Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA blackout: The day the Web went dark

As previously reported, today is the day dozens of websites have gone dark in protest of two bills in Congress that are designed to stop copyright infringement on the Web.

The bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, are backed by Hollywood but are anathema to many of the biggest voices on the Web, including Google, Wikipedia and Facebook.

The gist of these two acts is this: the government is seeking the ability to shut down access to foreign sites that it determines are "facilitating the commission" of copyright infringement.

For those who embrace the openness of the Web, this is a scary proposition and a clear act of censorship. The acts would also allow the government to require search engines to remove entire websites from their results, leaving no trace that they existed.

Wikipedia today blacked out the U.S. version of its website in protest, leaving open only an explainer on the two acts and the Wikipedia articles for SOPA and PIPA.

Google blacked out the logo on its homepage and linked to a website that allows users to sign a petition against the two acts.

Former Sen. Chris Dodd, the CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, called today's protests "an abuse of power."

"It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests," his statement said.

The fear for sites like Google and Wikipedia is that a more complete policing of copyright infringement would be impossible to maintain and open them up to a time-consuming onslaught of litigation.

It's already illegal to post copyrighted material, and sites like Google and YouTube spend considerable time reviewing abuse reports for such. SOPA and PIPA, though, would hold the whole website accountable and pave a path for the whole domain to go dark.

Basically any website that allows users to upload photos from their computer is already in violation and would be vulnerable under these pending acts.

Much more on this troubling new item can be read here, here, and here.

And below is a 4-minute break down of what this legislation means:

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

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