ability of artists to protect their work by copyright from infringement or piracy. Even as I take thousands of sub-par shots I hope that someday I could have enough good ones to think that someone may want to licence an image for exclusive use.

I am not going to rant on first amendment rights, big bad government, or larger issues that these bills bring to light. They are important, and they should be discussed, but this isn't the place. If you read this hopefully the implications for a one-man, little to no consequence blog are enough to make you wonder what the larger implications may be. If it does, go check out one of the big boys like Google or Wikipedia and learn more. Consider asking your Senator or Representative to do the same.

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