The Web’s response to SOPA and PIPA is officially in full swing.
Both the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECTIP (PIPA)-at hand in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, respectively-are intended to curb online piracy by allowing copyright holders to block access to domestic and foreign Websites allegedly distributing illegal content. However, critics contend that blacklisting those Websites without sufficient due process-and preventing advertisers from doing business with them-is nothing more or less than censorship.
Wikipedia made very public its intentions to shut down for the duration of Jan. 18, substituting its trove of user-generated articles with a somber message: “Right now, the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet.”
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has been one of the more outspoken protestors against SOPA and PIPA. In a Jan. 16 statement distributed by the Wikipedia organization, he wrote: “While we regret having to prevent the world from having access to Wikipedia for even a second, we simply cannot ignore the fact that SOPA and PIPA endanger free speech both in the United States and abroad, and set a frightening precedent of Internet censorship for the world.”
While Google didn’t shut down its service, the tech giant offered a search screen with a black bar over the “Google” logo, along with a link that read, “Tell Congress: Please don’t censor the web!”
Other protesting Websites included Wired, which blacked out every word of text on its main page, reddit, which followed Wikipedia in shutting down for a day, and WordPress, which offered up some plugins for blacking out individual blogs. On Twitter, protestors aired grievances with hashtags such as #SOPA and “Tell Congress.” Sopastrike.com has offered a complete list of Websites engaging in some sort of pushback against the legislation.
That being said (or posted, rather), there are parties who want this legislation to become law. News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch, whose companies produce a significant percentage of the content pillaged by Web pirates, decided to push back against Google in a Jan. 14 Tweet: “Piracy leader is Google who streams movies free, sells advts around them. No wonder pouring millions into lobbying.”
Executive branch officials are also weighing in, sounding a note of caution about the legislation. “We must avoid creating new cyber-security risks or disrupting the underlying architecture of the Internet,” U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra wrote in a co-authored note posted on the White House’s Website. “Proposed laws must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet.”
Whether this level of protest substantially changes the legislation-or kills it in Congress-remains to be seen.