Websites Across The Internet Oppose SOPA And PIPA With "Blackouts"
If you visited Google, Wikipedia, Craigslist or any number of information based websites this morning, you may have noticed a version of the image above, representing a 'blackout' demonstration on the site you were trying to access. Owners and producers of these sites are staging a taste of what life might be like under the SOPA and PIPA acts, should they come to pass on January 24, 2012. (Most of these sites are available after a short delay, or by clicking through the interstitial, or visiting a cached version in Google.)
SOPA stands for the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House of Representatives, and PIPA stands for the Protect IP Act in the US Senate. While both of these acts sound good by their names, most internet entrepreneurs believe that large corporations are asking for these acts to be put in place to give immediate power to take down any site that might be hurting their profits, rather than adapt their business models to compete in today's technologically driven world. While proponents of the acts would say they are only for targeting 'rogue' sites that knowingly steal from others, there are plenty of current, real-world examples, such as Monster Cables labeling Craigslist and Ebay as rogue sites, in their effort to keep profits from going out the back door.
These acts open up an amazing amount of tools that would be used to deal with sites that are determined to be rogue in nature. These tools include censoring search engine results and hijacking DNS, and surprisingly, many members of Congress are in support of these kinds of methods to control the internet. Craigslist has a thorough wrap up of links about the specifics of the acts, members of Congress that support the bill and those who don't, alternatives, and what you should know and do.
Many individual site owners are feeling the pressure of the impending acts as well. MetaFilter owner Matt Haughey posted his own dealings with similar acts in the past that almost cost him his entire business. When MetaFilter found itself in a battle with Sony who had used their "Web Sheriff" automated bot tool to scan for music, and mistakenly claimed a Michael Jackson song was being distributed on his site. "That's two weeks into a 30 day window before I lost my rack of servers and hosting account completely. I'll never forget last year when I went through this because it was two of the stupidest weeks of my life, all because of some problematic laws granted new powers to copyright holders and I had to engage in a prolonged legal fight thanks to a mistake made by a bot."Should powerful misguided acts such as SOPA and PIPA come to be, even sites like HubPages could find themselves being forced offline under complaints from larger corporations. Orwell's oft threatened Big Brother could very well be about to enter in our world in a very real way. What can you do to help prevent this from happening? If you're in the United States, you can send a letter to your representative instantly.