SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) Legislation Triggers Global Protest — Wikipedia and Other Major Websites Plan Shutdown
Characterizing it as outrageous and sinister, an array of the Internet's top websites plan a massive protest on Wednesday, 18 January 2012 against the so-called SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), created by the U.S. House of Representatives, and its Senate version, PIPA (Protect IP Act). The protest, originating with Wikipedia (which will basically shut down its English-language webpages), Boing Boing, and Reditt, has now spread to include other huge Web players such as Google, Scribd (widely used document hosting site), Wordpress, TwitPic, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. (protest will take various forms, depending on the site.)
An actual human street protest is also planned in San Francisco.
"Imagine a world in which any intellectual property holder can, without ever appearing before a judge or setting foot in a courtroom, shut down any website's online advertising programs and block access to credit card payments" writes Nate Anderson on the Ars Technica website.
"The credit card processors and the advertising networks would be required to take quick action against the named website; only the filing of a 'counter notification' by the website could get service restored" he warns.
Advanced by the entertainment industry to further control access to copyrighted material, SOPA basically puts the onus on your Internet Service Provider (ISP), as well as the host website (your own site, or one you blog on or post to), to determine if posted content or material (such as music or videos) is obtained through "piracy". The ISP, website, etc. — which means platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, WordPress, Blogspot, Yahoo Groups and other forums and groups, Google, and so on — all become liable for the content of others. The result, say SOPA opponents, will be to force ISPs and websites to err on the side of "caution" — to censor and restrict content. After all, they simply don't have the resources to police all that content and material flowing through their systems, so they will have to impose sweeping, draconian prohibitions against broad categories of content — or face severe penalties.
"As bad as this is, it gets worse..." warns Cory Doctorow in a legal analysis posted at Publishers Weekly.
SOPA would also expand the definition of copyright infringement to include hosting a single link to a site that is alleged to contain infringing material. Thus, if an author’s blog, or a book discussion group, attracts a single post that contains a single link that goes to a site that someone accuses of copyright infringement, that site becomes one with the alleged infringer, and faces all the same sanctions — without any proof required, or due process.
The SOPA bill, originally introduced by Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, has gained significant bipartisan support, from both liberal Democrats and the Tea Party-allied GOP. It appears to be the most repressive measure affecting the Internet ever proposed, basically capable of devastating the Internet and eliminating it as the relatively free medium of expression that exists today. In the context of serious economic crisis, widespread unemployment, and other looming indications of social distress, Washington's focus on what is essentially major legislative assistance for the entertainment industry seems peculiar indeed.
A thorough, comprehensive analysis of the SOPA bill, The Problem with SOPA (And How to Stop It) can be found on the Copyblogger website.
IBNLive also has excellent coverage of this topic, titled Wikipedia blackout on January 18. Here's what you can do. This analysis includes both an infographic and an informative video on "how PROTECT IP/SOPA Act breaks the Internet".
Lyndon Henry is a writer, editor, and consultant. His blog is: