Ladies and gentlemen, a moment please, if I may.

Those of you who notice this sort of thing will notice the black ribbon across the top-right of our site. In general, this site tends to avoid political issues that don’t directly affect the pagan community. We think that’s a reasonable position for this site to take, since our group welcomes people from all walks of life and all backgrounds, and as a result our individual politics could vary considerably.

However, pagans as individuals are always encouraged to take an active interest in politics, and get involved where appropriate, if only because it’s difficult to influence any sort of change if you don’t. So we’re hoping you’ll appreciate the reasons for this sudden addition to our pages.

As you may be aware, today sees a concerted protest mounted by a number of large websites, including Google.com and the English-language Wikipedia, in response to the threat posed by bills currently being debated in the US Senate and House of Representatives. These bills propose pieces of legislation called the ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ (SOPA) and the ‘Protect Intellectual Property Act’ (PIPA). These bills, if passed, could potentially have a serious impact on something we’ve all taken for granted for many years: the ability to speak and publish openly on the Internet. I’ll embed a video for you to watch (below) if you’re interested in finding out more, but briefly, the legislation would give the US entertainment industry the power to have websites shut down for copyright infringement, or for supporting or endorsing copyright infringement, or for appearing in the view of the industry to be doing any of these things. There’re no takedown orders, no opportunity for appeal, the site just goes. This may not appear at first glance to affect us: we’re not here to copy protected material and we don’t endorse or support others doing the same thing. But somebody else using a WordPress site just might – and, theoretically, under SOPA/PIPA that would be all it would take to have WordPress – the whole thing – shut down. Since we use a WordPress-hosted site, at least for the moment, that means us. Even sites hosted here, or in Australia, or Japan, or anywhere else in the world, wouldn’t be safe: while they can’t directly close a site hosted outside American jurisdiction, they can remove its DNS entry, meaning that it has no handy name (like http://chesterfieldpagans.org) to type in the address bar any more. You’d be finding us by a string of numbers instead – not so easy to type into Google, especially if Google’s already been taken down…

The obvious objection would be that these are American bills being debated in the American Congress, and as such we here in the UK have no power to influence them. This is true, and we would not suggest that it should be otherwise. However, a reasonable percentage of our views come from the United States, and, if SOPA and PIPA are passed, these valued visitors may one day find themselves unable to visit our site as they are free to do today.

We hope the ribbon doesn’t trouble you unduly, and it will disappear on 24 January.

– Regards, Tiro.


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