Jan 17 2012 10:29pm

Getting on a SOPA Box

If you travel through the interwebs today, chances are good you will come across a site that has voluntarily gone black to protest SOPA and PIPA, two bits of proposed legislation in the United States. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) will be voted on in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) is in the U.S. Senate.

The sites believe that, if passed, both SOPA and PIPA will prove “devastating to the free and open web.” (Wikipedia). 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation explains what the bills would do, and why their opponents—including Wikipedia, Google, EFF, the I Can Haz Cheezburger cluster of sites, Reddit, and BoingBoing, all of whom are going dark in protest today—believe the two bills are so destructive to free and accessible web content:

“The bill, if made law, would expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement and copyright holders to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods

Proponents of the bill say it protects the intellectual property market and corresponding industry, jobs and revenue, and is necessary to bolster enforcement of copyright laws, especially against foreign websites.

Opponents say that it violates the First Amendment, is Internet censorship,will cripple the Internet, and will threaten whistle-blowing and other free speech actions.”

CBS News has an article also explaining the specifics.

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1. Lafka
I so agree with them! I do not prone copyright infringement at all, but that shall remain something up to everyone's conscience and liability. It sounds to me quite preposterous to "filter" what users can or cannot have access to and to sanction websites which try to sidestep these measures (and in terms of international law, some amendments of these bills are real nonsense).

A similar law passed a few times ago in France (we call it "Hadopi"), despite all the critics it raised in terms of censorship and technology, and proved to be predominantly inefficient. Unlike the SOPA though, it doesn't consist in preventing webusers from having access to websites. On the contrary, it consists in observing the web connexions and then punishing the web users who had access to illegal websites or unlawfully downloaded copyrighted content. Few sanctions have actually been taken and the law can really easily be sidestepped. It's more I guess an alledgedly deterrent law, which aims to impress the great majority of people who are still not comfortable with computers and the Internet _ but that's precisely one of the problems with this Hadopi law : those who are not really into computers are not those who download illegal material in the first place.

I'm not sure "blacking" websites for one day will be efficient in terms of protestation, but I'm on their side, though not a US citizen myself ! :)
I think something needs to done about copyright crime, but I think SOPA goes a little overboard. I do not believe SOPA was designed by legistlators to censor the internet, exercise mind control, kill the internet or any of that silliness. It was designed to stop piracy--it was just poorly designed.

As an author/content creator, I obviously don't believe everything on the internet should be free. I would like to continue to make a living, like all content creators large and small.

If we can't go to those "Pirate Bay" type offshore sites and shut them down, then we need to find some other ways to cripple their influence. Hopefully our legislators will keep working on the problem and come up with a smarter bill.
Marian DeVol
3. ladyengineer
SOPA and PIPA are examples of government trying to control the flow of communication. We do not need ANY additional regulation to control copyright infringement. Current laws will do just fine - they just need to be enforced.

I AM a US citizen and am totally opposed to this proposed infringement of the free speech guarantees of Amendment 1 of the US Constitution. Not sure that websites going dark will do much, however.
4. Lafka
I must admit that not being able to access wikipedia (the english version only, for some reason the other languages versions were accessible) for an entire day made me realize just how much time I spend on this particular website!
I think the websites-going-dark thing was more about communicating against SOPA and PIPA rather than being really efficient. It actually worked _ well, I don't know how it was perceived in the US, but in France it was one of the headlines of yesterday's papers and it brought back the good old debate freedom/copyright protection.
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