Most of the World Wide Web is up in arms against two bills currently in Congress: The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA). Stemming from the entertainment industry, these two bills aim to put a stop to piracy and copyright infringement. And while their causes are indeed reasonable and valid, the execution of these proposed laws raises several concerns among Internet experts.
There are a lot of technical details behind these bills, but the plain English version goes something like this: Should these bills turn into laws, search engines, Internet providers, and even payment services would be required to police websites that supposedly contain infringing content, while taking out website owners’ rights to a certain due process. In essence, it gives the government the overwhelming power to erase websites from search engines, prevent site owners from getting paid, and even delete entire domains, simply because someone believes that websites are pirating content.
They are very ugly proposals that threaten to censor the web and block websites on the grounds of alleged copyright infringement.
Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, Twitter, and some of the biggest names in the Internet already expressed their alarm over the proposed bills. Numerous individuals called their respective senators in order to voice out their opinions, and several open letter to Congress and the White House were published. When GoDaddy publicized their support for SOPA, the web host lost over 70,000 subscribers. GoDaddy has since changed their stance on the bill, and published a press release stating that they now oppose SOPA.
Thankfully, all these movements didn’t go in vain. Last week, the White House published a statement voicing out concerns about the SOPA, stating, “While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet. Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small.”
Additionally, congressional leaders supporting SOPA started to recant, and one of the controversial parts of SOPA and PIPA (DNS blocking) has been taken out from both bills. In spite of these small (yet significant) victories though, the battle isn’t over yet, and the Internet is still fighting back.
Today, huge websites including Wikipedia, Reddit, and Mozilla have “gone dark” as a form of protest. Countless sites such as Google, Wired, and WordPress.com have altered themselves to help spread the word about the realities of SOPA and PIPA.
Needless to say, these site alterations and blackouts are only temporary, and the natural order of things should be restored tomorrow. However, if SOPA and PIPA do become laws, then the blackouts and censorships could very well BE the “natural order of things.”
Don’ let it happen to the Internet. Do your part and contact your representative today.